May 16 is the Memorial of St. Margaret of Cortona (1247 – February 22, 1297). Margaret was an Italian penitent of the Third Order of St. Francis. She was born in Laviano, near Perugia, and died in Cortona. She was canonized in 1728.
She is the patron saint of the falsely accused; hoboes; homeless; insane; orphaned; mentally ill; midwives; penitents; single mothers; reformed prostitutes; third children; tramps.
At the age of seven, Margaret's mother died and her father remarried. Little love was shared between stepmother and stepdaughter.
At the age of 17 she met a young man, according to some accounts a man named Arsenio, the son of Gugliemo di Pecora, lord of Valiano. She ran away with him. For ten years she lived with him in his house near Montepulciano and bore him a son. She wanted to marry him as promised, but he refused
When Arsenio failed to return home from a journey one day, Margaret became worried
. The unaccompanied return of his favourite hound alarmed Margaret, and the hound led her to his murdered body which was located deep in a forest. This crime shocked Margaret into a life of prayer and penance, and Margaret returned all the gifts he had given her and left his home. With her child, she returned to her father's house but her stepmother would not have her. Margaret and son then went to the Friars at Cortona where she put herself in their care at the church of San Francesco in the city. She fasted, avoided meat, and subsisted on bread and vegetables.
After three years, St. Margaret joined the Third Order of St. Francis and chose to live in poverty. Following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, she begged for sustenance and bread. She became a Franciscan tertiary.
In 1277, while in prayer, she heard the words: "What is your wish, poverella (little poor one)?" and she replied: "I neither seek nor wish for anything but You, my Lord Jesus." She began regular communications with God. She asked the city of Cortona to found a hospital for the sick, homeless and impoverished. To secure nurses for the hospital, she instituted a congregation of Tertiary Sisters, known as "le poverelle". She also established a link to Our Lady of Mercy and the members bound themselves to support the hospital and to help the needy.
On several occasions, St. Margaret participated in public affairs. Twice following Divine command, she challenged Msgr. Guglielmo Ubertini Pazzi, Bishop of Arezzo, in which diocese Cortona sat, because he lived like a prince. St. Margaret moved to the ruined Church of St. Basil and spent her remaining years there. She is buried there. After her death, the Church was rebuilt in her honor. St. Margaret was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII on May 16, 1728.