20 July 2011

20 July - Saint Margaret

Weather: If St. Margaret's Day be dry, God will give us a fine autumn.

from a 15th c. illuminated manuscript

Today is the feast of Saint Margaret of Antioch, virgin and martyr (early 4th century).

She was a young woman of good family who, to the dismay of her pagan father, was baptized a Christian.  The local prefect, falling in love with her beauty, tried to make her either his wife or his mistress, but she repulsed his advances and professed her faith and love for Christ alone.  For this, she was subjected to various torments in an effort to make her apostatize, but she held firm, and was eventually beheaded.

Saint Margaret was one of the most popular female saints in the medieval calendar, joining Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Barbara as one of the female Auxiliary Saints or Fourteen Holy Helpers.  With Saint Catherine and Saint Michael, she appeared to the young Joan of Arc, sending that young woman on her own saintly quest.

(You can read more about the Fourteen Holy Helpers, including a litany for their intercession at Catholic Culture.)

Saint Margaret was invoked by women in childbirth and by those suffering from gallstones, kidney problems, and other painful afflictions that we pray will pass without much discomfort.  One reason for this patronage comes from the part of her story (which the Golden Legend, with a straight face, considers apocryphal) that she was swallowed by the devil in the form of a dragon, but by making the Sign of the Cross, or by virtue of a Cross which she carried with her, the dragon was forced to disgorge her and flee.  For this reason, Margaret is often depicted standing in or near a dragon.

The other reason comes from the prayer she said before her execution.  This is the version found in the Golden Legend: "And that got, she prayed to our Lord, saying: Father Almighty, I yield to thee thankings that thou hast suffered me to come to this glory, beseeching thee to pardon them that pursue me. And I beseech thee, good Lord, that of thy abundant grace, thou wilt grant unto all them that write my passion, read it or hear, and to them that remember me, that they may deserve to have plain remission and forgiveness of all their sins. And also, good Lord, if any woman with child travailing in any place, call on me that thou wilt keep her from peril, and that the child may be delivered from her belly without any hurt of his members. And when she had finished her prayer there was a voice heard from heaven saying, that her prayers were heard and granted, and that the gates of heaven were open and abode for her, and bade her come into the country of everlasting rest."

And what more appropriate to celebrate the day than with a MARGARITA:
Rub the rim of a champagne glass or cocktail glass with a piece of lime and dip it in a dish of salt.
Mix together the juice of 1 lime, 1/2 ounce of Triple Sec, and 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of tequila with cracked ice.  Shake and strain into the glass.

There is also a cocktail called the GREEN DRAGON:
Mix together the juice of 1/4 of a lemon, 1/2 ounce of Kummel (a caraway-flavored liqueur), 1/2 ounce of Creme de Menthe, 1-1/2 ounces of dry gin, and 4 dashes of orange bitters with cracked ice.  Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.

(Although this last one might cause you to see green dragons... Tread carefully.)