A Dominican Saint with an Unimaginable Life Story

St. Margaret of Castello, OP – 1287-1320

St. Margaret of Castello was born in 1287 in Metola, Italy to noble parents. Her father was a famous military hero, and her parents were determined to have a son to carry on the family’s military reputation. When the news was told that their newborn was a daughter, born blind, hunchbacked, dwarfed, and lame, Margaret’s parents were embarrassed. Margaret was kept in seclusion on the upper floor of the family castle in the hopes that her existence would be kept secret, in an attempt to avoid embarrassment to the family’s reputation.

When Margaret was six years old, she was accidentally discovered by a guest of the manor. Her parents took further actions to hide her from others. Determined to keep her out of the public eye, her parents moved her to a small chapel on a remote part of the estate manor. They built a room without a door attached to the side of the chapel and walled Margaret inside this room. She lived there in seclusion for the next 14 years, never allowed to come out. Her food and other necessities were passed to her through one of two small windows. Another window opened into the interior of the chapel and allowed her to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion. During this imprisonment, a local priest took upon himself the duty to educate her. (On the internet, you can view the room attached to the manor chapel where Margaret lived for 14 years. A door to the left of the chapel was added centuries later – here). 

After years of living in this enclosure, her parents heard rumors of miraculous cures occurring at a shrine in nearby Citta di Castello, Italy. Margaret’s parents made a pilgrimage to the shrine expecting a healing, taking Margaret with them in secret. They waited in the shrine for a few short minutes, but nothing happened; they quickly gave up and left in secrecy, abandoning Margaret in the shrine. They returned to their manor, never to see her again. 

Margaret, abandoned and homeless in a strange town, had to beg to survive. Over time, while living on the streets of Castello as a beggar, she became known for her holiness. She often preached to her fellow beggars and helped guide them spiritually. She preached a message of joy and thankfulness, despite all their suffering. She noted that, as beggars, they were able to mimic the Holy Family by living in poverty and exile. 

Her reputation for holiness continued to grow in Castello and she was asked to join a monastery of contemplative cloistered nuns in the town. Joining the monastery was initially a great joy for Margaret, but things quickly changed. As a nun, Margaret was intent on living the cloistered life exactly as written in their rule of life. In contrast, the nuns were largely ignoring their rule, living lavishly and lax. Soon the nuns became resentful of Margaret, claiming that Margaret was going too far in her piety and obedience. Margaret unintentionally exposed their corruption, so they expelled her from the monastery. 

Margaret was now back on the streets of Castello. Since she had been kicked out of the monastery, many townspeople were skeptical of her. The nuns spread false rumors about Margaret to support their actions. Over time, the truth was revealed. The townspeople realized that it was the nuns who were being inauthentic. The people noticed that Margaret always spoke about her time in the monastery with gratitude while the nuns always spread evil rumors about Margaret. Eventually, the townspeople began to see the wicked truth about the nuns and the true holiness of Margaret. Not long after this incident, the monastery of nuns closed in scandal and the site eventually became a monastery for Dominican nuns.  

Margaret’s reputation grew and soon Castello citizens invited her into their homes. It was now an honor to have Margaret live with them. She passed from family to family in this way, a homeless beggar now being adopted by the citizens of the city. At each home where Margaret stayed, the families reported physical healings, spiritual healings, mended relationships, and a sense of peace while Margaret was with them. In multiple interviews as part of her canonization process, the families reported that everywhere she went, things got better.

In one of the homes where Margaret stayed, she met a member of the Mantellata. The Mantellata were a group of women, often widowed, who led a life of prayer, penance, and charity devoted to the Dominican Order as lay members. In our time, we would refer to them as the Dominican Laity. Becoming a member of the Mantellata led her to meet the Dominican friars in Castello where she received spiritual guidance and the habit of the Dominican order. As a member of the Dominican laity, she devoted herself to tending to the sick and dying and visiting prisoners in the city jail for the rest of her life.

Margaret forgave her parents for their ill-treatment of her and always treated others with great care. Her cheerfulness stemmed from her conviction that God loves each person infinitely, for He has made each person in His own image and likeness. Despite her suffering, Saint Margaret remained serene, thankful, cheerful, and courageous. She never became bitter, complained, criticized others, or became discouraged. She preached through her joy and gratitude and through her service to the poor and imprisoned. 

