Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hunchback of Castello

Born a hunchback, midget, blind, and lame, Blessed Margaret of Castello is the perfect example for this Lenten season.  At only six years old, her unfeeling parents were so ashamed of their daughter's appearance, they caged her in a tower for fourteen years.  She was unable to leave, however; due to the grace of God, she was able to attend Mass and the Sacraments, thus giving her the grace to suffer graciously.  Finally, not knowing what else to do, her parents took her to the Shrine of Fra Giacomo, selfishly demanding a cure.  When no cure occurred, Margaret's parents decided they could not bear to have such an ugly daughter as one of their own, and abandoned her.  Left to herself, the young girl became a Dominican and spent the rest of her life in prayer and works of mercy.  April 13th is marked as the anniversary of this special saint's death, and should also serve as a reminder for us, that suffering is the hidden, yet glorious pathway to Heaven.

"The Life of Blessed Margaret of Castello" is an inspiring biography of this saint's life.  To illustrate how devoted Blessed Margaret was to offering all her sufferings for Our Lord, and to give us added motivation for the rest of this Lenten season, here is an excerpt taken from the book, Chapter 4, "Margaret's Sufferings":

"With Margaret, to know was to act.  She possessed so generous a nature that she felt she had given nothing to God so long as anything remained to be given.  With her, therefore, there could never be any question of compromise or of half measures.  Since she had chosen to serve God, she would do so with her whole heart, her whole soul and her whole mind.

'It isn't the body that is important, Margaret,' cried the chaplain.  'It makes little difference what sort of a body you have, because in a few short years it will crumble away to the dust.  The thing that counts is your soul; that lives forever.  God created it to His own image and likeness.  Just think, Margaret!  God is your real Father.  He tenderly loves you and He asks you to love Him in return!'

The teaching of the chaplain filled the child with joy and hope. It safeguarded her disposition against the cruel jibes of her parents concerning her physical appearance.  It fired her with determination to do everything she could in order to make herself worthy of such divine love.    The example of the savior in undergoing voluntarily the greatest suffering for the salvation of the human race made  a profound impression on Margaret.  She often reflected on the subject, and she began to comprehend what the Savior was trying to teach pleasure-loving mankind.  She understood more and more the immensity of God's love which impelled Him to go to such extremes in order to save His children from their folly. 

There was nothing morbid in Margaret's character.  She had a sunny, cheerful disposition, and she naturally shrank from pain and suffering.  Btu she knew that to grow in virtue and thus approach closer and closer to God, the road she must travel along was pointed out by her Saviour.  As she wanted God more than anything in the whole universe, she was resolved to accept the divine invitation and to follow her Savior even to Calvary.  Hence, although the action of her parents was an agonizing blow to her, Margaret realized that God had permitted this to happen for her own good, and she forced her reluctant human nature to accept the blow as a special gift from God.

More than ever, she neglected nothing whatever which could help her gain her objective.  She not only accepted the sufferings inflicted upon her, but she even sought suffering.  Thus, she bound herself at the age of seven to a strict monastic fast--a fast extending from the middle of September to the following Easter.  But this was not penance enough for the young girl.  She devised a fast of her own to cover the rest of the year, that is from Easter until the middle of September, during this period she fasted four days a week.  On all Fridays of the year, the only  nourishment she would accept was a little bread and water.  Still she was not satisfied that she was doing enough.  She somehow secretly obtained a hairshirt and began to wear the penitential garment before she was seven years old."

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