Today we honour the memory of Saint Margaret of Hungary who joined the Order in 1245. Margaret had an unusual approach to the religious life, and it’s highly unlikely she would have made it into the novitiate today. And yet Margaret was considered a saint in her own lifetime and many miracles have been attributed to her intercession. Her life, extraordinary as it was, gives us an example of the victory we can have over the world and its many attractions. And we are reminded that we entered the religious life, not to do our own thing and build our own little empires, but to devote our talents and our lives to the common apostolate. Margaret died on this day in 1270 and was canonized in 1943.
Until Samuel confronted him, King Saul had no idea he had disobeyed God. As far as Saul was concerned, he had just defeated a formidable enemy in battle, as God had instructed. He just hadn’t got around to dealing with their king yet. Surely that was a minor omission. He had even improved on God’s commandment: instead of destroying all the livestock, he had set aside the choicest animals to offer as a sacrifice. Was that really such a bad thing?
Sometimes what God asks of us is very clear. We gladly carry out most of it, except perhaps for one minor detail. We work through our painful memories until we can forgive everyone who hurt us—except one person. We’re willing to extend the sign of peace to anyone at Mass—except for that one person.
It’s also tempting to add to God’s simple commands and then impose our additions on other people. For instance, in situations when we’re tempted to swear, we may decide to refrain from speaking at all, even when our strong reaction might provide a holy perspective.
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today. Are there perhaps ways in which we are tempted to add to or take away from what God requires for the sake of unity? Maybe we go beyond what God commands, insisting that everyone adopt every detail of Catholic worship or Church governance. We forget that multiple perspectives can provide a fuller picture and that God is honoured in many ways. Or do we seek unity at the expense of the fundamental truths of the Gospel, minimizing the importance of any belief or practice that seems to divide us?
Saint Augustine shows us a path to unity that is both simple and challenging, and which has largely been forgotten. He wrote: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Let us never forget that we are here to serve and not to be served. Let us take to heart those words we say every day: “Thy Will be done” and ask God to show us the way forward. Let us seek out those “fresh wineskins” that can bear his love to a world longing for hope and meaning.