St Anthony Mary Claret had a special devotion to the holy women who despite living in the cloister, exhibited zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls which burned in their hearts. One was St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi, whose memory we celebrate today.
This great and holy woman was born in Florence, Italy on April 2, 1566, from a noble family. As a child, she had a special connection with the supernatural life. After her First Communion, she forever surrendered herself to the Lord with a virginity pledge.
On December 1, 1582, she entered the Carmelite community of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence. Soon, a mysterious illness which was declared incurable, caused her to advance her career. She was cured on July 16, 1584, and began an intense mystical period to become one of the greatest mystic, ecstatic and stigmatized of all time.
Like Catherine of Siena, she felt moved to write to the Pope and many other ecclesiastical leaders to carry out the renewal of the Church and particularly the religious communities.
Five books dictated by this Saint retains her major revelations and doctrine: The Forty Days; The Symposia; The Revelations and Intelligences; Testing and Renewal of the Church as well as various reflections, commentaries and family letters.
Magdalene lived a difficult life and continually experienced martyrdom for others, and the Church which she loved passionately. Because love is pain, she offered herself as a victim of love for sinners launching the cry: Suffer and don’t die.
The illness made her suffer intensely the last three years of her life. On May 13, 1607, Magdalena received the Sacrament of Anointing. At two in the afternoon of Friday, May 25, she died. At the foot of her bed, her Religious sisters prayed the Creed of St. Athanasius. Within two decades, Pope Urban VIII proclaimed her Blessed. In 1669, Pope Clement IX included her name in the catalogue of saints. Her body remained uncorrupted and many people come in pilgrimages to Florence.
This great woman was born in Florence on April 2, 1566, from a noble family. She was baptized the day after her birth and she was given the name Catherine. As a child she experienced a special feeling for the supernatural life and was attracted to intimate conversations with God. She received an enlightened religious formation as an intern at the Monastery of the Ladies of St. Giovannino. She received her First Communion shortly before turning ten years and a few days later surrendered herself to the Lord forever with a promise of virginity. Soon it will start an exodus of various mystical experiences that will last a lifetime and give her the name of ecstatic.
On August 14, 1582, she lived for fifteen days in the Carmelite monastery of St. Mary of the Angels, to learn the Rule and see if that would satisfy her inclination. The experience filled her innermost desires and decided to enter there. This undoubtedly also it motivated the privilege given to the Carmelites, at that time and with exceptional concession, to communicate daily. On December 1, 1582, Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent, Catalina (?) would move on and became part of that Carmelite community of St. Mary of the Angels. Her desire to be more like “her crucified Husband” was pleasing and she made the decision to leave the world and enter the Carmelite’s where she received the habit of the community and the name Sister Maria Magdalena in 1583.
The following year she manifested a mysterious illness that doctors declared incurable. Her Superiors decided that she should make religious profession soon. This took place on May 27, feast of the Holy Trinity. Magdalena, led the chorus, proclaiming forever before the Lord her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience on a stretcher before the altar of the Virgin. Thus he began her career as a professed Carmelite given to prayer and life of penance. She was cured on July 16, 1584.
From the time of the onset of the illness she experience an an intense mystical period, which preceded the fame of the young religious. It was mystical experiences linked to the reception of Holy Communion, which lasted for several hours. She also spent long years of interior purification, of great trials and temptations. In this context, she framed her ardent commitment for the renewal of the Church.
The story of the May 3, 1592, when she assigned the office of sacristan, in one of her mystical raptures, she ran throughout the monastery ringing the bell, calling her sisters with the cry: ‘Come to love He who is Love! “. The cry of this great mystique still make her voice heard throughout the Church, spreading the announcement of God’s love for every human creature.
Like Catherine of Siena, she feels compelled to write letters to ask the Pope, Cardinals of the Curia, to her Archbishop and other ecclesiastical leaders for a strong commitment to the renewal of the Church, as it states in the title of one of her manuscripts that containd them. It was twelve letters which she dictated in ecstasy, perhaps never sent, but which remain as a testimony to her passion for the Word of the Bride, the Church. Such was her commitment to the arduous task of renewal of the Church and particularly of Religious.
Her ordeal ended at Pentecost 1590; She could then devote all her energy to the service of the community, in particular the formation of Novices.
St. Mary Magdalene wrote nothing on her own initiative, but was obligated by obedience to write down as things happened spiritually. So these were collected, she dictated the most intimate secrets. Five books contain the main revelations and Doctrine Magdalena: Los Forty days, Symposia, The revelations and intelligences The Test and Renewal of the Church also with several warnings, judgments and family letters. All contain sublime concepts abounded with intense feelings, variety of symbols, prayers of supplication… sometimes leaving sentences unfinished.
