Margaret was born in 1556 in Middleton, England. Her father was a wax chandler and both her parents were Protestants. She was not only very attractive but also had a charming personality. In 1571 she married John Clitherow, a well-to-do butcher, and they had three children.
About three years into their marriage, Margaret converted to the Catholic faith. She was a fervent Christian and believed in living her faith to the fullest. She often risked her life harboring priests. She had two chambers where she provided shelter for priests who were fleeing persecution and arrest. One chamber was attached to her home and the other was in another part of the city. Margaret enabled these priests to offer Mass continually, even during the height of the persecutions. Some of the priests were martyred and Margaret herself wished for such a grace. To die for her Lord would be her greatest deed.
Finally, Margaret was arrested and although it is believed that she was pregnant, her sentence was to be pressed to death. On Good Friday, in the year 1586, Margaret, joyous and smiling, was led barefoot to the tollbooth on Ousebridge. She bequeathed her hose and shoes to her daughter, Anne, implying that Anne should follow in her mother’s footsteps and be willing to die for her faith. Margaret was laid atop a large boulder with her arms outstretched in the form of a cross with her hands tied to posts. A wooden door was laid on top of her and weighted down until she was crushed to death. After fifteen painful minutes, Margaret’s last words were, “Jesu, Jesu, have mercy on me!” Margaret’s wish was fulfilled. She became a martyr for Christ.
Saint Margaret’s hand has been preserved at St. Mary’s convent in York. Both of her sons, William and Henry, became priests. Her daughter Ann, to whom she left her shoes, became a nun.
Dear Lord Jesus, give us the courage and grace not only to live holy lives, but to be willing to die holy deaths as St. Margaret of Clitherow did. We thank you, dear Lord, for the examples of your holy saints. May we follow in their footsteps. In Your holy name we pray. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Ludger (802), Bishop