A Glasgow priest says he firmly believes he survived a recent near-fatal health scare thanks to the miraculous intercession of Venerable Margaret Sinclair, the poor Edinburgh girl turned nun who died in 1925.
“For 32 years of priesthood, I’ve been preaching the resurrection of Christ and this is a sign for me that I am doing something which is true and not wasted,” said Mgr Peter Smith, Parish Priest of St Paul’s in Whiteinch, during an exclusive interview with this month’s edition of Flourish, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Glasgow.
“I don’t want to be the centre of attention, but if I’ve been granted this favour then I have to let it be known and allow the Church to judge it.”
Since being diagnosed with cancer last May, 58-year-old Mgr Smith has been urging friends and family to pray to Venerable Margaret to aid him.
His request was enthusiastically supported by his neighbouring Glasgow priest, Fr Joe McAuley, who is in charge of promoting Venerable Margaret’s cause for beatification.
Two months ago, though, Monsignor Smith’s health took a turn for the worse when medics discovered a blood clot on his lung and a deadly infection attacking body tissue from his hips to shoulders.
Doctors decided not to operate as it would kill him. They suspected the Glasgow priest wouldn’t survive 48 hours.
Incredibly he did with his surgeon assuring him that there is “no medical explanation” for the remarkable recovery.
Monsignor Smith, however, believes that it was the work of Venerable Margaret – something he now wants to tell the world about.
“When you ask someone for a favour and they grant it, it is only right to say thank you,” he said.
“We don’t expect miracles – and I’m not sure I expected one either – after all, my cancer hasn’t gone away – but I’ve been around long enough in ministry not to be surprised. I’ve seen it happen.”
“If this helps people, in the light of faith, grow closer to the Gospel, then I am doing my job. In illness I am able to live my priesthood and help other people.”
Venerable Margaret Sinclair was born in the Edinburgh’s Cowgate in 1900, one of six children who grew up in poverty in a two-room basement. Her father was a dustman and she left school at 14, whereupon she worked as a French polisher and became a trade union activist.
In 1923 she entered a Convent of the Order of Poor Clares in London, becoming Sister Mary Francis of the Five Wounds, where she helped the poor before dying of tuberculosis in 1925. She now lies in rest in her home parish of St Patrick’s in the Cowgate.
“Margaret Sinclair is a wonderful example of an ordinary Scottish woman, close to our time, who lived the Gospel in the everyday, in a poor family home in Edinburgh, at school, in St Patrick’s parish, the word of industry and into the convent,” said Mgr Smith.
In 1978 Pope Paul VI declared Margaret Sinclair to be “Venerable”. If the Catholic Church now authenticates Mgr Smith’s cure to be truly miraculous it could pave the way for Margaret to become “Blessed”, just one step away from sainthood which would, normally, require a further miracle.
“Firstly, I am delighted to learn of Mgr Smith’s dramatically improved health and assure him of my continued prayers in his ongoing battle with cancer,” said Archbishop Leo Cushley, “potentially, though, this could be a major landmark in the bid to beatify Margaret Sinclair, a great contemporary witness to the desirability and possibility of daily holiness.”