Thursday, January 18, 2018

January 18: St. Margaret of Hungary, V., O.P., III Class

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of St. Margaret of Hungary, virgin, of the Order of Preachers.  The feast is III Class, and the office is prayed according to the rubrics.  Most of the office is proper, and is taken from the Proper of the Saints, and at Lauds the Psalms of Sunday are prayed.  At Lauds and Vespers a commemoration is made of St.  Prisca, virgin and martyr.  At Pretiosa, the obit of Barnabas of Vercelli, 15th Master General of the Order is read.

This is one of my favorite feasts on the Dominican calendar.  This saintly heir to the Hungarian throne is one of the numerous saints who adorn the liturgical calendar who sprang from royal blood.  We live in a time of political confusion and darkness.  We also live in an era in which there is great misunderstanding, akin to myth or even superstition, regarding the historical monarchical form of  government which is part of the glorious heritage of Christendom.  Saints like St. Margaret of Hungary, along with countless other examples of royalty being raised to the altars of the Church, attest to the fact that not all kings and queens were tyrants or scoundrels.   Indeed, the propers for today's feast are replete with examples of her sanctity from the accounts of her life, and attest to the level of sanctity that she achieved through her glorious union with Almighty God.

From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):

In the year 1242, Hungary was governed by a devout Jan. 26 king, Bela IV. His territories were overrun by hordes of Tartars, whose sacrileges and cruelties filled the entire kingdom with scenes of bloodshed and violence. In their distress, Bela and his Queen vowed to dedicate their first daughter to the service of God, if He would grant them victory over their enemies. Then, full of trust in the Divine goodness, Bela led his little army against the Tartars, who were utterly defeated and driven from the country. Margaret's birth occurred shortly afterwards, and in consequence of her parents' vow she was taken to the Dominican Convent of Vesprim when only three years old. Even at that tender age she showed extraordinary signs of devotion. In less than six months she knew the Office of Our Lady by heart, merely from hearing the Sisters recite it. She was clothed in the religious habit on her fourth birthday, on which occasion she was shown a crucifix, and she asked for some explanation of the sacred symbol. On hearing that it represented Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for us even to the last drop, she immediately covered it with kisses, exclaiming, "Lord, I give and abandon myself to Thee forever." Her parents built a magnificent monastery for her in an island of the Danube, about a mile from Buda, and hither she removed with several other Sisters when she had attained the age of ten. When she was twelve years old, she made her solemn profession in the hands of Blessed Humbert, the General of the Order.

Saint Margaret's grave at the Dominican
Monastery, Margaret Island, Budapest
Her parents afterwards obtained a Papal dispensation in order to marry her to the King of Bohemia, but this only gave Margaret an opportunity of showing that her religious life was the result of her own free choice, for no prayers or entreaties would induce her to quit the cloister. In order to protect herself from further annoyances of this kind, she was solemnly veiled and consecrated to God according to the rite given in the Roman Pontifical, in presence of the Archbishop of Strigonia and a number of other prelates. This ceremony took place at the altar of her aunt, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.

Blessed Margaret looked upon herself as the vilest person in the Convent and rendered the most menial services, not only to her Sisters, but even to the servants. It was her delight to wash the dishes, sweep the house, and discharge the lowliest domestic duties. She had a tender love for the poor and wept when she had no alms to bestow on them. But it was above all upon her sick Sisters that she poured forth the treasures of her charity, claiming it as her right to render them all the most loathsome and repulsive services which their condition might require.

Her life was one of continual prayer and hard labor and she practiced the most austere penance. Her tender love for her Divine Spouse made her hunger after a share in His sufferings and humiliations, and she often compelled her companions to scourge her with pitiless severity. Her habit was worn out at the knees and elbows by her continual genuflections and prostrations. She thirsted for martyrdom, and, on hearing a rumor that the Tartars were about to invade Hungary, she exclaimed, "I pray God that my father's kingdom may be spared so terrible a scourge; nevertheless, if they are to come, I trust they will come here, that we may receive our crown at their hands." Her love for our Blessed Lady was so great, that, at the mere sound of the name of Mary, she would fall upon her knees and bow her head to the dust, to do honor to her whom she delighted in saluting as "the Mother of God and my hope."

Blessed Margaret died at the early age of twenty eight. Almost innumerable miracles have been worked through her intercession. Petitions were repeatedly presented to the Holy See for her beatification; and Pius VII. extended to the Order of St. Dominic the permission to celebrate her festival, which was already kept in many churches.


O God, protector and guardian of virginity, by your favor, your servant Margaret jointed the beauty of virginity to the merit of good works; we beseech you, grant that, in the spirit of saving penance, we may be able to renew integrity of mind.  Through our Lord...