One of the things that I enjoy doing is writing. And for the past few years, I have been sharing my thoughts and observations here in our weekly Bulletin on a whole host of topics, mainly having to do with issues of faith and living in the Catholic Christian life.
But I have also, in the past, been able to write a couple of novels that, as of yet, I have not had published. One of them is a historical novel about the little-known English Martyr St. Margaret Clitherow.
I was introduced to her while I visited York, England. It was in ‘Old York’, as I walked through the old shopping area that dates back hundreds of years, that I passed by an odd shop. As I Iooked into it, I noticed a Sanctuary Lamp burning and pews set up facing a tabernacle and altar. I learned that this store used to be a Butcher Shop that belonged to a Roman Catholic saint and her husband. Her name was Margaret. Four hundred years ago, she lived and worked here with her husband John and her children. She was arrested here for harboring Catholic Priests for the purpose of saying Mass secretly. Queen Elizabeth the First was trying to unify the country with a single religion and she established the Anglican Church as the one legal Church in the realm. Catholic rituals and priests were banned and anyone who contradicted the new laws would be regarded as traitors and killed.
Margaret was a convert who bravely stood against this religious repression at the cost of her life. Someone suggested I entitle the book “A Woman for All Seasons”, for a number of reasons. Like ‘A Man for All Seasons’ about St. Thomas More, it roughly takes place around the same period of history: the switch in religion of an entire nation. St. Thomas More, during the reign of Henry the VIII, and St. Margaret Clitherow during the queenship of Elizabeth the First. Both died martyrs for the freedom of the Catholic Faith. Both were lay people of extraordinary courage.
Another title I toyed with was “The Pearl of York”. Margaret in Greek means pearl and she lived her whole life in that northern city.
But I decided to call it “The Recusant” because that is what they called people like her: they were outcasts, refusing to go along with others, just like rebels. She was an intelligent, articulate woman who took on the entire establishment, secular and religious, at great cost to herself and her family.
It was a brutal time. She died by being pressed to death beneath a huge wooden door as boulders were placed on top of it. She was crushed to death while pregnant with her fourth child.
She was beautiful, devoted to God, and very courageous. After I read up on her I realized that, since few knew anything about her, it was a story that had to be told.
Therefore, after several years of sitting on my computer waiting for the right time, I am taking it out of mothballs; and, as I rewrite and edit it again, I want to share it with all of you who are my family and my community of faith.
This will require a long-term commitment from you since it will take months and perhaps years to unfold completely. But I think you may get a lot out of it!
Just like the authors of the past, I will publish installments each week, both online and in the Bulletin. It won’t be long, but it will accumulate over time.
That does not mean that I will forego sharing with you more articles that strike me as important!
They will come your way periodically as well.
But, as you settle in and hopefully enjoy “The Recusant: The life of St. Margaret of York”, you will be doing what used to be done with novels serialized in newspapers. Great authors of the past like Dickens and Dostoyevsky shared their books through daily or weekly segments. (Not that I would dare to compare myself with these giants!)
Thus, starting next week, I want to share with you what will hopefully be the very inspiring story of St. Margaret Clitherow, the Pearl of York!