The Story of Blessed Margaret of
their newborn daughter, Parisio and Emilia, prominent Italian nobles of
the 13th century, stood aghast. The tiny child-hunch-backed, blind, and
severely crippled- was hardly the picture of perfection that her parents
had envisioned of their first child. While initial surprise at the child's
defects might have been natural to any parents, this particular couple
allowed their first impressions to color their thoughts of their daughter
from that moment forward. Rather than looking beyond physical deformity to
their baby's God-given dignity, they determined to banish her from public
view and to spread the lie that death had claimed her at birth. In her
parents' estimation, the child was unworthy even of a name, and so she was
hidden, nameless, in the castle, with a maid as her only friend.
This one friend was a servant of good faith who desired the baby to share
in God's life through Christian Baptism. Under her supervision, the
daughter of Parisio and Emilia became also a daughter of God, receiving
the baptismal name of Margaret. As Margaret grew, she often hobbled to the
castle's chapel to pray.
A visitor to the castle saw the blind hunchback limping along and inquired
who she was. In fear that rumors would begin, Parisio and Emilia banished
Margaret to a cellar in the forest where her only human contact would be
with those who brought her food and her precious Blessed Sacrament.
The priest who brought Margaret Holy Communion soon found that in spite of
her physical handicaps, she had a brilliant mind and a heart ablaze with
love for God. The priest found no resentment or self-pity in Margaret, but
only gladness at the opportunity to associate herself with the sufferings
Twenty years after their child's birth and nearly fifteen years after her
solitary confinement, Parisio and Emilia had all but forgotten Margaret
when word reached them of miraculous healings taking place in Castello at
the tomb of a Franciscan Third Order member, Fra Giacomo. Considering this
news an opportunity to remedy their burden, the couple fetched Margaret
and took her to the miraculous spot, thrusting her among a host of lame
and sick people, ordering her to pray for healing. Ever obedient to her
parents, Margaret asked God to heal her-if it be His will.
A day passed with no cure. Impatient and typically selfish, Parisio and
Emilia abandoned their daughter at the tomb, reasoning that the poor
creature was better suited to a life among cripples than she was to their
own high society. It was nightfall by the time Margaret realized that her
mother and father were not coming back for her. In the moment when utter
despair and hateful resentment could have possessed Margaret's heart, she
again proved her nobility of soul, embracing desertion as the Father's
will for her.
Beggars in Castello befriended Margaret, and soon she was known and loved
throughout the town. One group who welcomed Margaret was the monastery of
cloistered Dominican nuns. Margaret loved the nuns' life of prayer and
strict observance of religious discipline. When, however, the major
superior of the monastery died and some of the nuns began to be lax in
their way of life, the ever-ardent Margaret was renounced by the community
who felt threatened by her self-discipline.
In the streets of Castello, gossip flew that Margaret was morally unfit
for religious life. As the truth became known, however, her reputation for
sanctity grew more than ever. Margaret, unaffected by praise, was busy
admiring a group called the Mantellata, Third Order Dominicans, who lived
lives of penance and prayer and devoted themselves to serving the sick and
After insisting that she was not too young to join the ranks of the
Mantellata, Margaret donned the white and black habit of the Dominican
Order and began her ministry to the outcasts of Castello. Hers was a
mission of hope, drawing sinners to repentance and assuring those rejected
by society that they were indeed accepted and loved by their heavenly
In Margaret's thirty-third year, her crippled frame could no longer endure
her active apostolate. The little sister of Castello was ill, with no hope
of cure. On April 13, 1320, Margaret died peacefully, surrounded by
Dominican friars and Mantellata. As her body rested on its bier, a
crippled child was brought forward to touch Margaret's hand. In that
moment, the little girl experienced an astonishing change and went away
free of deformity.
Since then, over 200 miracles have been recorded at her tomb.
To this day, Margaret's body remains incorrupt in Castello, Italy and is a
testimony that the poor creature who was repulsive to her own father and
mother was-and is for all eternity-a true beauty in God's sight.
Beatified in 1609 by Pope Paul V, Blessed Margaret is a patron for the
current era in which countless children are rejected by their parents,
often even before the parents see their little ones. Had Blessed Margaret
been conceived in the age of technology and ultrasounds, there is little
reason to think that she would have been allowed to be born at all. As we
strive to see the dignity of the human person honored from conception to
natural death, Blessed Margaret offers her mighty intercession that all
"unwanted" persons, young and old, will come to be loved on earth and to
know their genuine beauty as beloved children of God.
Veritas - Dominicans of Sisters of St Cecilia Newsletter, Spring 2009
(see page 5)