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Keep the Faith! St. Stephen the Martyr ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1 ACTS 6:8-10; 7:54-59

Responsorial Psalm PS 31:3CD-4, 6 AND 8AB, 16BC AND 17

Gospel MT 10:17-22

Liturgical colour: Red.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!  We have just celebrated both Christmas eve, and only yesterday, we celebrated Christmas day itself, the Wonderful feast of the birth of Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour. We have reflected upon the little newborn babe in the crib,  we have sung “silent night” and “Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing”, amongst other hymns, Carol’s, and no doubt festive non religious tunes of all varieties as well, and we have heard the tidings of peace, joy and salvation to all the world. And suddenly today, in stark contrast, we are clothed in blood-red vestments, we hear of the bloody death of Stephen, and of Jesus’ warnings of persecution, death, and hatred for his name’s sake. So, Is there a connection between Christmas and the first Holy martyr Stephen? How are we to make sense of this dramatic sudden contrast? Does it mean we shouldn’t take the beauty and the peace of Christmas too seriously? Does it mean that Christmas is merely a wonderful story, but that the reality is indeed extremely different…?

Not at all!! The long tradition of the Church in celebrating the memorial of St. Stephen the day after Christmas does not serve to demote Christmas in any way whatsoever, but to continue it, to strengthen it, and to manifest more clearly in our hearts the important meaning of the Christmas celebration. Jesus became mankind, he became born as an earthly child, so to in in his adult earthly years, to sacrifice himself for us and for our salvation.  He wanted as he wants today and always, for us to give him his rightful place within our hearts.  So after Christmas, the birth of the small Jesus, we contemplate also the birth of the Church,  because Our Lord was and is the Church, he was the church as a child.

Now when Jesus comes to dwell in our hearts, that cannot remain without effect upon us.  When Our Lord  and Saviour, who can do all things dwells within us, he transforms our hearts, and thus makes a difference in our attitudes towards one another and toward life.  St. Stephen’s life is an excellent example of this. As one of the first deacons he had a double task. He was assigned to the service of the tables, to the “service of love” to the poor, so that the Apostles would have more time for their preaching. But Stephen also had the gift of preaching, and so he would also perform the ministry of truth. Stephen, trusting in Jesus, devoted himself whole-heartedly to the tasks entrusted into him. He was stoned to death because his preaching of Jesus as the Son of God was considered blasphemy. Now, we might think that if Stephen, had been far more considerate of the understanding and passion of his Jewish brothers for the oneness of God, and had spoken more carefully about Jesus, that he would not have been stoned, that maybe he could have continued to preach about Jesus, and that by doing this,he could have done more good….

But St. Stephen make no compromises concerning the truth. He proclaims the Jesus who revealed himself and the one truth whom he had come to know. But he does not proclaim this truth by way of any violence or hatred, but in instead in the acts of love and self-giving. Until the last moment he forgives the men who kill him. As Jesus prayed for those who killed him, so St. Stephen prayed, “Lord, do not count this sin against them!” And his witness, his death was fruitful for us as members of the Church. The remembrance of this witness, for example, probably helped Saul later to accept Christ’s message as the truth, and to later become the great Apostle Paul.

St. Stephen is an excellent example to us of true and unwavering faithfulness to Jesus, an example of holding fast to the truth in love. This is an example of the way we all should and want to go within our lives. This path of truth and salvation is not always easy. It is not always easy to avoid deviating from the correct path in one way or another. Sometimes one hears that faithful Christians, in order to be tolerant of others, must abandon the claim to truth, that they must not proclaim or hold the faith as truth or even as true, for that to some, may lead to intolerance and to hatred. But the example of St. Stephen shows us clearly that the world needs the witness of the truth, and that it is possible to preach this truth with steadfast conviction and yet without  any violence or hate, but in the acts of love and self-giving.

Let us pray to Jesus, who came into this world as a child for our sakes, that we have the courage and the wisdom to profess our faith in our family life, in our workplaces, in our society, wherever we are, in a convinced and convincing loving manner, as St. Stephen did. Amen.

