Today’s saint is Margaret of Cortona, who was born into a farming family in Tuscany, Italy in 1247. Her mother died when she was seven, and the stepmother who came along after that didn’t connect with Margaret at all. Feeling rejected by her family, Margaret eloped with a young lad from Montepulciano. They didn’t get married but they did have a son. 9 years later her partner was murdered, and Margaret found little sympathy or assistance because of the “scandal” of being a single mother.
Eventually Margaret and her son both entered monastic life, but I’m sad to say that she spent a lot of energy repenting of her “sinful” life, and even had to be restrained from actually doing herself serious harm.
I find her story very touching. I wish she had found compassion, help, love and acceptance, instead of judgement and rejection. 780 years on, things are very different, and mostly single mothers are not treated as outcasts any more. But there are places where women who are bringing up a kid single handed experience judgement, and sadly, churches are among those places. It’s amazing to me how many church people, who would claim to know more about the love and mercy of god than everyone else, so quickly presume they know someone’s character and life story, and judge them harshly if they don’t fit a particular mold.
Bringing up my son alone was certainly hard work (and along the way I got plenty of judgey comments and doors shut in my face) but despite that it was the best thing I ever did. I’m endlessly proud of him, all grown up now, I’m happy for the adventures we charted and the little micro-family we became, I’m grateful that we found wonderful friends to create a life with, and so glad I learned to have the courage just to walk away from sad, small people who dared to pass judgment on us. My son is the best thing that ever happened to me, and I have no self-recrimination, and definitely not a single regret.
So today I’m thinking of all the mothers who are bringing up kids by themselves (and yes, I know there are fathers who do the same, but that’s for another day…) especially in these days of precarious employment and lockdown home-schooling. I hope they will find acceptance, help, encouragement, lots of stamina, and no self-recrimination or regret.