SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW (1556-1586), martyr – Patron saint of converts and martyrs
Today, the Church honors Saint Margaret Clitherow, a convert to Catholicism during a time of persecution in England, and who was passionate about living her faith, even to the point of martyrdom.
Margaret Middleton, born in 1556 in Yorkshire, England, became the wife of John Clitherow, whose family was Catholic, although he had taken on the state religion of England long before he married. Margaret bore two children from their marriage, and converted to the Catholic faith a few years after they were married.
Since the Church of Rome was essentially outlawed in England under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Margaret became a zealous defender of Catholicism and exhibited a great love for God, hiding priests in her home, who secretly celebrated Mass for the Catholic faithful who were hiding their faith from the authorities. It was not until after 1577 that an edict was given that any priest who was discovered celebrating Mass risked the death penalty. Unfortunately, a young boy, out of fear of the authorities, revealed the hiding place of the priests where chalices and vestments were kept.
Margaret was arrested along with a neighboring housewife who had attended Mass at the Clitherow home. Margaret’s only concern was that her family be kept safe from all harm. She was brought to trial and would not plead her guilt or innocence. She would only respond, “Having made no offense, I need no trial.” If she had been tried, her family would have been called as witnesses against her, and she was determined that this would not happen.
Reluctantly, the judge sentenced her to be “pressed to death,” a bizarre death sentence to be carried out on Good Friday. At the age of thirty years, she was laid on the ground, a sharp stone placed beneath her back, her hands stretched out in the form of a cross and bound to two posts. Then a door was placed upon her, which was weighted down with rocks until she was crushed to death. Her last known words, during an agony which lasted some fifteen minutes, were “Jesu! Jesu! Jesu! have mercy on me!” She gained for herself the glorious martyr’s crown on March 26, 1586.
Margaret Clitherow was canonized a saint by Pope St. Paul VI on October 25, 1970.
We commemorate her feastday on March 26.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, ewtn.com/library and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for One Martyr)
“All-powerful, Ever-living God, You gave Saint Margaret the courage to witness to the Gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving her life for it. By her prayers, help us to endure all suffering for love of You and to seek You with all our hearts, for You alone are the Source of life.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”