Blessed Margaret of Citta De Castillo, Margaret of Metola





 BLESSED LITTLE MARGARET OF CITTA DI CASTELLO

1287  to 1320

Many people don`t know about Margaret. Her little uncorrupted body lies in a glass coffin under the high altar in the Church of S. Domenico in Citta di Castello. The Church is beautiful, large and peaceful with magnificent stained glass windows and frescoes.Citta di Castello is an ancient, timeless town in northern Umbria. It is still surrounded by many areas of high walls from medieval days. The Umbria region is Italy`s "greenbelt."

The earliest inhabitants of Umbria were the "Umbri," thought by the Romans to be the most ancient inhabitants of Italy. Little is known about them, but they appear to have left with the arrival of the Etruscans. No one even really knows where the Etruscans came from, or what eventually happened to them. Umbria later became like a Papal State, and it had a few powerful medieval families who exerted control in the Middle Ages. Umbria has produced a major share of Saints (including Saints Francis, Clare, Benedict, Rita, and Valentine). At the end of World War II, Citta di Castello was liberated by the British.

Someone told us the population is about 38,000. Many of the town`s buildings probably look today pretty much the way they looked when Margaret lived and died there. Margaret was born in 1287 in a castle on top of a very steep mountain in Metola, a village in a mountainous area outside Citta di Castello. Metola is over in the Marches region, northeast of Citta di Castello. Only the castle`s tower now remains. The exact date of her birth is unknown, but we know she died on April 13, 1320.

Margaret was born blind and deformed. She was extremely hunchbacked, and one leg was much shorter than the other. She grew to be just over 4 ft. tall and was so lame she could hardly walk. Her head was large in proportion with the rest of her body. She was a tiny little soul. Her father was a wealthy nobleman who owned and ruled the whole forest area beneath his castle in Metola. No one now knows what his last name was or what eventually happened to him and his wife. The information we have seems to have been passed down through the castle`s Priest who befriended Margaret, and from castle servants as well as townspeople. Her father was despised, feared and cruel. He had planned a large celebration for the birth of a son.

Instead, the firstborn baby was Margaret. He was furious and Margaret being blind and deformed only made matters worse. Margaret`s mother had a kind personal maid. It was the maid and her husband who later took Margaret to be Baptized in Mercatello, down the road from Metola. That way, Margaret`s parents thought their identities could remain secret if the Priest discovered Margaret`s physical deformities during her Baptism. Mercatello is not far from Metola. A tiny square park at thecenter of Mercatello has a beautiful statue of her. That Mercatello Priest knew Margaret's last name though. The Church (Pieve d`Ico) is in the main piazza.

Unfortunately, the Baptism records vanished. Margaret was not Baptized immediately after her birth. Her parents hoped she would not live. They also wanted her existence to remain unknown. Fortunately, their hopes and intentions didn`t succeed.To keep Margaret out of sight, her mother`s kind maid was given complete charge. The castle`s Priest who befriended Margaret educated her as best hecould. He even carved her a cane to make it easier for her to move around.

Margaret easily memorized the Psalms and all other Bible verses he taught her. She was unusually brilliant, always loving, never complained, and expressed no resentment toward her cruel parents. When Margaret was about six, she wandered away from her mother`s maid into a hallway leading to her parents rooms. Guests who were just arriving saw her and almost discovered who she really was. Her mother`s maid quickly picked up Margaret and whisked her away. When her father heard about the near discovery, he had his workmen quickly build a stone room next to a small Church away from his castle. Little Margaret lived as a prisoner in that stone room for 14 years. She couldn`t get out, but her needs were provided for. The Priest was furious with her father, but he was helpless to do anything that might bring harm to Margaret. Instead, he became her closest friend, teacher, confidant, confessor ... and provided the Sacraments for her through a window.

