A saint America desperately needs

Several years ago, I discovered my birthday is the feast day of a little-known woman who lived 700 years ago and is about to be canonized—a woman who, more than Thomas Jefferson, has a message for our age. Her name is Blessed Margaret of Castello, and she can best be described as “the patron saint of the unwanted.”

On my desk, I have a photo of her incorrupt body, which lies at the base of the altar at the Church of St. Dominic in Castello, Italy. It’s the face of a woman born blind, hunchbacked and lame, a woman of nobility whose family abandoned her as a child and forced her to beg on the streets to survive.

She is also a woman whose sanctity inspired thousands of people to attend her funeral when she died at 33 and whose intercession has led to many miracles over the centuries.

“Little Margaret,” as she was called, was born into a family of wealth and prestige in a castle near Perugia, Italy in 1287. Her parents wanted a son to carry on their noble ancestry, but instead God gave them a daughter who was blind and deformed. In our era of pre-natal testing and eugenic abortion, Little Margaret would never have been born.

At 6-years-old, her parents made her leave the castle and imprisoned her for 13 years to keep her out of sight. Despite her poor health and deformity, she was intelligent and full of goodness, and she loved God with a contagious fervor.

When she was 19, her parents took her to Castello to seek a miracle, but ended up abandoning her in the church. All alone, she lived as a beggar on the streets, until the poor townspeople adopted her as their own.

Little Margaret eventually became a lay Dominican and spent her final years doing acts of charity and mercy, visiting prisoners, assisting the sick and comforting the dying, until she died.

Did her life have purpose? To God it did. Despite her personal suffering, she brought joy and love to many others afflicted by a spiritual sickness common in the 21st century—they are “unwanted.”

In modern America, the unwanted have many different faces. They’re the unborn, the incurably ill, the handicapped, the elderly, the poor and the dispossessed. And they share one thing in common: Their dignity as human beings is denied, and their right to life is threatened by a society that doesn’t value the weak and the infirm.

Every year, 1.2 million babies are aborted in America—more than 20 percent of all pregnancies. In his encyclical “The Gospel of Life,” Pope John Paul II wrote, “Eugenic abortion is justified in public opinion on the basis of a mentality that accepts life only under certain conditions and rejects it when it is affected by any limitation, handicap or illness. It is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: A life that would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated.”

In 1609, Margaret was declared blessed, and she will be canonized later this year. Over the centuries, her story has inspired countless people. Her life offers a telling lesson for our age: A child who had no value to her parents had inestimable value to God. And through her, God did great things.

Yes, even Blessed Margaret was endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Blessed Margaret, patron of the unwanted, pray for America.