St. Margaret of Hungary (1242 -1271) was a Dominican nun and related by blood to numerous other Hungarian saints.
MIRACULOUS BIRTH AND CONSECRATION
Margaret was the daughter of King Béla IV and Queen Maria Laskarina. She was the eighth of ten children and the youngest daugther. She was born at Klis Fortress in the Kingdom of Croatia. At the time her conception, Hungary was under imminent threat of destruction from the terrible scourge of the pagan Tartars. Thus her royal parents consecrated her to God, even before her birth, in petition that their country would be delivered from the Mongols. Their prayer was answered and the King and Queen made good on their promise. When she was three years old they placed her in the Dominican convent at Veszprém (reminiscent of how Our Lady was entrusted to the Temple at age three). At the convent, in company with other children of nobility, she was trained in all the arts and skills fitting for royalty.
RELIGIOUS LIFE NOT MARRIAGE
Yet little Margaret was not content with simply 'living in the house of God.' She insistently requested the religious habit - and at age four she received it. She even took it upon herself to practice the austerities of the older sisters in permanent vows, such as fastings, hairshirts, night vigils, and even the discipline. Very quickly she learned the Divine Office by memory and chanted it to herself as she wen about her play. At this early age, no one but Margaret seemed to take seriously that she would one day make a profession and remain a sister, for it could be of great benefit to her father and nation if she would marry advantageously. When she was ten, she was transferred by her parents to the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin (founded by her parents) on an island on the Danube near Buda (the remains of her monastery can still be seen in modern day Budapest).
In 1255, When Margaret turned twelve the question of her marriage became quite pressing. Yet she surprised all by stating that she had been promised to God even before her birth and that she intended to remain faithful to that promise. In order to settle the matter, she pronounced her vows to the master general of the Dominican Order (Bl. Humbard of the Romans). Six years later, when Margaret was eighteen, her father attempted to swerve her from her promise as the King Ottokar II of Bohemia was seeking her hand in marriage. King Béla even obtained permission from the Dominican Order and the Pope himself to dispense Margaret from her vows. Yet when Ottokar approached with the signed documents in hand, Margaret remained steadfast in her response. She famously told her father"
"When I was only 7-years-old, you tried to espouse me to the Polish Duke. You will remember my answer then. I said that I wished to serve him only to whom you had espoused me at my birth. As a child, I would not yield to your will in opposition to God’s claims on me. Do you think that I am likely to give in to you now that I am older and wiser? And am I more capable of grasping the greatness of the divine grace that has been given me? Then, my Father, stop trying to turn me from my determination to remain a religious. I esteem infinitely more the King of Heaven and the inconceivable happiness of possessing Jesus Christ than the crown offered by the King of Bohemia. I would rather die than obey these commands of yours that will bring death to my soul. Mark my words. If matters ever come to such a pass and I am driven to it, I will surely put an end to the whole affair by mutilating myself, so that I shall never again be desirable to any man."
AN AUSTERE LIFE FILLED WITH PENANCE
Having finally quelled the question of marriage and turned away all suitors, no matter how noble, Margaret proceeded with great joy to live an even more fervent religious life than she had before. In 1261 she accepted the Dominican veil. Many of the nuns in the convent eagerly talked about Margaret's royal lineage. Yet she always manage to turn the conversation away from herself and onto her saintly ancestors and family. Her brother was St. Kinga of Poland (Kunegunda) and her sister was Bl. Yolanda of Poland. Through her father, she was the niece of the famed St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Her great-aunt was St. Hedwig and her family tree counted St. Stephen at its root. She never gloried in her wealth or parentage, but instead strove to imitate the saints in their holiness. As a nun of nobility she was considered exempt from many duties, yet she always requested the most menial work, for example in the kitchen, doing laundry and even the heavy work which others sought to avoid. She found herself especially welcome in the infirmary where she cared for those that all others wished to avoid. Many there were very disagreeable on account of their condition, yet her joyous and kind countenance always softened their bitterness.
