In his apostolic letter “Door of Faith,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI cites Vatican II’s frequently quoted teaching: “The Church . . . clasping sinner to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church).
Margaret of Cortona (1247–1297) exemplifies repentance. She and Arsenio had a son but never married. When Arsenio was murdered, she began a new life. Rejected in the city of her birth, Margaret and her son moved to Cortona. He eventually became a friar. She became a Secular Franciscan and established a hospital there. Other women followed her example and established a religious congregation devoted to these and other works of mercy.
Repentance meant that Margaret began living more deeply about the truth of her life—about who she was before God and in relation to other people. In time, she reclaimed the freedom that she had lost by following a very different path. Every sin presents itself as some type of shortcut.
Many people sought out Margaret for advice and inspiration. She was canonized in 1728. Her feast is May 16 on the Franciscan calendar.
Image in the public domain