Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Saint Margaret of Hungary on her death bed
Sister of Saint Kinga of Poland

Saint Margaret of Hungary was the sister of Saint Kinga of Poland, about whom I wrote a few days ago.  (See previous post.)  Like her sister, she is vaguely related to me.

The importance of piety and corporate devotions of a family is never more obvious to me than when I am reading about saints such as this one, in which the number of saints in the family is large.  This is why I am astonished when young mothers tell me that they are going to let their children decide what religion they want to be when they become adults and, therefore, they do not need religious education as children!

Instilling spiritual values in a person is never so efficacious as when they are children, especially if the parents communicate a clear vision of the blessed life of holiness, devotion to the Lord, obedience to the faith and to Jesus' Holy Church.   Sometimes, the child exceeds the parents in faithfulness, as I suspect this woman did.

There is quite a bit of information about Saint Margaret of Hungary because, shortly after her death, there began the effort to have her canonized by friends, relations and acquaintances.  Because of the testimony of these people who were close to her and witnessed her holiness, we get a good picture of her temperament, habits and character.

Margaret, the daughter of King Bela IV (who was sometimes referred to as "the champion of Christendom") was promised to God by her parents before she was born.  In exchange for the gift of their child, the royal couple begged God to liberate their land from the Mongols of "the Golden Horde" that had invaded Hungary in 1241/1242.  Margaret went to the Dominican monastery at Veszprem when she was 3 or 4 years old and quickly took to the life, imitating the nuns in all they did and demanding the habit at an early age.  This was not anticipated, as the children of noble families were often given special care, after which, they would leave the convent in order to make an advantageous marriage for their family.  Margaret was having none of that.

Despite having gifted the child to God, King Bela attempted to reneg on his vow by special dispensation several times so that he could marry her off to one of several important suitors who had learned of her beauty and purity.  When she was about 12, there was serious pressure for her to leave the convent and marry someone that would bring great advantage for her father, but she was resolute in her determination to remain in the convent as a nun, which is rather remarkable grit, considering her young age.  Again, when she was 18, King Ottokar of Bohemia pursued a marriage with her, and her father even went so far as to actually procure the dispensation from the Pope.  Margaret would not agree.  Of the proposed marriage, she is said to have replied:

"I esteem infinitely more the King of Heaven and the
inconceivable happiness of possessing Jesus Christ
than the crown offered me by the King of Bohemia."

Margaret evolved into a serious and fervent pursuer of Christ.  Some say that she became a bit fanatical with her mortifications: wearing a hair shirt; choosing the dirtiest of jobs in the monastery, though her rank would customarily have preserved her from those duties; long fasts; scourgings; nails inside her shoes, and other penitential practices more common in that era than our own.

One might suspect that all these self-inflicted punishments might have made her into a dour and long-faced spinsters, but she was much in evidence in the infirmary where the nuns she ministered were very fond of her.  All reports seem to present an image of a very happy young woman, grateful to be in religious life.  It is a peculiar work of God that, while the parents could have had no knowledge of the suitability of the unborn child they promised to give to the monastery, she turned out to be ideal, thanks be to God.

Margaret lived in a monastery that was situated on an island in the middle of the Danube River.  It had always been a religious center. Prior to the 14th century, it had been called Island of Rabbits! Now, it is "Margaret's Island."  It is quite built up along the coastline, with restaurants, hotels, and a large sports pool, but the ruins of Margaret's old monastery and some other structures remain.

Ruins of old church on Margaret's Island

Dozens, if not hundreds, of miracles are attributed to Saint Margaret of Hungary.

Prayers / Commemorations for this saint:
(She wasn't canonized as saint until 1943, and it is possible that these prayers were written prior to that time, as she is referred to as "blessed.")

First Vespers:
Ant. Blessed Margaret emulating the purity of the angels, dedicated herself as the bride of Him who is the spouse of perpetual virginity and the son of the perpetual virgin.
V.  Pray for us, Blessed Margaret
R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

Ant.  O most holy spouse of Christ, adorned with the diadem of virgins, honored with the grace of healing, endowed with the heavenly gift of reading hearts, consumed with the fire of divine love!
V.  Virgins shall be lead to the King after her.
R.  Her companions shall be presented to thee.

Second Vespers:
Ant. O blessed Margaret, who here on earth didst give to all the afflicted the solace of charity, help us from heaven in our miseries and obtain for us life with the saint sin heaven.
V.  Pray for us, Blessed Margaret
R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:  O God, the lover and guardian of chastity, by whose gifts they handmaid Margaret united the beauty of virginity and the merit of good works, grant we pray, that through the spirit of salutary penance we may be able to recover integrity of soul Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Saint Margaret of Hungary is yet another example of a woman who had great personal beauty, power, wealth, connections and prestige but gave it all up to live a life of discomfort, humility, poverty, chastity and obedience for the sake of Christ.  When one considers that it is harder for a rich person to enter heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, Margaret's witness is a beacon of holy light.

God bless us all, and may we follow her as much as we are able.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

For further information about Saint Margaret of Hungary, please have a look at the following links. Willing Shepherds seems to be the most comprehensive.

Catholic Exchange


New Advent

Willing Shepherds

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