Resting with Jesus

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Sometimes life can get very busy. Besides work, duties, vocal prayers that I need to finish somewhere in between, – it’s so easy to forget to just BE with Jesus.

Yet I think this is something so healing, and something that He really wishes for.

I have been thinking recently, what are the desires of His Heart.. Fears and anxieties can be very paralysing yet God doesn’t intend for us to live that way. Though we have crosses to carry, I believe He wants us to carry them with trust and abandonment to His Will, not stopping at resignation.

Yet sometimes, a mere effort of the will isn’t enough to receive this grace. We need to spend time with Jesus and let Him work in our hearts and help us to open up to Him. Time spent in mental prayer or Adoration can be a chance to just rest with Jesus and let the transforming radiance of His light and love permeate our souls. Is this not the meaning of contemplation – to forget all else except Jesus, look upon Him and love Him. I’m sure if we could see Him with our eyes, we would not ever want to look away!

What does Jesus want?

Often I want to give something beautiful to God. But in certain moments I feel I have nothing really to give. We can give Him that nothing… And one thing I’m beginning to realise is that in that moment, Jesus delights in GIVING to us.

Its a great mercy from God when He receives our little gifts. What must be the Mercy of His Heart when He simply gives to a soul who has nothing? In those times we feel we have only sins, failures and anxieties, but we no longer pretend.

And what’s even more amazing is that Jesus doesn’t only generously give to us, but inexpressibly DELIGHTS in that!

In those moments when He just wants us to forget all things and love Him (is His desire for every moment to be like that?) am I still clinging to my anxieties, attempts at vocal prayers, or trying to prove my worth to Him? Yes there is a time to give to Jesus, to prove our love. Yet even in this, we need Him, we need grace.

Maybe Jesus just wishes I would let go and not escape His embrace any longer. He wants a time of nothing but love between Him and my heart – a time that would allow Him to act freely.

As I consider that this is a time of great consolation and delight to Jesus, I wonder how much have I understood His Heart? How can it be that God would have such joy not just when we give to Him, but when He gives of Himself to our poor little souls? Do I ever delight with Him about my nothingness, or complain about it?

It astounds me to think that Jesus isn’t only the “beggar of love” as some have called Him. His humility is so deep that He begs TO love. It is rest to us, and to Him. And He knows that in our pride, distrust, or fear – we may still say no to this greatest and most free gift.

He desires your heart

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There is a picture of Jesus I have that I really love. As I was looking at it one day, I wondered – what is it in His expression that helps me to pray? As I looked more closely, I saw that there was great longing in His eyes. What does Jesus long for? I believe it is to love us and to be loved in return. As Jesus’ Heart is more loving and thus more sensitive than ours, He suffers greatly when His love is met with rejection or indifference – especially in the Blessed Sacrament; the Sacrament of His love, where He is often left alone.

It is when we begin seeing more of Jesus’ love for us that we begin to really love Him. His thirst to have all of our hearts rather than just a part, satisfies our desire to love as well. Each soul is called to an intimacy with Jesus that is interior, strong, and consuming. How beautiful life becomes when we fall in love with Our Lord. I believe He longs for this too, but how?

How do we turn our faith into such a close relationship? G.K. Chesterton once said something that may sound surprising: “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair”. If this is what Our Lord wants, how do we get there? I struggled with this question myself. I worried if I was being too bold with Jesus. I wondered – does He even want me to be that close? I am not a saint, far from it.

At first, our faith is something that is more theoretical. I think as we begin to pray and discover God more, we begin to know God by loving Him. Knowledge of Him becomes something deeper and it inflames the soul with love.

When we fear a close relationship with Jesus, perhaps sometimes it’s a fear of presumption, but I think it can often be a lack of trust. At the same time, the soul intensely wants to be loved by Jesus.

While I was wondering if Jesus would love me as much as I longed for, He loved me beyond all understanding. I forgot that Jesus wants to be one with each soul. He is jealous for our hearts and doesn’t want just partial intimacy with Him. Have we understood His Heart?

