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Monday, April 30, 2012

A Valiant Lady and a Bold Knight....

make their appearence this month on the calendar of saints. One is a daughter of England, and the other is and adopted son of the same!

St. Margaret Clitherow

Margaret Middleton was born in 1555, the daughter of the Sheriff of York. In her late teens, she married John Clitherow, a successful butcher and pillar of the community. Three years later, the Anglican Margaret was converted to the Catholic Faith and became a fervent supporter of the underground Catholic missions in England. She helped to hide priests in her home and secretly taught her children and neighbor children the doctrines of Catholicism. Her Anglican husband was easy-going by nature and had a brother who was a Catholic priest, so he decided to look the other way as his wife carried out these illegal activities.

    Margaret was thrown into prison several times for refusing to attend Anglican services. John paid her bale repeatedly, and nothing serious came of the incidents. When her husband was away, she would make barefoot pilgrimages with other women in the dead of night to pray at the place of execution outside the city where Catholic priests had been martyred. Ironically, she would soon be among their executed number.

    Margaret was known for being a good business woman and a general delight to be around. She was physically attractive with a keen sense of humor that never left her. She was always doing charitable works for others, and she acquired many friends. Unfortunately, these attachments would not be capable of saving her from the punishment of the law.

    Eventually, Margaret was betrayed by an 11-year-old boy who told the authorities that Mass was being celebrated in her home. Her house was searched and incriminating evidence was discovered. Margaret and a dear friend, Anne Tish, who the boy also accused thrown into prison, and Margaret's 12-year-old daughter Anne was whipped.  Margaret refused to plead for a trial by jury for fear of placing her family at risk. For refusing to plead, she was sentenced to be crushed to death beneath a heavy door with a spike placed at her back.

    To the end, Margaret showed her strength of spirit and sheer bravery. On Good Friday, the morning of her execution, she put on a white dress and put ribbons her hair to acknowledge that she was Christ's Bride and going to His wedding feast in Heaven. She sent back her hat to her husband to show that he was her "head", and she sent her shoes and stockings to her daughter, Anne, to encourage her to have the courage to follow in her footsteps and keep the Faith. Margaret was laid upon the spike and laid beneath the door and crushed to death. In is believed she may even have been pregnant. Her husband, utterly distraught, wept until his nose bled.

    Queen Elizabeth I did later wrote distraught citizens of York saying how horrified she was that a fellow-woman should have been so cruelly treated. She further stated that because of her sex, she should not have been executed at all. Sadly however, Margaret Clitherow would not be the last female Catholic to die for her faith in Elizabethan England. But that's another story.
     The Feast of St. Margaret Clitherow, the Pearl of York, is celebrated on April 2nd.

St. George

    George is said to have been a high-ranking Roman army officer during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Despite the wave of persecution against the Christians, George, who was a Christian himself, spoke out against their ill-treatment to the Emperor, even throwing down his Imperial Eagle standard in protest. Of course, this didn't go over well with Diocletian, who had the spirited officer seized, stripped, and tortured in hopes of making him renounce the Christian Faith. George held strong against torture and was eventually beheaded.
    The cult of St. George took shape in England as early as the 8th century. The image of George as a medieval knight became prevalent during the Crusades, and it became deeply rooted in the English national psyche. King Richard I put his crusaders under the patronage of St. George when they set off for the Holy Land to battle with the Saracens. Therefore, the crusading flag with a red cross on a white field came to be known as “St. George’s Cross”. Its design was incorporated into the Union Flag of the United Kingdom and still serves as England’s individual national flag.

    King Edward III later named George the patron saint of England when he formed the Order of the Garter in his honor, and St. George's Feast was kept as a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics in England until 1778. Shakespeare further popularized the saint in his plays by having his literary hero, King Henry V, bellow to his troops arrayed before the battle of Agincourt: "Cry God for Harry, England, and St George!" Likewise, he had King Richard III evoke the saint's name on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth Field: "Advance our standards, set upon our foes our ancient word of courage! Fair St. George, inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons."

    Ironically, William Shakespeare is to have been both been born to have died on St. George's Feast, forever linking with him with the saint he loved so well. Another interesting interesting happening on the auspicious occasion has to do with Gen. James Wolfe and his army landing in Canada on St. George's Day in 1759. His men took it as a good omen that the British would be successful in their conquest of the territory, while Wolfe was really too sea-sick to get philosophical about the whole thing!

    In 1940 during the Second World War, King George VI inaugurated the George Cross, to be awarded to those who showed great heroism and conspicuous courage in situations of extreme danger. The award, depicting St. George slaying the dragon on the silver cross, is usually given out to civilians. This goes to show that the inspirational quality of the “soldier saint” really does transcend military rank. St. George, in many ways, has come to represent the best aspects of the English identity, including courage, faithfulness, tenacity, and fair amount of pluck. The fact that he was not English himself is just one of those little ironies that makes the whole story so deliciously British.

    The Feast of St. George is celebrated on April 23rd, and different parts of England and the world continue to celebrate his heroism with festivals and reenactments. Blessed be God, St. George, and St. Margaret Clitherow!

St. Magaret Clitherow

St. George





  1. You really do a lovely job capturing the heroism and holiness of the saints! I could easily see the saint works you've posted so far as being collected into something similar to a 'lives of the saints' volume.

    God Bless,

  2. Hello everyone.

    Fascinating post of the two Saints of England, Pearl, especially of St. George. It's great how you mentioned Dragon's Hill, King Richard I having the vision of the Saint during one of the battles against the Saracens and that you incorporated the words of Shakespeare.

    Take Care,

  3. Hello, Mary and James!

    Thanks for the compliments on my saints post.

    @Mary: Indeed, some time it would be nice to compile all my saints together into a booklet, for my own record at least. Then if you were interested, I could email it to you!

    @James: Thanks for the St. George's Day email and for quoting Shakespeare's references about him. It gave me the inspiration for incorporating them in this post!

    God Bless,

  4. P.S. - I'm afraid I couldn't find any really good pictures of St. Margaret Clitherow, but I do wish some artist would take up the challenge some day! The knight gets so much for air time than the lady *sigh* ;-)