Margaret's austerities would seem excessive to us who live in an age of pleasure, leisure, entertainment and comfort; an age that has forgotten the importance of penance. Yet her life was one long unbroken chain of penances. For example, she wore shoes spiked nails and an iron girdle. Throughout lent she hardly slept. She was completely oblivious of her personal hygiene and yet no one dared tell her a word as she was a princess and the convent had been built on her account. She worked among the squalid poor and in conditions so nauseating that others refused to even speak of the horrid conditions they knew she endured. Her utter disregard for her personal health clearly ended her life at a young age.
A GREAT MYSTIC
She mystically contemplated the Passion of Our Lord and responded with long fasts, severe scourgings and other mortifications. She had a tender devotion to Our Lady and on the eve of her feasts would pray a thousand Ave Marias. She is purported to have received the stigmata (that is, she suffered from wounds that Christ received in his Passion).
Unable to make long pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome, or other famous shrines of Christendom, St. Margaret devised an ingenious and pious plan. She counted up the kilometers that lay between her convent and the shrine and then would visit in spirit by praying one Ave for each kilometer there and for each kilometer back. On Good Friday, she was so overcome with sorrow for Our Lord that she would spend the entire day weeping bitterly. She was frequently in ecstasy, and would be extremely embarrassed if anyone saw her thus in her cell or commented about her holiness.
DEATH AND VENERATION
A number of miracles were performed by Margaret during her lifetime, and many more followed after her death. The princess nun was only 28 when she died. Many of the miracles she performed were attested to by depositions of witnessed taken in 1277. (These are recorded ). Her friends and acquaintances petitioned her to be acclaimed a saint shortly after her death. Among them was her own servant, Agnes, who rightly observed that this daughter of a monarch showed more humility than any of the monastery's maids. Her brother, King Stephen V of Hungary, helped initiate the process of her canonization. Yet despite seventy-four miracles attributed to her intercession (most of which were curing of illnesses, but one was raising a person from the dead), her canonization was witheld for centuries. In popular Hungarian culture she was venerated as a saint. Yet she was only finally canonized by Pope Pius XII on 19 November 1943, on the feast day of her aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
The island on which her convent stood used to be called the "Blessed Virgin's Isle" in her day, but was changed to the "Isle of Margaret". She is invoked against floods in memory of a miracle she performed by stopping a flood on the Danube with the Sign of the Cross.
Her monastery was among those suppressed in 1782, part of the suppression of all monastic Orders by the malevolent Emperor Joseph II. Influenced by freemasonic and revolutionary ideals, Jospeh II He claimed that religious were superfluous and necessary for society. He also wished to exert a supremacy greater than the pope over all Church matters within his domain. Thus he confiscated the property, land and wealth of all the religious he deemed un-useful. This was a great blow to the Catholic Fait in his lands from which they have never fully recovered. At that time, the remains of St. Margaret were entrusted to the Poor Clares. They were kept in Pozsony (today Bratislava) and in Buda. Sadly, her relics were partly destroyed in 1789. Yet some portions of her relics were preserved and are now kept in Esztergom, Győr, and Pannonhalma.
In art, St. Margaret is usually depicted in a Dominican nun's religious habit, holding a white lily and a book, with a crown, a crucifix and the stigmata. (The crown is how she is most easily distinguished from St. Catherine of Siena. Although Catherine had a mystical crown, Margaret had a temporal one and is therefore still depicted with it.)
Ant. Blessed Margaret emulating the purity of the angels, dedicated herself as the bride of Him who is the spouse of perpetual virginity and the Son of the perpetual Virgin.
V. Pray for us, Blessed Margaret.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
Let us pray. O God, the lover and guardian of chastity, by whose gifts Thy handmaid Margaret united the beauty of virginity and the merit of good works, grant we pray, that through the spirit of salutary penance we may be able to recover integrity of soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.