St. Margaret of Hungary, Princess and Dominican Nun
January 18 is the feast day is St. Margaret of Hungary, Princess and Dominican nun.
Born in Turoc Castle in 1242, Margaret was the daughter of King Bela IV, champion of Christianity, and Queen Mary Lascaris of Hungary, who offered her to God before her birth.
At the age of three, Margaret was placed in the Dominican convent at Vesprim. Here, with other children of nobility, she was educated and trained in the arts. She took the religious habit at the age of four and voluntarily began living a life of austerity: fasting, wearing a hair-shirt, and spent entire nights praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
She became a novice at the age of twelve at a convent her father built for her on the island in the Danube between Buda and Pest. Here she pronounced her vows to the master general of the order, Blessed Humbert of the Romans and made her profession at the age of nineteen.
When Margaret was eighteen, her father tried to arrange a marriage for her with King Ottokar of Bohemia, who hearing of her great beauty, had come seeking her hand. He even obtained a dispensation from the pope and approached Margaret with the authorization. Margaret 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.” After sharing that she was not interested in any throne but a heavenly one, she moved forward with great joy to live an even more zealous religious life than she had before.
Margaret endeavored to imitate the holy lives of those saints, whom she was related to by blood, which included: King Saint Stephen, Saint Hedwig, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, and several others. She took her turn working in the kitchen and the laundry, choosing to do much heavy work that her rank might have excused her from doing. She enjoyed working in the infirmary and made it her special duty to care for those who were too offensive for anyone else to look after.Margaret voluntarily participated in many penances. Throughout Lent she scarcely ate or slept. She not only imitated the poor in their manual labor and hunger, but also in their lack of cleanliness, which was a form of penance at that time.
She had a strong devotion to Our Lady, and on the eve of her feasts, Margaret said a thousand Hail Mary’s. Unable to make the long journey to the Holy Land, to Rome, or to any of the other famous pilgrimage sites, the saint devised a plan by which she could go in spirit: she counted up the miles between her and the desired pilgrimage site, and then said one Hail Mary for every mile there and back. She was frequently in ecstasy, and very embarrassed if anyone found her so and commented on her holiness.
The princess nun was only 28 when she died in 1270. She was beatified in 1789, and canonized in 1943. Her friends and acquaintances petitioned for her to be canonized almost immediately after her death. Among them was her own servant, Agnes, who rightly observed that this daughter of a monarch showed far more humility than any of the monastery’s maids.
A number of miracles were performed during Margaret’s lifetime and many more after her death because Margaret had an unspoken faith in the power and efficacy of prayer. The island where her convent stood, called first the “Blessed Virgin’s Isle,” was called “Isle of Margaret” after the saint. St. Margaret is invoked against floods, in memory of a miracle she performed in stopping a flood on the Danube.