Margaret died on April 13, 1320, at the age of 33. As a member of the Mantellata, Margaret was buried in the Dominican tertiary habit. At the time of her death, the Dominican friars intended for her to be buried in the chapel of the Dominican convent, but the townspeople of Castello, recognizing her holiness, demanded that she be laid to rest in the town church so that all may have the opportunity to venerate her as a saint. (You can still view her incorrupt body in Castello at the altar of St. Dominic’s Church). More than 200 miracles have been credited to her intercession. She was beatified in 1609. Thus, the daughter that nobody wanted is now one of the glorious saints of the Church. Margaret was canonized in April of 2021 by Pope Francis. Her feast day is April 13.

Br. John Steilberg, OP

The Obligations of Love

The weekend of 30 Apr – 1 May 2022

On the physical plain, our physical plain, we can only express love in concrete ways.  One way is through words.  There are stronger ways though, better ways – through our actions.  Then there is the ultimate way to express our love for another:   to give our lives for them.  On our physical plain, there can be no better way to express love than this.

Peter was asked three times if he loved Jesus.  Jesus tells him three times what he must do if the love he has for Jesus is true:  Peter must feed Jesus’ sheep.  This will take a lot of effort and a fair amount of time and pain.  

When Peter is pulled before the Sanhedrin, he is accused of spreading the news of Jesus throughout Jerusalem.  The Sanhedrin tells Peter to cut it out and lets him go.  This is the beginning of Peter’s obligation of love to Jesus.  Where will it end?

Peter is told that he has a choice – now – but that there will come a day when there will no longer be a choice.  A day when he will stretch out his hands and others will take him to where he would rather not go.  Love – true love – can have a heavy price even though it is given and accepted freely.

Are we ready?  Will we, too, work the will of He-Who-Loved-Us-First, despite its cost in effort, time, and even pain?  Ultimately, will we stretch out our hands and allow others to lead us to where we’d rather not go?  Is the love from God and the love we give to God worth such a high price?  Oh, yes.  Yes, it is.  All the saints attest to it, Jesus attests to it – the whole triune God attests to it.  It will not be easy; but what a life it will be!  What could be more adventurous?  More fun?!  It will be so, so worth it!

Ms. Cathie Lambert, OP

Jesus, what would you do?

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The early morning in the temple area was a beautiful place to be. Jesus enjoyed this time alone; praying and listening to his Father before the people sought him out for teaching. As he made his way to the temple the people had already started gathering to hear his teachings for the day. 

The day started as any other day, with a prayer and thanksgiving to God the Father, when suddenly a crowd of scribes and pharisees came into the middle of the group dragging a disheveled young woman with them, she was caught in the act of adultery they were screaming at her and she was screaming right back at them,” how dare you judge me.”  The Pharisees wanted to stone her, as the law of Moses commanded, what would you have us do, Jesus? 

Jesus began writing on the ground with his finger, but they continued, “Jesus! this is a sinful woman, she must be put to death, she is an enticer and an evil doer from a bad neighborhood. She is just a prostitute; the world would be better off without her.” Jesus, tell us what you would do? They wanted to trap Jesus in his own words so they could accuse him. Jesus stood up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone; one by one they dropped their stones and left, and Jesus was left alone with Mary of Magdalene. Jesus forgave Mary and gave her a new life, through reconciliation and mercy. We too can have the same forgiveness. As we travel through the desert. Christ is always waiting for us on the other side. 

Mrs. Denise Fedie, OP

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Sunday, 27 Mar 22

Luke 15:11-32

I have always like this parable. In fact, I have been something of a prodigal myself. But whenever I hear or read it, my heart trulygoes out to the elder son. In this world, how easy it is for the ‘good’ child, for the ‘good’ man or the ‘good’ woman to come to the conclusion that they are overlooked and under appreciated.

​Here’s a metaphor:  How you know which pair of new shoesreally fit?  Are they the expensive, fine-looking ones?  You know, the uncomfortable ones; the shoes that break down too soon; the ones you’ve folded under your heel because of that blister they caused? Nahh. The best shoes are the ones that you can’t even tell you have on!  They don’t pinch your toes or rub your heels; they don’t fall off or gape at the sides – yep, you don’t even know you’re wearing them.  

​So, are we to conclude that the expensive, uncomfortable shoesare the best ones to have because we pay so much attention to them?  The Prodigal Son was expensive when it wasn’t convenient; he hurt feelings and eventually hurt himself.  He was fussed over when he finally did the right thing – he was well-loved, after all.  

​But what about the elder son; the one who never asked for anything?  The one who was always obedient and reliable?  His father comes to him when he’s being peevish and reassures him that of course he is well-loved, and always has been.  That he – even he – can have whatever he asks for and will be given his inheritance at the proper time.

