At a time of great peril in Tudor England, where being a Catholic could be a death sentence, one woman's courage stands above the crowds.
For though Margaret Clitherow was not born a Catholic, upon marrying her husband John, she converted to Catholicism three years later. The surprising aspect is that her husband, though born a Catholic, recanted his own Faith, and instead embraced the State Religion of England.
Being that the Church of England was still in its infancy, this led Elizabeth I to take decisive action against anything that would challenge her position as head of the Church. This insecurity would show itself in the persecution of Catholics under the reigns of both King Henry the VIII and Elizabeth I!
But Margaret Clitherow was not any ordinary person and upon her acceptance into the Catholic Church, she embraced all its teachings and also practiced the corporal works of mercy. And though her husband did not join her in reverting back to his Catholic roots, he also did not impede Margaret’s transition to the Catholic fold. John Clitherow also did not stand in the way of their children also embracing the Catholic Church.
Margaret was indeed a woman of uncommon valour, who not only practiced her beliefs, but attempted with a zealous spirit to evangelise the Faith in Protestant England. But due to Margaret’s gentle, compassionate and loving nature many were drawn to her spirit and longed to also have this happiness within themselves. This woman found herself in the position of being loved and respected by people of both Faiths, a fact that those in authority found troublesome.
This courageous woman would also allow Mass to be said in her home at grave risk of her life, and those who attended Mass with her, for under Elizabeth I attending Mass had become a criminal offence. But nothing was going to stand in the way of Margaret’s passionate love of God and the Catholic Church, as she hid Priests in secret hiding places in her home.
And with the full support of her husband, Margaret also sent some of her children to France, so they could receive a Catholic education untainted by Protestant teachings.
Margaret was of a resolute nature, a trait shared by many Yorkshire people. And her stubbornness in spreading the Faith could not be stopped as Margaret longed for all the peoples of her country to return to the Faith of their forebears and once again embrace their Catholic roots.
And though Margaret had no fear of Queen Elizabeth I, the same could not be said of the Queen. Who, like her father before her had set upon a course of persecuting those who refused to leave the one true Faith, Catholicism.
But through all this strife Margaret kept her composure and loved all people as children of the one God. This was a singular trait in that though Margaret suffered persecution, still she offered the same courtesy to all she met irrespective of their Faith.
Through Margaret’s respect for others and her inherent dignity, she touched all the hearts of those she met. This love for her Faith and her longing to share it with others would lead her down the path of martyrdom, but Margaret persevered to the end with a fierceness that can only be admired by one and all.
And though Margaret's Faith strengthened her, as she kept a vibrant prayer life even amidst perilous danger, it was this that enabled her to hide Priests in order to participate in the Sacraments of the Church, this level of personal courage and conviction left deep imprints on her own children.
Her sons would become Priests and her daughter entered the Religious life. Margaret’s children are surely a testament to her as a person of immense fortitude and perseverance, as well as a loving wife and mother. And as in life, Margaret died with courage as she was tortured for her Faith and love of the one true Church.
Margaret Clitherow died in 1586.
Saint Margaret Clitherow was canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.
"by God's grace all priests shall be more welcome to me than ever they were, and I will do what I can to set forward God's Catholic service."
"Having made no offense, I need no trial."
"Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy on me!"
Peace of Christ to All
Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.