(The stone room is still there, and a little Church dedicated to Margaret. You can walk down to it from the castle tower. From Citta di Castello, the road to the Metola castle tower is through the village of Palazzi. ) Margaret`s mother heard about miracles taking place in Citta di Castello at the tomb of well-known Fra Giacomo. The tomb was in the Church of S. Francisco (still there, and across the street from the Hotel Tiforno). Margaret`s parents thought it a good idea to take her there and achieve a miracle. So, under cover of darkness, her parents took her over to Citta di Castello. (It was a day-long journey back then, and it is not a short ride by car now.) Margaret was so happy and later told someone it was the only time her parents showed love for her. They left her at the altar in the Church of S. Francisco amongst others seeking cures. When they returned later that day, however, Margaret was unchanged. Without saying a word, they quietly fled back to their castle in Metola. They deserted her! After the Church closed that night, she sat outside on the Church steps to wait for her parents.

In the morning, beggars saw and befriended her. She lived with them and became a beggar herself. (In a short time, she converted the beggars to being Christians.) It wasn`t long before townspeople learned where Margaret had come from. In time, she was aided by a few wealthy families and even lived at the convent for a short while. (The convent and a later school for the blind are closed.)

Margaret died while living with a wealthy family that truly treasured her presence. Margaret was known for her kind and gentle demeanor. She was well aware that her parents regarded her as a repulsive embarrassment, but she still loved them and felt guilty about her condition. She was so very religious, possessed mystical qualities and performed many miracles, helped the poor, the ill, and even prisoners. Everyone loved Margaret except her parents.

She accepted her suffering through the eyes of faith. She didn`t know why God permitted her to have so many afflictions. She felt that because it was He who permitted her misfortune, He didn`t need to reveal His purpose. Margaret wondered why people pitied her. Pain made her sensitive, compassionate and understanding toward others. Her faith was uncompromising, and she found strength in prayer and the Sacraments.

Margaret came to be declared a "Blessed" because of so many miracles being attributed to her. We were told that, later, there was water damage to her original coffin. When Margaret died, she wasn`t embalmed. Official witnesses were shocked to find her body perfectly preserved when the coffin was opened in 1558  but her clothing had crumbled. She is called an "uncorrupted." At one point, her body was taken to Rome for examination toward canonization. Following a rigorous examination by physicians, she was re-clothed in the Dominican habit she wears today. Exposure to air elements during that time caused her skin to darken but her teeth, hair, etc. are all intact. If you know anything about her and go there, and walk up to kneel in front of her glass coffin, it takes your breath away and calms every inch in your own body.

During Margaret`s lifetime and long after her death, towns and regions in that part of Italy were still fighting amongst themselves. There were also frequent times of famine and plagues. The Black Death alone killed millions in Europe and who knows what happened to the people and paper work that had already been done for her canonization? We who are devoted to sharing the life story of Little Margaret are trying to do something about that! Without question, Margaret should be declared the Saint of the Unborn and Physically Handicapped. If she were conceived today, she would probably be aborted, left to die at birth, or killed at birth (as are many such children in countries most of us have heard about).


Blessed Margaret of Castello and of Columbus , Ohio : a brief sketch of her life

by Fr. Andre-Joseph LaCasse, O.P.

Blessed Margaret of Castello was born of a noble Italian family near Florence , Italy , in 1287. Born a hunchback, dwarf, blind, and lame, her family was ashamed of her and kept her hidden in virtual imprisonment for nine years in a tiny cells attached to a forest church. It was only through the family chaplain that Blessed Margaret came to know God. Seeking a miracle, her parents took her to a Franciscan Shrine. When she was not cured, they abandoned her.

Blessed Margaret's faith and courage inspired others in the community to take pity on her and to help her survive. Eventually she became a member of the Dominican Third Order of Castello, where she lived an exemplary life of prayer, penance, and charity. Despite her miseries, Margaret was serene, cheerful, and courageous. She never became bitter, never complained, never reproached others or lost heart. Discouragement was a word she did not know. She found strength in prayer, in daily Mass, in Holy Communion, and sought help from Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Saint Dominic.

