Woman Saint of the Week: St. Margaret of Cortona

Here is saint whose story could be found anywhere in the United States in 2014.

In the thirteenth century, she was born to farmers in central Italy. Her mother died when she was young. Her father remarried. She got along with her step-mother like oil and water. The situation got so intense, she ran away with a wealthy young man who showered her with attention. She lived as his mistress for nine years. They had a son out of wedlock. One day, her lover was killed by thieves. Like many young people in a bad situation, seeing a friend killed served as a wake up call.

She tried to go back home, but her father and step-mother didn’t want anything to do with her and her son. In despair as a homeless single mom, she heard a voice tell her to go to a nearby Franciscan monastery. They had pity and took her and her son in. She became a Secular Franciscan and earned her keep by caring for the sick and begging. She founded an order devoted to Our Lady of Mercy that worked with the poor and suffering.

She lived a life of severe penances. She felt so horrible about all of the things she had done when she was younger, she lived without even the most reasonable of comforts. One biographer notes that she needed a confessor to look after her and make sure that she at least treated herself like a human being.

She was still a very attractive woman. She would always spurn the attention men gave her, but she was regularly falsely accused of having affairs. At one point, she had to be stopped from mutilating herself. She wanted to destroy her face so that the advances would stop.

She had many mystical experiences. Toward the end of her life she had a couple notable ones featuring St. Mary Magdalene. She has been called the “Second Magdalene.” Reportedly, Jesus referred to her as “povervella”(little poor thing) in her visions of Him.

Her feast day is February 22. Surprise, surprise, she’s the patron saint of: the falsely accused, the homeless, the insane, the orphaned, the mentally ill, penitents, single mothers, reformed prostitutes, and stepchildren (all of which, besides maybe the prostitute, were roles she played during her lifetime). 

St. Margaret of Cortona, please pray for us 
that all women learn that their dignity and worth come from God alone, not from man. 
Help us to learn of and accept the mercy that God offers us. 
To realize that no matter what we do, God will always take us back. 
To learn more:
PS: Am I the only one who wonders about her son in all of this? What was it like being the son of such a woman doing severe penances? To basically grow up in a monastery? It says eventually he became a friar. I’d like to read a biography about him. 
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