Jesus asked her what her wish was. She answered, ““I neither seek nor wish for anything but You, my Lord Jesus.”
By Larry Peterson
Margaret was born in Laviano, near Cortona, in the province of Tuscany in the year 1247. Her parents were farmers. Sadly, when Margaret was only seven, her mom died. Not long after, her father remarried. Her father assumed that Margaret needed a woman to step in as her “replacement mom.”
He could not have guessed that Margaret’s new stepmom would have an actual aversion to his young daughter and that young Margaret would quickly come to develop a pronounced hostility for her new “mom.” As she grew, Margaret’s behavior became reckless and uncontrollable. A reputation was attached to her conduct, and soon, she was known. as a ‘bad” girl.
When Margaret was 17, she was introduced to the son of the Lord of Valiano, Guglielmo di Pecora. The young fellow was a dashing cavalier, and Margaret saw her salvation with him. He was someone who might love her, something she had missed since she was seven.
One night she ran away and met with her lover (his name is never mentioned in any of her writings) and moved into the castle at Montepulciano with him. She lived with him in the castle for nine years. They had a son together and he kept promising her that they would get married. She pleaded with him that they could not live sinfully. It did not matter, he refused to give in. (In her writings, Margaret confesses that she consented to her lover’s demands).
Who could ever imagine that a dog returning home could be the start of the rebirth of spiritual life? It happened to Margaret when her lover’s dog came back to the castle by himself. He went over to Margaret and began tugging on her dress trying to get her to go with him. She finally followed and the dog led her to his master’s body. Her lover who had been murdered.
Margaret blamed herself for her lover’s sinful ways and began to hate her own beauty which had so captivated him. She returned all the jewels, property, and anything else he may have given her to his relatives. Then she left the castle with her son and headed home to her father’s house. Her father would have taken her in but his wife, Margaret’s hateful stepmom, refused to have her. Her husband went along with his wife’s wishes.
Satan is always lying in wait for our weakest moments and he pounced on Margaret. Her first thoughts were to use her beauty to earn some money. Horrified by such sinful thinking she began praying. A voice told her to go to the Franciscan Friars at Cortona and to put herself under their spiritual guidance. When she arrived in Cortona, she was frightened and alone and without money. Two ladies noticed her standing on a corner with her son. She seemed so lost. They knew of the Franciscans and took her to the church of San Francesco to meet them.
Margaret and her son were brought into the Franciscans on a probationary trial period. After three years of probation, Margaret was admitted to the Third Order of St. Francis. (As soon as her son was of age he, too, became a Franciscan). From that point on, she begged her bread, lived on alms, did daily penance, and helped freely those in need. In 1277, while praying, she heard the words, “What is thy wish, Poverella?” (Little poor one). She answered, “I neither seek nor wish for anything but You, my Lord Jesus.”
While living such an austere existence, she managed to establish a hospital for the sick, homeless, and poverty-stricken, To develop a nursing staff for the hospital, she recruited select Tertiary Sisters into a group which became known as ‘le poverrele” (the little poor ones”). She also established a confraternity known as Our Lady of Mercy, whose members vowed to support the hospital and to help the poor and needy wherever they might be found.
In 1286, Margaret was granted a charter allowing her to work with the underprivileged permanently. She preached against vice and many returned to the sacraments. She developed a deep love for the Eucharist and the Passion of Our Lord. She was divinely warned of the day and hour of her death and it came as foretold; she died on February 22, 1297.
She was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII on May 16, 1728. Her body lies incorrupt in a silver casket inside The Basilica of St. Margaret of Cortona.
St. Margaret’s patronage is quite extensive. Use the link here to see the many patronages she had been given. She is undoubtedly one busy saint.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2020