Margaret of Scotland


Psalm 112:1-9

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

2 John 1-9

Luke 4:16-22

Margaret of Scotland was a queen but also an exemplar of what it means to live a Christian life. Not only did she have power and prestige but had humanity and humility as well. Her charity and religious reforms led to her canonization 1250 and the designation as a patron of Scotland in 1673, taking her place beside Andrew the Apostle. Margaret is also known as the patron saint of arts, education, widows and large families.

Margaret’s parents were Saxon of minor royalty rank living in Hungary. Margaret herself returned to England in 1066 but was forced to flee when William the Conqueror overtook England and made any royal blood a target. Like many others she fled to Scotland where she attracted the attention of King Malcolm. They were married somewhere around 1070 and had eight children, one of whom became a queen of England (Matilda or Maud, known to readers of the Brother Cadfael mysteries as the usurper against King Stephen) and the other (David) who later ruled in Scotland. Both children, like their mother, were canonized by the church as saints as was her uncle, Edward the Confessor. Malcolm’s own fame came in the Shakespeare play Macbeth.

Margaret and Malcolm were very different people, he being rather rough and she polished from life in the courts of Europe. During their marriage she rubbed off his rough edges while he supported and often joined her in her many charitable works. This made the couple very popular among their subjects. Margaret’s courtly manners and wardrobe encouraged the women of Scotland to follow suit which resulted in an expansion of trade with European countries that helped to bring a period of great prosperity to Scotland. Everybody benefitted, king and commoners alike.

In addition to fashion and economic changes, Margaret also brought changes to the faith in Scotland, inviting members of the Benedictine order to establish a presence while she encouraged dialog between them and the already-existing Céile Dé or Culdees, Scottish hermits who followed a Celtic faith tradition. Bringing the two together gradually shifted the church from the more Celtic practice and brought it into line with the Roman Catholicism practiced in other parts of Europe. It was a peaceful compromise, something rather unusual in church history.

As part of her personal piety, Margaret would observe Lent and Advent by rising at midnight for mass and fast frequently. Malcolm often joined her in these observances. She would also open the castle for feasts for 300 guests, all commoners, often very poor people, who would normally would not be invited into the castle.

Jesus met lot of folks with both problems and rough edges. He encountered people from all stations in life with needs that perhaps they didn’t realize they had until Jesus came to town. He was not a fashion plate or the possessor of courtly manners but he had a generosity of spirit and a devotion to God that fostered his love and concern for everyone, especially the poor and outcast, and their welfare. Maybe Margaret didn’t see herself as being like Jesus as she cared for others, but she certainly seems to have absorbed the teachings of Jesus and acted on the spirit of the message.

A queen is often able to do great things by virtue of her position. It doesn’t take a queen though to do small things that lead to great ones. One small good deed can multiply exponentially, and one cup of water given in the name of Jesus can expand to fill an ocean. I wonder how many St. Margarets there are in the world, just going by different names and doing one good thing at a time that can make changes in the lives of others. I know some of them and at least two are named Margaret.

It isn’t a crown that makes for greatness, it’s the size and content of the heart. That’s lesson I think everyone can take to heart. Certainly the world needs a bit of polishing of rough edges and care for those less fortunate. So how can I be a Margaret today? Am I willing to let God rub off my rough edges and bring out something better? What difference can I make in this world?

Some things for me to think about today, hopefully producing not just answers but some action as well.

Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter . She lives in the Diocese of Arizona and is proud to be part of the Church of the Nativity in North Scottsdale.

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