Feastday of St. Mary Magdalene

[From: St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, Seventh Mansions, Ch. 4]

“I assure you, sisters, that that better part came to her only after sore trials and great mortification – even to see her Master so much hated must have been an intolerable trial to her.  And how many such trials did she not endure later, after the Lord’s death!

I think myself that the reason she was not granted martyrdom was that she had already undergone it through witnessing the Lord’s death.  The later years of her life, too, during which she was absent from Him, would have been years of terrible torment; so she was not always enjoying the delights of contemplation at the Lord’s feet.” 

The life of St. Mary Magdalene portrays two very different contemplative experiences of being “at the Lord’s feet”.  We desire one, and accept it with joy and gratitude.  But the other? 


15 thoughts on “Feastday of St. Mary Magdalene

  1. I don’t recall when I fell in love with this holy lady, but it must’ve been around the time of my dear reversion, for I long had the name “Madeline” picked out in her honour, if ever I remarried and had more children, which did indeed happen–my Maddi happened 22 years and 11 mos. ago. Plus, she lived in a cave, too. 😉 I do recall apprenticing myself to St. Mary Magdalen, so as to learn love. Actually, I can’t help wondering if the saints, rather, pick us to help. Oh, we’re in for many astounding surprises, aren’t we?

    I have always loved July 22. If it couldn’t be granted that my mom pass on Kateri’s own day, I’d asked if she could be led Home just about a week later, by the Magdalen. There’s another grace. He left me my Magdalen’s day for solace. It was indeed.

    Indeed, she must’ve undergone a white martyrdom, there at His feet, with His heartbroken Mother. Thank you so much for mentioning her to us.

  2. I always like the fact she was first to see the Risen Lord. And that last question is a very thought-provoking one, Gabrielle, sometimes best answered in the heart.

  3. C, yes I knew she had a special place in your heart from some of your posts in the past, and you in hers, I’ve no doubt. I’ve been discovering much about her that one doesn’t find in the usual material, from “Mary Magdalen In the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich” which I purchased a couple of years ago. Of course they are details from just one mystic, but nevertheless, certainly a very interesting read.

    Ann, probably only truly answered in the heart…

  4. Gabrielle,

    I’m really glad you chose to include this excerpt today, and the question you chose to pose was perfectly framed. Sometimes Mary Magdalene can be a difficult figure to ‘grapple’ with–simply because she encapsulates every facet of Christian life. She represents the fact that we are called upon to partake, in some portion, not only of Christ’s own glory, but also of His suffering. We have to be willing to be equal partners in both-I think that is what her love for Him ultimately teaches us.

    Thank you for visiting my blog, I left a reply to your comment.


  5. Erin, I agree totally about Mary Magdalene encapsulating every facet of Christian/contemplative life, and also of how she portrays to us the necessity of entering into fully both the times of sweet contemplation and the Passion. She has so much to teach us about truly living in union with the Lord. I’ll be over to visit soon.

  6. Thanks for reminding me, Pia. Yes, I should, for themselves (the visions) and also I’d like to see if they agree in essence with Anne Catherine Emmerich’s.

  7. Well..I don’t know how else to say it, but Rome is decidedly and definitively unfond of Valtorta’s volumes, and advises against reading them upon pain of thumbscrews (or something). I don’t know about Anne Catherine definitively–her cause is not put forward,right? (all I know is that the Trads have grabbed her up–and if she, since Gibson based his movie on her visions– is why the Beloved Disciple was made to look and act so gay, then I won’t be rereading her); but anyway, as a formerly orthodox friend always said, “Take the meat and leave the bones.” Wherever I encounter hatred-spurring for Jews, or anything that questions Jesus’ 100% purity or heterosexuality, or that of His Apostles and closest women friends–or anything that strays far from Sacred Scripture and Tradition, well, those are the bones I leave and I might just leave the meat, too, because we also are called to protect the deposit of faith, not only for ourselves, but for others. I realize this is a contemplative blog, but you know I had to say all that. Well, most of it.

  8. Carol, Maria Valtorta’s works have undergone intense scrutiny for several decades. If you’re interested in reading how it progressed, here’s a site:
    It’s gone from, in 1948, “restrained with severe prohibition” all the way to, in 1992, “does not contain errors, is not censurable, and may thus be reprinted just as it is, and that reading it is not harmful even for the least prepared of the faithful” and “the decision to allow all Catholics to read Maria Valtorta’s work on the same terms as any other worthwhile publications”.

