The saint for February 22
Saint Margaret of Cortona
Local only, optional
Roman Calendar

Born 1240
Died 1298
Canonized 1728

Margaret was born into a farming family. Her mother died when she was just seven years old, and her stepmother took a dislike to her. Her unhappy home life may have tempted her to elope with a nobly born soldier, with whom she lived for nine years, and by whom she bore a son.

In 1274, her lover failed to return home one night. On the following day, when their dog returned without him, Margaret knew something was terribly amiss. She followed the dog to the nearby woods, where she discovered the body of her lover, slain by robbers.

Margaret took this as a judgment from God, and was stricken with a consuming remorse. She begged forgiveness from her family, but was rejected. Thereupon she traveled to Cortona, to approach the Franciscans there, who heard her confession and began to provide her with spiritual direction.

Margaret inflicted severe physical penance upon herself, as well as caring for the poor. As she was still young and beautiful, and her conversion sudden after a life of carefree sin, she had to endure three years of fearful temptations, and was once even tempted to disfigure herself, so as to cease being attractive to men.

Once her young son was settled as a Franciscan novice, she threw herself with undivided vigor into nursing the sick of the poorest classes. At length she received permission to become a Franciscan tertiary, and eventually she founded a society of penitents devoted to caring for the indigent.

Margaret's former indiscretions were to follow her all of her days, and she was forced to endure mockery and humiliations from some who had known her in her youth. Nevertheless, she was recognized by many for her piety and holiness, and sought after as a spiritual advisor.

By 1298, her body broken and her health destroyed by the rigors of her penance, she died, having previously predicted the date of her own death.

Today we may see some of her penances as excessive and unbalanced, and they were. However, she battled with her demons and continued to cling to God until her battle was won. We may pray to her for help in obtaining true remorse for our sins, as well as to maintain a healthy balance in our interior life.
Patroness: Penitents, Tormented by Guilt, Those Ridculed for their Piety, Those Tempted to Self-Mutilation, Prostitutes, The Mentally Ill
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