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Margaret of Cortona

Margaret of Cortona

by Liz Goodyear Jones

“I neither seek nor wish for anything but you, my Lord Jesus”. With these words, Margaret of Cortona, answered the Lord’s question, “what is your wish, poverella?” (little poor one)

Celebrating Margaret’s life is a wonderful way to enter the first week of Lent. Born in Italy in 1247, she is listed in the book, Saints for Sinners, which might give you a clue as to her story.

What is her story? Well, for starters she is the patron saint of the homeless, insane, orphaned, penitents, single mothers, reformed prostitutes, stepchildren, and tramps among other illustrious titles– acquiring many of these titles from her own life.

Margaret was a farmer’s daughter, whose mother died when she was seven. A bit of a Cinderella, Margaret and her stepmother disliked each other to the point that she ran away as a rebellious teen. At seventeen she met and became the lover of the son of a lord, living in his castle, though not as his wife but as his mistress.  He, however, was murdered, shocking Margaret into a life of penance and prayer. She returned every gift he had given her to his family and went to the streets, homeless and with a child.

Eventually she ended up with the Franciscan friars, joining their third order and choosing a life of poverty. She established a hospital for the homeless and created a nursing order known as “le poverelle. Dying on this date, February 22, 1297, she was canonized in 1728.  

Why did I suggest her story was a great way to begin Lent? Because the power of living a self-absorbed life, being shocked into reality by the real world is a good lesson for us all. What was a rather small, unhappy life, became a life of great good for so many others; the power of love’s salvation– from the suffering of a dismal one to a life of redemptive joy. 

Not a bad example for us to look at our own lives and see love’s glimmer waiting for us there.

The Reverend Liz Goodyear Jones is spending Lent with her husband, having been vaccinated and preparing to renter the world of the church and a jazz musician’s wife.

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