Margaret of Cortona and Scruples!

I’ve become very interested in the great Saint…and her life long struggle with temptation, her ability to turn her life around, etc…HOWEVER I’m dismayed at her “scrupulous” nature…and the extremes she went to in penance…I see someone, who because of illness or fear, is extremely self centered…does anyone agree with me? (Self centered might be too strong a term - but she seemed to feel a constant need to revisit her sins, and physically and mentally perform mortification etc…I don’t know why, but her story bothers me!)

I just read somewhere she might have been bipolar…also that Mauriac wrote an amazing book about her…I think I’ll order that book!

It varies person to person. Some can be very penitential and have scrupulous tendency and it actually increase their spirituality.
Scrupulosity in the dangerous since however, would be penance and avoidance of sin to an extent that drives you mad and unable to see God’s will clearly and doing things out of fear constantly.

I don’t understand why it “bothers” you. It was her cross to carry perhaps? I am sure there are many that look to her story for inspiration and hope for themselves.

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Society has programmed us to think that these extremes are abnormal and to always see an easy going Jesus. It’s understandable for people who have not delved deeply into traditional spirituality to experience uneasiness. Tis a shame though.
No offense to the OP of course


I think it “bothers me” because I actually think what she was doing was unhealthy- she actually planned to razor her face, to make herself ugly, until her confessor stopped her. She interrupted Mass (and therefore impacting others) to proclaim her sins out loud (again). Theres a lack of balance in this that I think could be dangerous for a person who tends towards “scruples” to read about.

No offence taken, JesusReigns, but I believe you are wrong making an assumption that I (or others who might be bothered) haven’t delved deeply into traditional spirituality. It’s really not a correct assumption. In fact, it could VERY much be the opposite. It’s a very weak assumption, think a bit deeper mate! :blush:

Saints aren’t perfect. They’re humans who were trying to be holy and in most cases needed spiritual guidance from time to time to get them on the right track.

If a saint “bothers” you, then it’s a good idea to ask yourself why. If you’re concerned that she did “unhealthy” things, please remember that

a) she lived in an era very different from our own, where physical and mental health care knowledge was sometimes lacking or understood differently than it would be today;
b) it seems like in this case her confessor had some common sense that she was going a bit too far, and stopped her.

If you yourself have scruples, or trouble reading about saints who may have had scruples, mental illnesses, or simply a tendency towards extreme penance, then don’t read about them.

If your concern is for somebody else reading about them, best to maybe leave that to the individual people and their spiritual directors.

Margaret of Cortona is not any less a saint because she may have had some poor judgment or even undiagnosed mental illness. There are dozens of saints who occasionally had poor judgment and may have had an undiagnosed mental illness. Like I said, saints are human. People need to take that into account when they read about them.


Yes tisbearself, totally agree with all that…not sure why, but people seem bothered that “I” am bothered by a Saint! I’m a MASSIVE saint person, you wouldn’t believe how much I read about, respect, and talk to them, and I’m intrigued with and admire a great deal about Margaret…and ofcourse I know they are not perfect lol! As a matter of fact one of my very fave Saints (John of God) had possible struggles with mental illness (it’s debated), as did the Little Flower and countless others.

I was really looking for more general discussion, I find these things fascinating. But I seem to have hit a nerve! Sorry folks! :blush:

Saying one is “bothered by a saint” on here often hits a nerve with people. I got a lot of flak once for opining that St. Catherine of Siena probably had an eating disorder and wrecked her health in the process, even though one can find scholarly references suggesting the same, and also discussing how there were good reasons for her to choose to adopt the lifestyle she did including the not eating part. I personally prefer the saints who were “everything in moderation” types or even the saints who were fat like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Anthony of Padua (Mother Angelica has gone on at length about how all these statues of skinny St. Anthony do not reflect his actual physical proportions). But other people just love Catherine of Siena.

There are more modern saints who I find controversial or just not my type of person in some respects. I don’t mention them here because no doubt there are people who find them wonderful inspirations and spiritual guides. I have also read my share of comments from people who just can’t stand some of my favorite saints like St. Therese of Lisieux.

We get emotionally attached to saints like we would to a good friend, because they’re our friends. But people choose different types of friends that suit what they personally need and enjoy. Nobody’s going to relate to all the saints. There are also saints out there whose penitential practices make Margaret look like a sweet child.

Yes, you are right, I hadn’t considered some might feel I was “bashing” their favourite…people (including me) do love their Saints as close friends, so I suppose there’s a sensitivity around the topic!

I actually wouldn’t mind finding a forum for open and interesting discussions about Saints. I absolutely LOVE Catherine of Siena and also think its highly likely she developed an eating disorder - which doesn’t make her an iota less saintly lol.

I’m very fond of some of the gentler, happier guys and gals (Francis De Sales), and again, I’m drawn to him for his early struggles, his scr
upulocity, and then his coming out the other side, embracing God’s love…I also love some of the fiery ones…anyway off to Mass! :blush:

I love St Catherine of Siena. I went to her house and saw her relic. She had many gifts and counseled Popes, etc. But I agree that of course, few would be called to follow her same path.

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It’s a path that worked very well for her era. Because of her ascetic practices, people took her very seriously, including powerful people and Popes.
Doing those practices today would likely get a young woman a quick trip to a hospital and no one would take her seriously. So these days God calls his young women saints to do different things, such as become doctors like St. Gianna Molla, or philosophers like St. Edith Stein.

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You mentioned above folks who don’t like Therese of Liseux…the first time I read Story of a Soul I simply could NOT stand it, lol…this past year I’ve had a complete change of judgment…I consider Therese one of “my” saints…I read all I can about her…I see so much more in her own writing…her consecretion to and “merciful love” is beyond powerful …and her entire life so complex and nuanced (so many interesting things about her personality, her health, the impact of jansenism, her response)…Her feast day is my birthday and I had the absolute blessing of seeing her relics a few months ago…Ive become very interested in Leonie, “the black sheep” sister and the cause for her canonization.

You also mentioned Edith Stein - I think she is “epic” (to put it succinctly) :blush:

To get back to Margaret - part of my concern would be the public nature of her penance…being led around town with a rope tied around her, and the person leading her crying “observe Margaret the sinner” (she paid some one to do that)…the interruptions at Mass, to proclaim herself a sinner…the sitting in front of the Church before Mass, so everyone could observe the horrible sinner…the plan a to do physical harm to her face (And according to one source she bruised her face - her confessor stopped her from cutting it)…I’m unclear, in her own mind, was it love and sorrow - or was it doubt that she was forgiven? Was it part of her possible bipolar condition? Did it “tone down” when she became a nurse, caring for the sick and poor?

It feels different from (for example) a Martin De Possess who mortified himself in private and I’m intrigued… I’m hoping to learn more in the book I’ve ordered.

I am bothered by St. Dominic Savio for similar reasons. But I try to remember - the extreme penances (esp when a confessor told them to stop with these!) are not what “made the saint.” Books can make it sound that way because the extreme stuff gets noticed… but I prefer to think they were saints IN SPITE of going a bit overboard in some areas… not because of going overboard. When I remember that I’m inspired - hey I’m not 100% balanced in every area of my life/choices/spirituality all the time either. There’s hope for me! :wink:

Jen 7 - I am not 100 percent balanced in all areas either, lol…so maybe there’s hope for me too!

That’s interesting, the “in spite of”…super interesting, actually!

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I don’t mind it and I wouldn’t hold it against her,

Just to follow up - I received the book by Mauriac on Margaret of Cortona…WOW! A million wows…for anyone interested in this saint, or the writings of Mauriac, get this book!

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