Margery Kempe grew up near England's "Downton Abbey'' country — but the real-life subject of Liz MacDonald's new biography laid a lot more on the line than did the pampered residents of the aristocratic Crawley family.
"Margery is the patron saint of gossip,'' McDonald, author of "Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe,"
said Monday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV
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"Margery said, I want to be gossiped about. I want to be slandered, I want to be impugned.''
Kempe grew up in a time when reading the Bible was against the law and there was a death penalty in place to stop heresy. Even Catholic priests were being burned alive.
But it didn't stop her from preaching the philosophy of Jesus Christ and baring her own soul — brave declarations that led to repeated arrests and the threat of death.
Born around 1373, Kempe would go on to write the world's first autobiography in English, "The Book of Margery Kempe,'' in which she told of her pilgrimages to holy sites in Europe and the Holy Land, and her conversations with God.
"Kempe was a daughter of a powerful mayor of one of England's most important trading ports, Bishop's Lynn, on the northeast part of England, near Downton Abbey country,'' MacDonald said.
"She said she had visions of talking to not just Jesus and the Blessed Mother, but some of the apostles, major saints, and also Lucifer.''
MacDonald, a reporter for the Fox Business Network, said she became interested in Kempe as she explored life before the death of Joan of Arc in France.
"I always wanted to know what was going on in England before Joan of Arc was executed,'' MacDonald said.
"We're coming up on the 600th anniversary of the death of Joan of Arc, and so it's really a period that people don't really understand or know a lot about.''
MacDonald's book is published by Franciscan Media.
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