Thursday, June 10, 2010

Feast of St. Margaret of Scotland

Born: c. 1045

(in Castle Réka, in the region of Southern Transdanubia, Hungary)

Died: 16 November 1093 (aged c. 48)
(at St Margaret's Chapel in Edinburgh Castle, Midlothian, Scotland)
Canonized: 1250 by Pope Innocent IV

Major shrine: Dunfermline Abbey (East Port, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland) 

Traditional Feast: June 10;

Patronage: Dunfermline; Scotland; The Queen's Ferry; Anglo-Scottish relations

The story in a nutshell:  Saint Margaret was one of three children of the English prince Edward the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside; she was the neice of King St. Edward the Confessor and related to St. Stephen of Hungary. When the Normans overtook England in the late eleventh century, sometime after the death of Prince Edward, Margaret's mother, Agatha, attempted to escape to the continent, but her ship grounded on the rocky shore of Scotland.  The place where they landed near the village of North Queensferry is now known as St. Margaret's Hope. In a strange land and in danger, still, of the Normans, the family sought the protection of King Malcom II of Scotland and eventually Margaret and Malcom were married.
Theirs was a fruitful and holy marriage.  They had eight children, six sons and two daughters: Edward, (killed in 1093); Edmund of Scotland; Ethelred, abbot of Dunkeld; King Edgar of Scotland; King Alexander I of Scotland; King David I of Scotland (revered as a saint); Edith of Scotland (also called Matilda, married King Henry I of England); Mary of Scotland (married Eustace III of Boulogne). Along with the duties of state and motherhood, St. Margaret was the perfect example of piety and charity throughout her reign.  She served the poor before she, herself, ate; she rose at midnight every night to attend holy Mass; she was known for her work in religious reform and influenced her husband, the king, and her children, as well, in the precepts of just rule.

 Margaret was ill when she learned of the deaths of her husband and their eldest son, Edward in a fight against the English; she died three days later, November 16, 1093.

Because the feast of St. Gertrude is celebrated on November 16th, the Church marks her feast on this day, June 10th.

Some thoughts on the story of St. Margaret:  What an example of priorities in the midst of distraction is today's saint!  St, Margaret, in her example of piety and charity, influenced a whole kingdom toward goodness, but she also raised her children so well that not one of them fell away from their spiritual home in the Church, not one of them (that we know of) turned to the treachery so common to the powerful in her day.  This mother, a queen, raised an abbot, a saint, and six just rulers.  Can you imagine the temptations that surrounded them all, though, in the royal court?  It was not easier to avoid the world, the flesh, and the devil in the eleventh century than it is now, but somehow, with the help of God, Margaret managed to do it.  What focus!

It seems like it should be a complicated thing, doesn't it?  Saving everyone's souls and our own, too, I mean. We're not ruling actual kingdoms, us moms surfing the web today, but we still have an awful lot on our plates, so many duties to attend to in our daily plebian lives: running our homes, supporting our husbands, taking care of the needs of our family, the education of our children, the stresses of jobs, obligations to our parishes, our friends and our extended relations... And then there's the tv, the computer, the cell phone...  St. Margaret didn't have those distractions!  But the question is the same for us today as it was for her in the eleventh century. How do we do all that we must do in the midst of all the distractions in our world and still penetrate into the souls of each our children, too?

 St. Margaret knew the secret and perfected it and we can do it, too, if we want to.  What did she do so right?  It's not much of a secret.  And it's not complicated.  Anyone who becomes very successful in worldly things uses the same trick to get where they want to be: they forge ahead with single-mindedness of purpose.  Everything they do is focused on a goal.  An Olympic hopeful concentrates all his actions and thoughts toward a gold medal; a rich man spends all his time and effort for financial gain; a saint funnels all his energy toward God;  and a mother of saints performs all her duties while loving God.  Her children see, hear, feel and absorb this love of God and it becomes their own. 

Single-mindedness of purpose.  Focus. Focus so concentrated it encompasses all things in the big picture and delves into all the little things in the small picture.  Everything for the honor and glory of God.

Not complicated.... but easy to do?  Goodness, no!  The concept is easy to understand, but mastering the skill of spiritual recollection takes lots of practice.  And prayer.  And renewed intention every. single. day.  Every. single. minute.  And this is hard to do.  I'm not good at it.  Dang, but I get distracted!  But, this is not something we can give up on.  I'm constantly pulling myself by the bootstraps and expect to have to do so for the rest of my life. But it's worth it.  I can't save my soul if I don't do everything possible to save my childrens' souls, and I can't save my childrens' souls if I don't do everything possible to save my own.  It's definitely worth it.

And thankfully we have the inspiration and intercession of our heavenly friends to help us...  Saints who've "been there, done that."

St. Margaret, Pray for Us!


Sheila said...

I printed that off - thank you! When choosing a name for my younger daughter, I was looking for a Scottish name (long story) and I came across the name Maisie, which is a form of Margaret. I loved the name (still do!) and we named her Maisie Marie. Marie is of course a form of Mary, so I always tell her she is named after the patron saint of Scotland and the blessed Mother. I love having these associations for my daughter. I have great hopes for her future!

Wendy said...

You do such a fine job of articulating your thoughts, and they are always fine-standing thoughts. I so enjoy reading your blog. Please know that you are an inspiration to this stranger/reader. Thanks for renewed encouragement in the face of raising sons in this chaotic, conflicted world.