Margaret was born at Laviano in Tuscany in the year 1247. The name of Cortona which has been added to her own recalls the town in which she lived a life of penance and in which her tomb is located.
Her parents, who were respectable peasants, gave her at baptism that name of Margaret which also means pearl, and which was to be a portent of the luster that this Seraphic pearl was destined to shed one day on the Holy Church of God. Later, Our Lord was to say to her. "O My daughter Margaret, you have truly become MargaretthePearl in My eyes ... you are My chosen one, My daughter, My spouse. You are Margaret, that is to say a pearl before God, vermilion and dazzling white, holy and great by virtue of My Love."
Her mother filled her first years with tender affection, and inspired in her a love for God and for virtue. And Margaret, despite the faults of a child of her age, took to heart the lessons which her mother gave her. But she was soon deprived of her mother's valuable influence. And it was a tragic loss for the child.
Death left her motherless at the age of seven.
Thrown back upon her young self, swept along by a light and frivolous nature, she quickly forgot the wise training she had received as a child. She possessed all those gifts of nature which could make her popular in worldly society. She gave herself up to dissipation and slipped into the downward road of sin.
Her father neglected his duties as a parent and failed to check her. Besides, he had married again. Margaret's stepmother treated her harshly. And the girl, feeling herself rejected at home and at the same time lured into a sinful loveaffair, sank lower and lower into evil.
One night, when she was eighteen, she ran away from her father's house, in which she found no affection, and went to live with a young nobleman of Montepulciano who had seduced her.
For nine years she lived a life of sin which shocked the entire region. Riding out on a thoroughbred horse, she would show off her jewels and costly clothes in such a way as to defy the townspeople.
But while she was thus going astray along the path to damnation, Almighty God, who had His own secret plans for her destiny, was pursuing this lost sheep in order to bring her back to His divine fold.
God spoke to her by means of remorse. She would seek out a place where she could be alone, and say to herself: "Oh, how good it would feel to pray here! In such peace I might become sincerely repentant!" And she wept . . . The Savior's mercy acutely touched her sinladen soul. She never gave way to despair.
One day some acquaintances reproached her for her wild life, saying: "You wretched girl, how much lower are you going to drive yourself?"
Margaret covered her face and groaned. Then, as if she foresaw the future, she cried out:
"Don't worry! A day will come when you will call me a saint, because I shall have been made holy! Then you will come to visit me as pilgrims, with a staff in your hand and a sack on your back."
Later she declared:
"In Montepulciano, I lost everything honor ... dignity ... peace. I lost everything except faith!"
She was aware of her fall into sin. And she missed the times she had spent in her parents' home. For then, though not happy, she had been pure.
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