The Wives' Saint

By Ronald A. Knox

THE PILGRIM to Lourdes who so far forgets his holy business as to go round looking for a piece of tolerable statuary will be surprised to find what it is - an effigy of Queen Margaret, presented by the Catholic women of Scotland. Nor were they guilty of insular prejudice: Queen Margaret is a saint of the Universal Church, and was, besides, at least in part, an Englishwoman. History reads like romance when you find a Saxon princess going into exile at the time of the Conquest, and finding in Scotland not merely a home but a crown.

Female saints always seem to be canonised either as virgins or as widows. St. Margaret falls into the latter class, but only by a technicality - she survived King Malcolm by four days. "He first deceased; she, for a little, tried to live without him, liked it not, and died." Thus she may fairly be regarded as the patroness of wives, who have, in these days, much need of a patroness.

The young queen had no very high standards to live up to, one of her predecessors being Lady Macbeth. But no commonplace virtues would suffice for her; she became, unquestionably, a saint. Nor was her sanctity all of the other-worldly type; she brought up a family of eight, shared the whole burden of royalty, and reformed the life of a kingdom. But above all, she is remembered for her practical charity. "When she went into the hall of the palace, she found it full of poor people; she washed their feet and served them herself. Often, especially in Lent and Advent, the royal couple called in three hundred poor" - there is a point, you must confess, at which the Lady Bountiful ceases to be ridiculous.

The need for such kindly charity as St. Margaret exemplified has not died out in our modern world. When next an appeal for help reaches you, pause to think of Queen Margaret, and let her memory touch your heart and open your hand.

St. Margaret's Chapel

(From St. Margaret Queen of Scotland and Her Chapel, St. Margaret's Chapel Guild)

Queen Margaret of Scotland Girls' Schools Association 2004
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