Thursday, February 22, 2007
Margaret of Cortona - Single Mother - Feb 22
Despite an early sordid life as mistress and unwed mother, Margaret of Cortona is commemorated today. After the death of her paramour Montepulciano, Margaret turns to her family for sanctuary for her and her son. Her father rejects her plea, and Margaret is drawn to the Franciscans who, she understands, are compassionate toward sinners. Her life with them is not an easy one. The old life does not die immediately. Three years of struggle follow as she cares for the sickly poor. Finally she experiences a religious awakening, and she lives out the second half of her fifty years making penance for the first half.
Margaret is a remedy for those who want an immediate and drastic change in one who recognizes that he or she has hit rock bottom. In conversation once a friend told me that as soon as someone recognizes the problem (addiction, greed, etc.), the problematic behavior should stop since the problem is known. Perhaps no saying is truer, "Old habits die hard." And new habits, particularly the new habits of the new life, are almost impossible to form when surrounded by the old. Once the old habits are removed, it still takes perserverance to form the new one. We find the stories of dramatic conversion and repentance to be moving and inspiring. What we need, I think, more are stories like Margaret which tell of a never-ending love of God who seeks out and continues to transform our lives in the midst of persistent sin. Those are saints I can relate to much more readily than the paragons of perfection.
The story of Margaret is also important for all who run into the persistent brokenness of people's lives. Poverty, drug addiction, infidelity, bad choices... all of these are deeply ingrained manifestations of the sin rampant in the world. We must be ready for a long process of movement from the dark to light. We must not give in to the result-driven perspective of our society. We are formed to run with endurance, to bear the cross, hanging in there with those who are engaged in the struggle to challenge, exhort, evangelize, and be Christ to them.
Grace and peace.