+ Margaret was born in Congleton, Cheshire, England, but nothing more is known of her early life.
+ The first record of her reports that she was serving as a lady’s companion for the Whittle family in London.
+ Margaret and her servant, Blessed John Roche, were arrested after they helped Father Richard Watson escape from Bridewell prison. Imprisoned, beaten, and tortured, she was offered her freedom if she would embrace the teachings of the Church of England and tell the authorities where Father Watson was hiding.
+ Because of her refusal to deny her Catholic faith and hand over the hunted priest, Saint Margaret was hanged, drawn, and quartered on August 30, 1588. Canonized in 1970, she is honored as one of the “Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.”
Blessed John Roche (also known as John Neele), the servant of Saint Margaret Ward, was also condemned for assisting Father Watson. After Watson escaped, John met the priest and changed clothes with him, misleading the pursuers. Condemned to death for the same reasons as Saint Margaret, he answered that it was against his conscience to attend Protestant services. Blessed John was hanged on the same day as Saint Margaret, although John was forbidden from speaking from the scaffold because of fear that he might inspire others. He was beatified in 1929 and is honored as a patron of sailors and boatmen. His memory is also celebrated on August 30.
“For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these women, who despised life in the world, and have reached the rewards of the kingdom and washed their robes in the blood of the lamb.”—Entrance Antiphon for the Mass of a “Holy Woman Martyr”
O God, by whose gift strength is made perfect in weakness, grant to all who honor the glory of blessed Margaret that she, who drew from you the strength to triumph, may likewise always obtain from you the grace of victory for us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Martyrs—For a Holy Woman-Martyr)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.