Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

The Measure of a Life: Lessons from Bl. Margaret of Castello, O.P.

On the eve of the Renaissance in Italy, when the country was broken into city-states and beauty and honor were prized and fought for, a noble couple was expecting the birth of their long-desired first child. A grand party was planned in anticipation as the lord of the state anxiously awaited the arrival of his presumed son, an heir. Then the day came. But no trumpets blared, no banners flew, no torches were lit to herald the baby’s arrival. For the baby was a girl, and the girl was dreadfully deformed.

Baby Margaret was not beautiful and unusually small – it was clear she would not grow to normal stature. She was hunchbacked, and one leg was shorter than the other, so she would have a limp. And a few days later, they discovered she was also blind. It is no doubt a blow to parents to learn their baby is not the normal, healthy child they hoped for. And it presents them a choice: to gather themselves and the child into the arms of love or to turn their backs in pride and selfishness. Little Margaret’s parents choose the latter.

As she grew into a child, they kept her shut away in the castle. As the years past, they heard of miracles being performed in Castello, so they took her to the church there and ordered her to pray to God for a miracle to cure her of her deformities. Obediently she did so pray, but added to her prayer that it be answered in accordance with God’s will. As she remained rapt in prayer, her parents despaired. Without a word or backward glance, they walked back to the inn, packed their things and returned home, abandoning Margaret.

Margaret had recourse to the Infant Jesus, and immediately a child stood before her and led her to the prioress of the Dominican nuns at Citta di Castello, who received her as a religious. Every Friday she fasted on bread and water. Her spirit of penance gained for her a wonderful understanding of the Psalms and a special love for the mystery of the Incarnation. She learned the Psalter by heart and drew out its different meanings like a St. Augustine or a St. Thomas. It was her chief prayer, together with the Little Office of the Cross and that of the Blessed Virgin. Her infused knowledge was so great that she was even allowed to correct the literary work of some of the pupils and to give them lessons in grammar.

She died full of merits, at the age of thirty-three. During life she had often said: “Oh, if you only knew what I have in my heart!” There were found there three small stones, like diamonds, representing Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Bl. Margaret of Citta-di-Castello

With the help of Bl. Margaret of Castello, may we always reverence and serve the Infant Jesus in the weakness of our neighbors and to love to help those who are abandoned and alone.

O God of mercy, give us the ardent desire of Your good pleasure, and the grace to seek it prudently and accomplish it perfectly.

Bl. Margaret of Castello, pray for us!

Taken in part from “Saints and Saintly Dominicans.”

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