Margaret of Cortona

When I first read about Margaret of Cortona (1247?-1297 and canonized in 1728) in Bert Ghezzi's Voices of the Saints, I was pretty horrified.  At twelve years old (yes TWELVE!) Margaret was seduced by an Italian knight of Montepulciano.  She lived with him for nine years as his mistress and they had a son.  One day she found him dead - assassinated and butchered.  Margaret viewed this as God's judgment.  She took her son and returned to her stepmother (who's rejection got her in the predicament she was in in the first place).  Once again, her stepmother sent her packing so she sought help from the Franciscans at Cortona.
St. Margaret, feeling that what happened to her was divine vengence, began to severely abuse her body.  In her misguided penance, she wore a hair shirt, beat herself until she bled and went as far as to scar her once beautiful face.  Unfortunately, she also mistreated her son.
St. Margaret truly felt her past was an obstacle to reconciliation with God even though she begged Christ to receive her as His daughter.  After a general confession and Communion, she heard Christ say:  My daughter!  Her response was this prayer:
O my infinitely and sovereign sweet Lord!  Here at last is the day which my Jesus promised me!  At last, in this intoxicting moment, has given me the sweet name of daughter, that word which I had yearned and prayed for with all my heart's fervor.  My God has said to me:  My daughter!  My Jesus has called me:  My daughter!
I had prayed often to God as a child looking for answers, but it wasn't until I turned my life over to Him that I felt that overwhelming bond that indeed, I was a child of God.  I also felt that my sins were in the way of a relationship with God because I didn't realize or understand His forgiveness.
St. Margaret was blessed to have this conversation with Christ:
"My daughter, one day I will place you among the Seraphs, among the virgins whose hearts are flaming with love for God."
"How can that be, Lord, after I have soiled myself with so many sins?"

"My daughter, your many penances have purified your soul from all the effects of sin to such a degree that your contrition and your sufferings will reintegrate you into the purity of a virgin.

"My daughter, you are a rose among flowers.  You are pure.  And for your love of chastity, I have placed you among the virgins."

"O Lord, you are the life of my life!  You are a treasure to me, without which all wealth seems utter poverty.  With joy dear Lord, I offer myself to suffer anything for love of you.  You know that I seek and want nothing but you, who are infinitely sweet and without whom I would feel as though I was in hell."
I didn't experience an extraordinary conversation with Our Lord.  It happened over time.  I went through a process of trying to understand that I would be forgiven because I was truly sorry for the things I did.  And then I had to forgive myself.  That was harder and took longer.  Because I had changed my life so dramatically once I converted, there was a stark contrast to the life I had lived and the way I was living currently.  I also had no intention of going back to my old way of life, so as time went by the gap got wider.
As the years go by, I occasionally look back at the young woman I was.  Sometimes I smile at certain memories and at others I cringe.  I feel that God did watch over me and kept me from doing certain things.  I remember at certain times thinking, "Why didn't that happen to me?" or "Why didn't I do that?"  But if I look closely at the situations, I can see the hand of God gently steering me away in another direction.
He was there.  He was always there.  It just took me a long time to realize it and acknowledge His presence in my life.  My Sweet Lord, indeed!

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