Saturday, March 05, 2005
Saint Margaret of Cortona (updated)
A few months ago I read about Saint Margaret of Cortona. I had never heard of her previoulsy, but found her in a children's book to tell the truth :-)
I enjoyed her story and how her life turned out, so I decided to write about her bc I think her story is quite amazing.
I have also updated this story since first writing it, as I found out more about her, I have changed some words here and there for accuracy.
Her memorial is 22nd Feb. She was a farmers daughter and her mother died when she was 7 years old. Her father re married and her stepmother hated her. She grew up to be unusually beautiful, then at 17 She eloped with a young nobleman of Montepulciano and bore him a son and lived as his mistress for nine years. In 1274 he was murdered by brigands and his body was dumped in a shallow grave, according to tradition Margaret was guided by her dog to where her husbands murdered body was found.
Margaret saw the incident as a sign from God. She publicly confessed to the affair, and tried to return to her fathers house, he would not accept her, nor her step mother. She and her son tried to find shelter at the Franciscans of Cortona, but they refused her because they thought she was too young and pretty to be admitted.
Margaret met with the Moscari family whom let her live with them for several years, looking after their children, earning her own living and atoning for her past by penance.
Eventually she was received as a tertiary of St.Francis, and in 1277 the Moscari family gave her a private cell near their home.
Still young and attractive Margaret had trouble resisting temptation, but each incident was followed by periods of deep self loathing. To make herself unappealing to local young men, she once tried to mutilate herself, but was stopped by a friar named Giunta.
She earned her keep by tending to sick women, she later began caring for the sick poor living on alms, asking nothing for her services. Became a Franciscan tertiary in 1277. Margaret developed a deep and intense prayer life, and was given to ecstacies during which she received messages from heaven.
In 1286 she received charter to work with the sick poor. She gathered others of like mind and formed them into tertiaries. They were later given the status of congregation and called poverelle (poor ones) She founded a hospital at Cortona and preached against vice to anyone who listened. She developed a great devotion to the Eucharist and passion.
In 1288 she had permission from the Bishop, over the heads of the reluctant friars, to retire to a retreat at Mount Sant-Edigio. She gave herself up completely to contemplation, passing through all the stages of Mystical experience, she was entirely alone except for some visits from her preist.
Margaret phrophesied the date of her own death, she died on February 22nd, 1297.
At the moment of her death, a nun some distance away, had a vision of her soul entering heaven and acclaimed as Christ's new Magdalene, miracles took place immediately, although she was not canonized until 1728.
Although she worked for those in need, and though the poor sought her help and advice, the calumny of her earlier life, followed her the rest of her days, and she was forever the target of local gossips.
She is the patron Saint of these: against temptations, falsely accused people, homeless people, insanity, loss of parents, mental illness, mentally ill people, midwives, penitent women, people ridiculed for their piety, reformed prostitutes, sexual temptations, single lay women, tertiaries, tramps.
I certainly enjoyed reading about St.Margaret of Cortona, her story should also teach us about gossip hurting others and not to be judgemental on anyone, no matter what they do, it's the person's heart that we should get to know, as God searches our hearts.
"Do not ask me to give into this body of mine,
I cannot afford it. Between me and my body there
must needs be a struggle until death" - St.Margaret of Cortona