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Peace Has Come! The Rt. Rev. Jay Van Lieshout, OPI

Blessings and peace to you my brothers and sisters on this most auspicious solemnity of the nativity of our Lord!  It is amazing how swiftly the seasons have flown; last Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Pentecost, Kingdom Tide, then Advent and now we once again rejoice in the birth of our Savior.  As I sit and reflect on God’s message given us through these seasons, I am drawn to the promise of each Sunday in Advent: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.  I am especially inspired by the Sunday set right at the cusp of Christmas tide, the promise of Peace (I would like to mention in some traditions the 4th Sunday in Advent is Love; though seemingly different, Peace and Love are sides of the same coin, for how can you have Love without Peace, and without Peace how can Love exist?)

Isaiah (9:6) promises the Messiah would come as a Son of Man, God’s son, given to us and all authority in heaven and earth will rest upon His shoulders and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.  How wonderful a gift to have a Lord who brings to the world not extravagance and glitz, but the simple gift of Peace.  As I reflect on this gift, I consider the biblical concept of Peace (in Hebrew salom) and its four equally glorious aspects.  Peace reflects wholeness in body and health, harmony in relationship with each other and with the Creator, prosperity and fulfillment in spiritual and worldly life and the absence of conflict, war and strife.  When greet one another or extend our farewells and extend our wish for Peace in their lives, what better blessing can there be?  What better way to show agape love than through extending our wish for Peace!  And from where does all Peace emanate but from our Heavenly Father and Creator, who so loves us His children as to send down the ultimate emissary and vessel of everlasting Peace, His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

When Peace came down from heaven in the form of this precious child, the world was seemingly devoid of Peace.  It was a  nation occupied by foreign forces, civil rulers fighting over power, spiritual leaders fighting for control, and all three suppressing the people so as to procure and maintain wealth and power. Turmoil predominated, the people (especially the poor and weak) were just expendable pawns in the political, social and religious power plays.  The tree of Jesse was seemingly extirpated by evil, and yet out of this darkness, it brought forth a shoot, a Son was given, a child who’s light would bring about change, validate all people, disburse the wicked and topple corrupt governments through acts of Love and the gift of heavenly Peace.  Rejoice, Alleluia!

Brothers and Sisters, today I look around and hang my head.  For even as the church bells chime commemorating the Savior’s birth and its ancient promise of Peace and good will, just as in the old familiar carol, I say “There is no peace on earth… for hate is strong and mocks the song of Peace on earth”.  We too live in trouble times, reminiscent of a time when a small child was born two millennia ago.  The weak are persecuted, people are marginalized, civic and religious leaders fight for money, power and control.  Lies are the new truth, animosity is norm and self-righteousness is the new Gospel.  Just the other day I saw a post where a christian religious leader bought an expensive car and lavish gifts for his wife (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars) and people defended this extravagant display of wealth born from the hard labor of his parishioners even though members of the community go hungry or homeless.   Similarly, a bishop publicly posted on social media animosity towards gay priests, even though his fellow priests who have been supportive of him through the years happened to be gay.  How disheartening it is to see such things cloud the light, the good work, the Good News of God’s church.

Life is dynamic, yet the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Today, just in times past, children of God are wandering through life like sheep lost in desert looking for their shepherd to bring them home to peace and safety.  We as the Church, must stand up and be this shepherd for Christ, gathering up these lost sheep, feeding and caring for them both body and soul.  Like St. Peter, we are called to be the rocks on which Christ’s Church is built, a church which is strong, resilient and steadfast against the temporal tempests which blow through life.  Our lives and corporal acts of worship must be steadfast beacons of Peace, Love, Hope and Joy which guide the lost sheep to the verdant pastures of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.  Let us rejoice in the rituals and traditions handed down to us from our church fathers and mothers.  It is time to once again live the solemnities, feasts, celebrations and religious ceremonies which are the life blood of His church throughout the year. We must eschew the trappings of populous spirituality rich in its entertainment value and poor in substance, instead focusing worship being the promises of the advent season upon which the word of God is inscribed and from which the Light of Christ shines forth: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.

Brothers and Sisters, the world needs the promise of our Lord’s nativity  now more than ever; not just on December 25th, but each and every day throughout the year.  We must carry the Peace and Love which comes from the Christ child in our hearts and offer salom to every person we meet and to all whom we bid farewell. We must remember, WE are the Church, we are the bearers of Peace and Love in the world, shepherds to God’s lost sheep and each time we open our salom to those we meet, especially the poor, the weak, the ostracized and those different from us, we pay homage to the Christ Child Himself, born of Mary, swaddled and laid in a manger.

