Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blessed Margaret of Castello

Just wanted to share this because it was very moving to me.  Be sure to check our Seraphina's post below!

Blessed Margaret of Castello, O.P.



It was 9 June 1558. The coffin was carefully opened, leaving the official witness awe-stricken. He clothing had crumbled to dust, but the body was perfectly preserved. It was immediately evident to all that she had been a dwarf, her body measuring only four feet long. Her head was rather large, out of proportion with the rest of her thin body. The forehead was broad, with the face tapering to the chin; her nose, quite prominent; her teeth, small… even… serrated at the edges. The hands and feet were small. The right leg measured an inch and a half shorter than the left, which caused her to walk with a limp. The arms were crossed in front of the body, with the left arm and hand being slightly raised without support. Following a thorough and rigorous examination by a team of physicians, the body was reclothed in the Dominican habit and placed in a new coffin.


The birth of a deformed child is a traumatic experience for most parents. After the initial shock, grace and compassion conquer outright rejection. This was not so with Margaret’s parents. Blessed Margaret of Castello was born dreadfully deformed. She was a dwarf, totally blind, hunch-backed and so lame she could hardly walk. Her father immediately ordered the child to be kept out of sight.


Afraid that the child would be seen if she remained in the castle, her father built a small cell next to the parish church in the forest. He thrust the unfortunate child into the cell and ordered the mason to wall up the doorway. Margaret was only six years old.


When she was seventeen, her parents took her on pilgrimage to Citta-di-Castello to the tomb of the saintly Franciscan Friar, Giacomo, who-they hoped-would miraculously cure her. When that tactic failed, the heartless parents abandoned her.


Left there to herself, Margaret was befriended by beggars, only to become one herself. Not long afterward, she joined the Mantellate, the first unmarried woman to become a Dominican Tertiary. Thereafter, several well-to-do families in turn gave her a home. Wherever she went, she brought peace.


Margaret was remarkable for clarity of mind and for infused contemplation. She willingly embraced her cross because she saw suffering through the eyes of faith. She did not know why God permitted her to have so many afflictions; but what she did know, was that He never permits one single misfortune without good reason. Margaret often wondered why people pitied her since she viewed her suffering as the expression of Christ’s love for her and her means to gain heaven.


Pain made Margaret compassionate, sensitive and understanding toward others. She visited prisoners, helped the sick, comforted the dying.


In spite of her handicap, Margaret was always joyful and courageous. She never became bitter, never complained, never reproached others, never lost heart. Rather, Margaret sought and found her strength in prayer and the sacraments. In every adversity, she turned to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Dominic…there to find the courage to go on. And Margaret did go on…to achieve an intimacy with the Lord known only by those who love Him uncompromisingly.


The body of Blessed Margaret, which has never been embalmed, now lies under the high altar of the Church of St. Domenico at Citta-di-Castello, Italy. The arms of the body are still flexible; the eyelashes are present; the nails are in place on the hands and feet. The coloring of the body has darkened slightly, and the skin is dry and somewhat hardened; but by all standards, the preservation can be considered a remarkable condition, having endured for over six hundred fifty years.


Had she been conceived today, Margaret surely would have been a victim of abortion or left to die at birth…and what a tragedy that would have been!!! A tragedy for Margaret. who would have been deprived of the opportunity to suffer for Christ and thereby achieve the heights of sanctity; a tragedy for the Church…who would have been deprived of such an extraordinary daughter; for each of us…who, handicapped as we are by prejudice, by greed, by indifference, by cold-heartedness, or by whatever form it may take, would have been deprived of one with whom we can identify…of one who could truly show us that the only deformity abhorrent to God is the deformity of sin.


As an unwanted deformed child would she not be ‘the saint’ for our time…a special patron of the outcasts…the patron of the UNWANTED? Will you not join in a crusade for her canonization: She will never fail to help those who invoke her.

1 comment:

monicaspirit said...

I have a daughter who is in some ways like Margaret and other ways, the opposite. She was born of a modest family who loved her from the moment they laid eyes on her. She has an outward appearance of rare beauty, thin and elegant figure, beautiful hair and remarkable unforgettable green eyes. Her name is Margaret. She grew up in nothing but pure love, private Catholic education and not spoiled, but certainly comfortable and definitely rich in love. In her teen years she became rebellious and made choices that have led her on a slow and steady path of sin and self destruction. Searching for love but falling for the counterfeit, she was in a relationship with a young man who had not been baptized, though raised in a family of catholic origin. After months of this unhealthy relationship, they conceived a child. In their selfishness, they chose not to have the child and now the darkness of the decision has devastated her parents (me) and I believe them as well. She tries to pretend that she has moved on, but the truth is that darkness will never go away until she seeks God's mercy. I have read about St. Margaret of Castello as well as St. Margaret of Cortona and I see parallels to her life with both of them. I am asking for anyone who reads this to please pray for the soul of my beautiful daughter who, because of misuse of the gifts of her outward beauty, now lives in her own spiritual prison. I don't know when the shackles of her sins will be broken and I pray daily, constantly for her soul and mine. Like St. Margaret of Castello, I believe God has given me this painful cross so that I can suffer with him for all the terrible sins of the flesh and for the ingratitude of many. Please pray for my Margaret--I am trying to storm heaven with requests for her so that her life can be a beautiful gift to God as I know she was created to be--and pray for me that I can see God's work in this tragedy.