St. Margaret of Scotland
Today’s saint of the day is St. Margaret of Scotland.
St. Margaret of Scotland was not a Scot, but was born about 1045 in Hungary of Anglo-Saxon and Hungarian parents. Her family was in exile at that time due to the Danish invasion of England. Margaret’s grandfather was King Edmund Ironside of England and her father was Edward the Exile, the heir to the throne of Scotland.
Margaret was the oldest of three children born to Edward and Agatha. She was educated by her mother and was well grounded in the scriptures and liturgy. She was about 12 when the family returned to England and was educated under the influence of the Benedictines. She learned French, ecclesiastical embroidery, and began to read works of theology: St. Augustine and St. John Cassian greatly influenced her spiritual development.
While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family’s ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070.
The King was deeply devoted to his beautiful, intelligent, and devout wife: she introduced him to a new way of life and a new spirituality. Although he was unable to read, he would handle her books and examine them. If she was fond of a particular book, he would look at it with interest and kiss the pages. While she did not succeed in teaching him to read or stop making war, she did teach him to pray sincerely and frequently.
Margaret prayed often for her husband and added fasting and almsgiving to her prayers, that they might “easily ascend to heaven”. Once when he followed her into the garden, he found her praying for him and “her loving spirit set him on fire”.
She was very generous in giving alms to the poor, who flocked around her whenever she appeared in public. When she gave away all that she had, the courtiers would give what they had, even their own cloaks. She would sometimes even give away the King’s gold.
The couple had a loving and fruitful marriage. Margaret bore the King eight children, six sons and two daughters. She loved them dearly and raised them well, supervising their education herself. The youngest boy became St. David. Both her husband and her son, Edward, were killed in battle. Yet she prayed: “I thank You, Almighty God, for sending me so great a sorrow to purify me from my sins.”
Margaret died in Edinburgh on November 16, 1093. She is remembered for the happiness of her marriage, for her devotion to prayer and learning, and especially for her generosity to the poor. In 1250, Margaret was canonized by Pope Innocent IV.
She is the patron saint of mothers, large families, learning, queens, Scotland, the death of children, and widows.
O God, who called your servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave her zeal for your church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of your saints; though Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.