The Pearl of York
The 16th-century persecution of Catholics in England is often overlooked, but under Elizabeth I (an later other English monarchs), Catholics suffered immensely. All told, Elizabeth's reign had the highest use of torture of any English monarch's, and a great many Catholics became martyrs. One of these was Margaret Clitherow, called by her husband "the best and most Catholic wife in all England," and later, by we who venerate her, the "Pearl of York."
Margaret was born into a decently wealthy family in 1556 and married a wealthy butcher of York in 1571. She converted to the Catholic Faith in 1574, and, though her husband was Anglican, he supported her efforts (since his own brother was a priest) by paying her recusant fines (fines for not attending Anglican services). He also allowed her to house priests, sometimes in their own home and sometimes in other quarters. She was imprisoned multiple times for failing to attend Anglican services, and, when it was finally discovered that she was hosting priests and having them read Mass, she was arrested again and sentenced to death, since she would not plead (which would have implicated her children). Though she was pregnant with a fourth child, on March 25, 1586, the Feast of the Annunciation and that year Good Friday, she walked barefoot to the place of her execution. Saying to the sheriff, "I die for the love of my Lord Jesu," she was stripped and laid over a sharp rock. She was then crushed to death by her own door, which was weighed down by stones over fifteen minutes. Her last words should be all of ours: "Jesu! Jesu! Jesu! have mercy on me!" Pope St. Paul VI canonized her in 1970.
Here is a tale of utmost courage, astounding resilience, and magnificent humility, a fascinating story of a heroic wife, mother, and martyr to bring tears to your eyes and repentance to your soul.
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