 

Get Ready! ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

 

Reading 1: BAR 5:1-9

R Psalm: PS 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6.

Reading 2:  PHIL 1:4-6, 8-11

Gospel: LK 3:1-6

Liturgical colour: Purple/violet

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ:

Baruch, was a Hebrew prophet who isn’t very well known as such, and whom we heard in today’s First Reading. He had a strong sense that things in the world would be different.

The people suffered because their leaders were so painfully inadequate – and sadly, this still happens in our own world today.  Both priests and kings, religious and secular leaders, totally    unwilling to trust God and God’s ways, were leading the nation into unnecessary suffering and to eventual destruction.

Baruch connected peace with integrity, honour with devotedness.

Along with Isaiah, whom Luke quoted in the Gospel reading, Baruch was saturated with God’s vision for his world. They both had a sense of what life could be like if genuine concern for the common-good of all replaced the self-interest and national interest of the powerful and the rich; and if a sense of the inviolable dignity of every person replaced violence and the culture of death.

For that to happen, people’s eyes needed to be opened – to see that many familiar and unquestioned ways of doing things were not necessarily the only ways, or the best ways. People needed to be educated, their consciences formed, and their sense of mutual responsibility sharpened and activated.

The need is universal, as important now as then.

Six centuries after Baruch and Isaiah, John the Baptist appeared on the scene. Luke summed up his striking entry onto the stage in today’s Gospel:

The Word of God came to John, son of Zachariah, in the wilderness… and he went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

John believed that the power of sin could be broken, not in some distant long=term to come, but immediately, by one who would follow in his footsteps.  But people first needed to share his pain, and his distress at the way things were. Then they needed to become aware of their own often unconscious sharing in the destructive networks, relationships and customary ways of doing things that destroyed their own human dignity as they undermined the dignity of others. And thirdly, they needed to find the motivating power and the energy to do things differently: they needed to share John’s hope for change and his confident sense of God.  John sensed that God was moving… God – the source of being, the creator of the universe, the life-force of all that lives – was moving. Indeed, unknown to John, God had stepped into the flow of human history in order to engage with it from within. God had taken human flesh and blood, and become incarnate in Jesus.

It is so sad in today’s world, that the true meaning of Christmas is often forgotten, and for many has replaced the awe-inspiring mystery of incarnation of Our Lord and saviour, with commercialisation, with Santa Claus, and with songs such and ideas like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.  We need to Prepare a way for the Lord, we need to make his paths straight. This is a call to active commitment in the true reason of Christmas…

God’s Kingdom is possible. But we do not get captured by that realisation as we ought in the midst of noise, frantic movement or distractions of the world.  During the coming days of the remainder of the advent season, it is important that we try our hardest to construct some quiet time in the midst of all the noise; and to find some stillness in the midst of the frantic distractions of the world, and to focus on the coming of Christ amongst us.

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord~ The Rev. Deacon Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

The Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus is celebrated by Christians on August 6, 2018. and is considered a major feast. The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported in the New Testament in which Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant. He and three of his apostles go up on Mount Tabor, on which Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. The prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to Him and He speaks with them. Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, God the Father.

Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.””

We should note that the Transfiguration was experienced by Peter, James and John—not by the other Apostles or disciples or followers of Jesus—not even by Mary His Mother. Jesus does not always share with us his reasoning about why He does things and so we are invited to wonder—as surely did the other followers of Jesus. And even though Jesus tells these three not to share the vision with anyone until He, Jesus, has been raised from the dead, surely the others were aware that something had happened. We can try to imagine what answer these three would have given when the others asked: what happened up there?

This Feast of the Transfiguration invites us to look at the mystery of Jesus Christ, living among us. This Jesus is truly God and yet truly human. At the time of His baptism and then at the time of the Transfiguration, the Divine breaks through and a voice is heard: “This is my beloved Son.” The Baptism of Jesus is the beginning of His public ministry, but it is also a baptism into death, a baptism into our human condition, a baptism into the will of the Father. The Transfiguration echoes that baptism: it is a preparation for the death of the Lord, a preparation to see Him die in our human condition, a preparation for his complete accepting of the will of His father.

In the Book of Daniel. we are given a vision of heaven that is full of imagination and images and symbols. Daniel is one of those who could see the Son of Man and know that a Savior was coming. The Prophets in general were able to see that God’s love for His people would require a Savior to come. What that would mean was not yet clear. What was clear was the sinfulness of humanity and the love of the Father. Just as in the Transfiguration, we have the divinity of Jesus breaking through into our human situation, so also the Prophets could see that God must once again break into our human condition to draw us to Himself.

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

As I watched: Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne. His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool; his throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat; thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. The court was convened and the books were opened. As the visions during the night continued, I saw: One like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.”

The second reading comes from the Second Letter of Peter and teaches us that the Transfiguration is given to us so that we can know the power and the majesty of the Lord Jesus. The declaration from the Father, “This is my son,” is unique and helps all believe that truly, Jesus is God and has come to save us.

2 Peter 1:16-19

Beloved: we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

For us, the Transfiguration draws us deeper into the mystery of Jesus. We want to believe that God sent another Prophet or another Anointed one. In some ways, yes, but this Prophet, this Anointed One, is God Himself, present in our human condition, One like us in all things but sin. Which is a clear sign that God does love us!

Taking the Journey: Palm Sunday~The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

 

Liturgical colour: Red.

The Procession with Psalms=Gospel: MK 11.1=10

Reading 1: IS 50:4=7

R Psalm: PS 22: 8=9,17=18,19=20,23=24

Gospel: MK 14: 1=15:47

As most people who probably know me well are aware, I am a person who likes to travel on journeys, whether for ministry or to visit sacred or beautiful places of the Lord’s creation. But the journey undertaken on Palm Sunday, which we celebrate today, was a journey of both joy and celebration, but also of suffering.

As Jesus rode into a Jerusalem on a donkey to attend passover,many crowds gathered. The crowds rejoiced, waving palms, laying them in the Lord’s path, and many also laid down their cloaks to the King of Kings.

However, amongst the rejoicing crowds shouting ‘Hosanna!’ were also the Pharisees and Jesus knew that this journey would also lead to his death for our salivation, only five days later. This was certainly an extremely important journey and was filled by both the rejoicing and waving of palm with the shouting of ‘Hosanna!’, and the suffering of our dear Lord Jesus knowing that these very people who today rejoiced as he entered Jerusalem would also be the people who would condemn him to physical death on the cross. Jesus knew this was the will and plan of his Heavenly Father for our salvation from sin and death, he knew what had to happen and our Lord accepted this.

Today’s we rejoice with the Lord at his arrival in Jerusalem to attend the Passover, and we also share in his sorrow and suffering as his brothers and sisters, for what the Lord was to suffer for our sake. Yet, we also rejoice at the fact the Lord Jesus loves us so much that he was willing and prepared to undertake this journey on our behalf.

Of course, there are many types of journeys that we can undertake in our lives, but no journey of ours can ever compare to this journey of our dear Lord and Saviour.

Taking a journey may not always mean travelling, a kind of journey can also be something unexpected which we deal with in our lives and situations in which we may find ourselves. Faith and trust in the Lord is also a kind of journey.

Today, I myself shall be undertaking a type of journey, for today, I have surgery. What a fantastic day today is to put myself in the Lord’s loving care. I would love to think that spiritually, even if not physically, that I am walking alongside our Lord as he enters Jerusalem today, and to remain walking by his side all the way to the cross. Undertaking the journey of rejoicing and of suffering together. How wonderful that is to my heart, how this thought uplifts my spirit! And just as the people of Jerusalem rejoiced today with shouts of ‘Hosanna!’, I shall whilst on my journey today, will also be doing the same within my heart and soul today!

‘Hosanna in the highest to the King of Kings!’.

 

Let us pray:

Thank you for sending your Son and paving the way for our lives to be set free through Jesus’ death on the cross. Thank you for what this day of Palm Sunday stands for=The beginning of Holy Week, the start of the journey towards the power of the Cross, the victory of the Resurrection, and the rich truth that Our Lord Jesus truly is our King of Kings. We praise you, we bless you Lord! Thank you that you reign supreme and that we are conquerors through the gift of Christ.