    Re Anne Catherine Emmerich, yes, her cause has long been underway. She has passed “Servant of God” and “Venerable”, and is now “Blessed”. If you found Jesus to be portrayed as effeminate in the movie, I imagine it has more to do with the producer/director than Anne Catherine Emmerich.

    Re your comment about encountering “hatred-spurring of Jews”, I think we cannot just pick and choose whom we are going to condemn for this, i.e., certain mystics and not the rest of the faithful. We must remember that their understanding was certainly limited, to say the least, and it was the Catholic Church herself who was promoting anti-semetic behaviour for centuries. It was only our good John Paul II who had the courage to apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church to our Jewish brothers and sisters after centuries of the Church engendering hatred towards the Jews. Even our beloved St. Teresa of Avila used words such as “murderous Jews” (or something similar, in Interior Castle, if I remember correctly). And she herself was of Jewish ancestry; her grandfather was Jewish and converted to Catholicism out of fear, which fact she had to keep quiet during the inquisition).

    Re Trads, Orthodox, contemplatives, mystics… We are continually called to discern. Personally, I would not arbitrarily disregard or dismiss any saint and/or mystic just because the Trads liked him/her.

  9. Thanks Gab, for explaining the situation with Maria Valtorta. When her spritual director (and the Lord in her visions) made it known that her writings (how she wrote thousands of pages of text while bed ridden and suffering from a number of terrible illnesses, is a mystery in itself), she insisted that she didn’t want any form of publicity or otherwise and that if the volumes were to be made available to the faithful, it would have to be the work of the Lord himself. She wanted no fame, just oblivion, and she got it: for the last ten years of her life, after the volumes had been completed, she was in an almost catatonic state, she spoke no more (though she could), and was, supposedly immersed totally in contemplation of her Lord and Savior.
    The editor and publisher is an old friend of the family who has a little publishing house and who has witnessed the amazing story of how these books were first passed along from friend to friend, and then translated into many, many languages, in an amazing exponential growth. The publishing house lives on these publications alone, with prices that are absolutely ridiculous, considering the encyclopedic job they had to do in putting it together. The Lord seems to have taken her to her word, but He’s kept His, too.

    Other than that, all I can say is that this series of books, together with her autobiography and the collection of notebooks (thousands and thousands of pages) were the most important stepping stone to my re-version story. I am not concerned with whether or not her description of Mary Magdalene (who she states had long flowing blonde locks) is the same as anyone elses, or having a morbid curiosity about what Jesus looked like, but rather that her writings gave me the impetus to really change my life and my way of living my faith.
    I wouldn’t be frequenting this or anyone else’s Catholic blogs if I hadn’t read Maria Valtorta’s work. And I’d be missing out on a lot of things. Grazie, Maria!

  10. As best I can determine via those who have looked into it all very deeply, Valtorta has been definitively denounced. Pia, I have not read her — is it true that she paints Jesus as a homosexual? I have returned to the Lord through various unorthodox readings myself — have I not mentioned the value I gleaned even from “Women Who Run With the Wolves”? That helped set the base for delivering me to where I can see what Love really is, as did Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart,” and I have grown closer to Him from many other books and movies as well as from personal events in life..and infused prayer. But when we speak publicly, it’s where we ultimately point that matters, and maybe I’m delusional, but I worry if even we might mislead. To put a fine point on it, and perhaps too dramatically, Hitler was a Catholic, too. We see where his dependence upon his non-privately held opinions took us.

    We lose no grace if we simply do what John suggests, which is to not add anything to Scripture — which is the problem with some apparitions, visions, etc. I don’t want to put anyone on the defensive, but as a Catholic, I need the Nihil Obstat, I need the Imprimatur of the Church. I don’t know much and I surely can’t fathom things on my own, and even with the best of intentions and in grateful, true humility, surely I can and do put my own spin on little things–perhaps some of which may not be from Him at all. This is the beauty of having theologians and Magisterium etc. The only thing that is infallible is dogma.

