A Yorkshire Martyr.
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I’m sure that during a visit to historic York, you will have walked down one of its most famous streets – the Shambles. On one wall is a small blue plaque stating that this was the home of Margaret Clitheroe, a Catholic martyr who was executed for refusing to give up her religion.
So how did this young woman who was brought up in the protestant faith, become revered as a Saint and is still remembered today, over 400 years after her death?
Margaret was the daughter of wealthy parents and in July 1571, she married John Clitheroe, a well to do butcher and a Chamberlain of the City of York. They bought a house and set up their home at No 35 The Shambles, York City. Margaret’s life was expected to follow the pattern of so many of her counterparts; looking after the children, running the house and entertaining her husband’s important friends. But in 1574, Margaret converted to the Catholic Faith and that changed her life for ever. The couple had a good relationship and it appears that John accepted his wife’s conversion to her new faith without any argument. However, life for Yorkshire Catholics was one of secrecy and fear, because of the risk of persecution by Queen Elizabeth’s government in London.
Margaret came to the attention of the authorities by her determination to recruit others to her faith. She held illicit Masses in her house and was well known for sheltering Jesuit Priests in a secret “priest hole” at the back of a cupboard, where bread, wine and vestments were all found. Margaret was arrested and faced trial charged with promoting the Catholic faith, was convicted and sentenced to death. On 17th March 1586 Margaret was forced to lie on the floor of the prison, with a stone under the small of her back, a heavy wooden door was placed across her chest and eight hundredweight of stones piled upon it and she was crushed to death.
In 1970, Pope Paul V1 canonised Margaret Clitheroe as “Saint Margaret of York"
Published Fri 18th Jan 2013 16:12:43