This is the amazing story of Blessed Margaret of Castello. It’s a remarkably inspirational story and a call to each and every one of us that no matter who you are or what sufferings you experience in life, you can change the world in some way.
Margaret lived in the 13th century. Her father was a nobleman of great wealth and military power who could not wait to have a son. His strongest desire in the world was to pass on his military position of might to his own son. Therefore, when his wife became pregnant, he threw one of the grandest balls anyone had ever seen in the region of Masa Terraria, Italy, in anticipation of his much-anticipated son.
However, on that big day, a daughter was born instead. Not only was she not a son, but was she born with many genetic disorders. From what we know to be true based on today’s medical insights, she was born blind and with Kyphosis (curvature of the spine leading to a hunched back), dwarfism, and other genetic anomalies that caused her to have disproportionate features and to walk with a limp. She was considered by the people of her time to have been terribly ugly.
So, blind, hunchback, midget and ugly: she had everything set against her. Yet as we will see, Margaret would change the very world around her!
Her father was so severely disappointed that he convinced his wife to lock her away in a remote part of the castle where no one but the maid would ever look upon her. They would consider her dead to them.
Although secluded, Margaret’s natural curiosity grew as she did. One day, when she was six years old, Margaret crept out of an open door, hobbling on her small cane.
She came across a noble woman who asked her, “Are you blind, little girl?”
Margaret replied, “Oh yes, my lady, I am.”
When her parents discovered this, they were mortified that someone from the outside saw her and spoke with her. They took even more drastic measures. Her parents built Margaret a small stone prison in the woods to ensure that Margaret would never be seen again.
This tiny cubicle prison room was made of stone, approximately four feet by four feet. It was intentionally built a mile away from the castle in the woods near a church where only peasants would attend Mass. Her cubical only had a tiny little window so a priest could come and give her food.
Being right next to the church, she could hear the Mass being celebrated, but nobody could see her from the church.
It is hard to imagine a 6-year-old child, so neglected, isolated, and rejected by her family, with virtually no one even aware of her existence, growing up in such deplorable conditions: harsh winters in bleak surroundings, loneliness, confinement, lack of affection and compassion. Any one of these alone would be difficult to imagine enduring, yet she suffered all of these and more. To say the least, it was heartbreaking and deplorable.
The only person who saw her was the local priest. He was the one who brought her food, and sometimes Margaret would understandably cry to him, saying, “Father, look at me. Does God love me?” Although her parents had forsaken her, the priest would evangelize to her and teach her about Jesus’ everlasting love for her.
Despite her physical disabilities, Margaret had a luminous and brilliant mind. Even at young as 6 years old, she could comprehend deep, philosophical ideas that most adults could not comprehend. She understood when the priest spoke to her of God’s deep, abiding love. He explained that the body which she has now is not what matters most and is temporary; that anyone could have a beautiful body yet lose it the next day in an terrible accident.
He explained how the soul, by comparison, lasts forever and that is where true beauty is found. He told her to focus on her soul and on Jesus Christ. Christ, he told her, suffered tremendously for us on the cross. His own body was beaten and broken out of love for us. The priest taught her that just as Jesus suffered out of love for us, to save us, so we could offer our daily sufferings up out of love for Him in return.
Jesus offered up His entire self out of love for us, and so we can do the same, whether sunny weather, cloudy, or even storms of life.
This truth caused Margaret’s heart to be set on fire. She wanted to give herself up to Christ wholeheartedly just as Christ gave Himself to her. She immediately began to pray for hours every day and listened to the Mass as well. She confessed her sins to God, gave herself small penances, and even fasted. She may have been a little girl, but she prayed more fervently that most adults.
Little Margaret lived in that confinement for 10 years.
Then, when she was about 16, their region of Masa Terraria came under attack. War was upon them. Ironically, out of concern for Margaret’s safety, her parents moved her to a new prison under Plaza street with all of the city’s prisoners. Aside from the addition of a bench, it had equally deplorable conditions as the first, and she remained in this underground prison for another year.
At this time, a miracle was reported in the faraway region of Castello, and subsequently, many people reported healings after visiting the church. While her parents had forsaken God just as they has little Margaret, her father felt that being a nobleman and military leader of great status, that God had to look favorably upon him. Therefore, he reasoned, God would honor his wish for Margaret to be cured of her ailments. So, they set out as a family for the long journey to Castello.
However, the Bible clearly states that God doesn’t value worldly status at all, nor is it deemed precious in His eyes. Consequently, when Margaret was not cured after visiting this church, her parents were so angry at God that they abandoned Margaret on the stairs of the church, never to see her again.
Completely alone and with no resources, Margaret stayed in the church all day. She prayed for the cure that God never gave her, but she always ended her prayer asking that God’s holy will be done. When a priest found Margaret on the church steps, he told her it was time for her to go home as he wanted to lock the church out of concern for robbers entering. And even though Margaret shared her story with him, he still had her leave.
Little Margaret, blind, crippled, and hobbling around on her tiny cane, found herself homeless and in a new place that she did not know. Silence. Cold. An orphan. The realization that she would never be with her parents again.
What would you do if you were dealt Margaret’s lot in life? How would you react?
Margaret’s story does not end here, but our next article will bring this exciting story to it’s conclusion.
See Part 2 HERE to witness how Margaret not only survived, but thrived, joining religious life, working miracles, and changing the world around her.