I have recently returned from a trip to Ireland and Scotland. I left with memories of a lifetime and a newfound respect for how these early Christians fought to sustain and renew their Catholic heritage. One of the historical sites visited left an almost mystical impression. Edinburgh Castle is what legends are made of, but it is a real castle, where real people lived their lives for centuries. Walking the grounds, hearing the history and viewing the artifacts was a humbling experience.
The oldest building on the grounds of the castle is St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in the 1100 AD. This chapel was saved from destruction by Robert de Bruce when the Scots were fighting for their independence from England in 1314 AD. A small abode with lack of splendor on the exterior, the interior was humble, as well. However, light beamed through the small stained-glass windows and flowers adorned the tiny altar. The chapel belonged to St. Margaret, queen of Scotland, who lived from 1047 to 1093. What I found most intriguing about St. Margaret’s was she was Benedictine educated; she followed the Rule of St. Benedict during her lifetime.
While Margaret married King Malcolm and they raised eight children, she continued to lead a life of prayer, helping the poor and convincing her husband, the King, to distribute money to the needy. Her husband so loved her holy books containing the prayers and psalms she read daily, he had the books covered with gold and jewels. Margaret also raised the funds to build a Benedictine monastery at Dunfermline.
Truly a woman of influence during this historical period, she never stopped living according to the Rule of St. Benedict according to the text written. Was this the first oblate of Scotland? Of the world? After all, she did not live a cloistered, monastic life, but one of the world. Even to this day, a Chapel Guild still pays tribute to this woman. Twice weekly, fresh flowers are placed on the altar to remind visitors of the holy life St. Margaret, queen of the Scots, lived.
As I reflect on her life, I ask myself this question: “If this woman of the 1,100 century could be an oblate according to the Rule of St. Benedict, what lessons and principles does she offer me in my journey as an oblate?”
Mary Baier, OblSB