What Was St. Margaret's Life Like?
Written by Katie Flodder, a Catholic wife, mother, and friend of Stella & Tide
“Hurry! Get in the boat!” Saint Margaret’s mother desperately commanded her children. A princess on the run, Saint Margaret of Scotland’s life reads like a movie. Her family’s birthright was the English throne, but God had other plans.
Like many of you, I’ve heard of Saint Margaret of Scotland but couldn’t tell you much about her. She is known as the “Pearl of Scotland” and is one of the country’s most treasured saints. She was a woman who had experienced crushing grief and loss, yet she wasn’t afraid to trust God, even when life wasn’t going according to plan. Though she lived more than a thousand years ago, she can teach us so much about living in faith and trust.
Twice a Princess on the Run
Margaret was born in 1045 into exile in Hungary. As part of an ancient dynasty of English royalty, Margaret’s family had an iron-clad claim to the throne and was a threat to others who sought to rule England. When Margaret was 10 years old, it was finally safe for her family to return to their home country. But for young Margaret, the move meant leaving behind everything she had ever known. On top of this, as soon as they returned to England, her father died under suspicious circumstances.
Years later, William the Conqueror would threaten not only the family’s claim to the throne but also their lives. In mamma-bear mode, Margaret’s mother had experienced enough of the royal tug-of-war and set to escape with her children by boat back to Europe. However, God had a different destination in mind. A storm caused the boat to wreck off the coast of Scotland where King Malcolm III of Scotland welcomed the royal family under his protection.
Love at First Sight (For Him, Anyway)
Malcolm was quite taken by Margaret. You can’t blame the guy; she was quite a catch. There was something special about Margaret—she was beautiful, intelligent, and emanated goodness. He proposed marriage several times before Margaret finally agreed. Their marriage was happy and fruitful, and they had 8 children.
Throughout their marriage, Malcolm and Margaret sought to nurture and elevate each other’s strengths. How much would our marriages flourish if we had that same generous mindset toward our spouses? Malcolm and Margaret serve as a beautiful example for Catholic couples today.
More Than a Queen
As I learned more about Margaret, I realized she is surprisingly relatable. Personally, I have never been on the run from royal usurpers, but I do know what it’s like to be a Catholic mom. This was Margaret’s most cherished title. She sought to cultivate goodness and beauty in her own domestic church. She modeled for her children the importance of taking daily quiet time for Scripture and prayer. Margaret also prayed passionately for her children, that they may also have fulfilling relationships with Jesus. In her capacity as a mother, her example mirrors many strong Catholic mothers I know in my own life.
The (Royal) Hands and Feet of Christ
As queen, she was more than entitled to kick her feet back and chill on her throne. Fortunately, she lived her life quite the opposite way. As devoted as she was to her family, she also made it her daily mission to care for the poor and orphaned. Each day, she would visit the poor before she had her own breakfast and would wash their feet each evening. Her life was entirely devoted to making the lives of others better.
Though most of us are not running countries, we are still pretty busy nowadays—phones constantly pinging, millions of extracurricular activities to shuttle between, and to-do lists that are miles long. It’s tempting to put our heads down and try to power through the stress. Margaret shows us that it’s possible to be busy while keeping our eyes open for the people that God may send across our paths. More often than not, it’s simple acts like bringing lunch to a friend who just lost her job or dropping off coloring books for a friend’s sick child that make all the difference.
For the Love of the Eucharist
Margaret had a passion for encouraging her countrymen and women to partake more often in the Eucharist. As Catholics, we know the life-giving presence and beauty that we experience in the Eucharist. Sadly, at this time many Scots held themselves to nearly impossible standards of perfection, and it was rare for them to feel they “qualified” to receive Holy Communion. Margaret’s confessor recorded her feelings regarding this issue:
“What!’ said the queen, ‘Shall all who are sinners not taste that holy mystery? No one therefore ought to receive it, for there is not one who is not stained with sin; not even the infant whose life is but one day on earth. And if no one ought to receive it, why did the Lord when he proclaimed the Gospel say, Except ye shall eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye shall not have life in you.’”
I can relate to these 11th-century Scots—I often feel I’ve fallen short of being worthy to enter into communion with Christ. Many of us can be plagued by the feeling that we aren’t “worthy enough” to be in His presence. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t view His relationship with us in that way. Our Good Shepard is capable of transforming our shortcomings—He just asks that we meet Him at the table just as we are.
Looking at Margaret’s life, she overcame heartbreaking adversity while never losing trust in Jesus. Her story brings to mind a line from the Litany of Trust: “From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute. Deliver me, Jesus.” Can we allow the Lord to steer our lives—even in the seemingly unsalvageable shipwreck seasons—and trust as Margaret did?
Saint Margaret of Scotland, pray for us!
Saint Margaret of Scotland's feast day is November 16
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