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Saint Margaret of Cortona,
Penitent

Feast Day: February 26

St. Margaret of Cortona was born in Laviano, Tuscany in 1247 to a poor but respected peasant family. Her mother loved and watched over her child with tenderness and diligence but, just when a girl needs her mother the most, God called her mother to Himself. At age seven Margaret was deprived of her mother’s care and love. Shortly thereafter, her father remarried. It was to become for Margaret a test of wills with her stepmother. The harsh treatment Margaret received from her stepmother instilled in her a great desire to marry in order to escape the home situation. Her father, not being concerned with his daughter’s moral rectitude, allowed her to dress in a style of vanity. Her winning ways soon attracted the attention of a young and wealthy noble of Monte Pulciano, with whom Margaret went to live. Shortly after, she gave birth to a son.

God in His mercy was working out the path of her conversion. One day her lover was murdered and, after a few days, his dog returned home alone. Letting him out, Margaret decided to follow him. Arriving at the scene of the murder, the dog began to paw frantically until part of the corpse appeared and Margaret ran to help him. The horror of the discovery caused her to faint.

This was the moment of grace. It was at this sight that God raised her mind to the brevity of life. She realized her soul was stained with mortal sin, and she was in danger of being plunged into hell as her lover had been. Margaret understood how greatly she had outraged the Divine Majesty of God. This revelation was so powerful that Margaret spent the rest of her life in tears and reparation and could not be satisfied with all her penances and always longed for more. The grace was so powerful that it transformed her from a great sinner into as great a penitent as was Saint Mary Magdalene.

Having laid aside all vanity and placed the affairs regarding the estate of her ill-fated lover into the hands of his relatives, she set out on the road to her village together with her son with fear and trepidation in her heart.

Falling at the feet of her father, she begged forgiveness, despite the rage and hostility of her stepmother. Margaret became a silent slave. Each silent acceptance only infuriated the stepmother more and she finally won Margaret’s father over to her side and drove Margaret and her son out. Being at the lowest point and with nowhere to go, Margaret experienced the most violent temptations because of her former way of life. In anguish, she lifted up her heart to God in prayer. In a very real and powerful inspiration she was told to go immediately to the sons of St. Francis at Cortona.

Cortona was destined by God to be the place of her apostolate. By her penances, example and prayer, she reformed the people, averted disaster, dispelled misfortune by prodigies, glorified its name by the fame of her stupendous life, her blessed death and by her special protection. She obtained for them from God every prosperity.

She retired to live a life of solitude and severe penance. At the vision of the lacerated body of Her Beloved, outraged by the sins of men, she resolved to leave her solitude and work for the salvation of souls. Our Lord Himself gave her the titles of “Mirror of Sinners”, “Mother and Fisher of Souls”. Here her life’s work began. Margaret’s life was to be one of total sacrifice in the love of God and neighbor. God attested His good pleasure in her by countless miracles and conversions which continue to our day.


A Prayer

    O most glorious Saint Margaret, true pearl whom Almighty God with so great love plucked from the hand of the infernal enemy who possessed thee, in order that, by means of thy wonderful conversion, holy life and most precious death, He might move all poor sinners to forsake sin, by doing good and avoiding evil as well as all sinful occasions: obtain for us, thy faithful clients, from thy exalted place in heaven a place to which thy tears and thy penance elevated thee, the grace of a sincere repentance, a lively sorrow for our sins and, after a holy life spent, like thine, in the love of Jesus Crucified, the grace of a happy death and a crown of glory in paradise.
    Amen.