UNDER THE FIGTREE
After being driven from her home, Margaret walked away with her little son, who was crying. The unhappy young woman did not know where to turn. She stopped in the garden, and sitting under a figtree, she poured forth her misery in tears and sobs.
Then the Tempter came to her and said:
"Come back to me! Come back to the pleasures of life! You are clever, beautiful, young you will be loved, and the world will still fill your cup with all sorts of thrills. You will have nothing on your conscience, since your family drove you from their home."
Margaret underwent all the stages of this bitter conflict; she was confronted with her father's harshness, her son's crying, together with ages of past pleasures and the prospect of future suffering.
But, with the grace of God, that part of her soul which was still Christian protested:
"No, no, Margaret," she said to herself forcefully. "Don't live in shame and remorse any more. It is now long enough that you have dishonored your Creator and fought against Him Who redeemed your soul with His own Blood. The time has come to make up for your revolt and your ingratitude. It does not matter if you are not rich! To beg for your food would do you more good than to go back to a life of sin. Your father on earth has driven you out your Father in Heaven will welcome you!"
She made her decision.
Later Our Lord, in the following words, reminded her of the steps in her conversion:
"Remember, My poor little one, that day when your father yielded to the urging of your stepmother and drove you from his house. You were utterly without human advice or human help. You did not know what to do. You withdrew into the garden and sat down at the foot of a figtree and wept for a long time. Then you turned to Me and begged Me to be your master, your father, your spouse, your lord. And you grieved humbly over your physical and spiritual misfortune. But in that same moment the Old Serpent, seeing you driven off by your father, took the opportunity to inject into your mind the hateful and proud thought that you still had in your beauty and your youth all the fortune you needed. He insinuated to you that since you had thus been thrown out, it would be excusable if you gave yourself up to sin again ... But, by means of My inspiration and My fight, I touched your conscience. I made you resolve to go at once to Cortona and there to put yourself under obedience to My Friars Minor. Your soul was filled with strength, and you set out."
After her victory over the Tempter, Margaret, under the impulse of a divine inspiration, made her way toward Cortona.
At the citygate she encountered two women who were devoted to St. Francis and his Order, the countesses Marinaria, and Raneria Moscari, who were motherinlaw and daughterinlaw. They noticed this young stranger with her griefstricken features and tearfilled eyes. And going up to her in a kind way, they offered her their help.
Margaret's sobs increased. While she wept, she told them how she had gone astray and revealed to them her intention of leading a life of penance under the guidance of the Friars Minor. Touched by compassion, the two ladies offered to receive her and her son into their home and to see that the Franciscans took a favorable interest in her problem.
Margaret gratefully accepted, for she considered this charitable attention another indication of God's kindness toward her, and her courage and confidence grew firmer.
When her new friends introduced her to the Friars Minor, she humbly asked to be received into the Third Order of Penance. But the Fathers wanted first to test her perseverance.
Meanwhile she was placed under the spiritual direction of Father Giunta Bevegnati, who led a life of remarkable holiness.
This was in the year 1274. Margaret was twentyseven.
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