4 - 6 minutes readJuly 20 – St Margaret, Virgin and Martyr ~ Dom Prosper Gueranger

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July 20 – St Margaret, Virgin and Martyr

This same day brings before us a rival of the warrior martyr, St. George: Margaret, like him victorious over the dragon, and like him called in the Menæa of the Greeks, the Great Martyr. The cross was her weapon; and like the soldier, the virgin, too, consummated her trial in her blood. They were equally renowned also in those chivalrous times when valor and faith fought hand in hand for Christ beneath the standard of the Saints. So early as the seventh century England rivalled the East in honoring the pearl drawn from the abyss of infidelity. Before the disastrous schism brought about by Henry VIII, the Island of Saints celebrated this feast as a double of the Second Class; women alone were obliged to rest from servile work, in gratitude for the protection afforded them by St. Margaret at the moment of childbirth—a favor which ranked her among the Saints called in the middle ages auxiliatores or helpers. But it was not in England alone that Margaret was invoked, as history proves by the many and illustrious persons of all countries who have borne her blessed name. In heaven, too, there is great festivity around the throne of Margaret; we learn this from such trustworthy witnesses as St. Gertrude the Great and St. Frances of Rome, who, though divided by a century of time, were both, by a special favor of their Divine Spouse, allowed, while still on earth, to assist at this heavenly spectacle.

The ancient legend in the Roman Breviary was suppressed in the sixteenth century by St. Pius V as not being sufficiently authentic. We therefore give instead some Responsories and Antiphons and a Collect, taken from what appears to be the very Office said by St. Gertrude; for in the vision mentioned above, allusion is made to one of these Responsories, Virgo veneranda.

Felix igitur Margarita sacrilego sanguine progenita: * Fidem quam Spiritu Sancto percepit vitiorum maculis minus infecit. Blessed Margaret, though born of pagan blood: * Receiving the faith by the Holy Spirit, preserved it free from stain.
℣. Ibat de virtute in virtutem, ardenter sitiens animæ salutem. * Fidem. ℣. She went from virtue to virtue, ardently desiring the salvation of her soul. * Receiving the faith.
℟. Hæc modica quidem in malitia, sed mire vigens pudicitia, præventa gratia Redemptoris: * Oviculas pascebat nutricis. ℟. Knowing no evil, she blossomed in purity, being prevented by the grace of our Savior. * She tended the sheep for her foster-mother.
℣. Simplex fuit ut columba, quemadmodum serpens astuta. * Oviculas. ℣. Simple as the dove and prudent as the serpent. * She tended.
℟. Quadam die Odibrius, molestus Deo et hominibus, transiens visum in illam sparsit: * Mox in concupiscentiam ejus exarsit. ℟. Odibrius, hateful to God and men, passing one day, cast his glance upon her. * And he burned with desire of her.
℣. Erat enim nimium formosa: in vultu scilicet ut rosa. * Mox. ℣. For she was exceeding lovely; her face like a beautiful rose. * And he burned.
℟. Misit protinus clientes, ad inquirendos ejus parentes; * Ut si libera probaretur, in conjugium sibi copularetur. ℟. Forthwith he sent his men to in quire as to her parentage, * For that if she were of gentle blood, he fain would take her to wife.
℣. Sed hanc qui desponsaverat, non ita Christus præordinaverat. * Ut si. ℣. But Jesus Christ whose bride she was, had otherwise ordained. * For that she were.
℟. Dum tyrannus intellexit quod eum virgo despexit: * Jussit eamdem iratus suis præsentari tribunalibus. ℟. When the tyrant heard that the virgin despised him, * Enraged he caused her to be brought to his tribunal.
℣. Quam sperans puellarum more minis flecti subjuncto terrore. * Jussit. ℣. For he hoped that, as maidens are wont, she would yield through fear of his threats. * Enraged.
℟. Virgi veneranda, in magna stans constantia, verba contempsit judicis: * Nil cogitans de rebus lubricis. ℟. The worshipful virgin stood firm in her constancy, setting at nought the words of the judge. * For she thought not of vile pleasures.
℣. Cœlestis præmii spe gaudens, in tribulatione erat patiens. * Nil cogitans. ℣. Rejoicing in the hope of a heavenly reward, she was patient under the trial. * For she thought not.
℟. Post carceris squalorem carnisque macerationem Christi dilecta: * Tenebrosis denuo recluditur in locis. ℟. The beloved of Christ, after enduring the horrors of a dungeon, and the torturing of her flesh, * Is closed once more in a darksome prison.
℣. Nomen Domini laudare non desinens et glorificare. * Tenebrosis. ℣. She ceases not to praise and glorify the name of the Lord. * Is closed.
℟. Sancta martyre precatibus instante, draco fœtere plenus apparuit: * Qui hanc invadens totam absorbuit. ℟. While the holy martyr was instant in prayer, a foul dragon appeared; * And rushing upon her, he devoured her.
℣. Quem per medium signo crucis discidit, et de utero ejus illæsa exivit. * Qui. ℣. With the sign of the cross she rent him asunder, and came forth again unhurt. * And rushing.
Ministri statim tenellæ corpus comburebant puellæ; sed hæc, oratione facta, igne permansit intacta. The executioners burn the limbs of the tender maiden: but making her prayer she feels nought of the flame.
Vas immensum aqua plenum præses imperavit afferri: et in illud virginem ligatam demergi. A great vessel full of water is brought by the judge’s command: and the virgin is cast in bound.
Laudabilis Dominus in suis virtutibus, vincula manuum relaxavit, suamque famulam de morte liberavit. The Lord, who is worthy of praise in his mighty deeds, loosened the fetters of his handmaid, and delivered her from death.
Videntes hæc mirabilia baptizati sunt quinque millia: quos capite plecti censuit ira præfecti: quibus est addicta Christi testis invicta, benedicens Deum deorum in sæcula sæculorum. At the sight of these wonders five thousand are baptized: the prefect in anger commands them all to be beheaded, and after them the unconquerable witness of Christ, blessing the God of gods for ever and ever.
Deus qui beatam Margaritam virginem tuam ad cœlos per martyrii palmam venire fecisti: concede nobis, quæsumus, ut ejus exempla sequentes, ad te venire mereamur. Per Dominum. O God, who didst lead thy blessed virgin Margaret to heaven, with the palm of martyrdom, grant, we beseech thee, that by following her example, we may merit to come even unto thee. Through our Lord.


This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)