St. Margaret of Hungary, pray for us!

St. Margaret of Hungary (1242-1271) was the daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary and his wife Maria. Before she was born, the Tartars were ravaging the lands, and her parents vowed to offer their child to God if He would deliver them from the Tartars. He did, and they did. At the age of three, Margaret was brought to a monastery of Dominican nuns in Veszprem.

To everyone’s surprise, Margaret loved the religious life. King Bela intended to remove her from the monastery when she was old enough to get married (ten or twelve years being enough, apparently, to satisfy his vow to God) but Margaret refused marriage three times. Even after making solemn vows, an attempt was made to dispense her from her vows for yet another offer of marriage. However, Margaret stood firm and held to her purpose, and never left the monastery.

A royal princess-become-nun might have led a more relaxed life in the monastery, but Margaret embraced suffering and hardship, doing heavy work in the kitchen and laundry and tending the sick. She was also rather extreme in her penances, which, as one commentator points out delicately, “seem excessive to us of a weaker age”. She hardly ever bathed, and she frequently engaged in fasting and scourging. In addition to this, Margaret added numerous prayers to those already recited in the Divine Office chanted by all the nuns.

All this took a toll on Margaret’s health, and she died at the age of 27. She was remembered and revered in Hungary for many years before finally being canonized in 1943.

Margaret is a great example of a person who had a single purpose and ideal: God. God was the one thing she strove for, to conform herself to His likeness, to be His true spouse, to show her devotion through acts of generosity and kindness and self-forgetfulness. In her own time and place, she found a way to serve God that makes us remember her today. Times have changed, but the love that inspired Margaret of Hungary is still alive. What is our single purpose, our one thing? How will we serve God today?

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