Acta Sanctorum: St. Mary Magdalene de'Pazzi (May 25)
May 25, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.


May 25
St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi

Life (1566-1607)

Fewer women than men have been canonized, but God has asked more sufferings of women saints, and they seem to have been recipients of richer mystical graces.

In selecting saints for this column, I have often wondered whether the readers can make any sense out of the visions, ecstasies and strange ailments of the mystics, so different they are from the experiences of the average Catholic. But I have decided that it is important for us to realize that Christ does call some – women in particular – to be “victim souls,” and to share his passion in a particular way.

Caterina de Gari de’Pazzi came from an old noble family of Florence, which had its share of leaders and villains. Perhaps God wanted her to be extraordinarily holy so as to offset the sins of her family and her contemporaries.

Caterina was interested in religion from early childhood. She experienced her first ecstasy (that is, a losing consciousness of all but God) when she was only twelve, and in her mother’s very presence. From that time on, her mystical experiences were many and varied.

At sixteen, Caterina entered the Carmelite convent despite familial opposition. She took the religious name Mary Magdalen. In 1584, aged 18, and still a novice, she was stricken with what seemed to be a terminal disease. They carried her into the chapel to make her religious profession before she died. When she had taken her vows, however, she experienced a violent ecstasy in which her heart, which she had already given to God, was “given back” to her, Jesus having chosen her as his mystical bride.

After that, Sister Mary Magdalen’s life was one long litany of ecstasies on a daily basis. They came even when she tried to escape them. She received the stigmata; she was crowned with the crown of thorns; she had visions of the passion; she was given the ring of the mystical marriage with Christ.

In May 1585, the Holy Spirit instructed her to live on bread and water every day but Sunday in reparation for people’s sins. Her spiritual director, fearing that this was an illusion, told her to follow the usual convent diet. When she did, however, it made her sick, so she returned to bread and water. The Spirit also instructed her to reduce her sleep to five hours. Finally, she was for long periods deprived, not of grace, but of the awareness of grace. This became a “desert experience” of great spiritual dryness and temptation, even to despair and suicide. But at last she laid the knife of self-slaughter at the foot of Our Lady’s statue. God, who “had forsaken her,” made her once more aware of his presence.

Meanwhile, Sister Mary Magdalen was living the normal community life. She was appointed mistress of novices in 1598 and sub-prioress in 1604. In her own spiritual talks to the nuns, she praised highly the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul, removing anything that separates it from total union with Jesus. “Come,” she prayed to the Spirit, “consume in us whatever prevents us from being consumed in you!”

Marveling at her extraordinary ecstasies and sufferings, all firmly documented, her biographer reached the conclusion that her life story was “almost incredible.” Of few other saints, he added, could it be said that she “made up for what was wanting in the sufferings of Christ.”

Why, then, does God impose such pains on victim souls like St. Mary Magdalen de’Pazzi? I think it is to remind the rest of us that every sin we commit, whether public or private, inevitably imposes grave pain on other innocent people whom we would normally not dream of hurting.

I can think of few better deterrents than this to avoiding sin – the thought that my sins wound both God and neighbor.

--Father Robert F. McNamara

Scripture 1 Cor. 7:25-35
About remaining celibate, I have no directions from the Lord but give my own opinion as one who, by the Lord’s mercy, has stayed faithful. Well then, I believe that in these present times of stress this is right: that it is good for a man to stay as he is. If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom; if you are free of a wife, then do not look for one. But if you marry, it is no sin, and it is not a sin for a young girl to get married. They will have their troubles, though, in their married life, and I should like to spare you that.
  Brothers, this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.
  I would like to see you free from all worry. An unmarried man can devote himself to the Lord’s affairs, all he need worry about is pleasing the Lord; but a married man has to bother about the world’s affairs and devote himself to pleasing his wife: he is torn two ways. In the same way an unmarried woman, like a young girl, can devote herself to the Lord’s affairs; all she need worry about is being holy in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has to worry about the world’s affairs and devote herself to pleasing her husband. I say this only to help you, not to put a halter round your necks, but simply to make sure that everything is as it should be, and that you give your undivided attention to the Lord.
(Year A) Your wisdom, O Word, is like the bush you showed to Moses, which burned, but was not consumed…Those who seek and go after the wisdom that is human abhor your wisdom, but to God human wisdom is foolishness….In addition, by abhorring your wisdom, they deny themselves union with you, for by offending you they deprive themselves both of you and of it….What do you do, O wisdom of my Word? You raise up the soul and you submerge it in the depths: you erect and tear down every building; always weeping and singing, watching and sleeping, walking and never moving – you are wisdom, containing in yourself every treasure and remaining far from foolishness… And how is this wisdom acquired? It is acquired by an enlightened understanding of God’s being, by continual affection and desire for God in God. Those who have reached this point have acquired the pleasure of wisdom. Those who savour it, taste it; and those who know nothing, understand it. Oh, why do we not pursue this wisdom continually without ever stopping?
Musical Selection
Jesu corona virginum,
quem mater illa concipit
quæ sola virgo parturit,
hæc vota clemens accipe.
Qui pascis inter lilia,
septus choreis virginum,
sponsus decorus gloria,
sponsisque reddens præmia.
Quocumque pergis, virgines
sequuntur, atque laudibus
post te canentes cursitant
hymnosque dulces personant.
Te deprecamur largius,
nostris adauge sensibus
nescire prorsus omnia,
corruptionis vulnera.
Virtus, honor, laus, gloria,
Deo Patri cum [et] Filio,
Sancto simul Paraclito
In sæculorum sæcula. Amen.
Jesus, crown of virgins,
whom that mother bore
who alone gave birth as a virgin,
merciful, receive these prayers.
You feed among the lilies,
surrounded by choir of virgins,
a bridegroom beautiful with glory
and giving rewards to his brides.
Wherever you go, virgins
follow, and with praises
they hurry after you singing,
and they make sweet hymns resound.
We pray you to you most abundantly:
strengthen our senses
not to know in the least all
the wounds of corruption.
Praise, honour, virtue, glory
to God the Father, and to [and with] the Son,
together with the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever. Amen.
Lord God, lover of virginity,
you filled the heart of Saint Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi
with the fire of your love
and adorned her with gifts from heaven;
grant that we who honour her today
may follow her example of purity and love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.  Amen.