St. Margaret of Scotland: Sharing Her Very Self

Malcolm_and_Margaret_at_Queensferry
St. Margaret’s Life

St. Margaret of Scotland, who became known as “The Pearl of Scotland,” was an English princess born in Hungary in 1045 to Princess Agatha of Hungary and Prince Edward of England. When she was 10 years old, her family returned to England because her father was a potential successor to the throne. However, Edward died shortly after their arrival. In 1066, after the Norman conquest of England, Margaret’s mother fled with her family to Scotland to seek shelter. Malcolm, King of Scotland, welcomed the family to his country and eventually fell in love with Margaret. Though she wished to enter religious life, through the persuasion of her brother, she accepted Malcolm’s hand in marriage.

 From a young age, Margaret fostered a love for Scripture, which she carried with her into her marriage with Malcolm and her Queenship of Scotland. Though as Queen she had much wealth around her, she valued good works above all of her riches and sought God before all things. She called for Church councils at which she would lovingly correct, using Scripture and the teachings of the Church fathers, religious abuses or errors in teachings. Through her gentle, yet firm nature and the example of her life, she greatly influenced her husband, who tended to have a strong temper. Malcolm became more virtuous, more attentive to works of justice, mercy, and almsgiving, and more prayerful. Together they fed the hungry and served the poor, putting their faith into action as they led Scotland. Malcolm placed her in charge of all domestic affairs and often consulted her on state affairs as well.

Though she had a plethora of responsibilities as Queen, she did not neglect to train her eight children deeply in virtue. She frequently taught them about Christ and exhorted them to always love him. Though she lived as royalty, she sought always to preserve her humility, never losing sight of the transitory nature of life. She kept James 4:15 at the forefront of her mind in her role as Queen and as a mother: “What is our life? It is a vapor which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away.”

 In 1093, Malcolm and their oldest son died in battle. Instead of crying out to God with sorrow, Margaret, who already had a severe illness from all of the fasting she did, cried out, “I give praise and thanks to Thee, Almighty God, for that Thou hast been pleased that I should endure such deep sorrow at my departing, and I trust that by means of this suffering it is Thy pleasure that I should be cleansed from some of the stains of my sins” (Life of St. Margaret Queen of Scotland, Turgot 79). Four days later, on November 16, 1093, Margaret passed away after living a full life of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.

The Significance of Her Witness in Her Time

The late 1000s were a time of deep desolation for the English. The Norman Conquest had left England in a war-torn state, and to make matters worse, Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria, had attacked Scotland’s Cumbrian province, infuriating Malcolm King of Scotland. From that day on, Malcolm ordered that no English man or woman should be spared, rather all were either killed or forced into slavery. As Turgot writes, “Young men and maidens…were driven in fetters to the land of bondage. Many sank through fatigue, some of them never to rise again; those in whom life was left found no pity, but were driven on all the more unsparingly at the ruthless bidding of Malcolm…” (Turgot 13). It is in these times that Margaret, English by blood, became the Queen of Scotland.

Margaret’s compassionate, tactful nature countered her husband’s quick-tempered disposition. “Her gentle influence reformed whatever needed to be reformed in her husband, and none labored more diligently for the advance of temporal and spiritual enlightenment in her adopted county…” (Turgot 15). She moved her husband to care for the poor and practice generosity alongside her. Whenever she went out, crowds of poor would gather around her, and none would depart without being comforted. Through the influence she had on her husband’s leadership and character, she became a light to the nation. She did not forget about the English, the people of her own heritage. She would send spies to see which English slaves were being oppressed and would then pay their ransom, granting them freedom. In this way, though she was Queen in a country not her own, she served the people of her blood.

Margaret wisely recognized what reforms the Scottish Church needed and would diligently defend the truth with humility and courage. Through her piety and the genuine way in which she lived out her faith, she became a model to the nation of a pure life and true Christian leadership. “She did not bring a new religion to Scotland but gave new life to the religion which she found existing there” (Turgot 15). Thus, Margaret, guided by Christ, brought renewed hope and faith during what was a time of desolation for many Scottish and English people.

