An Edinburgh pensioner is asking for people to make a pilgrimage to the city next month to pray for the beatification of her godmother, the Venerable Margaret Sinclair.
“I pray I’m spared to see that day that Margaret is declared blessed by the Pope – I would love to see that day and would ask everybody to pray that it happens soon,” said 95-year-old Norah Smith. “Margaret is with me every day. I pray to her every day. She’s part of my life. I’m so blessed to have her as my godmother.”
Mrs Smith made her comments as she was joined in her Edinburgh home by Archbishop Leo Cushley to promote the annual Margaret Sinclair pilgrimage that will take place on the afternoon of Sunday 20 September at St Patrick’s Church in Edinburgh’s Cowgate, the resting place of Venerable Margaret herself. It was also where Norah Smith was baptised in 1920.
“Our family were neighbours with the Sinclairs at 13 Blackfriars Street in the Cowgate,” explained Mrs Smith. “When I was born, Mrs Sinclair came to visit my mother to say that she had two daughters who would make wonderful godmothers – Margaret and her sister Bella. My mother chose Margaret.”
Three years later, Margaret Sinclair entered a Convent of the Order of Poor Clares in London. There she brought relief to the poor of that city for a short time before she died of tuberculosis in 1925. She was declared “Venerable” by the Catholic Church in 1978 – two steps away from sainthood. Among Mrs Smith’s most treasured possessions are her christening shawl from 1920, a crucifix given to her family by Margaret Sinclair upon departure for London and a Christmas card sent “to my dear godchild” from Margaret’s convent.
“The September pilgrimage is a great opportunity to gather, to worship and to celebrate the life of someone who was special and who was known to be special within days and weeks after her death in 1925,” said Archbishop Cushley. “There was an instant understanding among the people of God that here was an extraordinary person – it’s now time for our generation to rediscover that.”
The pilgrimage will begin at 2pm with a Holy Hour and will conclude with Holy Mass at 4.30pm. The principle celebrant will be Archbishop Leo Cushley. The homilist will be Fr Joe McAuley, the archbishop’s delegate for Venerable Margaret’s Cause.
The Venerable Margaret Sinclair was born in Cowgate in Edinburgh’s Old Town in 1900, one of six children who grew up in poverty in a two-room basement. Her father was dustman and she left school at 14, where she worked as a French polisher and became a trade union activist.
In 1923 the Venerable Margaret 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.
During his time 1982 visit to Scotland, Pope St John Paul II stated that “Margaret could well be described as one of God’s little ones, who through her very simplicity, was touched by God with the strength of real holiness of life, whether as a child, a young woman, an apprentice, a factory worker, a member of a trade union or a professed sister of religion”.