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Marguerite Bays: From everyday service to carrying the stigmata

A brief biography of Swiss lay woman and Franciscan tertiary, Marguerite Bays, who was canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday, October 13, 2019.

By Vatican News

Marguerite Bays was born in La Pierraz, in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, in 1815. She was the second of seven children and grew up in a farming family. When she was 15 she began her apprenticeship as a seamstress, a skill she practiced all her life.

Service to "God's favorites"

Marguerite used to pray the Rosary regularly and attended daily Mass, paying frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and inviting everyone she met to join her in prayer. She spent all her free time working in the parish, where she taught catechism to the children, visited the sick, took care of the poor, and all those people she thought of as "God's favorites".

This life of active apostolate led her to join the Franciscan Third Order, now the Secular Franciscan Order, in 1860.

Holiness lived in the family

Her profound spirituality caused many people to ask Marguerite why she did not enter the convent. Instead, she understood that her place was at home, and her way to holiness lay in her daily service to her family. This choice did not always make things easy for her.

When her elder brother married her housemaid, Josette, Marguerite had to suffer the harassment of her sister-in-law who did not understand her prayer life.

Marguerite endured everything in silence, and when Josette was dying, the only person she wanted by her side was Marguerite. She took care of everyone in her family: her sister who returned home after a failed marriage, her brother who ended up in prison, and a nephew born out of wedlock who she brought up single-handedly.

Pain experienced in silence

In 1853, when she was 35, Marguerite was operated on for intestinal cancer. The treatments were very invasive, and she prayed to Our Lady for healing and for a different understanding of suffering.

When Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, on 8 December 1854, both of her prayers were answered. From then on, Marguerite was forever bound to the figure of the suffering Christ on the cross.

She developed the stigmata, the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, on her hands, feet and chest. At first she kept it secret, but the news soon leaked out. On Fridays and during Holy Week, she would fall ill or experience moments of ecstasy. Gradually the pain became more and more intense, and on 27 June 1879, Marguerite died.

Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed her Blessed on 29 October 1995.

12 October 2019, 13:41