This Carmelite virgin is one of the greatest mystic, ecstatic and stigmatic of all time. After nearly four centuries, her spiritual message remains current. All of it revolves around what constitutes the core of Christianity: God is love and love is God, perceived nucleus with extraordinary clarity and evidence. But the indifference and human ingratitude, the Saint could not help but let out a bitter continuous cry of pain “Love is not loved!”. Therefore her most absorbing concern was to make love to love.
Magdalene’s life was very difficult, as a continuous martyrdom for others, for the Church, which she loved passionately. Because love is pain, Magdalena’s entire life was the folly of the cross which she embraced, whose wounds drove printed on her body and made a sacrifice of love for sinners, launching ever heard her shout: “To suffer and not die.” Her zeal that knew no limits, would lead her to shout through the cloisters of her monastery in Florence “Souls, Lord; Give me souls.” Her great desire was reflected in this sentence: “My Jesus, give me a strong voice that the whole world would hear: our own love is that which infuses us with your knowledge … Self-love which is the opposite to yours, Lord … Love, let the creatures love nothing but you! “.
Her spirituality is connected with the Carmelite spirituality. Some pages of her works, especially those relating to the contemplation of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnate Word, deserve not only to count as select pieces in any anthology of Christian mystics, but also, as it has been written, in an excellent treatise of Theology.
Her illness made her suffer intensely the last three years of his life. On May 13, 1607, Magdalena received the Sacrament of Annointing. At two in the afternoon of Friday, May 25, she died. By her bed the Religious sisters prayed the Creed of St. Athanasius. Within two decades, Pope Urban VIII would proclaimed her Blessed. In 1669, Pope Clement IX included her in the catalogue of saints. Her body remained uncorrupted, thus there was a constant pilgrimage of faithful.
St Mary Magdalene of Pazzi remains a spiritual presence for the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance. Her doctrinal influence on spirituality and piety, especially in Italy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, has been remarkable. The most famous representative of this influence is perhaps St. Alphonsus Liguori, who frequently quotes her in his works.
In his Autobiography Claret dedicates paragraphs to the figure of St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi who stands as one of the inspiring models of missionary zeal. There were three closely linked points that occurred in the saint: her highest spiritual life, her zeal for the salvation of men and resolute fortitude to undertake the reform of the Church. It is a symbolic figure of living a love that refers to the essential mystical dimension of every Christian life, being a gift which every generation rediscovers: knowing how to communicate an ardent love for Christ and the Church.
The evangelizing spirit of Father Claret dazzled him above all her zeal. Therefore, it is clearly mentioned in his Autobiography with dense paragraphs of apostolic zeal. He said of St. Mary Magdalene: “It would be hard to find any apostolic man with a more burning zeal for the salvation of souls. She had a lively and most tender concern for their welfare, and it seemed to her that she had no love at all for the Lord unless everyone else love Him, too. On learning of the great strides that the faith was making in the Indies in her day, she would say that if her vocation allowed, she would travel throughout the world to save souls and would envy the birds their wings that she might fly about everywhere to accomplish the task”(Aut 259).
And then, speaking of those who are not Christians, she added: “If I could, I would gather them all together and bring them to the bosom of the Church, that She might purify them of all their infidelities and regenerate them as her children, drawing them to her loving heart and nourishing them with the milk of the holy sacraments” (Aut 260).
Later, the link between St. Terese of Jesus with St. Mary Magdalene, she writes that by her prayers “that many are now being saved through the prayers of good and fervent nuns. For this reason I have always been ready to preach retreats and sermons to nuns although my time has been too restricted to allow me to be their confessor, namely, that they might commend me to God in their prayers. Sometimes I would tell nuns that they must play the part of Moses on the mountain, while I played Joshua’s in the field of battle – they prayed and I wielding the sword of God’s word. Thus just as Joshua (cf. Ex 17:11) claimed victory through the prayers of Moses, so I would expect to claim it through the prayers of the nuns. And to urge them on to greater heights of prayer, I would tell them that we would share the merits of the victory”(Aut 263).
- DUBOIS, H., Practice of ecclesiastical zeal, Madrid 1864.
- Lopez-MELÚS, R. M., St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. His life and doctrine, Castellón 1991.
- Martinez, I., The Carmelites. Figures of Carmel, Madrid 1996.
- PUCCINI, V., The vita di Santa Maria Maddalena de Pazzi, Vergine, nobile Fiorentina, Venezia 1739.
- YUBERO, A., St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Ecstasy, love and renewal. Revelations and intelligences, Madrid 1999.