March 26 -- St. Margaret Clitherow
Margaret Middleton Clitherow was born during the reign of Protestant Queen Elizabeth in 1555. She was brought up Protestant even though most of the English people of the time were Catholic. When the Queen threatened to destroy the Catholic Faith, most Catholics remained placid in the face of the threats. Soon they realized, too late, that to remain Catholic in Elizabethan England, meant a great deal of suffering.
At eighteen, Margaret married John Clitherow, a Protestant, who accepting the Queen as Head of the Church, became a wealthy businessman. Three years later, she made her profession of Faith and proclaimed allegiance to the Pope of Rome.
Her husband did not share this conversion but turned a blind eye to Margaret's new practices. In fact, he paid the fines imposed on her because she did not attend the heretic services. He also allowed their three children to be brought up as Catholics.
Finally, Margaret was imprisoned because of her involvement in hiding priests and providing for their needs. St. Margaret refused to make a plea or to stand trial because she did not want her young children called to court to testify against their mother.
Her sentence for having "harbored and maintained Jesuits and seminary priests, traitors to the Queen's majesty and her laws" was the following:
"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."
Thus, St. Margaret Clitherow died on Good Friday, 1586 by the decree of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth.
Our Lord said, " Be thou hot or cold, the lukewarm I will vomit from My Mouth". The mediocrity of the Catholic people of England in the 16th century blinded them to the real intentions of Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. When the persecutions became commonplace, many Catholics were martyred but also many lost their Faith.
May we, Catholics, today pray to St. Margaret to ask for the conviction and courage to remain Catholic whatever the cost.