ENTERING THE THIRD ORDER
This test of her perseverance lasted for three years.
After having made a general confession to Father Giunta, she began to practice the most austere forms of penance and spent her time in fervent prayer.
She earnestly begged for the grace of being admitted into the Third Order. She used to say to the Friars:
"Dear Fathers, you to whom I have been recommended by Our Lord do not doubt me. You have seen me leave the world behind and reform my life by the grace of Jesus Christ. Why are you afraid and why do you still put off clothing me in the habit of the Order?"
The Friars were touched by such a humble appeal and by her sincere tears, and they at last consented to accept her. In the year 1277 she received the holy habit of the Third Order of St. Francis from Friar Raynaldo, Guardian of Arezzo.
After becoming a Tertiary, Margaret left the little room in which she had hitherto lived in the center of the town and went to dwell in a poor hovel which was more isolated and nearer the Franciscan church. She made this change on the order of Our Lord, who said to her:
"My poor little one, go to the church of My elect, the Friars Minor, to hear their masses and their preaching, for I have recommended you to them and in a very special way I have charged them with the care of your salvation ... As a reward of their concern for your soul, their whole Order will take on a new splendor in the world."
THE FRANCISCAN CHURCH
In all times the Lord has chosen for Himself certain shrines where, more than elsewhere He pours forth the marvels of His grace, and it is not up to us to ask Him why He chooses this spot rather than another.
For Margaret, this privileged shrine was the church of the Friars Minor in Cortona. Our Lord had sent her into that town and urged her to attend that church regularly and to hear Masses and sermons there. She remained faithful to this order from God and never left the church of St. Francis for long, except during one hard trial in which her heart was very forcibly crucified, and even then she suffered keenly for having to leave her beloved church.
The Franciscan church became dear to her in many ways. It was there that she washed her soul in the healthgiving bath of a sincere confession. It was there that she was clothed in the Franciscan tertiary habit. It was there that God showered so many graces and such sweet consolations upon her.
Coming early every morning, she took the place which Our Lord Himself pointed out to her near the pulpit, and she attended the recitation of the Friars' Office and the conventual Mass, at which she received Holy Communion. She usually also heard the numerous Masses that followed. Above all she meditated on the great book of the Cross.
It was especially in that church that she found God.
One night during the Octave of Epiphany, while experiencing in her hut all the sweetness of prayer in solitude, she asked Our Lord to let her stay in her cell so that she might enjoy His divine consolations out of sight of the devout churchgoers who were constantly around her. And Jesus answered her:
"O Margaret, why do you ask Me to enjoy My delights uninterruptedly? Why not, on the contrary, prepare yourself to taste My bitterness? Why ask Me to shut you up in your cell? Go go as usual to the church of the Friars Minor. Go, I say, to that shrine of your Blessed Father St. Francis, in order to hear the masses, to worship Me reverently, to see Me in the hands of the priests. Go, and do not shut yourself up, until I Myself wish to hide you."
The next day, despite her extreme fatigue she painfully dragged herself to the church. And the moment she entered it, her soul was filled with a heavenly sweetness, and she remained there praying until evening.
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