St Margaret Clitherow

Wife and Martyr (entered heaven in 1586, pressed to death on Good Friday, March 25, in York, England)

Dear Marge,

Well, now that you have decided once and for all that you’ll be going on to business school, the time has come to choose for yourself a patron.  Today’s saint is the logical choice, since the Church has named her the official patron of businesswomen. Knowing her story may make you wonder why she has been so named, but on second glance, you will see the reason quite clearly.

She was born to a respectable, working class candle-maker in York, England during the turbulent times of the late sixteenth-century, when the Protestant Reformation had thrown England into a social tailspin and Catholics were not permitted to practice their faith.  Her family was part of the Protestant Church of England, and so was her husband, a successful butcher from the same town. She married young, and soon after her marriage, just before the birth of their second child and under circumstances still unclear, she began to be drawn towards the Catholic faith.  Soon, when she was but twenty-years old, she converted to the ancient Catholic faith, her husband not putting up any obstacles at all. After her conversion she continued to grow in her love for the Church, and became an active supporter of clandestine priests, who traveled in disguise and ministered to Catholics in secret.  She was more than once imprisoned under suspicion of harboring illegal priests, and during one stint spent enough time in jail that she learned to read, which impelled her to decide to procure a thorough education for her children.

When her husband was called to court in order to explain the long absence of his eldest son (who had been sent to the Continent to receive a Catholic education – both he and his younger brother eventually became priests; her only daughter became a Catholic nun), the authorities broke into her house and searched it for evidence of treason (harboring Catholic priests was considered treason).  They found priestly vestments, Mass breads, and hidden compartments used to conceal priests on the premises. With such blatant evidence against, Margaret was immediately arrested.

But during her trial she refused to answer any questions, lest she endanger her servants and family members, repeatedly claiming that “I know of no offense whereof I should declare myself guilty.”  The largest confession they could extract from her was a simple, “I die for love of my Lord Jesu.” She was condemned for treason and pressed to death – laid on a stone floor underneath a heavy wooden door that was then piled high with weights.  The normal executioners couldn’t bear to administer the sentence, and the authorities had to hire street people to come in and do it. Her dying words were, “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu! Have mercy on me?”

I would hardly call her a businesswoman in the modern sense of the word, but you can’t deny that keeping the authorities guessing while keeping the Catholics supplied with the sacraments for nigh on ten years is quite an accomplishment.  The acumen, organization, dedication, and effort necessary for such a feat would certainly come in handy as well for Catholic women who happened to be engaged in other business – as would her willingness to keep Christ in first place in her life, no matter the cost.  (Hint, hint…)

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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