Our faith compels us to be resilient, even in the wake of disaster—too much of which we’ve seen around the world recently, unfortunately.
With this in mind, I’m reminded of St. Margaret of Scotland, whose family fled native England during William the Conqueror’s Norman invasion. While fleeing, a storm shipwrecked their boat off the coast of Scotland, where the family then settled. Here, Margaret went on to live a virtuous and austere life helping the poor of her adopted country.
Born in exile in 1045 to Princess Agatha of Hungary and the Anglo-Saxon Prince Edward Atheling, Margaret was brought up in the court of her great-uncle, the English king, Edward the Confessor. After their family arrived in Scotland, King Malcolm befriended them and was smitten by Margaret’s grace and beauty. The couple married in 1070, making Margaret a queen. Together, they raised six sons and two daughters.
Margaret initiated progress in her adopted country by promoting education and the arts, and founded several churches with Malcolm. She advocated for religious reform by organizing committees to quell abuses within the church, such as simony, usury and incestuous marriages.
Though very much a mover and shaker, Margaret maintained a rigid private life steeped in selfless service to the poor. She ate sparingly and allowed herself little sleep in order to make time for her devotions. Every year, she and Malcolm kept two Lents—one before Easter and one before Christmas. During these seasons, Margaret would wake at midnight for Mass. Returning home, she would wash the feet of six destitute people and give them alms. Her service to the poor was tangible, direct and concrete.
In 1093, King Malcolm and his son Edward were killed fighting for control over northern Northumbria at the Battle of Alnwick. On her deathbed, upon hearing news of her husband and son’s death, Margaret plunged into sorrow, and was called home to God four days later on Nov. 16, 1093, at the age of 47. St. Margaret was canonized in 1250 and later named the patroness of Scotland in 1673.
Father Scott Donahue is the president of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.