Here is one of my Playing with the SAINTS! blog posts to give you a glimpse into the life of this amazingly courageous woman.
Saint Margaret Ward:
The story behind this saint needs a little history lesson first. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in England, 1558-1603, it was illegal to practice the Catholic faith. If a Catholic priest was caught, he was brutally tortured and then executed. Also, if you were caught hiding/helping a priest, you might suffer a similar fate. Even with the horrific consequences of practicing the Catholic faith, priests still came to England to serve the needs of the faithful there and many lay people helped them. This is the story about one of those who helped Catholic priests.
Saint Margaret Ward worked for a Catholic family in London, England. There was a priest, Father Richard Watson, who had been caught and imprisoned in the Tower of London. While in prison he was brutally tortured and while he was still suffering from the pains of the torture, Protestant ministers came to talk to him. “If you will only give up this Catholic faith,” they said, “you could go free. Just come to our Protestant Church of England and you won’t be tortured anymore.”
Father Richard Watson fell into this temptation and went to the Church of England and told those at the church he was no longer Catholic. After he did this, he immediately regretted it and went to confession from another Catholic priest. This other priest told Father Watson to go back to the Church of England and say he was wrong and that he will continue to be a Catholic priest. Father Watson did this and was immediately arrested again and thrown back into prison. While once again suffering in prison, his faith began to sway. Here is where Saint Margaret Ward comes into the story.
Margaret heard about Father Watson and knew he needed encouragement to not give up his faith. It took a while, but she eventually was able to convince his jailer to let her visit with Father Watson. Each time she came to visit Father, she brought a basket of food for him. Before entering the cell, the jailer would search her basket and always found her to be bringing in only food. Eventually, the jailer stopped searching the basket. One day while visiting Father Watson, he mentioned that if he had a long rope he thought he could escape by climbing down the rope to the water below. He asked her to bring a rope and arrange for a boat to take him away. Plans were made and the next time she came, she hid a rope in her basket. Fortunately, the basket wasn’t searched. When the appointed time arrived, Father tied the rope to something sturdy in his cell and began to climb down. Alas, the rope wasn’t long enough! He didn’t have the strength to climb back up so he just let go of the rope and came crashing down–he broke his arm and leg in the fall. The people in the boat below were able to get him aboard and row away without being caught. But with all the craziness that was going on with him falling and getting injured, the rope was left behind!!! It was obvious then to the jailer how Father had received the rope and escaped. Margaret Ward was arrested for helping Father Richard Watson to escape. She was offered her freedom if she would tell the authorities where Father was hiding and if she would attend the Church of England. She refused to do either. Margaret was tortured and killed for helping a priest.
Saint Margaret Ward, pray for us!
Feast Day: August 28
Time to do some baking! With an adult, bake some muffins or other bread and bring it to your pastor at your parish. Share with him the story of Saint Margaret Ward. If you are unable to bring it to your church, share your baking with your family, or a neighbor. Make sure to share the brave story of Saint Margaret Ward.