Once upon a time, a wealthy young couple in Italy during the 13th century was eagerly awaiting the birth of a child. The mother prepared the baby’s room and the father bragged that his child was going to be the best looking, most intelligent child in the kingdom.
When the time came for the birth of the baby, to the mid-wife’s horror, the baby girl was born with dwarfism. One leg was longer than the other, and she was blind and hunch-backed. Upon looking at the tiny new life, the mother screamed, and the father completely disowned her. The servants told the couple they would raise the child, because, to them, she was truly beautiful. The couple agreed to this living arrangement. The baby was baptized and named Margaret.
When Margaret was six years old, her father was entertaining several wealthy folks in the castle. Margaret heard the voice of her father and called out to him as he passed. The guests were horrified that their host could have fathered such a deformed child.
After the guests left, Margaret’s father went into a rage. He had a twelve-foot room built adjacent to the castle with no door and one window. He placed Margaret into this room. The window was the means through which she was taught the catechism, fed, and emptied her chamber pot. This room was the world in which she grew into adulthood.
After Margaret was placed into the room, a friend of the family came by to visit her and found her crying. The friend said to her, “Little Margaret, what your father did was wrong. You have every right to cry!” Margaret responded, “I am not crying because of what has been done to me. I am crying because I am thankful to our dear Lord for the chance to suffer as He did!”
Is it any wonder that Margaret is a Blessed in the Catholic Church? Her full name is Blessed Margaret of Castello. A movie of her life can be found on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/vbKbIplfJu8.
I am reminded of this story as I focus on the last two ways of fostering inspirations of the Holy Spirit by Father Jacques Philippe.1 They are: “Practice praise and thanksgiving, and desire and ask for them [inspirations].”
Desiring inspirations. I think the foundation of this is a general openness to find God in all things. Maybe this is too broad of an idea. Perhaps it’s about re-aligning your perspectives and finding God where you are at the very moment. As I type these words, I picture Him “standing” right behind me, watching my fingers form the keyboard. Or better yet, He could be whispering ideas into my mind and heart, knowing what His readers need to read. He is the warp and whip of the weavings of our life. A rock-solid belief that He is present to us every second of the day opens us up anew to His inspirations!
Practice praise and thanksgiving. Some time ago, I gave a retreat for the York Deanery schools on the topic of gratitude and thanksgiving. Did you know there is an intrinsic difference between thanksgiving and gratitude? According to Webster, thankfulness is being conscious of benefits that one receives. It is expressed in an instant, often at the surface of our psyche. Gratitude an entirely different. It is the expression of being appreciative with or without an act. It creates a lifestyle that involves a willingness to sacrifice for another. It is certainly grounded in God’s love for us.
Part of practicing praise and thanksgiving creates a right relationship with God. In this relationship, we own the fact that we are not God … He is! Being a humble creature that is infinitely loved by God creates an openness that invites Him to bestow His grace even more. In a sense, when we hollow ourselves out by being grateful for Him, he fills that hollowness up with Himself.
Blessed Margaret of Castello knew that, even at such a young age. It is my prayer that you will too!
1Philippe, J. In the School of the Holy Spirit. (2002). Scepter Pubs, p. 28-30.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness