As a Catholic Theologian it was inevitable that I should encounter St. Margaret of Castello. I was always interested in her as she lived a short and difficult life. Only after a major life-changing event did I fully embrace her example.
Let the hagiographers describe her;
Saint Margaret of Castello was born into a well-to-do family near Florence, Italy in 1287. To the great distress of her parents, upon her birth they discovered that she suffered from a variety of severe physical ailments. She was a dwarf, had a curved spine that left her hunched over, was lame to the point that she could barely walk and was blind.
Her family was embarrassed by her, and kept her hidden away for many years. As young as age 6, she was walled up in a room beside a chapel. A family chaplain taught her about God. Seeking a miracle, her parents took her to a Franciscan shrine. They didn’t receive one and abandoned her. Some in the community took pity on her, and gave her the help she needed to survive. She became a member of the Dominican Third Order of Castello, developed a deep prayer life and devoted the remainder of her 33-year life to performing acts of penance and charity. Despite her suffering, Saint Margaret remained serene, calm, cheerful and courageous. She never became bitter, complained, criticized others or became discouraged. She went to mass daily, and prayed fervently to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and St. Dominic. St. Margaret accepted her suffering with the eyes of faith. She did not know why God allowed her to suffer from so many afflictions, yet she did know that He was all-good, did not allow evil without a good reason and always turned evil into good for His children. She wondered why people pitied her; was it not a privilege to suffer with Christ? Suffering for her was her way to heaven.
St. Margaret was declared Blessed in 1609. Her incorrupt body lies under the main altar of St. Dominic Church in Castello. Many visit her shrine there. She was canonized a saint, 701 years after her death, by Pope Francis April 24, 2021.
Fast forward to 1988. I was coming home from graduate studies in which I was pursuing a second masters degree in Theological Studies. I turned onto a nice suburban street ending in a T-intersection. Suddenly, I saw a car turn onto the street, swerving wildly and, seemingly out od control. I pulled over to the side of the road. I had nowhere to go, thoughts crowded my mind as I thought I was going to die. The man who was drunk, crashed into me "headlight-to-headlight". I survived, much to the surprise of the doctors.
I was not left without injuries. I suffer from post-concussion syndrom which allows me to concentrate for periods of only about 15 minutes. The tissue in my right elbow was crushed, leaving me with severely restricted motion in this arm. My knees are misaligned, leaving me with an unusual walking gait. I have arthritis and calcium deposits in all my joints. Pain is a daily companion. Every aspect of my life was impacted. Most importantly, I found a new and closer relationship with Jesus.
St. Margaret inspired me not to fall into a pit of self-pity, sorrow and bitterness. She showed me that my disabilities are a gift and new covenant with God. The disabilities are a new path to give glory to God. I embraced her as a personal patron and hero. This sentiment is echoed by Pope Francis who used his power of "Equipollent Canonization" to bestow sainthood on her. He argued that she led an exemplary life of "heroic virtue".
She has become thr patron of the disabled and a role model for all who have to deal with such injuries.