The Cult of St. Margaret of Città di Castello in the Philippines

The Encounter Between the Two Pearls

“For my father and my mother have left me but the Lord has taken me up” (Ps 26:10). How can an unwanted person of the late 13th century be able to inspire Filipinos of the 21st century? How can a person whose locus nativitatis is almost 6,600 miles away—basically the other side of the world—reach as far as Asia in the Philippines to become her locus devotionis? Indeed, God moves in mysterious ways “’for [His] thoughts are not [our] thoughts, neither [our] ways [His] ways,’ declares the Lord” (Is 55:-8-9). The encounter between Bl. Margaret of the City of Castello (ca. 1287-1320) and the Filipino people could be ages apart but the devotion was only formally promoted by Filipino Dominicans in 1987. The origin of Bl. Margaret in Italy and her cultus in the Philippines could be miles apart but the devotion persists since then, and becomes more vibrant today. Such encounter is ages apart, miles apart, worlds apart, but it endures the vicissitude of time and space.

Since the 1980s, the Acta Capituli Provincialis of the Dominican Province of the Philippines stipulates a specific person who is tasked to promote the devotion to Bl. Margaret of the City of Castello. The devotion is evident in the liturgical life of the Province. Beginning in the Novitiate, the study of the Vitae Fratrum Ordinis Prædicatorum has been an essential part of the initial formation of the Dominicans: “Another essential resource for us is the example, the teaching, and the prayers of the saints [and beati] of the Order of Preachers” (RFG, 27). The life and ministry of Bl. Margaret has been a part of the study and spiritual readings of the brothers.

In the Central Seminary (CS) of the University of Santo Tomás, Bukluran Kanlungan, one of the groupings in the CS, decided to take Bl. Margaret of the City of Castello as their patroness at the start of Formation Year 2018-2019. A seminarian once said: “We see her as a refuge of the neglected, the abandoned, the sick which reflects the values that we would like to imitate in our Bukluran (kanlungan means ‘refuge’).” Every evening, after the Angelus (or Regina Caeli), the seminarians pray the ‘Prayer for the Canonization of Bl. Margaret of the City of Castello’ before her small image. Every year a Mass in honor of their patroness is celebrated by the entire Seminary community.

The Dominican Laity in the Philippines holds dear the devotion to the saints and blessed of the Order as one of the chief sources from which they draw strength to advance in their proper vocation (cf. Rule, II §10). Two chapters of the Dominican Laity were placed under the patronage of Bl. Margaret. Likewise, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Dominic promotes the devotion towards all the saints and blessed of the Order, as well as the imitation of their example as stipulated in their rule. Therefore, the study of the life and ministry of Bl. Margaret and devotion to her could be a source of their sanctification especially that the Lives of Dominican Saints is part of the recommendations for the topics for their continuing program of formation.

The Novena Prayer in honor of Bl. Margaret of the City of Castello is prayed devotedly every Thursday at 5:30 pm at the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City followed by the Eucharistic celebration. The processional images of Bl. Margaret are used in different parts of the Philippines especially in Quezon City, Manila, Marikina, and Pampanga. The copperplate engraving of Beata Margarita de Castelo by Carlos Borromeo in Fr. Francisco Gainza OP’s Milicia de Jesucristo: Manual de los Hermanos y Hermanas de la Tercero Orden de la Penitencia de Santo Domingo,  published in Manila in 1859, is believed to be her earliest depiction in the Philippines. Furthermore, Bl. Margaret has been popularly depicted during the ‘March of Saints’ on November 1, when children and adults are dressed as saints.

A number of organizations and institutions have been placed under her tutelage: Pro-Life Philippines, Bl. Margaret of Castello Movement, Bl. Margaret of Castello School, Bl. Margaret of Castello PWD Ministry in Santisimo Rosario Parish-UST, and the Bl. Margaret of Castello Chapel in Tahanang Walang Hagdanan[1]

Abandoned and neglected, Margaret was the Hidden Pearl who ministered to the abandoned and neglected. Challenged by the times, the Philippines is dubbed as the Pearl of the Orient whose resiliency allows herself to rise above the challenges. The encounter between the two pearls is an attestation of the devotion to Bl. Margaret of Castello in the Philippines.

Fr. Louie Coronel, OP

[1] Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, Inc. (TWHI) (literally, a house without stairs) is a non-stock, non-government organization, which provides services to persons with disabilities (PWD) in the Philippines.

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