Margaret Clitherow, born in Yorkshire, England, was the wife of John Clitherow, whose family was Catholic, although he had taken on the state religion of England long before he married. Two or three years after her marriage, Margaret became a Catholic. Her home became a stopping-off place for priests, and Mass was offered secretly there.
Her husband went along with her interests, even when she sent their oldest son to Douai, in France, to be educated. Not only was she devout, she was also a zealous promoter of the faith, converting others and bringing back backsliders to the practice of their religion. Meanwhile, the laws against the Catholic faith became more harsh, and the. government was determined that Catholicism should be stamped out in Yorkshire where it was especially strong.
Everyone loved St. Margaret Clitherow, and even her servants knew that she hid fugitive priests, but no one betrayed her. She was a good housewife, capable in business, dearly loved by her husband, whose only regret was that she would not attend church with him. Her husband was summoned by the authorities to explain why his oldest son had gone abroad, and the Clitherow house was searched. A Flemish boy, from fear, revealed the hiding place of the priests where chalices and vestments were kept. Margaret was arrested along with a neighboring housewife who had attended Mass at the Clitherow home. Margaret's only concern was that her family was safe.
She was brought to trial and would not plead, her only statement being, "Having made no offense, I need no trial." If she had been tried, her family would have been called as witnesses against her, and she was determined that this would not happen. Reluctantly, the judge sentenced her to be "pressed to death," a bizarre death sentence in which the condemned was placed under a door (or similar object) and rocks piled on the door until the person was crushed to death.
Margaret died on March 25, 1586, her last words being, "Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy on me!" She was only thirty years old and was canonized in 1970.