St. Margaret of Cortona, laywoman, Franciscan penitent.
"Then He said to all, 'If anyone wishes to come after me ...'"
After confession yesterday, St. Margaret of Cortona suddenly came to mind.
I recalled how she had been rejected by her lover's relatives and friends after his death, as well as shunned by her own. Her step-mother wouldn't allow her to come home after the murder of the nobleman who kept her as his mistress. After her father sent her away she was near despair, the mother of an illegitimate son. Our Lord inspired her to go to Cortona, to seek refuge with the Franciscan friars there.
Still young and beautiful, as a homeless, unmarried woman with a child, the friars were skeptical of her conversion and penance. She sought entrance into the order of penitents, but the friars put her off for three years. She was gossiped about, rejected by townsfolk, yet finally she was clothed in the habit of penance as a tertiary. Margaret experienced many mystical gifts and favors, nevertheless the friars and the people remained skeptical. Her scandalous past caused her to remain something of an outcast for the rest of her life.
Towards the end of her life she was considered a fraud, if not delusional, and as a result of continual gossip, her virtue was questioned. In fact she was banished from the cell she inhabited near the friary, and sent to a poor church outside the city and lived in great austerity, enduring all in patience.
For me, it was a special grace to be reminded of the outsider state which Margaret experienced. Especially to recall how she endured suspicion and scorn from her detractors - all of her life.
Italians are known for their hospitality, and especially their closeness to family, as well as their loyalty in friendship. How much Margaret must have suffered the rejection and alienation she experienced from those closest to her, even the friars she held in such reverent esteem.
St. Margaret, pray for us.
Help me to accept
the lot marked out for me.
St. Alexis, pray for us.
Obtain for me patience,
humility, and charity.