Today the Church remembers Saint Margaret of Hungary.
Saint Margaret was a Dominican nun and the daughter of King Béla IV of Hungary and Maria Laskarina. She was born on January 27, 1242 and died on January 18, 1271.
Saint Margaret is truly a unique model of virtue for today’s modern young woman. In a prayer “deal” with God, her father promised her to the religious life at her infancy, in return for an end to the persecution of his country by various enemies. She grew into an exquisitely beautiful woman and for that reason was offered marriage many times. She refused any thoughts or inclination towards a married life. She was passionate about her consecration to Jesus and devoted all her efforts to His service, even defying her father’s will for her to be released from her vows.
Despite her extraordinary beauty, she chose to neglect her appearance and often mimicked the lifestyle of the poor and sick she served in her ministry. She would go months without bathing or grooming herself in any way and she was often described as “repugnant” by those who visited the convent where she lived. It is believed that she adopted this practice as a severe form of mortification due to a self-professed attachment to the sins of vanity and pride.
Margaret was extremely strong-willed and defiant in the face of tasks or requests with which she did not agree. She often fasted from food and sleep, ignoring the rules of community life she shared with her sisters.
Soon after her death at a young age, Margaret was venerated as a saint. For example, a church dedicated to her in Bocfolde, Zala County, appears in documents dated 1426. Steps were taken to procure her canonization shortly after her death, at the request of her brother King Stephen V. The necessary investigations were taken up between 1271 and 1276, but the canonization process was not successful, even though seventy-four miracles were ascribed to her intercession, most of them referring to curing illnesses, even someone coming back from the dead. Among those giving testimony were twenty-seven people for whom miracles had been wrought. Unsuccessful attempts to canonize her were also made in 1640 and 1770. She was finally canonized by Pope Pius XII on 19 November 1943, at that time the feast day of her aunt, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.
Her feast day is celebrated by the Dominican Order. Raised by Pope Pius VII to a festum duplex, it is the day of her death, January 18.
Her monastery was among those suppressed in 1782, part of the suppression of all monastic Orders by the Emperor Joseph II. At that time, her remains were given to the Poor Clares. They were kept in Pozsony (today Bratislava) and Buda. The relics were partly destroyed in 1789 but some portions were preserved and are now kept in Esztergom, Győr, and Pannonhalma.
In art Margaret is usually depicted in a Dominican nun’s religious habit, holding a white lily and a book.
O God of truth,
through the Holy Spirit
you blessed our sister Margaret with true humility.
Teach us that same integrity
so that we may constantly turn from our selfishness
to your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.