Margaret of Castello vs. Simon Gibbons

In a shocking, bracket-busting upset, yesterday's matchup ended with Brother Lawrence driving out St. Patrick from Lent Madness 2020 57% to 43%. Erin go bragh? Erin go HOME!

Today we have an intriguing matchup between two saints of different eras. Margaret of Costello was a blind, disabled medieval nun who overcame great hardship to follow her faith. Simon Gibbons was Canada's first Inuit priest, born in the mid-19th century.

With this decision, the door will close on the first full week of Lent Madness 2020. From here on out, voting will take place only on the weekdays of Lent. Which means the Lent Madness faithful must suffer the indignity of Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) on the weekends of Lent. This is a difficult condition to endure and, at this time, there is no known cure. Please be kind to yourselves, friends. And we'll see you bright and early on Monday morning as James Solomon Russell faces Evelyn Underhill.

Now go vote!

Margaret of Castello

Margaret of Castello (to whom I am not related…like 99 percent sure) was born sometime in 1287. We don’t know when exactly, because her parents—a noble couple named Parisio and Emilia—did not care for her.

She was born blind with a severe curvature of the spine that inhibited walking. Her parents resolved to hide her away, so that her appearance could not bring shame to the family honor. However, Margaret, as she was named by a kind maid, resolutely refused to die. Despite her parents locking her in a back room and forbidding her to see anyone, she managed to win the sympathy of the household staff and the local priest, who taught her the Christian faith.

One day, Emilia heard stories of a Franciscan friar who was performing miracle cures in Castello. She convinced her husband to take Margaret there, in hopes of a “cure.” They wrapped the teenager in a black shroud and smuggled her to the town, but as luck would have it, the friar had died while they were making the journey. Emilia tried to get another friar to “heal” Margaret, but no cure was forthcoming. Frustrated and embarrassed, the parents abandoned their daughter in Castello and went home.

But Margaret didn’t give up. The local beggars in town took pity on her and taught her how to beg so she could feed herself. She made her way by teaching the street children to read and learn different prayers. She also watched the children while their parents worked, essentially running a medieval daycare. In 1303, she came across some Dominican friars and begged to be allowed to join their order as a laywoman. She was inducted into the third order of the Dominicans and wore the habit until her death at the age of thirty-three. When she died, crowds from all over the countryside came to her funeral, drawn by their love of her and her compassion. They demanded that she be buried on church grounds.

Margaret is particularly loved by those who are disabled themselves. Unlike other saints, who either suffered momentarily in the process of martyrdom or suffered only to be healed, Margaret was born disabled and lived a life that showed Christ’s love in a disabled body. Her quiet love and resolute life won out against the ignorance of society and of the Church, in a struggle that inspires many today.

Collect for Margaret of Castello
Compassionate God, your daughter Margaret experienced the pain of rejection, and the joy of serving you and your people; grant to us, we pray, the courage and compassion to find your presence wherever we look, and the reflection of your beauty shining in every face we encounter. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Megan Castellan

Simon Gibbons
God loves a “hilarious” giver, according to Leonard F. Hatfield’s rendering of 2 Corinthians in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. And Simon Gibbons, it seems, was that.

Born in 1851, Gibbons was Canada’s first ordained Inuit priest, a prolific church builder, and a gifted communicator. At the time Hatfield wrote his biography of the saint in 1990, stories were still told in the parishes where Gibbons ministered that he had been discovered on an ice-floe off the coast of Labrador.

Other stories, which Gibbons also may have encouraged, were shared about his first appointment as an Anglican missionary on Cape Breton Island, at the eastern edge of Nova Scotia. With food and a change of clothes on his back, he traveled from place to place across the mission, sometimes on trails that could only be navigated by snowshoe in the winter. One story has him hopping across drifting ice to cross an inlet; another, crawling along a frozen shoreline to reach an isolated community at Christmastime.

Gibbons traveled twice to Great Britain, where he raised money to build new churches, preached at Westminster Abbey, and appeared before Queen Victoria. While he was bullied as a child for being Inuit, he found that in England, in his own words, “my face was my fortune.” Large audiences came to hear Canada’s first Inuit priest preach, and reports praised his “musical voice,” “fluent and eloquent speech” and “attractive personality,” according to Hatfield.

But Gibbons’s time as a traveling missionary seemed to have taken a toll on his health. He served two more parishes in Nova Scotia, taking some time in between to recover. He became known as “champion church builder of the diocese,” assisting in the construction of seven new churches in Nova Scotia. Many still can be recognized by their distinctive bell towers, which he helped construct himself.

Gibbons died in 1896 and, befitting one of the stories he encouraged, he was buried in the Parrsboro parish cemetery during what was reportedly one of the wildest winter storms of the century. He is remembered by the Anglican Church of Canada on December 14.