    Gab, to clarify, it was John who appeared to be quite gay in Mel Gibson’s movie –I’m surprised others didn’t pick up on that. By default, that casts aspersions on Jesus, too, because this is “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” If that aspersion is something that came from A.C.E. via Mel’s Sedevacatism, then my semi-spurning her based on that has nothing to do with Trads (who ought to know better). As a matter of fact, Mel deviated from his father’s own hatreds and judgmentalism against the Jews in this movie. Many of her visions are astoundingly powerful food for thought.. it is nonetheless possible, however, that not all her data is accurate.

  11. and that goes for St. Josemaria Escriva, too — he is declared a saint, which I may not understand/agree with (but moreso, the prelature of Opus Dei), but which I accept. I accept, but I do not live per Josemaria’s every word, or there wouldn’t be the least bit of free will in my faith. Saints point to God; they are not God. The Church tells me I can safely hold to what he says, tho’, and I am bound to honor him as saint. By the same token, those who Rome declared definitively to be writers only, and not true seers, are not to have our spiritual credence, no matter what fruit seems to have come from it. One small portion about the denouncing of Poem of the Man-God, which is more widely the case than from a quick search and a handful of religious

    “Rome condemned the books in 1949, 1959, 1960,1985, twice in 1993. What more do people want?” Taken from an url I will put spaces in, should anyone want to read the whole thing:
    http: // jloughnan.tripod.com /valtmedj. htm

  12. Well, not having read Valtorta’s works myself yet (just bits here and there) I cannot give a personal opinion or discernment in the matter, but I think to be fair you would have to agree that it is far more than a “handful” of religious who support her works – numerous bishops and other clergy, Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, St. Padre Pio, to name a few. And it should be made clear also that her works have never been censured or banned by the Vatican for any doctrinal or moral error. So I suppose, as with the writings of Saint Faustina which were also banned for several decades, it may be a case of “time will tell”…

  13. Her writings were not merely pooh-poohed, they were quite seriously, consistently, and very publicly denounced as heretical as well as scandalous time and again –from 1946 through to at least 1993–by Rome, including by John XXIII and also Cardinal Ratzinger. It’s not as if she is one who rests just on the line of it all, and I’ve never seen a word from any of the above-mentioned saints in favor of her writings. If someone consistently outrages Rome, then for me, time has already told about that one. And I no more enjoy being the Mystic Police than I enjoy being run over by small Jeeps, but I’d seen her name 3 times this week, and I would not have anyone rushing to read her as someone who has an inside scoop. It’s not right, and I’m sorry to have had to say so, and wish to God others would’ve done so.

  14. I beg to differ with you, Carol. First of all, there are many important theologians, venerables, and saints who have supported the writings; and admittedly there are many who are against them. As Gab says, only time will tell. I will never renounce having read those books; I still read excerpts from them from time to time when the mood strikes me. They have often given greater depth to my reading of the Gospel, as much as any other commentary on the Gospel has through the years. They have enriched my spiritual life and have clarified many false ideas I had about my faith. The Church says that we should not consider these writings of a supernatural origin, but they can be read. So I don’t read them as supernaturally generated writings.

    Secondly, Maria Valtorta does not portray a gay Jesus or John, any more than the Gospel does. Whoever sustains that apparently has no inkling of how affection is manifested within the Mediterranean cultures, both mid-eastern and western. If you come to Italy or Spain, you will see girls taking walks in parks, hugging, walking hand in hand, even kissing each other. They are no more gay than I am. Even men walk arm in arm, though a bit less over the past few years, since “homophobic” cultural mores have taken over and influenced the way people display their deep friendships.

    It seems to me that the Gospel speaks clearly and it is no metaphor:

    23There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.

    24So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.”

    25He,leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13: 23-25)

    That “sounds” pretty “gay”, doesn’t it? Maria Valtorta explains very clearly the reason for all this reclining and leaning on bosoms and it has nothing to do with homosexuality. Only a question of traditions and habits of the Jewish population at that time.

    Writers or “seers” from the past had no idea of how we, 21st century “modern” folks would have interpreted things that for them were perfectly normal and pristine.

    Why is it that we have to witness such a sad loss of “innocence”? It seems practically impossible to take something for what it is, with simple hearts, rather than judge them for how we think it’s supposed to be, according to rules that are made by very fallible human beings; rules that change on whim, depending on what is to be condemned, without looking at the heart. This troubles me deeply.

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