Incorruptible and Indomitable
Blessed Margaret of Castello just earned herself another fan.
I’ll be honest. I knew next to
nothing about this remarkable little woman until I paid a visit to her shrine
at St. Patrick’s Church in
The story of this medieval Italian woman (1287-1320) immediately captured my imagination. Dominican Father Andre-Joseph LaCasse, pastor of St. Patrick’s and director of the Blessed Margaret of Castello Guild and Shrine there, shared with me some details of her life.
Born blind, crippled and ugly, Margaret suffered not only physical disabilities but also the pain of rejection from others, including her noble parents — who kept her in a prison-like cell for nine years before abandoning her entirely.
In spite of such adversity, Margaret never ceased to radiate charity and exemplify virtue. She loved Jesus and prayed often. After a series of trials following her abandonment, she spent the remainder of her 33 years living happily with a Dominican community as a tertiary of the order.
Father LaCasse and three other Dominican priests reside at St. Patrick’s, a lively parish that boasts many members who are not only devoted to Blessed Margaret, but also have a strong pro-life commitment (as evidenced by the memorial to the unborn standing outside the church).
The Blessed Margaret of Castello Guild unites these interests by using the majority of donated funds to support pro-life causes and other services for the “unwanted,” the marginalized and the poor.
The guild also exists to promote the cause of Blessed Margaret’s canonization. Hailing from all around the country, members of the guild receive prayers for their intentions at monthly Masses and in the friars’ daily recitation of the Divine Office.
‘Parishioners here at St. Patrick’s have had a special fondness for “Little Margaret” since the 1930s, although the shrine had its origin two decades later. By the 1970s the shrine had expanded into a separate chapel in the back of the church.
The church itself, recently renovated, has a beautiful sanctuary set off by the still-standing communion rail. Rows of colorful, portrait-like depictions of saints and blesseds, including Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Gianna Beretta Molla, peer down from the ceiling.
The venerable mementos in the church’s two reliquaries include sacred artifacts of St. Patrick, St. Dominic, St. John the Baptist, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis Xavier and St. Rose of Lima, among many others. But Blessed Margaret’s relic is by far the most impressive.
At some pious point in history,
Margaret’s heart was removed from her incorrupt body, which now lies beneath
the altar at St. Dominic Church in
The relic is also made available
to special pilgrims, like the two families who flew in the week prior to my
visit, one from
Father LaCasse prayed with the visitors. “We always pray that God’s will be done,” he told me. “If it is his will that we accept the cross, then we do — but we always pray that, through the intercession of Blessed Margaret, there be a healing if it’s God’s will.”
Small But Mighty
The guild office takes calls from people who are unable to visit the shrine but feel a special connection to Blessed Margaret. Rosemary Canada fields these calls, which come from people of all ages.
Callers frequently shed tears on
the phone because “her life relates so much to theirs,” according to
One will find these candles burning continually in front of the statue of Blessed Margaret, which stands in the small chapel inside St. Patrick’s. The wooden statue is unique among figures of Blessed Margaret because it does not portray her as hunchbacked or as a dwarf, but simply as small in stature.
A large tapestry embroidered with scenes from her life hangs on an adjacent wall along with a rough cross made out of pieces of charred wood salvaged from a church fire. A smaller relic stands to the left of the kneeler upon which so many bodies have bent in prayer.
The slender window behind the statue allows the light to pour over Blessed Margaret’s likeness from above while the candles illuminate her from below. Although her eyes are closed, this surrounding light serves to remind the visitor that physical blindness did not prevent Margaret from being wrapped in the light of Christ. Nor did the trials she encountered prevent her from loving Jesus with her whole heart.
Blessed Margaret has deserved beatification, veneration, incorruptibility — and this shrine and guild in her honor. She courageously and lovingly persevered through a life that handed her a heavy cross.
May her life inspire us to bear our own crosses, whatever they may be, with the same love that filled the heart of this truly blessed woman.
Gina Giambrone writes from
Planning Your Visit
Daily Mass is celebrated at St. Patrick’s at 7 and 11:45 a.m. Sunday Mass is celebrated Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 7, 9 and 10:30 a.m., and noon. Novena and canonization prayers, along with veneration of Blessed Margaret’s heart, are held Wednesdays. The Blessed Margaret Guild is on the web at home.catholicweb.com/MargaretofCastello.
- April 9-15, 2006