Have we understood how even little things we do for Him touch Him deeply? How attentive He is to our every thought, every heartbeat! If we only understand His love more, that would transform our relationship into something so beautiful. Each soul is unrepeatable. There will literally never be another like you, and you can give Jesus what no one else can. Your place in His Heart cannot be substituted by another. Let this bring you to total trust and confidence. Jesus already wants to love us more than we want to be loved, – we just need to let Him.

There is a beautiful poem by the Spanish Saint, St. John of the Cross. It is called the Spiritual Canticle and it is a loving dialogue between Christ and the soul as between a Bridegroom and bride. St. John also wrote a book explaining the meaning of his highly mystical poem. Each verse has some sort of hidden and very spiritual meaning. There are some verses in the poem that I believe show the level of closeness Jesus wants with souls:

“In the inner wine cellar / I drank of my Beloved, / and, when I went abroad through all this valley, / I no longer knew anything, / and lost the herd that I was following”.

St John describes this as the goal of spiritual growth, in which the inner wine cellar is the “most intimate degree of love” where Jesus infuses His own love into our souls. The soul forgets everything else, because Jesus becomes everything to it. If this is indeed the goal of holiness, then Jesus must very much want us to discover more of His love.

How do we even begin? Though I’m still learning, there are some ideas that I found helpful. I’m sure there are more.

  •  LET Him love you. Surrender any fear or distrust! Jesus wants your heart.
  •  Spent time with Him. Imagine an engaged couple: do they not rejoice to speak together?
  •  LET Him act. This can be hard. If while speaking to Jesus you find yourself recollected in His presence, just love Him back, open your soul and let Him do what He wishes. Be generous in responding to Him. We can never out-do Him in generosity! What do we get in return for our little efforts? His own Heart, the Heart of God.

One day as I was standing at a bus stop waiting to get home after work, I was struck by how ordinary I am and how extraordinary it is to know Jesus. As women we’re pressured to compare ourselves with others. Maybe by the standards of the world around us we all fall short. I looked at myself as another face in the crowd. Nothing extraordinary. But I realized that I’m happy, because Jesus is in my life. He can fill everything we need with Himself, and He can be who we need Him to be.

For Jesus, we are not a crowd. His gaze centers on each person. He sees YOU – as no one else sees you -and desires your heart. This relationship is not a theory, neither is it a shallow romantic notion. It is love shown through the Cross, stronger than death; a divine love that will not be content with anything but total union with the beloved.

(This article is also posted on the Made4More blog)

Blessed Dina Belanger

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Recently I was very blessed to visit the tomb of Blessed Dina Belanger.

She was a Sister, a Religious of Jesus and Mary, who lived in Quebec in the early 20th century. She was also a mystical soul who got to know many secrets of Jesus’ Heart to share with the world. Her feast day is September 4th. The relics of Blessed Dina are located in the chapel of the convent of the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Sillery. In addition there is a selection of old photographs and some of her things.

Jesus spoke to Blessed Dina about His love and especially His love for consecrated souls. I’d encourage anyone in the area to visit too and get to know about her. I also met some of the Sisters and was kindly given a little tour and some reading/devotional materials. Some more information about Blessed Dina is that she was a talented musician and played the piano. As a Sister, she gave music lessons to children. She was also a good student and a loving daughter to her parents. Most of all she had a great love for Jesus and said her mission is to beg Him for love for souls. Her mission still continues from Heaven. Blessed Dina, pray for us!

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To live of Love – St Therese of Lisieux

I am the way, the truth and the life - Saintin

I was struck today by the concepts in St Therese’s poem To Live of Love. It is a translation from the original French and it’s one of those times I wish I could read the original.

To love God so ardently! I will quote two stanzas – one of living for Love, and one of dying for Love.

“To live of love, ’tis by Thy life to live,

O glorious King, my chosen, sole Delight!

Hid in the Host, how often Thou dost give

Thyself to those who seek Thy radiant light.

