Editor’s note: The National Catholic Partners on Disability website recently posted this letter from a Dominican Sister in response to the upcoming September 19 Canonization Mass to be celebrated in Cita de Castello, Italy. St. Margaret was canonized in April and the Mass will take place Sunday. She is the patron saint of persons with disabilities.
Dear St. Margaret of Castello,
How should I write about you? Although in awe of the Lord’s graces at work in your life, I felt anxious and afraid to start this letter, because I knew it would lead me to get in touch with my own infirmity and inadequacy. Nevertheless, your life is a testimony of Divine grace and love, which is like a spring of water in my arid desert. St. Paul’s words echo in my heart: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
I contracted polio when I was 11 months old. As a result, I walk with a limp. The right side of my body, most notably my arms and legs, is considerably smaller than my left side. Reading about your life gave me enormous insights into my own Spiritual journey. In this 800th year of celebrating our founding father, St. Dominic, entering eternal life, a sense of exuberating joy fills my soul. Reminiscence of my Dominican vocation floods my mind. The door at St. Catherine Convent of the Dominican sisters of Mary Immaculate Province opened to me; I was overcome with happiness when the Sisters accepted me as one of their own. I could imagine how happy you were when Fra Luigi, the Prior of the Dominican Convent, presided at your consecration as a Mantellate, a member of the Third Order. Dear St. Margaret, may we join our voices with the angels to praise the Lord for His abiding love and goodness.
Do you know that I truly admire your unwavering faith and courage? I wonder how you felt when your parents kept you secluded, away from the public for 14 years? As noble and wealthy people who were horrified to see at your birth that you were blind, and had physical disabilities, their confining you to a room without a door was a form of imprisonment. Precisely in this “solitary confinement,” God allowed you to develop a deep sense of prayer and a lasting relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ: through the Blessed Sacrament, solitude, and many catechizing lessons from the parish priest. As for me, how many times have I let worldly distractions take precedent, instead of letting God be the center of my life?
Remember the time your parents took you to Fra Giacomo’s shrine to seek a miraculous cure? When they saw that no cure was to be, they abandoned you. It must have been an immense misery and a devastating experience of being deserted by the people one loves most, but you endured this great affliction with patience and meekness. By meditating on the Lord’s Passion and death, you found the strength to bear patiently the wrongs done unto you. Instead of harboring hatred and bitterness in your heart, you manifested forgiveness by unfailingly defending your parents. While so many souls are tempted to befriend despondency, resentment, and helplessness, what a beautiful witness of charity and humility you give to them! How sweet it is to completely abandon ourselves to our Heavenly Father, Who lavishes His tender care for each one of us.
The truth about our Heavenly Father’s love manifested itself in the event of your birth. At that time, you were given a name by a maid. I wondered if she knew that “Margaret” means a pearl? Being an unwanted child with many physical deformities, those who saw you may question the beautiful meaning of your name. Yet, more and more, you had proven them otherwise in your joyfulness and serene countenance. With a keen intelligence, you learned to live humbly; you embraced and appreciated our human nature with all its aspirations and frailties. Beyond human strength and imagination, your life was filled with Divine graces. Those who witnessed your humble, yet exemplary services were touched by a light of hope. With gentle courage and steadfast compassion, you served the dying and the poor, even the most precarious prisoners did not hinder you from approaching them. You would gently and sweetly tell them about the love of the Heavenly Father and that we are the apple in His eyes. We are all Jesus’ precious “pearl” of great price, whom He has redeemed by His Own life. As in the words of the Psalmist, “I will praise You because I have been fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Thank you for teaching me the beauty of having complete confidence in the Lord, to surrender my difficulties, weakness, and sins instead of holding onto them. With this utmost trust in Divine Providence, I would be steadfast in the service of God and others and would gladly sail to the end of the earth proclaiming His truth and love. May I extol God’s love and goodness unto us by recounting these beautiful words:
“St. Margaret, who in the darkness of your blindness found true light; in your physical disabilities showed the beauty of love and joy; and from being rejected became a support for the marginalized without giving in to resentment: obtain for us freedom from all earthly attachments and from indifference, so that we may become rich in faith and love. We pray to you for all persons who experience disability, so that, with your example, your help and with our support, they may discover the many abilities that flow from charity. You, who received the Holy Family in your heart, make our families welcome life and be attentive to those who are alone.”
St. Margaret, teach us to love. Pray for us. Amen.
Sister Theresa Paul Tran, O.P.
Sister Theresa is a Dominican Sister of the Mary Immaculate Province in Houston, Texas. She is currently serving as a catechetical leader in the Diocese of Fort Worth.