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Saint of the Day - Saint Margaret Clitherow (March 26)

Saint Margaret Clitherow was a sixteenth century saint who lived in England during turbulent times for thew Church there., having been born around 20 years after Henry VIII rejected the pope's authority and martyred Saint Thomas More (feast day June 22).

Image retrieved from and used as being in the public domain.

Saint Margaret Clitherow was born around the year 1556 - about 21 years after the martyrdom of Saint Thomas More in 1535 because he chose God over the king of England. Her lifetime was a difficult time for the Roman Catholic Church in England. The Catholic Church was then outlawed in England and all of Great Britain as it existed at the time.

She was one of five children born to Thomas and Jane Middleton. Thomas was a respected businessman, wax chandler (one who watched over Candles and candle rooms in large houses) and the Sheriff of York in 1564. He died around 1570, when Saint Margaret was but 14. In 1571, around the age of 14 or 15, she married John Clitherow, a wealthy butcher and a chamberlain of York, where they lived. Together, they had three children.

In 1574, Saint Margaret Clitherow converted to Catholicism. While John remained a member of the Church of England, he supported her in her Catholicism and even paid her fines for not attending church. Yes, in those days, there were fines imposed for not attending the Church of England every week. John Clitherow was supportive because his father was a Catholic priest.

She was imprisoned in the York Castle two times before her final arrest, both times for missing church. Her son, William, was born in prison. She learned to read Latin while in prison.

As a Catholic, she began to harbor fugitive priests from the government. This was made a capitol offense by the Jesuits, etc. Act of 1584.

Saint Margaret had two places where she hid priests and where Mass was said - back ion this time, Mass was "said", not celebrated. One was adjacent to her house. However, once her house came under surveillance, she rented a house some distance away where she could hide and maintain priests and where Mass could be said.

Her eldest son, Henry, was sent to the English school in France to be trained as a priest. John Clitherow was summoned bye the authorities to be questioned on why his son was sent abroad to study. The Clitherow house was searched in 1586. A young boy, frightened by the search, showed the authorities where the priests were hidden.

Saint Margaret Clitherow was arrested and brought before the court, where she refused to enter a plea. Her refusal to enter a plea resulted no trial and created a situation whereby her children would not be called to testify at trial. She was sentenced to death.

She was executed on March 26, 1586, which happened to be Good Friday that year at the Toll Booth at Ouse Bridge. She was executed by being crushed by her own door, as standard indictment to force people to testify. A small, sharp rock Wass placed under her back, and the door was placed on top of her, weighted down by heavy rocks, which crushed her. She died within 15 minutes. She was pregnant with her fourth child when she was executed.

Saint Margaret Clitherow's execution caused quite a controversy with Queen Elizabeth I, who wrote a rather tersely-worded letter to the people of York about their treatment and execution of a woman.

Saint Margaret Clitherow was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929. She was canonized by Pope Saint Paul VI (feast day May 29).



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