Then hid shall be my life, unmarked, unknown,

That I may have Thee heart to heart with me;

For loving souls desire to be alone,

With love, and Thee!”

“To die of love, O martyrdom most blest!

For this I long, this is my heart’s desire;

My exile ends; I soon will be at rest.

Ye Cherubim, lend, lend to me your lyre!

O dart of Seraphim, O flame of love,

Consume me wholly; hear my ardent cry!

Jesu, make real my dream! Come Holy Dove!

Of love I die!”

(image credit: http://holycardheaven.blogspot.ca/

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The Story of St Gemma Galgani

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Last spring, one Sunday at Mass, I struggled with a feeling of great emptiness and distance from God. St John of the Cross writes that such things are either purifying trials, or the result of our own negligence in the faith. Though I definitely don’t have St John’s insight into distinguishing or understanding them, I guessed that it might be the second one. At least in my life, various attachments often come out of nowhere and try to compete with my love for God. This time, there were a couple major ones at once.

God’s will, and my will.. the whole point is to submit my will to His. It probably goes without saying that this is very difficult and mostly I fail at this. As I sat there in the pew and remembered all my struggles, my will was not submitted to Jesus and my heart was far away from the reality on the altar. I loved others more than Him. I couldn’t even get myself to open up to Him, that was beyond my power and needed grace. I felt like God is a divine Person that I worship on Sundays but the rest of the time, I live for myself. God showed me incredible mercy and kindness that day in helping me to open up to Him and to surrender my heart to Him once again.

There is one Saint that I often think of as having an undivided heart in her love for Christ. Her name is St. Gemma Galgani. When I first read about her, I was stricken by the beauty and sincerity of her prayers to Jesus – prayers of love. Then, I saw that her life was really very extraordinary – she was a mystic and a ‘victim soul’, she had the stigmata, prayed the Psalms with her Guardian Angel, and regularly experienced ecstasy and spoke with Jesus and the Blessed Mother. She lived in Italy and died in her 20s, after wanting to be a Passionist nun. On the surface, her life doesn’t have much in common with mine, which is quite ordinary. However I saw I had much to learn from her, including humility, and loving Jesus more totally and freely.

St. Gemma lived in the world but her heart was detached from everything except her Beloved, Jesus. It didn’t come automatically and she had to fight many battles to get there. She was detached to a heroic degree, yet extremely humble and thought she loved herself and other creatures more than Him. She practiced mortification during meals, gave away everything that was given to her that wasn’t strictly necessary, and refused any vanity or adornments through the advice of her Guardian Angel. Especially in our time and society that emphasizes personal comfort, her level of detachment might at first seem very extreme. However, such a total dedication to what God asked of her is a further incentive to value Christ’s will over the views of the world. God’s will is unique for each person, and each person’s mission is unrepeatable. St. Gemma was generous in following His will rather than her own, though this must have cost her much. Her detachment was an effort to cooperate with all the graces she was receiving to live according to her state of life. Though my efforts and virtues don’t nearly match those of St. Gemma, she has been a great inspiration to me to seek the virtue of fortitude.

St. Gemma didn’t deny all those things in a prideful way, but because she wanted her heart to be free to love Christ to the degree that He willed. The detachment brought her greater joy. For His love, she was ready for all, to show that Christ can truly be everything to us. She also stayed faithful to what God asked of her, which was consecrated life and a vow of chastity. Though she was very beautiful and many young men might have wanted to marry her, St. Gemma did not change her mind about her vocation. The responses from others that came with all her choices must have been difficult to bear, but she did so with perseverance and charity.

