|Saint Margaret Middleton|
Doesn’t that sound good! Father Miskell! It sounds so good, Father, because it is so good! And it is good because we need you!
Never have we needed a Father more, a representative of God, our heavenly father, who can care for us, teach us, and sanctify us in the name of Christ Jesus, our great High Priest!
Never have we so needed a man to preach the word of God to us “worthily and wisely,” a man so closely united to Christ that he might offer sacrifice on our behalf for the salvation of the whole world, a man to act in the person of Christ for us.
And look at those people out there, Rob! Look at your family! Now they’re supposed to love you and be proud of you. But look at your friends, and your brother seminarians (see the envy) and those who have come to love and admire your pastoral ministry. And just imagine the thousands and tens of thousands who God will place into your care as shepherd and teacher and sanctifier in the decades to come.
Good and holy people to whom you will bring Christ and who will inspire you and strengthen you with God’s grace. People not unlike Margaret Middleton.
Margaret Midleton was born in York, two years before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I, under whom faithful Catholics like Margaret suffered greatly. The Mass was outlawed and Priests were executed. The Catholic Church, the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood were banned.
At the age of 18, Margaret married John Clitherow in the Protestant Church and they moved into the family home at 26 Shambles Street. But secretly, three years later, Margaret returned to her Catholic faith and received the Eucharist weekly from an underground priest. John and Margaret had three children, two of whom would eventually become Catholic priests and one a consecrated religious nun.
Margaret was a good wife, and the only two complaints her husband was heard to utter was that “she fasted too much and would not go with him to [the Protestant] church.” In fact, while John was at Church, she would open a secret cupboard containing the vestments and altar breads where there was also a “priest’s hole” or hiding place for Father Mush to crawl into should the authorities arrive.
On March 10 1586, however, the authorities did arrive and Margaret was thrown in prison. She was convicted of treason at Common Hall in York and sentenced to death for ‘harboring and maintaining priests and seminarians, traitors to the Queen’s majesty and her laws.’ Ten days later she was killed, crushed to death by stones.
Yet how Saint Margaret Middleton must be smiling down upon us today, as we celebrate the two great sacraments for which she died: the priesthood and the eucharist.
She died, Father Miskell, because she knew that we needed your hands to join the sacrifices of our lives with the perfect sacrifice offered on the altar of the cross. She died, Father, so that God could call down the Holy Spirit on simple gifts of bread and wine through your hands and transform them into the Body and Blood of his only Son.
So now, Father, you are our priest. You will anoint our sick and bury our dead , you will baptize and marry our children. You will forgive our sins and you will preach the Gospel to us. You, like Father Mush, and Father Campion, and Father Southwell, and Father Walpole, and Father Vianney, and Father DeSales and Father Borromeo will be our priest. And we thank God for it.
For Saint Francis of Assisi used to say that if he met a saint and a priest walking down the road, he would reverently greet the saint, but he would kiss the hands of the priest, for they bring us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
Monsignor James P. Moroney