Collect for Simon Gibbons
Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Simon Gibbons to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Emily McFarlan Miller


Margaret of Castello vs. Simon Gibbons

  • Margaret of Castello (70%, 5,665 Votes)
  • Simon Gibbons (30%, 2,404 Votes)

Total Voters: 8,069

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Margaret of Castello: Sailko [CC BY 3.0 (]
Simon Gibbons: Nunatsiaq News, (Harper Collection)


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144 comments on “Margaret of Castello vs. Simon Gibbons”

    1. I’m Canadian, worked in Nunavut for 10 years, this one was a no-brainer for me!

    1. One wonders how Margaret was able to teach children to read while being blind. This was long before Braille.

        1. I told my husband about the discussion of Margaret. How could she teach the children to read if she was blind. His answer as usual was flippant, but also insightful - “that is why she’s a saint”

          1. I also wondered how she could “watch the children”? But not only overcoming physical disabilities but the utter rejection from her horrible parents, she has my vote. Plus, my name is Margaret!

      1. The same thought came to me. Obviously she didn't read if she were totally blind so who knows what she taught the children. Had a lot of courage, however, and was dealt a poor hand in life, so she gets my vote.

      2. Thank you for sharing your story, Virginia! What a beautiful testimony you and your husband have, lives well lived and given in service to others - may God bless, strengthen, and encourage you both (and your huge tribe)

  1. Hopping across harbors, jumping floe to floe,
    Dauntless Simon Gibbons never stubbed his toe;
    Nor ever made a goof
    While building the church roof —
    On our Property Committee he should go!

    1. He is certainly deserving of my vote and once again I am on the losing side of a rout.

      1. I’m wondering now where the H it went
        That promising bracket I made for Lent:
        As each one of my picks
        Keeps on taking its licks
        It’s making me more and more penitent.

        1. I'm on the winning side with today's pick! Two days in a row. 🙂
          But yes, I the Property committee Simon should go!

    2. Even the Property Committee needs a patron saint! Maybe especially the Property Committee...

  2. Finding a path to God and a service of caring for, and teaching children while enduring a life of disability sounds very saintly - I'm going with another one who walked humbly and served children as she went her way.

    1. I'm with you but wonder how, if she was born blind as the story says, she taught poor children to read. There's something wrong with this account.

  3. We have all faced rejection in our lives. And for those who are suffering with debilitating pain everyday, rejection is even more painful. I have several close friends who have pain that is real and not curable. They impress me so much with their endurance and fortitude. So, yes.... It's Margaret of Castello for me today.

  4. Both of these worked miracles. Margaret of Costello miraculously was able to teach the street children how to read although she was blind from birth. Simon Gibbons was able posthumously to miraculously have his body buried in the ground in the middle of an Alaskan winter storm - or perhaps they used mausoleums? Margaret of Castillo gets my vote as someone who lived against apparently insurmountable odds to reach out and minister to others. The collect that talked of the reflection of God's beauty shining in every face we encounter cemented my choice.

  5. Margaret has my vote although it was a tough choice! Kind of miraculous that she found her way to serve God and the children with such love.

  6. How can anyone von for Margaret over Simon He is my guy sure. Of course many of my grands were from Canada!

  7. For the compassionate,strong woman overcoming many obstacles in her life, I vote for Margaret!

  8. I will confess that neither of these candidates "popped" for me in a particularly meaningful way, though in fairness, I am certain that there have been, and will continue to be, many saints who carry on acting on deep faith with relatively unexciting tasks. Today I am voting for Simon because I find it easier to believe in someone struggling against severe weather and terrain (I do live in Buffalo, NY, and I grew up in Central NY, and moved to a mountainous region of Germany, then to Michigan and the northern reaches of Maine before settling here!) than I could figure out how a blind woman could teach children to read. I was also impressed by the way Simon took a full part in building the churches that he established.

    1. Good point about a blind woman teaching reading. The Wikipedia article says Margaret taught the children psalms she had learned and taught them about her faith. Simon sounds like a wonderful guy, and Margaret was truly a pearl. Each one figured out how to thrive where planted, with generosity of spirit.

  9. I wanted to back Margaret, but her story is not believable. She was not cured yet taught children how to read and "watched" them. I don't think this would be possible if she were blind. So, I voted for Simon. However, I think I have a 100% loss rate this year, about the same as I have in public elections.

    1. The 'teaching to read' bit is hard to take, but maybe she wasn't completely blind? She'd be called blind if she could only see very close up. On the other hand, the watching children could easily be listening for children, and children can be very understanding of disability in caretakers. I had a blind social studies teacher in jr high, he knew where we all were and whether we were paying attention by sound, very well indeed! Unsure again myself who to vote for, so commenters, please inspire me!