More than anything, St. Gemma’s life shows me that God is worthy of such love. It might not be easily comprehended by the world and at times of distraction, it becomes harder for me to accept. Yet though St. Gemma denied earthly comforts, the joy that Christ gave her was beyond anything that the world could offer. During the night, she eagerly awaited each Communion, when Jesus and her would be united. Especially in her prayers, it’s evident that her love wasn’t something abstract, only intellectual or conceptual – she loved Jesus in her choices and actions, and in all the affections of her heart, which were His alone. She spoke to Him as to her Beloved. St. Gemma was indeed a bride of Christ, because a bride is completely devoted to her Bridegroom and His concerns for souls become hers. She is willing to share in Jesus’ suffering to be like Him, and her prayers reflect His own desires. Though not all have an extraordinary life like St. Gemma, holiness consists in loving submission to God’s will and humility, and she is an amazing example of how God’s love can transform a soul. His love entered her heart so deeply that she gave her heart entirely to Him. Will we let His love be victorious in our hearts?

The world might ask “is it worth it?” Yet Jesus did not measure His love or give us only a part of His Heart. He gave everything for us – all His Blood, all His sufferings, and He gives His Heart entirely to us in the Blessed Sacrament. Day and night, He waits there for us, – waits to come into our little hearts and rest there. When He comes into our hearts – what will He find? Will He find it as a garden of weeds, full of attachments and distractions, will He have to share it with creatures and our self-love? Or, will it be like a garden of roses, filled with acts of love, and a longing for Him above all things? Jesus loves each person with His whole Heart – and desires the gift of an undivided heart. His love is so perfect, that it will not rest until we belong to Him completely.

Also posted at Made4More

(Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_seraphique_Gemma_Galgani_(HS85-10-31647).jpg)

St Philomena: a Princess and a Martyr

“If you stay faithful to Christ, you will lose everything”. This is the fear that can enter our hearts when we go through trials for our faith. The Christians being persecuted in Iraq and Syria have to make this choice daily, and for them the choice is losing their lives. Though my struggles are much less than theirs I think of the time when I first decided to become Catholic, knowing that I might lose friendships and suffer loneliness. This fear added a heavy burden to my conversion. As I continued, I realized that these are not one-time sacrifices, and that God calls us to continually put Him first in our hearts.

So often, the enemy comes in and whispers lies and exaggerations – “see, you will be miserable if you continue… you will be alone and you will never be happy…”. A compromise is suggested – maybe if I don’t do “so much”, I would lose less.. A doubt arises in the mind – where is God? Why is He letting me go through this? We turn to God and sometimes we feel He is silent, and we are left with only an image of the Cross. “..If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for My sake, shall find it” (Matthew 16:24, 25, D-R).

God’s thinking is not our thinking, and with Christ, loss is gain. The more we are purified in the fire of tribulation, the more our souls will be like Him, and even if we give up the whole world for Him, He is yet more generous. The life of St Philomena demonstrates this reality in an amazing way. She loved Christ to the point of heroism, and she has been a great encouragement to me to seek greater purity and God’s Will.

I tried to imagine what it must have been like for this Greek princess, the only daughter of Christian parents. Her sacrifice was her life, and what is to the world a successful marriage – a marriage to an Emperor. In her thirteenth year, she was pressured to accept the marriage proposal from Diocletian. Yet for St Philomena, this offer was impossible to accept, as she had vowed her virginity to Christ. She chose her Heavenly Spouse over an earthly spouse. I sometimes wonder what it was like for her… either you become a great Empress, avoid an unjust war with your country, ensure the prosperity of your family, and live surrounded by comforts and riches… or, you choose Christ, and face the wrath of the Emperor, the disappointment of your family, and even death. I can’t imagine the difficulty of her situation as her parents cried for her to take pity on her family, her country, and her kingdom. Are we ready to choose Christ above all? Trust becomes the only remedy.

As young women, we are often pressured to give in to worldly standards and face ridicule for the degree of purity asked for by Christ. This can be ridicule for the virtue of purity or modesty for married or unmarried women, or the choice of celibacy for consecrated women. Whether it’s from friends or even the media, this pressure often tries to get us to lessen our purity by degrees – a little here, a little there… and then our hearts forget the love of Christ and become distracted and confused. St Philomena rejected the Emperor’s invitation right from the start, and said, – no, I have another Love. For her, virginity was worth more than the gold and jewels of an Empress, because it is the priceless adornment of the soul. Our purity is more valuable than the world’s promises or even requests from those we love, as painful as the sacrifice may be. Through joyful purity we imitate Jesus, and show Him to be our greatest love.