Margaret was courageous because she looked at the suffering with the eyes of faith. She did not know why God permitted her to have so many afflictions. She did know that He was an infinitely loving and kind Father, who never permits one single misfortune without good reason, who always turns evil into good for His children. She wondered why people pitied her. Was it not a privilege to suffer with Christ? Suffering for her was her way to heaven.

Pain made Margaret sympathetic and understanding toward others. She visited prisoners, helped the sick, and comforted the dying. Since her death at age 33, she has continued to help those who pray to her. Many cures have been attributed to her intercession.

Blessed Margaret of Castello was declared Blessed by the Catholic Church on October 19, 1609. She is an inspiration to those who are discouraged and tempted to self-pity. Her intercession is most powerful to those who suffer from eye and muscular diseases and has become an inspiration for the Pro-Life Movement. She is a help for those who are unwanted and abandoned.

Her incorrupt body lies under the main altar in Saint Dominic Church, Castello. Many visit her shrine to venerate her body and pray for her intercession.

Blessed Margaret of Castello Guild and Shrine

There has been a special devotion to Blessed Margaret at Saint Patrick Church in Columbus , Ohio , since the 1930s. A special Shrine was established in the Church in the late 1950s, with an expansion of the shrine as a separate chapel in the church done in the renovations of the 1970s, and again with the complete renovations of the church in 2003 marking Saint Patrick's 150th Anniversary.

The Blessed Margaret Guild was established for a number of purposes:

to promote the canonization of Blessed Margaret

to raise money for various programs to benefit The Unwanted, especially the poor and underprivileged; to promote social justice; to further the cause of Respect for Life; and to promote the principles and ideals carried out by her in her work as a tertiary of the Dominican Order.

Each Wednesday, the Blessed Margaret Novena and Canonization Prayers are prayed at the Masses. A special Mass is celebrated monthly for the intentions of the guild members. The Dominican Friars remember the intentions of the guild in their daily recitation of the Divine Office.

In 2003 the guild raised over $16,000. This money was donated to the Dominican Curia for her continued cause of canonization and to various charities that support pro-life activity, the homeless, medical needs, and the many requests that we receive.

Won't you consider becoming a member of the Blessed Margaret of Castello Guild? In return, you will share in all the spiritual benefits of the guild, as well as periodic mailings of events happening with the guild. You can contact me for information at the address below. Our guild has less than 1000 members and we are always looking for more. The guild also has many items that can be sent to you as well, such as holy cards, third class relics, books, novenas and prayers, images and statues.

Recent News Concerning Possible Canonization

The guild was recently informed that her cause had been re-examined in 2000 and, in the Diocese of Castello, Italy , a diocesan inquiry on her reputation and fame of sanctity is proceeding. At the conclusion of this phase, the cause will be studied and examined in Rome . Another miracle will be examined for the final Canonization Decree. This miracle to be examined is in a case from Silver Spring , Maryland ! It has been studied by a medical doctor of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints but requires verification with more medical tests. If the miracle were upheld, it would be the one needed for her canonization. This is such good news!

Other major works to help to spread devotion to Blessed Margaret are as follows:

In 1999, a canonical recognition of the body of Blessed Margaret under the main altar of the Church of Saint Dominic in Castello took place.

A small fragment has been taken from her body in order to prepare relics.

Her biography was published in Polish in 2001 and in Italian in 2002.

In 2003, her habit was discovered and has been given by the Dominican Order to the Shrine of Blessed Margaret at the Church of Saint Dominic in Castello.

The Dominican Curia has begun an aggressive campaign to raise funds to help defray the expenses of the cause. They are asking for $40,000 to $50,000. The summer of 2003 the guild raised over $10,000 for this cause. Any money raised will go directly to further her cause of canonization. Could the chapters of the Third Order consider raising funds for this cause? The money can be sent directly to the Dominican Curia or sent to the shrine here in Columbus . You may contact me for further information. Most importantly, please pray for our efforts and all who are working so hard for Little Margaret's canonization.

 

 

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