In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

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Fishers of Men! ~ The Rev. Dcn. Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

As I watched my old house being torn down a few years ago, so many memories came rushing in. The joy of bringing my first little girl home from the hospital, on a heart monitor because she had Gastro-esophageal reflux, which caused her to turn blue from losing her breath quite often. Or bringing her younger sister home a few short years later, and watching this very precocious girl, try to not only keep up with her older sister, but her older cousins, all of whom seemed to think our home was the fun place to be. Then so many years later, bringing home my granddaughter, and watching her take her first steps, being so afraid she would slip and fall on our hardwood floors. There are so many memories in this one house, that some would wonder why we (my family and I), would readily abandon it and seek somewhere else to live, to create new memories. But in Mark 1:14-20, this is exactly what Jesus is asking four young men to do, leave what they know, where they are comfortable, and have known all their lives, to follow Him and become something more.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As He went a little farther, He saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.”

As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon, Andrew, James, and John. And called to them. There were no questions, no goodbyes. They just simply dropped their nets, and left to follow Jesus. Now if it were me, and I suspect most of you, I would be filled with questions. Like, “Where are we going? What will we do? How long will we be gone? What do I need to take? Where will we stay?” But this conversation doesn’t take place in today’s gospel. Jesus does not offer a map, an itinerary, or a destination, only an invitation. This is not the type of journey you can prepare for. It’s not about planning and organizing, making lists, or packing supplies. It’s just not that easy. If anything this journey is about leaving things behind……to leave behind our nets, our boats, and all that seems familiar. In Psalm 62:5-8 we are encouraged to put our trust and hope in God for this journey.

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.”

So Simon and Andrew were casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. Day after day it was the same thing; the same sea, the same net, the same boat. Day after day it was wind, water, fish, sore muscles, and tired bodies. They probably grew up watching their dad and granddad fishing, watching their future life, and how they too would spend their time. Cast the net, and pull it in. If you are not casting the net, then you probably sat in the boat mending the net. That’s what James and John were doing. Casting and mending, always……casting and mending. You know about those days, right? How many of us go through our days on autopilot, feeling as if we are stuck in some time loop?

We may not fish for a living but we certainly know about casting and mending. Days that all seem the same, spent doing the same things every day to make a living, to feed our family, to pay the bills, to gain security and get to retirement, to hold our family together, make our marriage work, and to grow up our children. Casting and mending to gain the things we want; a house, a car, books, clothes, a vacation. Casting and mending to earn a reputation, gain approval, establish status. And to make our way through another day of loneliness, sadness, or illness. Casting and mending are realities of life. They are also the circumstances in which Jesus comes to us, the way in which we hear the call to new life, and the place where we are changed and the ordinary becomes the extraordinary.

Those future disciples of Jesus, Simon and Andrew, James and John, are not looking for Him. They are too busy with the nets. It is another day of casting and mending. They may not have even noticed Jesus but He not only sees them; He speaks to them. Jesus has a way of showing up in the ordinary places of life and interrupting our daily routines of casting and mending nets. That’s exactly what He did in the lives of these four gentleman. And that’s what He can do for your life and mine. “Follow me” is Jesus’ invitation to a new life. If these four fishermen accept the invitation, their lives will forever be different. They will be different. They will no longer catch just fish. They will “fish for people”. When Jesus says this, He is describing the transformation of their lives, not simply a job catching new members or followers. Whatever your life is, however you spend your time, there is in that life Jesus’ call to “Follow me.”

That’s the hard part for most of us. We’re pretty good at accumulating and clinging but not so good at letting go. More often than not our spiritual growth involves some kind of letting go. We never get anywhere new as long as we’re unwilling to leave where we are. We accept Jesus’ invitation to follow, not by packing up, but by letting go. “Follow me” is both the invitation to and the promise of new life. So what are the nets that entangle us? What are the little boats (or old houses) that contain our life? Who are the people from whom we seek identity, value, and approval? What do we need to let go of and leave behind, so that we might follow Him? Please don’t think this is simply about changing careers, disowning our family, or moving to a new town. It is about the freedom to be fully ourselves, and in so being, discover God’s plan for us. We need to let go so that our life may be changed, so that we can now travel in a new direction, so that we may be open to receive the beauty of God’s promises. When we let go, everything is transformed. That’s why Jesus could tell these four gentlemen they would still be fishermen. But now they would fish for people. They wouldn’t become something they weren’t already, but they would be changed. They would more authentically be who they already are – Fishers of men!