As nothing moved St Philomena’s resolution, the Emperor moved to threats and then ordered her to be thrown into the dungeon. As she was tortured, she received strength from God by recommending herself continually to Jesus and to the Blessed Mother, who appeared to her and gave her courage. St Philomena underwent more tortures at the age of 13 than I could imagine enduring. She was scourged, tied to an anchor and thrown into the Tiber, and pierced with arrows. Each time, she was rescued by Angels and miraculously healed, and many were converted through her example. In the end, the Emperor ordered to have her beheaded.

St Philomena’s story was unknown when her relics were discovered in 1802. We know her story because it was miraculously revealed to three people, unknown to each other. We can read it in her words. After her relics were discovered, she became known as the “Wonder Worker” because of the amount of miracles and healings that occurred with her intercession. Her story does not end, but continues with the words: “My soul, glorious and triumphant, ascended into heaven, there to receive the crown of virginity which I had merited by so many victories.” Then, she gives the date when this happened – August 10th.

Most of us are not faced with the choice to give our lives for Christ. Some are called to vow chastity to Him like St Philomena, and all are called to purity and holiness. Yet St Philomena’s story shows us that God gives us strength to overcome all things for Him. There is nothing to fear in following Christ, not because we won’t have to suffer or sacrifice, but because God will give us what we need. Bearing the pain with love and resolution can add a certain joy, and through the cross we become more like our King. The same God who gave such courage to St Philomena, is with us now and always, and crosses carried with love for Him, become less difficult.

Also posted at Made4More

St Therese’s little way – part 2

One of the most beautiful things about St Therese’s spirituality is her trust in God. Though we know we should trust God, often I found it difficult to open my heart enough to do this. St Therese’s “little way” can help to love our littleness by allowing us to let go of fears and hidden pride. The smaller (and more trusting) we become, the more freedom we give to Jesus to do His work in us, without hindering Him. The problem is not at all our weakness, but lack of confidence in His power and mercy. It took me a while to just let Him love me.

One day, I came across a very beautiful book called “Way of Divine Love”, which contains the words of Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez. Jesus said, “Why fear? The more miseries I find in you, the more love you will find in Me”. Such words of comfort for any “little soul”! God loves us not despite our weaknesses, but because of them! His Sacred Heart is tenderly moved to pity when He considers our weakness. Yes we are so weak, so unable to love Him perfectly, to practice virtue, to pray without distractions, and to love others in the way we should. Even when we make good intentions, we have difficulty living them out and persevering through trials. Yet instead of this making Him angry, He looks at us with even more mercy and love that heals our hearts in the deepest, most truest way. Our souls crave to be loved, and understood… Who can understand us better than the One who made us, who hears our every hidden thought, every heartbeat, and not stopping at our sinfulness, wishes to embrace us closer to Himself? If we ever waited for true love, He is the one we have awaited.

Was I afraid that Jesus would love me less if I let Him see my heart? All this broke down my defences and made me see the importance of gratitude for my everyday weaknesses and unwanted faults. With them, we can stop pretending that we are strong, let go, and turn to Jesus as our only strength. Then, we would allow Him to live in us and through us. With St Paul, we can rejoice in our infirmities. Jesus spoke about us as His sheep, and said that we should become like little children. What is more helpless than a sheep? Sheep get lost without guidance and left to their own they can easily become the prey of wolves. As little sheep, we can rest safely in the arms of Jesus, our gentle Shepherd, and offer Him our little efforts just as they are. We can close our eyes and trust that He Himself will take us where He wants. He alone has enough power and love to do it, and it is not important that our own steps are imperfect.

