Saint Margaret Clitherow (1555-1586), English saint and martyr. Saint Margaret lived and died during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and a time of great persecution of Catholics in England. At that time, priests were not allowed to reside within the country, and those sympathetic to the Catholic faith, celebrating Mass, or providing shelter to priests were found guilty of treason. For many, however, the faith continued undaunted, the celebration of Mass held more important than the danger of discovery.
Margaret was born in Middleton, England, to faithful Protestant parents. Intelligent, funny, and attractive, Margaret grew up in the Protestant faith, and was married at 18 to a butcher, John Clitherow. Together, they had three children, and were content to live a respectable middle-class life. Margaret demonstrated a keen mind for business, and frequently assisted her husband in the butcher shop. She was known for her kind heart and warm smile.
"found no substance, truth nor Christian comfort in the ministers of the new church, nor in their doctrine itself, and hearing also many priests and lay people to suffer for the defense of the ancient Catholic Faith." Margaret’s husband did not convert, but was respectful of her faith, and allowed the children to be raised Catholic. Their eldest son left England, and moved to France to enter the seminary.
“by God's grace all priests shall be more welcome to me than ever they were, and I will do what I can to set forward God's Catholic service." She organized celebrations of Mass, and hired a Catholic tutor for neighborhood children of the faith. It was through this tutor that she came to be discovered.
One afternoon, while the tutor was instructing the children, the police raided the house. The tutor escaped, and the authorities found children studying, but convinced of treason, they questioned the children until one broke down in tears, revealing the cupboard of hidden items. Margaret was immediately arrested, and the children were removed from their homes, placed with devout Protestant families. Margaret would never see her children again. Moved by her life, however, her younger son became a priest, and her daughter, a nun.
"I know of no offense whereof I should confess myself guilty. Having made no offense, I need no trial." The court was outraged, and sentenced her to the maximum penalty for failing to plead guilty—death via crushing. Margaret was informed, “You must return from whence you came, and there, in the lowest part of the prison, be stripped naked, laid down, your back on the ground, and as much weight laid upon you as you are able to bear, and so to continue for three days without meat or drink, and on the third day to be pressed to death, your hands and feet tied to posts, and a sharp stone under your back.” Ten days from the sentencing, Margaret was executed.
Prior to her execution, visited by a friend in prison, Margaret remained faithful and eager to meet her Maker. She said to her friend, "The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise."
“Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy upon me.” Saint Margaret Clitherow died after approximately 15 minutes of torture. Following her death, her executioners were reprimanded by Queen Elizabeth I, who insisted that women should not be executed. Margaret’s body was buried with common criminals, but not before her hand was severed. It remains today, incorrupt, in the chapel of the Bar Convent in York.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."