MARCH 26: Margaret clitherow, concealer of fugitives
Patron saint of business women, converts, martyrs, Catholic Women's League, and Latin Mass Society
Lived 1556 to 1586
Margaret converted to Catholicism after marrying a well-to-do butcher. In addition to serving as a makeshift Catholic school and church, Margaret's home became one of the most prominent hiding places in all of England. More specifically, her Catholic zeal led her to harbor fugitive priests who were considered to be "traitors and seducers of the Queen's subjects." Margaret kept a secret cupboard where all of the vestments, wine, and altar breads were stowed. There was a hole cut between the attics of her house and the adjoining house so that a priest could escape in a raid. The discovery of a priest hole fireplace ultimately led to her death.
Margaret was no stranger to jail time. She was imprisoned three times for failing to attend Protestant services, once for a 20 month sentence. Margaret learned to read and write while held captive.
When the authorities intensified their crackdown on Catholic separatism, many of the priests Margaret harbored were indicted for treason and hanged / drawn and quartered. Margaret began making regular night-time pilgrimages to the site of their execution. Then she would kneel and pray at the killing ground, which one chronicler calls "an extremely bold, semi-public and provocative performance."
PRESSED TO DEATH WHILE WITH CHILD
"The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday, and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly."
When Margaret refused to deny her faith, she was condemned to be pressed to death. A 33-year-old Yorkshire housewife, Margaret was probably pregnant with her fourth child. A jury of women was convened to examine Margaret, and they gave the opinion that she was likely with child. Margaret would not capitulate beyond saying that she *might be.* Two sergeants were ordered to kill her, but they hired four desperate beggars to do it instead.
The following details have been attributed to Margaret's torture, depending on the account:
She died on Good Friday 1586. After her death, her hand was removed as a relic.