Also posted at Made4More

St Therese’s little way

Since I was around thirteen, I have felt a pressure to succeed. Maybe each person feels this pressure in a different way. If I can describe the ideal young woman in the eyes of the world: she would be smart, outgoing, beautiful, fun, fashionable, popular, and successful in grades, finances, and career. She would never be single, at least not for long. She would wear a size ‘extra small’. As I consider this fictional woman, I see I don’t share her various qualities. I don’t fit her mold. For many years as a teen and young adult in university, I battled with my sense of confidence while I compared myself to some others, who seemed much more like her. Of course, I never expected myself to be completely ‘perfect’ – but my imperfections seemed too many. I also didn’t consider that there’s more to the meaning of life than these worldly things, and that God calls each soul to something unique.

Although there’s nothing wrong with using our talents or with having determination to fulfill our goals, – it’s a problem when we become discouraged or anxiously compare our success to others. We also lose sight of true success in life which goes beyond wealth or the number of degrees we’ve earned, – or our hairstyle. (Maybe this ‘perfect’ girl isn’t so happy after all?). It took me a while to re-examine my priorities and see that while the world isn’t very kind to failure, certainly God is, – and He who overcame the world lives within us.

It was with some of these misconceptions in my mind that I entered Catholicism. I didn’t realize that this perfectionist attitude would affect my relationship with God. I would often approach prayer with a great fear of facing my weaknesses, sins, and failures, and I would get discouraged when I fell – again, and again, and again. Somewhere in my mind, I half-expected to be like a saint, and any failure would continually shatter the imagined picture of my soul. Rather than wanting to please God out of love, I was afraid to admit my weakness. During my conversion, I began reading about St. Therese of Lisieux. I was drawn to her so much that whenever I was asked about my favourite Saint, she would be at the top of the list. I didn’t realize that her spirituality was exactly what I needed.

St. Therese was born in France in 1873 as the youngest in a family of nine children. Her parents, Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Zelie Martin, are now on their path to canonization. Since an early age, St Therese had great desires. She wanted to be a Saint, a missionary, an apostle, a martyr. However, in her own words, she felt very helpless and saw a great distance between herself and the Saints. God lead her to be a cloistered nun, and she entered a Carmelite convent at the young age of fifteen. There, she continued to seek her ‘place’ in the Church. She saw herself as a ‘little soul’ who could only do little things for Jesus. Though she felt ready to be a martyr or a missionary, she resigned herself to seemingly small duties like decorating statues with flowers, helping the other Sisters and making little (though difficult) renunciations of self-will. At one point, St. Therese saw her vocation as being the “heart” of the Church, and doing little things with great love for God. Each of her actions became like a rose, a gift that she offered to Jesus. In one of her analogies, she described how she felt unable to climb the “rough stairway” to perfection, and would prefer for Jesus to carry her in His arms to holiness, in the way that an elevator can lift a person to another floor.

By her “little way”, St. Therese grew in her great love for God, became a Saint, a Doctor of the Church, and was named the Patron Saint of Missionaries. Through her prayers and little sacrifices, she intercedes for souls and helps to bring others to Jesus. Despite going through a terrible ordeal, the “dark night” in her faith, and being ill with tuberculosis, St. Therese bravely continued to trust God and to love Him amidst great trials and temptations. She went to Heaven at the age of 24 and her autobiography ‘Story of a Soul’ quickly became a spiritual classic. Before she died, she said that she will send down a “shower of roses” from Heaven and teach other souls her “little way” of love and confidence. Sometimes people remark that after praying for her intercession, they received actual roses as a sign of her prayers. (At this point I need to thank St. Therese by saying that I believe this happened to me as well, – maybe God saw I needed an encouragement in my faith, which was shaky).

Although at first, St. Therese’s example may seem daunting because of her level of sanctity, she herself encourages us to not be discouraged. St. Therese describes her littleness with a joy and a poetic beauty: “How can a soul so imperfect as mine aspire to the plenitude of Love? What is the key of this mystery? O my only Friend, why dost Thou not reserve these infinite longings to lofty souls, to the eagles that soar in the heights? Alas! I am but a poor little unfledged bird. I am not an eagle, I have but the eagle’s eyes and heart! Yet, notwithstanding my exceeding littleness, I dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun of Love, and I burn to dart upwards unto Him! I would fly, I would imitate the eagles; but all that I can do is to lift up my little wings—it is beyond my feeble power to soar. What is to become of me? Must I die of sorrow because of my helplessness? Oh, no! I will not even grieve. With daring self-abandonment there will I remain until death, my gaze fixed upon that Divine Sun. Nothing shall affright me, nor wind nor rain.” (Story of a Soul) St. Therese goes on to say that if God could find a soul smaller than hers, He would fill it with even greater graces. What encouraging words for us!

