A Beauty in Godís Sight

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The Story of Blessed Margaret of Castello

Beholding 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 of Jesus.

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 poor.

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 Father.

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.

source: Veritas - Dominicans of Sisters of St Cecilia Newsletter, Spring 2009

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