Mar. 26, St. Margaret Clitherow

Today is the feast of St. Margaret Clitherow, Wife, Mother, Martyr.

"Born in York in 1553, her father was sheriff of the city and church warden of St Martin’s in Coney Street. She observed the state religion there as a child and also after she married prosperous Shambles butcher John Clitherow at the age of 15."

-- "Margaret Clitherow", History of York

Margaret Clitherow became a Catholic in the early 1570s. Her husband, who was still Protestant, did not object. Over the next fifteen years, she was incarcerated three times for failing to attend church.

Margaret sheltered priests in her house on the Shambles, but in March, 1586, the "room was discovered after a frightened boy revealed its location during a raid".

She was arrested, and she never saw her children again. She refused trial by jury, knowing her husband and children and servants would be interrogated and tortured if she were to plead. Refusing trial by jury was considered an admission of guilt, and Margaret Clitherow was sentenced.

"You shall return to the place from whence you came, and in the lower part of the prison be stripped naked, laid down upon the ground, and so much weight laid upon you as you are able to bear, and thus you shall continue for three days; the third day you shall have a sharp stone laid under your back, and your hands and feet shall be tied to posts that, more weight being laid upon you, you may be pressed to death."

--Sir John Clenche, High Sheriff of Suffolk. Click here to see his "huge memorial" in All Saints Church, Suffolk.

"Let them take all I have and save my wife, for she is the best wife in all England."

--John Clitherow, upon hearing Margaret's sentence

"She walked barefooted to the tollbooth on Ousebridge, for she had sent her hose and shoes to her daughter Anne, in token that she should follow in her steps. She had been tormented by the ministers and even now was urged to confess her crimes. 'No, no, Mr. Sheriff, I die for the love of my Lord Jesu,' she answered. She was laid on the ground, a sharp stone beneath her back, her hands stretched out in the form of a cross and bound to two posts. Then a door was placed upon her, which was weighted down till she was crushed to death. Her last words during an agony of fifteen minutes, were 'Jesu! Jesu! Jesu! have mercy on me!' Her right hand is preserved at St. Mary's Convent, York, but the resting-place of her sacred body is not known. Her sons Henry and William became priests, and her daughter Anne a nun at St. Ursula's, Louvain."

-- "St. Margaret Clitherow", Catholic Encyclopedia


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