Source of Inspiration for the New Evangelization

Margaret’s entire life centered around her faith. The ways she lived her role as Queen, the ways she raised her children, and the ways she cared for others all pointed to a strong foundation in Christ. She remained prayerful and devoted to God even amidst her duties as Queen. She provides inspiration for the New Evangelization particularly through her faithfulness to her state in life, her diligence as a mother, and the generosity in which she gave of herself.  

St. Margaret led through the example of her life, always remaining obedient to the tasks set before her. Though she had wanted to enter religious life, upon being pushed to marry Malcolm, she humbly accepted God’s calling to her and used her newfound position of power to perform many good works. And though the Scottish were not her people of heritage, she still loved and cared for them as fully as though they were. In today’s world, society holds the view that one must have access to everything one wants in order to be happy, and if this access is not reached, dissatisfaction is justified. Margaret presents a strong counterexample to this mindset. She trusted in God’s plan for her, and even when her own plans did not come to fruition, she remained faithful to prayer and allowed God to use her as an instrument of grace to a whole nation.

Margaret’s life also proves exemplary in the way she mothered her children. Above all else, she valued their growth in virtue and desired that they come to love God. In modern times, the emphasis on raising children tends to be on their worldly success–how high their grades are, what colleges they are accepted to, what job they will pursue. In contrast secular concerns such as these, St. Margaret prayed daily that her children “might confess their Maker through the faith which works by love, that confessing they might worship Him, worshipping might love Him in all things and above all things, and loving might attain to the glory of the heavenly kingdom” (Turgot 34-35). This prayer is a model of what parents should pray for their children. First and foremost, the salvation of their children’s souls should be of utmost importance.

Finally, St. Margaret exhibited unlimited generosity of self. She strove in all ways, to use everything she had for the good of others. As she diligently studied God’s Word and Church teachings, she sought to share what she learned to instruct others and to use her knowledge to lead fairly. She had a zeal for giving to the poor, always desiring to offer them more. “She was poorer than any of her paupers; for they, even when they had nothing, wished to have something; while her anxiety was all to strip herself of what she had” (Turgot 55). This attitude of wholehearted giving presents a refreshing contrast to the self-seeking, hedonistic culture of today’s world. Further, whenever Margaret gave alms, she did so in secrecy. Today, in a society obsessed with appearances, she serves as a light of inspiration to give from the heart, not for the sake of publicity or honor.

St. Margaret Shared Very Self

Overall, although St. Margaret of Scotland’s life may seem superficially unrelatable due to her role as Queen, her commitment to her roles as spouse and parent and her service to the poor offers pearls of wisdom for modern ordinary life. She lived a life of deep prayer, with her eyes fixed on Christ at every moment. Yet she did not keep her prayerfulness to herself but instead sought to spread God’s love to all corners of her influence, from her husband to her children, to the poorest of the poor. “Not only would she have given to the poor all that she possessed; but if she could have done so, she would have given her very self away” (Turgot 55).  St. Margaret’s life encapsulates what it means and looks like to share one’s very self.

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3 thoughts on “St. Margaret of Scotland: Sharing Her Very Self”

  1. Pingback: CatholicSaints.Info » Blog Archive » Saint Margaret of Scotland

  2. Pingback: SVNDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  3. Josephine Harkay

    In the far away past, holy and intelligent Catholic women like St. Margaret, were listened to by the Church: “She called for Church councils at which she would lovingly correct, using Scripture and the teachings of the Church fathers, religious abuses or errors in teachings.” There were others, like St. Catherine of Siena and St. Therese of Lisieux who were declared doctors of the Church. I certainly do not advocate the idea of female priests, but the Catholic Church would certainly benefit by the advice of qualified Catholic women in Church councils. They seem to be afraid of giving them official positions in Church management.

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