One of our great English Martyrs, Saint Margaret Clitherow, has been known in history since her death, as the Shining Pearl of York. She was a Catholic convert at a time when it was illegal to be a member of the outlawed Catholic Church in Elizabethan England, yet she showed no fear for standing close to the Pope, the Church and the Truths of the Faith even at the risk of her own life. She worked in her husband's butcher shop in York down a popular street called 'The Shambles'. It was here that she shone as an example of kindness, piety and devotion, taking the opportunities of her contact with customers, neighbours and friends to defend the persecuted Catholic Church as well as encourage those who were terrorized by the anti-Catholic government to hold firm to the Faith.
Not only did Saint Margaret Clitherow live and breath the Catholic Faith, devotions and piety in her daily life, but she determinedly organised and kept secret rooms, holes and safe locations, even in her own home, for hunted Catholic missionary priests. She hid sacred vessels used in the celebration of the illegal Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, educated her beloved children and the children of her neighbours in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, lit devotional candles, prayed the rosary and other illegal activities, which saw her arrested numerous times.
Saint Margaret Clitherow also adamantly refused to attend the Protestant Services which were legally required by the State Church and Protestant Government. Her husband, although he never converted himself, allowed his beloved wife to remain loyal to the True Church and many times paid her fines.
Eventually, the law caught up with Saint Margaret who was betrayed by one of her little students into revealing the location of sacred Mass vessels and the hiding place of a priest. She was arrested, imprisoned and subjected to a trial where she refused to defend herself so as to protect her family and friends. She was sentenced to death and suffered a rare and unusual execution by law. It is believed that she was expecting a child when she was crushed to death for her Catholic Faith in Elizabethan York.
The English poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem honouring "God's daughter Margaret Clitheroe." The poem, entitled "Margaret Clitheroe" was among fragments and unfinished poems of Hopkins discovered after his death and is a tribute to the woman, to her faith and courage, and to the manner of her death.
|Saint Margaret Clitherow before the authorities
© 2009 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'The Shining Pearl of York'
Length and Format:
The film runs for 30 minutes and is available on Region Free DVD worldwide.