Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Blessed Margaret of Castello

In 1287 in Umbria, Italy, Lady Emilia and Lord Parisio had planned a grand celebration for the birth of their long-awaited first child. When the baby was born, no bells were rung, no feast was given.

The baby was not the "perfect" child that they had hoped for. Instead, she was a blind hunchback, with one leg shorter than the other. Her parents could find no room in their hearts for their baby, and wanted nothing to do with her. A kindly servant girl took her and had her baptized Margaret, which means "pearl."

When she was six years old, Margaret's father led his daughter to a secluded spot in the woods and had her locked in a cell. Although she suffered terribly in that small, dark, stone prison, Margaret received the Grace to appreciate her surroundings. At a tender age, she saw God's plan for her, which she revealed to a visiting priest: "Jesus was rejected even by His own people, and God is letting me be treated the same so that I can follow Our dear Lord more Closely." She endured 14 years in her cell, growing ever closer to Christ.

When she was seventeen, Margaret's parents took her to a shrine in Castello, where they hoped for a miraculous cure to her deformities. They soon realized there would be no change and abandoned Margaret in the unfamiliar city.

Margaret soon found a home with a kindly family. She spent the next 13 years tending the sick, visiting prisoners, and praying. People for whom she cared sometimes recovered miraculously, they knew she was someone very special.

When one of Margaret's friends expressed sympathy for her bodily afflictions, Margaret reassured him with a smile: "If you only knew what I have in my heart!"

She died in 1320 at the age of 33.

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