Welcome to Part 2 of the amazing and true story of Blessed Margaret of Castello. If you have not read Part One yet, please check out Part One here.
At this point, if we experienced such neglect and rejection, most of us would likely feel broken and despondent.
After being utterly abandoned far from home with absolutely nothing but the clothes on her back, Margaret took refuge by living under the church stairs. Eventually, two people who were also homeless befriended her and introduced her to other people in the homeless community. They taught her how to beg for food and how to get by, and they also shared their collective resources with her.
On one particularly cold winter night, someone gave the people who were homeless permission to spend the night in their stables. Margaret was overjoyed and exclaimed, “Thank you, Jesus. Oh, how much God loves us!” Those around her were shocked that she could even say that. “You think God loves you? Look at us, Margaret, how could you say that?” they asked. “He’s not doing anything for us. Why would you be excited to go into the stable?”
She replied, “Because my savior, Jesus, was born in a stable as well. He also had nothing. He had to live in a stable, and now I have the opportunity to spend one night in one just like He did.” She shared with them God’s love for everyone, and all that she understood about Him that she learned when she was a child.
Margaret’s kind-heartedness and friendliness to everyone was undeniable, and it drew those who were near to her even closer. Her powerful and impactful witness became of great value to them, and soon her beloved reputation started to spread. Everybody started talking about the blind girl who was a beggar but who loved God so much, and word of her heroic sanctity and long hours of prayer on her knees even reached the Bishop.
Soon after that, an order of cloistered nuns invited her to join their convent. Margaret was overjoyed; however, it turned out not to be what she expected. While she prayed for hours every day, fasted, did penances, and contemplated our Lord, the cloister itself had relaxed rules, and the nuns were not faithful to their vows. Not only were they always talking (which is contrary to the vow of silence they took), they lived lives of luxury. Because she did not follow suit, they resented Margaret, and her piousness was a constant source of contention for them. The Mother Superior always told Margaret to stop doing penances, accused her of feeling superior, and plotting to make the nuns come off as bad.
To make a long story short, rather than face their own sins and risk public embarrassment, the nuns cast Margaret back out onto the street to be homeless again. They bore false witnesses against her, claiming that she was rude, pompous, and prideful. Throughout all of this, Margaret remained faithful to God, and she did nothing ill-willed against these spite-filled nuns.
Despite the deceitful words of the nuns, the townspeople saw how contrary these claims were to their own experiences of Margaret, both before and after being expelled from the convent. Margaret was the one who was humble, spoke lovingly with kindness to all, and helped and counseled others. They saw the truth about Margaret and disregarded the lies that the nuns were spreading. Upon hearing of this, several wealthy families in Castello wanted to take her in, and so she rotated her time staying with these families. While she was grateful, she was also uncomfortable living in such luxury as they did.
Eventually, Margaret found a place of belonging: the Third Order of the Dominicans. While the members do not take vows to become a priest or a nun, they do take permanent vows as laity vowing to serve God through prayer, penance, and service to the poor and to God. It was everything that she ever dreamed of doing. In her service, Margaret was revered and in demand by everyone in Castello. It didn’t matter when someone called for her, any time – day or night- she would grab her cane and determinedly make her way on foot to help them, bringing food, medicine, and comfort to the sick and dying. No task was too far, too late or too big for “Little Margaret.” She went to the sickest of the sick and those cast off by society to serve them. Everyone knew about this little Saint.
Visiting the worst prison in the city, Margaret witnessed firsthand the inhumane treatment that prisoners received. She was determined to help them and to have them be treated with dignity. Initially doing so on her own, her example inspired others to do the same, and she eventually convinced the other sisters in the Dominican order to form a prison ministry.
Margaret is also credited with many, many miracles. The first took place with a woman who had a tumor in her eye. Since she could not afford medical treatment and because she was going blind, this woman sought out Margaret. “Please pray for me,” she begged, ”you’re blind and holy. God will listen to you.” Margaret turned her face to her and said, “Oh, sweet sister, how blessed you are to be going blind.”
Shocked by what Margaret said, this woman refuted, “What do you mean by that? I’m not blessed.”
Margaret replied, “But God doesn’t want you to be spiritually sick, so He’s giving you this gift.” This made the woman cry. Moved with pity and compassion, Margaret prayed over her and healed her!
Many more miracles- more than we have time to write about here- were attributed to her after this, and Margaret became very well known, even abroad. She prayed so devoutly that she used to levitate, and people from everywhere would flock to see her.
The life of Margaret of Castello can be summed up in this quote from St. Augustine: “When one truly loves, one does not suffer. And if they do suffer, the suffering itself is even loved.” This was Margaret. She loved God with a passion. She loved people with a passion. She loved to serve, and she gave her life to the service of everyone.
Today, our society is filled with many ills; self-doubt and hatred abound. As we contend with the trials of life, we must strive to remember the lessons taught by and witness of Blessed Margaret of Castello.
Growing up in what would be unbearable and unfathomable circumstances for most of us, her experience pales in comparison to many of the things we let stress us today. Blessed Margaret of Castello reminds us that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or what your status is in life. These are trivial concerns because God does not look at any of these things. If we focus, instead, on loving and serving God, we can make a big impact on the world.
Blessed Margaret worked many, many miracles. When she died, the people demanded that she be given the honor of being buried in the church (which was a right reserved only for priests). In the 1500’s, her body was exhumed and found to be incorrupt, completely free of any decomposition, as it is still today. This is yet another miracle surrounding this “Little Margaret.”
Let us all pray to stop complaining about the little things in life when she didn’t even complain about the big things in her life, just as Christ didn’t complain about the sufferings He had to endure in His life. Let us reflect on how we can be beacons of God’s love. Our world needs this more than ever, especially during this time of worry and fear about the Corona virus. Let others know that there’s hope in suffering, even in the worst circumstances. Christ is there; Christ works through us. Our world desperately needs to know this.
God bless you.