St. Margaret of Clitherow

Today in the Roman Catholic Church is a feast day for St. Margaret of Clitherow. Now This is what has to say about Margaret.


St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England, in 1555, of protestant parents. Possessed of good looks and full of wit and merriment, she was a charming personality. In 1571, she married John Clitherow, a well-to-do grazier and butcher (to whom she bore two children), and a few years later entered the Catholic Church. Her zeal led her to harbor fugitive priests, for which she was arrested and imprisoned by hostile authorities. Recourse was had to every means in an attempt to make her deny her Faith, but the holy woman stood firm. Finally, she was condemned to be pressed to death on March 25, 1586. She was stretched out on the ground with a sharp rock on her back and crushed under a door over laden with unbearable weights. Her bones were broken and she died within fifteen minutes. The humanity and holiness of this servant of God can be readily glimpsed in her words to a friend when she learned of her condemnation: "The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise." Her feast day is March 26th.

How we can do this to each other is beyond me. This of course was a day in age when those who were RC were persecuted in England. So these ‘God-fearing’ people in the middle of the fourth week of Lent that year thought it a good thing to ‘press’ a woman to death for become a member of the Roman Catholic Church – all in the name of God. Boy we can be brutal.

I remember reading about Margaret a few years ago and thinking how very faithful she must have been to choose that painful end over recanting. It seems today that we would deny faith rather than be embarrassed at a cocktail party. But we have been reminded this week that this sort of dark and brutal reality is not the answer. That as sure as Jesus showed a different and appropriate response to the violence of his day, so too did Margaret of Clitherow show a fearless and appropriate response to violence in her day, and we too are called to respond to the violence of our day with nonviolence and action.    

LIGHT has defeated darkness and we must respond in Light, in Love and in hope. Not long ago I was reflecting with someone about how brutal religious extremist can be in the Middle East. I hear people musing about it all the time. It is terrible when we hear of people being torn apart limb by limb for their Christian faith. And yet as Margaret of Clitherow’s story reminds us, this is not new. We still allow violence in the name of The Supreme Love. Let us all embrace the Easter Gospel and try and live with a sense of peace and justice. We can all affect a new way of being by being brave enough to embrace the faith we have been given and by refusing violence as a response., beginning with how we respond to those closest to us. Love, Love, Love!

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