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Life Arts

What's in a name?

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I'm glad that I grew up when fancy names weren't the rage. The Catholic immigrants who came to America kept the tradition at Baptism of naming their children after the saints. Even today, despite their progeny opting for fancy names, I believe that the church still requires at least one name be that of a saint.

I'll have to look up the lives of the different Saint Suzana's on the internet even though I have always associated my name with the Susanna of the Bible - the one who with other holy women accompanied our Lord and His apostles on their ministry from town to town - looking to their needs. She is also mentioned on the third Sunday after Easter as one of the myrrh-bearing women who came to anoint Jesus with myrrh and spices on Easter Sunday but didn't find Him! They would find Him later to their great joy-- but He wouldn't need the oils, spices, and myrrh they had so lovingly prepared for His burial.

Margaret is my middle name and my Slovak mother even gave that name when I was enrolled for kintergarden. I was Margaret until the ninth grade when I found out that Suzana was my first name. I guess she figured that since she was also Suzana, that having a "Margaret" in the household would make it more interesting.

Growing up, my next door neighbor, Bennie, playfully regaled me with "Margie - I'm always thinking of you Margie," and now the song would change -- "If you knew Suzi like I know Suzi --oh - oh what a gal." This confusion at least proved interesting to me.

Today I picked up 30 12-cent loaves of bird bread from Schwebel's Outlet store and am glad that the vacant apartment has a refrigerator where I could store it. I hadn't been feeding the birds for a month and decided to take a hiatus until fall --that is until one morning when I spotted two mourning doves in my yard looking for food. So, now with the renter gone - the one who almost burned down the house with his smoking - I washed the refrigerator with baking soda and loaded it with the bird bread. I won't be doing the customary coating with an oil and peanut butter mixture now though for two reasons --in the summer I don't think they need the extra heat from those fats and it is an expense I will gladly forgo until the cold winter months.

Always looking for a tiny respite from the day's chores, I picked up "From the House Tops" (A Quarterly Magazine Spreading the Faith Across the Country). I have no idea who gave me this gem of a booklet magazine but I am truly grateful. The first story is about Blessed Margaret of Castello. She was born of nobility. Parisio and Emilia lived richly and comfortably in a castle at Metola, Italy. They were anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child. Everyone waited in anticpation for the church bells to announce this blessed event. Even the half-starved serfs were anxious for their liege lord's great day.

But no bell would ring on that fateful day in 1287 because that "handsome" couple did not get the boy they wanted. Nor was their daughter beautiful like the mother. Margaret was grossly deformed and blind.

Had Margaret's birth been after 1972, she might never have existed at all. Perhaps Parisio and Emilia would have opted for the right to abortion if it had been available to them too. However, thankfully they hadn't had this option because then we would never have known about this incomparably beautiful soul.

These parents though were anything but compassionate and loving and from the day of her birth, the one thought that dominated their lives was how to get rid of her who they considered an unplanned embarassment. The writer notes that the names Parisio and Emilio are found nowhere in history today but the handicapped daughter they despised has been declared Blessed by the Catholic Church.

I wondered why she hadn't been declared a saint before this, but it wasn't until 1944 that her biography which was written shortly after her death was found and devotion began to spread. Margaret did not receive the name of her mother who felt it would disgrace her to have such a child named after her. She also did not want to care for her and gave a peasant servant this task. By the time she was five, the priest noticed her remarkable intelligence and began instructing her daily about God.

At about this time she realized how different she was from other children. She only knew life without sight and walking as a cripple. But the priest told her that God had special reasons for creating her as He does each one of us. He told her that Margaret meant "pearl" and that Our Lord was asking her to be His own Margaret.

One day some visitors came to the castle and stumbled upon the little blind, deformed dwarf in the chapel. When Parisio found out, he was determined he would have to hide his humiliating progeny.

The story is long and can be found on the internet. But even though she is actually locked in a cell where the father hoped she would eventually die, even though she finally was taken to a city for a cure but was later abandoned there by her parents because there was no cure, even though she was accepted into a monastery of lax nuns who began to resent her piety and she is forced to leave, Margaret bears all things with equanimity and peace.

Her story needs to be read completely at the internet site for anyone who is intrigued by the life of this selfless, blind, and handicapped child and woman. Her life was amazing and she never lost her way from the path God chose for her. Today Margaret's incorrupt body lies under the high altar of the Church of Saint Dominic in Citta-di-Castello, Italy. After 686 years, her skin is slighty darkened and dry, but her eyelashes and nails are still in place and her arms are flexible.

Her parents' lives have faded into oblivion, but this little unwanted cripple's life lives on as a testimony to the glory of God and His design for each one of us.

 

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