Saint Margaret of Hungary

Margaret, the daughter of King Bela IV, and Queen Mary Lascaris of Hungary, was offered to God before her birth, in petition that the country would be delivered from the terrible scourge of the Tartars. The prayer having been answered in 1242, the king and queen made good their promise by placing the rich and beautiful three-year-old in the Dominican convent at Vesprim. Here, in company with other children of nobility, she was trained in the arts thought fitting for royalty.

Margaret was not content with simply living in the house of God; she demanded the religious habit–and received it–at the age of four. Furthermore, she took upon herself the austerities practiced by the other sisters–fasting, hairshirts, the discipline (scourge), and night vigils. She soon learned the Divine Office by heart and chanted it happily to herself as she went about her play. She chose the least attractive duties of the nuns for herself. She would starve herself to keep her spirit humble. No one but Margaret seemed to take seriously the idea that she would one day make profession and remain as a sister, for it would be of great advantage to her father if she were to make a wise marriage.

This question arose seriously when Margaret was 12. She responded in surprise. She said that she had been dedicated to God, even before her birth, and that she intended to remain faithful to that promise. Some years later her father built for her a convent on the island in the Danube between Buda and Pest. To settle the matter of her vocation, here she pronounced her vows to the master general of the order, Blessed Humbert of the Romans, in 1255, and took the veil in 1261.

Again, when Margaret was 18, her father made an attempt to sway her from her purpose, because King Ottokar of Bohemia, hearing of her beauty, had come seeking her hand. He even obtained a dispensation from the pope and approached Margaret with the permission. Margaret replied as she had previously, “I esteem infinitely more the King of Heaven and the inconceivable happiness of possessing Jesus Christ than the crown offered me by the King of Bohemia.” Having established that she was not interested in any throne but a heavenly one, she proceeded with great joy to live an even more fervent religious life than she had before.

Margaret’s royal parentage was, of course, a matter of discussion in the convent. But the princess managed to turn such conversation away from herself to the holy lives of the saints who were related to her by blood–King Saint Stephen, Saint Hedwig, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, and several others. She did not glory in her wealth or parentage, but strove to imitate the saints in their holiness. She took her turn in the kitchen and laundry, seeking by choice much heavy work that her rank might have excused her from doing. She was especially welcome in the infirmary, which proves that she was not a sad-faced saint, and she made it her special duty to care for those who were too disagreeable for anyone else to tend.

Margaret’s austerities seem excessive to us of a weaker age. The mysteries of the Passion were very real to her and gave reason for her long fasts, severe scourgings, and other mortifications detailed in the depositions of witnesses taken seven years after her death (of which records are still in existence). Throughout Lent she scarcely ate or slept. She not only imitated the poverty- stricken in their manual labor and hunger, but also in their lack of cleanliness–a form of penance at that time. Some of her acts of self-immolation have been described as “horrifying” and verging on fanaticism, and there seems to have been an element of willfulness in her mortifications.

She had a tender devotion to Our Lady, and on the eve of her feasts, Margaret said a thousand Hail Marys. Unable to make the long pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to Rome, or to any of the other famous shrines of Christendom, the saint developed a plan by which she could go in spirit: she counted the miles that lay between herself and the desired shrine, and then said an Ave Maria for every mile there and back. On Good Friday she was so overcome at the thoughts of Our Lord’s Passion that she wept all day. She was frequently in ecstasy, and very embarrassed if anyone found her so and remarked on her holiness.

A number of miracles were performed during Margaret’s lifetime and many more after her death because Margaret had an implicit faith in the power and efficacy of prayer. The princess nun was only 28 when she died. Most of the particulars of her life are recorded in existing depositions of witnesses taken in 1277. Her friends and acquaintances petitioned for her to be acclaimed a saint almost immediately after her death. Among them was her own servant, Agnes, who rightly observed that this daughter of a monarch showed far more humility than any of the monastery’s maids. Although their testimony expressed Margaret’s overpowering desire to allow nothing to stand between her and God, the process of canonization was not complete until 1943. The island where her convent stood, called first the “Blessed Virgin’s Isle,” was called “Isle of Margaret” after the saint.   She died 18 January 1271 at Budapest, Hungary.  Her remains were given to the Poor Clares at Pozsony when the Dominican Order was dissolved, and most of her relics were destroyed in 1789, but portions are still preserved at Gran, Gyor, Pannonhalma.

 

She was beatified on 28 July 1789 by Pope Pius XII.