Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict

Monday, 18 February 2019

Blessed Margarita Citta di Costello

April 13th marks the feast of Blessed Margarita Citta di Costello. Although she is not as well known as other blesseds, her story is nonetheless just as remarkable on account of the many hardships she had to endure throughout her life.

Stained glass window in San Domenico, Citta di Costello

Margarita - Italian form of Margaret, derived from the Greek word for pearl - was born in 1287 to nobles in Mercatello sul Metuaro, Citta di Costello in Umbria, Italy. Immediately, she was an embarrassment to her parents. Born blind, afflicted with a severe curvature to her spine (modern-day scoliosis, perhaps), dwarfed and severely restricted in her ability to walk, her parents hid her from the world. It was only through the kindness of a maid she was given the name Margarita - her parents clearly did not want her, as she was a threat to their social standing.

At the age of six, she was nearly publicly discovered. It was then her parents decided to take things further. Margarita was locked up in a doorless cell attached to the chapel inside their home, where her parents intended to keep her until she died. The cell had a window looking into the chapel, and thus Margarita was able to hear Mass and receive Communion from the resident priest. This same priest took it upon himself to instruct Margarita in the faith, impressed with her docile nature and the depth of her spiritual wisdom, despite her young age.

Things changed when Margarita was about twenty. Her parents took her to a Franciscan shrine in Costello, Perugia, where they had heard miracles were occurring, in the hopes of having their daughter cured. No such miracle occurred. Sadly, Margarita was reportedly abandoned as a result. People in Castello took pity on her and helped her survive, teaching her not only how to beg but also providing her shelter with various families. She was eventually permitted to reside with the Dominican nuns at the local convent.

After a time, she was asked to leave the convent. The nuns there lived laxly, and Margarita's quiet adherence to the Dominican rule made them uncomfortable. In time, Margarita became a Dominican Tertiary, wearing the habit for the rest of her life, and instructed the children of Costello in the Faith and the psalms. Margarita also ministered to the less fortunate, and had greatest affection for the imprisoned.

Margarita died on April 12th, 1320 at the age of 33 in the Citta di Costello in Perugia, Italy. She was renowned for her gentleness, kindness, and compassion for all around her. Her faith was strong, and was the means through which she accepted her many sufferings. She was also known for being cheerful in spite of her physical sufferings. While she understood that her parents resented her, she never resented them. Margarita also reportedly had several mystical gifts, and many miracles have occurred surrounding her.

Margarita's cause for canonization has not been keenly pursued by the Dominican Order since her death. In 1558, she was discovered to be incorruptible upon exhumation, which re-sparked interest in her canonization. While her coffin was rotten, her clothes disintegrated, she was as well preserved since the day she died. (It is all the more impressive since she was not embalmed, and attests to her sanctity.) She was dressed in a new Dominican habit, and while exposure to air during the exhumation blackened bits of her skin, she is nonetheless still remarkably well preserved almost 700 years later.

Altar of San Domenico, Citta di Costello, where Bl. Margarita's remains are kept.
Close-up of Bl. Margarita

Margarita was made a Blessed by Pope Paul V on October 19th, 1609, and he allowed a Mass and a Divine Office specifically for her to be said by the Perugian Dominicans. In 1675, Pope Clement X extended this privilege to the entire Dominican order. Closer to our time, in 1988, Blessed Margarita was declared a patron of the blind. (She is also a patron of those with disabilities.)

Blessed Margarita Citta di Costello, pray for us. Allow us to imitate your cheerfulness and charity in spite of physical hardships and life's difficulties. You are a true pearl.

It is a shame your cause for canonization continues to stall. May that be remedied some day.

Source for much of this information, replete with many photos and reflections: http://dominicanidaho.org/Castello/2008_MargaretVisitUpdate.pdf

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