The two sons are truly the children of their father. Both are loved. We are truly the children of our Father. We’re loved when we make mistakes. We’re loved when we do what is right. We will be celebrated when the time is right. We will receive our inheritance at the proper time. We are, after all, well-loved and always have been.

Sunday March 20, 2022

Ex. 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Cor. 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk.13: 1-9

Our readings today reflect God’s tender care of His people. He allows trials to awaken the people to the consequences of turning from Him but assures them of His hearing their cry as they seek Him. He reveals He is the center and creator of everything as His name, I AM who am. St. Paul tells of God fulfilling His promise of care comparing the Jews baptism in the water of the Red Sea to liberate them to the much greater next step. The baptism into Jesus is the fulfillment of redemption. But, like the Jewish people experienced, we must not turn away from Him to evil or He will call us back to Himself through chastisements. God gave the Egyptian Pharaoh many chances to repent through the wake up calls of plagues. But Pharaoh hardened his heart and demanded he be served rather than God. He eventually harvested the fruit of punishment.

God does not give up on us when we fail Him. He always gives us another chance to repent. He is patient and persistent in pursuing us. Like the fig tree that didn’t produce fruit, we often fail to live the gospel commands and then fail to produce fruit. The Lord sends “gardeners” who teach and enrich us with spiritual nourishment in hopes that we will repent. Lent is great time to evaluate what is really important and Who we serve. We will eventually harvest the good fruit produced in our lives or the deserved punishment of serving self rather than God. Let’s soften, not harden our hearts.

Mrs. Marilyn Pipkin, OP

The Transfiguration

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Jesus wants to increase the faith of his disciples by his transfiguration; to strengthen them for what
will soon take place, his crucifixion and death. By giving them a taste of his future glory he is giving
them a taste of their own future glory. His clothes become dazzlingly white. He is accompanied by
Moses and Elijah who spoke of the exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

Peter, James and John, who accompanied Jesus, are blinded by an excess of light which is above human
power and hear a voice from the cloud saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

How well do we listen to Jesus?

Unlike Peter, we need to be quiet before the Lord. We need to go to that place in our soul where we can speak to Jesus and, more importantly, listen to him speak to us.

This takes practice.

We should never become discouraged by distractions, but keep on striving to meet Jesus in that peaceful place where he communes with us.

Spending time in Adoration will increase our ability to achieve this through the power of the Holy Spirit. This Lent make an effort to attend Adoration and, also, to practice Lectio Divina.

Mrs. Peggy Brechtel, OP

What Does Lent Mean to You?

As we prepare for the beginning of Lent we are reminded of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan. Through His obedience to God, and His love for us, Jesus knew that this was the only way to ensure salvation for the world.

How are you going to spend the next 40 days? Are you giving up something like chocolate, or sweets all together, maybe caffeine, or soda, maybe you are going to be nice to others, or even give to the food bank or shelters? Do you give up the same thing every year? Do you fall away from your promise halfway through the season, or give up on it all together? 

Might I suggest that we in the community of St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s pledge to pray for the conversion of sinners throughout the world this Lent?

So, whatever your plan is for this Lent, I pray that you are able keep your Lenten pledge, and if you feel yourself slipping away, remember, we are not in this alone and all we have to do is ask God for help. May the Holy Spirit guide you now and forever.

Ms. Cheryl Riley, OP

Sunday, February 20, 2022

1 Samuel 26:2, 7, 9, 12-13, 22-23

1 Corinthians 15:45-49

Luke 6:27-38

Today we hear an important message in all three of the Mass readings: All that the Lord God has created is to be treated as holy and belongs to Him; therefore, we are called to love others as God has loved us. Let me expand on that a bit.  

In the first reading, David refused to harm King Saul because Saul was God’s anointed one. He treated Saul as he wanted to be treated, as God’s anointed one. David had been anointed also, as boy, a young shepherd. This was unknown to Saul, but David knew and did not flaunt it. He respected God’s timing, trusted God with all of his heart, and obeyed the Lord. In fact, during his kingship, David would go on to write most of the Psalms, describing to us 3000 years later, his confidence in God and we, too, can trust the Lord, especially in times of difficulty. Remaining faithful in times of hardship is how our faith is tested. And, when we fall, David teaches us repentance in Psalm 51 and reminds us in Psalm 95, what happens to those who test God with their insolence. David, even though he sinned greatly, was God’s anointed one. He repented of his sins and remained in God’s favor. God loves us too, despite our sinfulness.