      1. Where is the LIKE button for this comment? I, myself, wanted to make a comment but everything I wrote sounded too snarky!

  10. Living in Maine and experiencing harsh winters (not this year, though), and having driven around wild Cape Breton, my vote goes to Simon

    1. I ordered his full biography on Amazon and am still hoping to make it to the next round to share more!

  11. Am voting for Margaret in honor of my sister who has lived with severe disability from birth but radiates joy. Thank you, Margaret, for persevering and overcoming.

  12. For those who have scoliosis (Margaret’s disability?), for those who look after children. Like Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, she “was despised, rejected.” Nevertheless, she persisted and allowed God to make something out of her brief life.

    But I am amazed by the life Simon led—that might lead you to be floating out to see on an ice floe—yipes!

  13. I went with Margaret, whose quiet love and resolute life won out against ignorance in the midst of extremely debilitating circumstances. What an overcomer! May we each shine ever more brightly the love of Christ through our own brokenness in this beautiful yet broken world.

    1. Checking in a bit late. I think folks do read the biographies (some very carefully) but more with their hearts more than their heads. IMHO. As a former, reluctant Catholic and now active Unitarian Universalist, I am ambivalent about "Saints" who emerge from colonized populations. I never doubt their faith and admire their commitment; however, I am often troubled by the power exercised over them in their formative years by Missionaries.

  14. I love Margaret's witness. I'm voting for Simon mostly because of his construction skills! I looked up Saint Peter's and Saint John's Anglican Church in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, and it is so beautiful (and cute). I just started to ring bells last month, so I am happy to hear of a saint who constructed bell towers!

  15. I already posted on Facebook my thoughts o. These two very deserving saints! I am a very proud English, Irish, Anglican handicap woman of 77 years young! I chose to become an Anglican to wed the love of my life June 29/63, we have 4 adult children, 9 grandchildren and 1 great grandson! Life has not been an easy road for me, both hips and knees total replacement And 3 brain bleeds Aneursyms, but I am that bunny that just keeps in goingwe have two 16 year old identical a twin girls who are OCD and spinal problems, who not only ride therapist horses, but like their grandma are volunteers with the therapeutic riding in their home town! I have been a volunteer for most of my life, but, by the Grace of God, I am still,here, HE may have had me paralyzed on the R side, but, HE never took my voice or MY will power to soldier on!
    My vote is for Simon Gibbons also someone with a handicap of his birth rights in Canada and push forward regardless of what those i. Charge thought of him!

    1. Your poetry is droll;
      Easter’s bunny will not leave you coal.
      Doubtless your own parents are very good
      and never make you chop wood.
      You seem to be safe from vertigo
      as so far the vote favors Costello.

  16. The most difficult choice for me of the first round. I want to vote for both. I give God glory and praise his Son for each of them. How comfortable my life and my service have been.

  17. Both Margaret and Simon touch my heart so beautifully and
    tenderly today. They both had fortitude while overcoming severe isolation and ignorant rejection of their times, Yet, while they were both being pursued by God. Each of them found their stepping stones forward precariously it would seem for Simon to jump from ice flo to ice flow to pursue Gods! many of us would be willing? If I saw an ice flow would I think to myself oh look here, God in his abundance has sent an ice flow? Or would I just see ice? Or Margaret to trust and find enough to not just survive physically but find enough in Gods overflowing abundance for herself and the many children and the vulnerable she served. There are so many metaphors here its awesome. I am voting for Margaret of Castello today because as a child she represents the vulnerability of all of us. I see her today as what I am needing most....Gods all inclusive love for all his children in need. We are all vulnerable in each breath we take and in desperate need of His caring eye on us to protect us. We are all Gods children. Margaret seemed to embrace Gods mercy with such child like faith. Like a robe wrapped around her.In her weakness God gave her the strength she needed.

  18. Hello: This is my first season of taking part in the March Madness project. I am curious about something written today re: Margaret of Castello. The material says she was born blind. However, she taught children to read. I am wondering about that. Is there an explanation?

  19. Simon sounds fascinating, but Margaret's great gift of knowing, despite parental rejection, that she was beloved of God, and that God had plans for her to serve others and make a difference -- priceless.

  20. I've lit my votive flames in the Qulliq today. Why do tears come to my eyes when chopping onions with my Ulu?

    1. Mark, you really made me do my research to figure out what in the heck you were talking about. But I've got it now. I have added two Inuit words to my vocabulary today!

      1. I love the Inuit people; great adventures with them in Alaska, Labrador, Greenland. 🙂 They can seem shy or distant, but once you get to know them they have GREAT sense of humor and hospitality that is rarely matched anywhere, and not exceeded.