By Denise Trull
Today we celebrate two feasts. I could not make up my mind as to whom I loved more, so I "chose all."
St. Margaret was a beautiful queen who had escaped to Scotland after England had been conquered by a rival King. She eventually came into the company of King Malcolm of Scotland who generously took her in.
Malcolm was rough, probably dirty, loud, loved a good fight - not above having a small brawl in the great hall. I picture that great hall strewn with belts, weapons, plates, cups, old food, smelly, muddy shoes and dogs lounging everywhere.
Despite his neglectful housekeeping, King Malcolm was physically strong, and loved with his whole heart when once he loved, and it was Margaret who got his heart. Margaret probably felt safe under his care and grew to love him deeply. They were married and she became mistress of his house.
What she did first was very important. She introduced physical order and beautiful things into the wild, unruly court, slowly but surely. She cleaned up the plates, let the dogs out, and gathered up all the shoes and hose every night, just like every wife and mother on earth does.
She made sure to bring in good teachers for the people under her care. It was also said that the King and Queen were wonderful examples to their people because they always prayed together and treated each other with obvious deference and love, which is one of the best witnesses of married love.
Margaret began to embroider vestments so that the Church would be inviting and beautiful - people would want to come and pray there. She and Malcolm built many Churches and made sure they were filled with wonderful statues.
She had to learn all these things. And learn them she did, gradually, over time. She wasn’t afraid to try even when she did not know how exactly she was to bring things about. She trusted in God’s help.
Margaret had six sons, the last of whom was St. David. She was a queen, it is true. But she did what we can all do. Made a fitting space for holiness to grow in a tidy, inviting home and loved her husband completely - even if he still left his muddy boots in the great hall. She welcomed children and strove to make saints out of them.
Hers was a kingly court, but the principles are the same. She gave us all an example of what is important. Praying together as husband and wife, creating orderly and beautiful spaces for children to learn holiness, worthy houses of worship filled with gorgeous vestments, and artistic beauty. This is the fertile ground every mother has the privilege to till for her family. We can pray to St Margaret to help us achieve it. King Malcolm saw it and loved her dearly for it.
St. Gertrude, at the other end of things, was a nun. It is said when she was younger she loved studying Latin, but religion not so much. Jesus appeared to her one day and gave her the grace to love Holy Scripture and from then on she delved into its riches.
Jesus appeared to Gertrude many times. He also let her put her head on His heart. I cannot imagine the inner suffering she must have been enduring, for Him to draw her so close to His heart to lay awhile there. What a thought!
Gertrude wrote many hymns, studied Theology, and was deeply prayerful. My saint book says so casually: after suffering greatly for ten years she went home to God. Ten years is a long time!!
These are both lovely saints. They looked at their respective vocations and understood what they were to do with them. They both seemed to have great prudence, wisdom, and patience which are such wonderful and inviting virtues to other people.
St. Gertrude and St. Margaret of Scotland, pray for us!