Learn about the Dominicans' newest saint!
Br. Ignatius Perkins, OP, PhD, RN, a Dominican nurse/teaching friar currently stationed in Virginia, wrote a new booklet about St. Margaret of Castello, whom Pope Francis canonized in April of this year, and New Hope Publications has recently published the booklet. St. Margaret was a dwarf, hunchbacked, blind and lame; in addition, she was unwanted and abandoned by her parents. Amazingly, she did not let any of these heartbreaks make her bitter or keep her from sanctity. She is the patroness of the unwanted, the disabled, and the unborn. You can read more about her in the booklet featured here. Below, we interview the author.
Br. Ignatius, where are you from originally? Please tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, educated in Catholic schools, and felt called to religious life as a Dominican Brother. I entered the Novitiate at St. Joseph Priory in Somerset, Ohio in 1959, then was assigned to the Dominican House of Studies to continue my formation. It was during this time that I felt called to the health care ministry. I was given permission to pursue studies in nursing with the plan to care for our sick and aging friars. Eventually I became a nurse educator and an ethicist in health care, and I continue in these ministries today.
Briefly, who was St. Margaret of Castello?
About seventy years following St. Dominic’s foundation of the Dominican Order in 1216, Margaret of Castello was born of a noble family in 1287. Margaret, indeed a masterpiece of God’s creative love, was blind, a dwarf, and hunch-backed, with one leg shorter than the other. Because of her multiple birth defects she was an embarrassment to her parents, who kept her isolated in a separate house in the woods far from their home. She remained there for nearly fourteen years. Then, seeking to rid themselves of this embarrassing burden, they brought Margaret to Castello, Italy, hoping for a miracle. When this did not occur, her parents abandoned her.
After a few years of living the contemplative life in a monastery, Margaret was dismissed. She then began her ministry as a lay Dominican Sister caring for the sick, the abandoned, the unloved, the dying, prisoners, and those who were without hope. She died in the odor of sanctity on April 13, 1320 at the young age of 33.
St. Margaret of Castello’s life is emblematic of the charism attributed to St. Dominic and his brothers and sisters as consolers of the sick and those in distress.
Have you ever been to St. Margaret’s tomb?
I have never had the privilege of visiting St. Margaret’s tomb. Her incorrupt body is a remarkable miracle in itself, since embalming of the remains of the deceased did not occur until several centuries later.
What inspired you to write this new booklet on her?
The inspiration for writing the booklet came from her unexpected canonization by Pope Francis earlier this year. I also wanted to encourage all persons to embrace and apply the model of her ministry, a Sanctuary of Compassion, among the unwanted, the unborn, the unloved, the homeless, those with serious physical and psychological challenges, to the vulnerable in our world today and to be in solidarity with them as we lead them to Jesus.
Do you think St. Margaret is particularly important for our times? Why?
St. Margaret, if she were consulted, would approve of and affirm the approach described above. Though she experienced many hardships in her young life, she never permitted them to define her as a person, or diminish her love for Jesus or her care for
others. This is the challenge that Pope Francis has beautifully articulated in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti. It must be the driving force for our response to the needs of a suffering world today; to have the courage to step outside of our isolated and narrow frames of reference; to listen and to care for persons who are forced to live on the fracture lines of humanity in deafening anonymity, and then to welcome them to our common home filled with human dignity, freedom, flourishing and an enduring peace.
(Br. Ignatius' new booklet is pictured to the right)