Blessed Margaret of Castello and the Pro-Life Movement

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Bl. Margaret of Castello
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The Dominican Blessed Margaret of Castello is receiving renewed attention as a patroness of the unwanted. Born blind, lame, and deformed, and abandoned by her family, Margaret nevertheless devoted herself to a life of prayer, penance, and charity for others. At the Dominican run parish of St. Patrick in Columbus, OH, a shrine to Blessed Margaret has promoted her example and message. Recently, the U.S. publication National Catholic Register has featured the Dominican shrine in an article about the blessed's connection to the pro-life movement.

2011 was a hard year for Marilyn Pinkerton of San Marino, Calif. The 57-year-old’s baby grandson, Nicholas, was diagnosed with nail-patella syndrome (NPS), a rare genetic disorder that adversely affects the nails and kneecaps and sometimes other parts of the body.

Prominent among Nicholas’ symptoms was that he had no kneecaps. Therefore, doctors wondered if he would ever be able to walk.

Near Pinkerton’s home was the Motherhouse of the Carmelite Sisters of Alhambra, a traditional community whose apostolates in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles include health care and retreats. The sisters suggested she pray for the boy’s healing to Blessed Margaret of Castello, an Italian virgin born in 1287 who herself suffered from severe disabilities.

Although she was not Catholic, Pinkerton followed the sisters’ suggestion. Every day she attended Mass with the sisters in their beautiful retreat chapel, pleading with God, the Blessed Mother and Blessed Margaret: “Please, help him to grow. Please help him.”

Nicholas was undergoing constant therapy for other NPS-related symptoms (e.g., his arms were bent at the elbows so that his hands were flat against his shoulders). Marilyn was delighted to discover that, “while I kept praying and praying, he got better and better.”

But the most impressive change occurred a year after Marilyn began her devotion to Blessed Margaret. Last March, the doctors were again examining Nicholas, and, for the first time, they discovered he had kneecaps. He is now able to walk and run like other typically developing children his age.

As Pinkerton said, “Nicholas is our miracle baby. He has defied the odds of everything they thought he’d be able to do.”

Nicholas’ grandma is grateful not only to God, but to Blessed Margaret, and she continues her devotion to her: “She had so many handicaps, but through it all had great faith. I pray I can have that great faith, too.”

At Easter 2012, Pinkerton, her husband and daughter (Nicholas’ mother) all entered the Catholic Church. The family has found great joy in their new faith. As the thankful grandmother said, “It’s given me so much strength.”

Margaret’s Story

Blessed Margaret of Castello was born into a well-to-do family near Florence, Italy. To the great distress of her parents, upon her birth, they discovered that she suffered from a variety of severe physical ailments. She was a dwarf, had a curved spine that left her hunched over, was lame to the point that she could barely walk and blind.

Her family was embarrassed by her and kept her hidden away for many years. As young as age 6, she was walled up in a room beside a chapel. Fortunately, the family’s chaplain taught her about God.

Seeking a miracle, her parents took her to a Franciscan shrine. They didn’t receive one, so they abandoned her. Some in the community took pity on her and provided for her needs. Margaret became a member of the Dominican Third Order of Castello, developed a deep prayer life and devoted the remainder of her 33-year life to penance and acts of charity.

Many cures have since been attributed to her intercession. She was declared “Blessed” in 1609. Her incorrupt body lies under the main altar of St. Dominic Church in Castello. She has become a patron for people with handicaps and pro-life groups