Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today, March 26, is the feast of St. Margaret Clitherow. She was a laywoman living in York, England, who became a Catholic in the 1570s. This was a time of persecution of the Catholic Church, and, though her husband was not Catholic, she did all in her power to live out her Catholic faith. At the time, it was illegal for Mass to be celebrated and also illegal to be a priest. St. Margaret heroically allowed Mass to be celebrated for the Catholic community in her home, and also hid fugitive priests so that they could continue their ministry. When she was caught, the judge initially allowed her to go free. But she continued to hide priests. Eventually, she was put on trial and found guilty. Wanting to spare her the death penalty, the judge asked her to solemnly swear that she would no longer hide priests. Calling for a Bible, St. Margaret placed her hand on it and said, “I swear on God’s holy Word, that if I am allowed to go free, I will continue to hide priests in my home, because it is only from their hands that we receive the Sacred Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” She was sentenced to death and died a martyr for the Catholic Faith.
Several years ago, I had the chance to visit her home in York, and also to pray near the spot where she was martyred. The spot is marked by a small plaque, almost unnoticed by most of the passers-by. St. Margaret died as a witness to the gift of the priesthood and of the Eucharist. How often, when I think of her, I ask myself how well I appreciate the gift of my own priesthood. I also ask myself how well I recognize the gift of the Eucharist.
Jesus gives us himself, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the species of bread and wine. Do we have a strong appreciation for what we receive? Do we approach the altar and Holy Communion with reverence? Let us, like St. Margaret Clitherow, remember WHO we receive and WHAT we receive at every Mass, and be ready to give everything for His sake!