St Margaret Ward

Martyr (entered heaven this day in 1588)

Dear Marge,

You are being led astray by one of the devil’s oldest tricks: condemning the sinner because of the sin.  I hope you don’t mind if I venture a bit of advice. In the first place, remember that you have only just arrived on campus.  Do you really think one week gives you sufficient time to make a proper evaluation of the campus ministries and ministers? I think you may be jumping the gun.  In the second place, even if what you say is true, that they are encouraging disobedience to the Pope and violating all kinds of Church discipline, that gives you no right to condemn them.  Only God can condemn. Your task is to love, to give yourself for the good of your brothers and sisters. Now, if it turns out that further involvement will indeed put your own faith in danger, if your conscience truly warns you to stay away, OK, you’ll have to find an alternative.  But in the meantime, remember that God works through imperfect instruments. Exercise your faith in the sacraments, in his grace, not in the human vessels that transmit them. Imitate the faith of today’s saint.

Margaret was a companion of the Whittle family in London during the violent times when the Church of England was rooting out Catholicism.  But she was a Catholic gentlewoman, and she defended her faith admirably. She and many of the other faithful Catholics risked their lives in order to shelter priests (who were outlawed – the Church of England officials knew that if they could rid England of Catholic priests, the faith itself would wither away) and preserve the true faith.  In Margaret’s case, the risk ran its full gamut.

Father Richard Watson was discovered, arrested and incarcerated in Bridewell Prison.  He was sure to be condemned and executed. Margaret couldn’t bear the thought of leaving a priest to die.  She, with the help of her servant, Blessed John Roche, smuggled him a rope, which Fr Richard used to escape, and arranged for his subsequent safe concealment.  The rope was traced back to her, however, and she was arrested. She was imprisoned, whipped, and tortured in order to reveal the priest’s whereabouts, but she remained silent.  Finally, weakened, humiliated, and intimidated, she was offered her freedom if she would simply tell them where Fr Watson was and pledge fidelity to the Church of England. She refused.  So she was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

Try to focus on the essentials, my fervent niece.  And instead of judging and condemning those who are failing, at least make an attempt to come to their rescue.  It’s worth it, as I am sure St Margaret would tell you if you were to ask.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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