In this reflection, I am going to talk about Saint Margaret of Scotland, who was an English princess and a Scottish queen. As the author, George Scott-Moncrieff said in his mini-biography of her: “..a medieval queen hardly seems a person relevant as exemplar to…other saints such as Saint Theresa or of Saint Bernadette…but a queenly lady-bountiful seems to belong rather to some fairy-tale existence quite out of fashion, somebody to be confined in an ivory-tower of escape..” However, in these days of uncertainty, I believe that a Saint like Margaret can help us a lot.
Only last Sunday, our present Queen, made a speech outside of her usual Christmas message. Millions of people around the world watched it and she talked to each of us about staying strong during this pandemic. In her concluding words, she said: “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say…this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future”. The Queen is therefore saying that we should all feel good that we are doing our bit to save countless others by staying at home, preventing the spread of the virus, and saving the hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Similar to Queen Elizabeth II, Saint Margaret had no inclination as a child that she would one day be a queen. She was initially brought up in Hungary, and then moved to England to be brought up in the court of King Edward the Confessor (another saint of these Isles). After the death of Edward, Margaret and some of her family took refuge from the Normans by escaping to Scotland. Here they were welcomed and protected by the Scottish king, Malcolm Canmore. He fell in love with Margaret and they were soon married. Like many wives, Margaret brought out the best in her husband!
As Queen, Margaret’s mission was to “make [the King] most attentive to the works of justice, mercy, almsgiving, and other virtues”. Margaret also sought for reconciliation in the local church, which had for a long time self-isolated from Rome because of the Viking invasions, and therefore differed slightly in how it worshipped. She carefully and kindly sought reconciliation rather than creating bitter feuds, and it worked! Saint Margaret “also worked daily amongst the poor and diseased looking after them with her own hands..”. Margaret was as pious privately as she was publicly. She spent much of her time in prayer, and devotional reading: "…no one [was] so wrapped in prayer [as the Queen]".
Observing a saint like Margaret reveals that they are just ordinary people like us – even if they also happen to be a Queen. Indeed Covid-19 can affect all of us, including government officials. Margaret used her position to better the lives of others, but during this pandemic, we too have an opportunity to make life better for others: whether it’s a call to a friend/family member; a donation to many of the charities that need us right now; a clap for the NHS and other key-workers; or just a chat with God about everything like Fr Kevin suggested yesterday. Most of us might be stuck at home, but we can do so much from home!
Let us pray..
you gave the holy Queen Margaret of Scotland
great love for the poor.
Lend your ear to the
intercessions of this holy woman
and help us
to live after her example
so that your goodness and mercy
becomes visible in today’s world.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.