Marguerite Bays was born to a farming family in Switzerland in 1815, the second of seven children. She grew up helping her parents with household chores and gardening. In her teen years, she gained a life-long skill as an apprentice seamstress, a talent she would pour out for others when she sewed clothing for the poor.
Prayer, Play, and Petition
Marguerite devoted her time to getting to know the Lord through daily Mass, the Rosary, and Eucharistic Adoration. While she savored these moments with Him, she never forgot to invite others to come alongside her in worship. In her spare time, she worked in the parish teaching children the catechism, visiting the sick, and caring for the poor. The children she taught referred to her as “Godmother”.
She was a woman who incorporated not only prayer into her life, but also play. She brought the gift of her presence and a listening ear to the anxious and burdened housewives she visited. When these mothers had loved ones who were sick and dying, they turned to Marguerite to unite them in prayer.
Her compassion for others and desire to serve and care for the human person eventually led her to a vocation of chastity as a member of the Franciscan Third Order (Secular Franciscan Order).
Holiness in the Home
Many people questioned Marguerite’s decision to stay in the home rather than enter religious life within a convent. But she felt that her call to holiness was to be present to her family right where she was. In time, they would all return home and need her.
Her older brother’s wife, Josette, was a woman with a quick tongue and a distaste for Marguerite. Josette would ridicule her for her devoted life of prayer. Despite the humiliation it caused Marguerite, she did not complain, but instead persevered in patience and in prayer. Eventually, at the end of Josette’s life, the only person she wanted by her side was her sister-in-law.
Marguerite would also care for her sister Mariette who returned home after a failed marriage. Her brother, Joseph, a bachelor, lived a dangerous life which ended up serving him a prison sentence. When he was released, Marguerite cared for him too.
Then there is Claude, her older brother, who had a child before marriage. Marguerite took responsibility for her nephew Francois, and made sure that he was raised with a proper education.
Through her witness of love and mercy, her siblings would each turn back to Christ.
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Suffering in Silence
At the age of thirty-eight, Marguerite started feeling sharp stomach pains, nausea, and dizziness. While she tried to hide her illness, her family noticed her body weakening and finally had her see a doctor. She was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. Surgery provided no help nor relief. She began to implore Our Lady asking for healing and to help her understand her suffering. The next year, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by Pope Pius XI, and her prayer was answered. Bedridden and in pain she placed a medal of the Immaculate Conception to her pain and immediately she was healed and able to walk about her house. When her family found her on their way home from Mass they found her praying the Rosary in her room. She was known to say to others in their suffering, “pray the Rosary, you will see that all will then be better.”
Shortly after her healing, Jesus gave Marguerite a new opportunity to suffer for souls. To suffer as He did on the Cross. She was given the stigmata (the wounds Jesus had on His hands, feet, and chest). These wounds would burn in red blotches on her skin. She suffered especially on Fridays and Good Friday, united to Jesus on the Cross through her wounds.
Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows and The Sacred Heart
As she neared her death, Marguerite would kiss her crucifix and pray as she looked at the image of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. She often said, “Honor Our Lady of Seven Sorrows. We will never realize how much She suffered for us.” Marguerite prayed to die “in the wound of Thy Sacred Heart”.
After twenty-five years of increasing pain, she died on June 27, 1879, the last day of the octave of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She is buried in the cemetery of the parish church of Siviriez which now holds a chapel in her name as well as her relics. Her tombstone reads:
She lived doing good. Her memory will remain blessed. Venerated sister, dear and tender Godmother, do not forget those that you have left on this earth.
She was proclaimed a Blessed by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1995 and canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday, October 13, 2019. During her canonization Mass, Pope Francis spoke of her saying, “She speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving … Such is the holiness of daily life … Let us ask to be like this, ‘soft lights’ in the darkness of the world”.
What darkness do you see in the world? Where is the Lord asking you to be a light to shine into it?
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