In the second reading Paul reminds us that although we are physical beings, we are also spiritual beings. As Jesus is both fully man and fully divine, we also, made in His image and likeness, are fully human and fully spiritual. Both natures, our physical and spiritual, must be lived well. In order to live well, we must be fed well. Our physical nature is fed with good food, our spiritual nature must also be fed well by reading, studying, and putting our faith into practice every day. When we eat, we need to remember that it is God who created the food that we receive and thank Him for it, with a contrite heart. When we attend Mass and receive the True Bread from heaven, the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, we truly need to be thankful with every essence of our being: our mind, body, and soul. Being thankful at this level is a complete and total submission to God and His will. God only wills the good for us, because that is what love is: willing the good for another.

In the gospel reading, Jesus tells us to love our enemy, because that is what distinguishes us from all others. So, if love is willing the good of another, then to love one’s enemy is to provide for their good. How do we do this? We pray for those who do harm to us. Lord have mercy; they know not what they do. We do not speak ill of those who do not love us. Lord, help him change his ways. We do not commit the sin of detraction against those who hate us. Lord, show her the path to you. We do not commit the sin of calumny against those who hold grudges against us. Lord, show her how to be merciful. We do not seek vengeance against those who have hurt us. Lord, be merciful in your judgement of him.  

We do not waiver in our faith that God is the One who will judge us all, and therefore we shall not judge others. If we do, we will be held to the same standard at our own judgement. We ask God to be merciful on us, thus we must be merciful to all others. In the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. We will be judged in the same measure that we judge others. Let us all reflect on this lesson that David, Paul, and Jesus teaches us: All that the Lord God has created is to be treated as holy and belongs to Him; therefore, we are called to love others as God has loved us.

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

Trusting God

Today I would like to invite you to consider a different perspective within the context of increasing mandates regarding travel and COVID vaccination.

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

The big picture has nothing to do with the COVID drama. The big picture is always eternal life with God or eternal separation from Him. That is the choice we have to make. Everything else is temporary or fleeting; it all passes. So, we shift our overall focus toward certainties, things that absolutely will happen.

First, and I know this sounds harsh, but it must be said: we are all going to die. There is no escaping death. Yes, it’s painful when someone we know and love dies. That is absolutely true. Let’s take a look at this certainty through the Catholic perspective.

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo Buonorotti 1536-41
Fresco
Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
WikiMedia Commons image, Public Domain

We believe that there are “4 last things:” Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. All 4 of these are certainties. We will all die. We will all be judged. There are only 2 places we can spend eternity, either heaven or hell. Death is the portal through which we all must enter so that we may be judged by our Lord on our temporal lives. We will spend eternity in either heaven with God or we will be eternally separated from God in hell.

The Fall of the Rebel Angels
Getty Museum
Public Domain

Why do I mention this? This ought to be on the minds of everyone, particularly when we are in the midst of trials. How we endure these trials is one of the details that Jesus Christ will use in judging us. How merciful are we? How obedient are we to those appointed over us? How patient are we in difficulties? How well do we walk alongside others in their trials? How well do we evangelize? How do we include God in our decision-making? The list goes on and on.

Allegory of the Catholic Faith by Johannes Vermeer, Dutch
ca 1670-72
Oil on Canvas
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY
Public Domain

Sometimes, especially during this COVID pandemic, don’t we get caught up in the political drama or have a hard time reconciling vaccination mandates with our personal beliefs, or do we just blindly go along to get along to avoid conflict? This list of questions is long as well. All of the minutiae that we can name are mere distractions from the big picture. They distract us from God and His will in our lives. They turn us away from God and, generally, lead us into error or even into sin. Don’t get caught up in the minutiae. Keep your mind on where you want to spend eternity.

Let’s change the perspective of our situational analysis. Yes, sometimes it is God’s will that someone we love very much becomes very ill or even dies. We have to accept that. God will use the evil of the moment to bring about the good. We tend to forget this. For example, sometimes, God answers our prayers with a yes, but the only way that our intentions could possibly happen is through difficulties that we could never have imagined. Maybe COVID is the means through which more people answer His call. Maybe disease or even vaccination mandates mean better reconciliations with estranged family members. Maybe the best and most complete reconciliations happen when death is imminent. Maybe our hardened hearts can only be cured by seeing someone close to us suffer. Whether it is us or them with the disease, both parties suffer. Maybe suffering together is the only way to reconciliation. Maybe.

Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt Van Rijn, Dutch
Between 1626-1669
Drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem, North Holland, Netherlands

This perspective obviously requires an enormous amount of trust in God. Trust that He has your absolute best interests in mind when we are faced with difficulties like this. We must Trust that only He knows the outcomes and invites us to spend eternity with Him. Trust that He created us to love and serve Him. Trust that He loves us enough to give each of us free will. He loves us individually. None of this is easy, especially while living in the world.

Live in the world, not of it.

Remember to keep this passing world in the proper perspective. Because this world (and everything in it) is passing away, even COVID. Take a moment and think about your own perspective. Maybe you can benefit from altering it a bit by evaluating the situation in terms of the big picture: Eternal Life with God or Eternal Separation from Him. Everything else is passing details that should not rule over us.

May the Lord bless you and yours abundantly!

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

We Have Much to Do

As I was praying the rosary this morning, the Joyful Mysteries, the Holy Spirit flooded my mind with work that must be done. Not in a distracting way, but in a pastoral way that related directly to the present mystery. I’d like to share this experience with you this morning.

The Annunciation, Book of Hours, Simon Bening; Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment; modern red leather binding; 1535-6, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, Public Domain

The first mystery, the Annunciation, He instructed me to accept God’s Holy will in my life, so I may be healed. At Mass, we pray the Centurion’s prayer with hope with and a confident understanding that nothing is impossible for God. He can heal us no matter how sick or broken we are. I must remember that because He can heal me, He can heal anyone. Allowing God’s will in my life, will only progress my healing. He gives me exactly what I need for my own, individual cure. He wants me to be cured of what allows me fall to temptation. I have to want to be healed. If I truly do, I will accept His remedy, and be healed: “your faith has made you well.” (Mk 10:52, RSV-CE)

The Virgin and Saints Interceding before Christ for the Souls of the Lost, ca. 1771, Joann Baptist Enderle, Pen and black ink watercolor and gouache on laid paper, The Met, Public Domain

The second mystery, the Visitation, He reminded me that in order to be a true and faithful disciple of Christ, I must avail myself to the needs of others, no matter how dire my own situation might seem. in this mystery, Mary has just been informed that she is to be the Mother of God. She’s a young teenager, just betrothed, who has become pregnant in a world that condemns women to death for adultery. Yet, her faith in God is so deep, her trust in His Holy Will for her life outweighs her fears of what this would “surely” bring. Shouldn’t I trust God’s will in my own life with the same conviction?

Annunciation to the Shepherds, Claes Moeyaert, drawing, c1633 – c 1637; Rijksmuseum, Netherlands, Public Domain

The third mystery, the Nativity, He explained to me that proclaiming the Gospel, the evangelium, to all who would listen, is necessary for the salvation of souls. Of all the needs in this world, this is the most important and dire one. The Creed tells us exactly what we need to know and teach. There is nothing more important than explaining the life of Christ to others, in order to bring souls to Him. This is why I am a Lay Dominican. I was created to do this. I pray that I might do this well, to bring as many souls to Christ as possible.

Simeons Song of Praise – Arent de Gelder, 1700, oil on canvas, Mauritshuis, The Hague, South Holland, Public Domain

The fourth mystery, the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple, He reminded me that the road of discipleship is not an easy one. Choices, difficult choices, must be made throughout this journey. That choosing Him over the distractions of the world is the one thing I must do each day as His disciple. Making God the one and only priority that is superior to all others, to do things that I might not feel up to doing at that moment, but heed the call nonetheless without delay.

Note Dame Gargoyle, WikiCommons, Public Domain

The fifth mystery, Finding the Christ Child in the Temple, He reminded me that Jesus is always present in the Church, no matter what I see in this corrupt world; even if evil is done inside His church or by His clergy, He is still here, with us, until the end of the age, and vengeance is His alone. I am not faithful for the sake of corrupt laity or clergy, I am to be faithful in spite of them. The Lord is better able to administer justice than I could ever be. The Holy Spirit urges me to pray that they encounter Christ, as St. Paul did: profoundly. They are human too and are subject to temptation and sin; clergy especially, are the focus for the evil one’s temptations. He and his minions tempt all of us, and so many people leave the Church because of scandals, abuse, sins committted in the Church or by clergy. Don’t let that separate you from Christ in the Eucharist. There is only one place where He truly resides, physically and spiritually: in every Tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the World. Don’t leave; He is truly present in the Eucharist, even if consecrated by unholy men. His holiness is more powerful that their unholiness.

The Conversion of Saint Paul by Schelte Adamsz Bolswert, 1621-1633, Engraving in black on cream laid paper, The Art Institute of Chicago, Public Domain

The Lord put these things on my heart today. Thank you for allowing me to share them with you.

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

%d bloggers like this: