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Photo: Vision of Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, by Pedro de Moya (ca. 1640)
Who Was St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi?
By Melanie Williams (May 25, 2016)
May 25 is the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, a 16th century Carmelite mystic from Italy. Baptized Caterina, and affectionately known as "The Passion Flower of the Eucharist," St. Mary Magdalene was taught mental prayer, also known as meditation, at the tender age of nine, at the request of her mother. By age 10 she received her First Holy Communion and began experiencing mystical ecstasies. When one experiences ecstasy, one is so filled with the Divine Presence that the faculties of the soul (intellect, will, etc.) are "suspended" and one is utterly filled with the love of God that you might even fall unconscious.
Saint Mary Magdalene's first ecstasy happened at the sight of a beautiful sunset. She was so struck by the beauty of God's creation that she trembled and became speechless. Have you ever spent time just taking in the beauty of God's creation? Especially now that summer is set to begin, take time to put down the cell phone, shut off the television, and go outside and enjoy a gorgeous summer sunset. Take in the grandeur of God's creation, and find the Creator of Love in the simplest of things, or rather, let Him find you.
Soon after her first ecstasy and intimately encountering her Beloved, Mary Magdalene made a private vow of virginity to the Lord. When her parents wanted her to marry, as she was their only daughter, she revealed to them her vow to the Lord, and she soon entered a Carmelite monastery. Her great love and devotion to the Eucharist is what led her to enter the Carmel of St. Mary's of the Angels, who had a special dispensation to daily receive Communion, which was almost unheard of at the time. In her first ecstatic experience after entering, her sisters found her weeping before a crucifix and crying out, "O Love, you are neither known nor loved." She experienced within her soul the pain that her Beloved Jesus experiences from the rejection of so many souls on the earth. No doubt her tears, prayers, and penances brought consolation to the wounded heart of Jesus, and you too can console his heart by your prayers and penances. You may or may not have emotional experiences or ecstasies in this lifetime, but your meditation on His passion and your prayers and penances in reparation for those who reject His love can bring great consolation to His heart.
For the majority of her time as a religious, St. Mary Magdalene endured great physical suffering and illness. While experiencing excruciating suffering, our Lord consoled her with His overwhelming presence and love. Mary Magdalene was quite embarrassed by the attention this brought her. Some sisters ridiculed her, and some sisters wished they experienced ecstasy like her. She would say to those sisters that they should be thankful that they are strong enough to advance in holiness without the Lord Jesus having to give extra graces to keep them going. She was convinced of her misery and weakness because Jesus would grant her so many graces while in suffering. That being said, she also endured a five-year period of great dryness and severe temptations against purity and to suicide. She received visions of the souls in Purgatory during her time of purification and also received the sacred stigmata invisibly, as she begged the Lord to keep it hidden. What is at the heart of this lesson is being thankful for whatever season you are in with the Lord in your life. Whether in a time of great consolation or desolation, the key is to persevere in prayer and penance, in gratitude for God and always seeking His will.
Lastly, St. Mary Magdalene was known to have playful, bantering tones with Jesus. One account given was that of Jesus offering her a crown of thorns and a crown of flowers. She always insisted on the crown of thorns, desiring to suffer for Jesus, but He would always insist on giving her the crown of flowers. When He admonished her, "I called and you didn't care," she came back with, "You didn't call loudly enough" and told the Lord to shout His love. I would encourage those of you reading this to grow in your personal relationship with Jesus. Talk with Him throughout your day, make Him your best of friends, because He wants to be! Don't be afraid to "be real" with Him, to share your struggles and emotions, and also thank Him! Get to know Jesus, love Jesus, and ask for St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi's intercession so that her cry, "O Love, you are neither known nor loved," can be changed to, "You are known and loved!"