One of the most beautiful things about St Therese’s spirituality is her trust in God. Though we know we should trust God, often I found it difficult to open my heart enough to do this. St Therese’s “little way” can help to love our littleness by allowing us to let go of fears and hidden pride. The smaller (and more trusting) we become, the more freedom we give to Jesus to do His work in us, without hindering Him.

This post is also posted at the Made4More blog

St Mary Magdalene

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I am reading a great book about St Mary Magdalene called “Mary of Magdalene in the Visions of the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich” (TAN). It includes quotes about St Mary Magdalene from Blessed Anne Catherine’s “The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations”. The quotes describe visions that Bl Anne Catherine had of Jesus’ life, that can help us to go deeper into the Scriptures. The entire book is available online in public domain and I’ll quote from there with page numbers so anyone can find them. However if anyone is interested in a book specifically about the Saint I really recommend the one from TAN!

While reading, I was especially struck by how much St Mary Magdalene loved Our Lord. For example, there is this quote:

“On the Sabbath Jesus taught in Lazarus’, and then all went to walk in the gardens. Jesus talked of His Passion and said in plain terms that He was the Christ. His words increased His hearers’ reverence and admiration for Him, while Magdalene’s love and contrition reached their height. She followed Jesus everywhere, sat at His feet, stood and waited for Him everywhere. She thought of Him alone, saw Him alone, knew only her Redeemer and her own sins. Jesus frequently addressed to her words of consolation. She was very greatly changed. Her countenance and bearing was still noble and distinguished, though her beauty was destroyed by her penance and tears. She sat almost always alone in her narrow penance chamber, and at times performed the lowest services for the poor and sick” (Vol 3, pp.275-276).

The book describes her conversion from a worldly life to that of a penitent. I was really touched by the accounts of her anointing Jesus. One thing that I found very beautiful was her boldness. It was quite a brave thing to do for a woman at that time who was known to be a “sinner” – as Jesus was asked, why He allows her to touch Him. But St Mary Magdalene continued to love Jesus and followed Him everywhere. It’s so beautiful how she only thought of Him and only saw Him. Often while reading the lives of the Saints, we are inspired but at the same time wonder, – can we really love like this? St Mary Magdalene loved Jesus exceptionally, much more than I do, but one thing that’s encouraging about her is that she loved Him like this even though she had a sinful past – and her life really shows the effect of submitting to God’s grace.

This next quote describes St Mary Magdalene’s second conversion, after she had fallen back into sin. At one point, soon after finding repentance again, St Mary Magdalene was suffering from doubts about her forgiveness. After running through the streets, she ran to Jesus and began weeping and asking if there is still hope for her.  She was being tormented by despair. Although the others looked scandalized and asked Jesus how He could stand this woman any longer, He showed her mercy:

“When Jesus returned to His inn with the disciples and some of the Pharisees, and while they were taking some refreshments standing, Magdalen escaped from the holy women, ran with streaming hair and uttering loud lamentations, made her way through the crowd, cast herself at Jesus’ feet, weeping and moaning, and asked if she might still hope for salvation. The Pharisees and disciples, scandalized at the sight, said to Jesus that He should no longer suffer this reprobate woman to create disturbance everywhere, that He should send her away once and for all. But Jesus replied: “Permit her to weep and lament! Ye know not what is passing in her” – and He turned to her with words of consolation. He told her to repent from her heart, to believe and to hope, for that she should soon find peace. Then He bade her depart with confidence.” (Vol. 3, pp. 125-130)

This account really shows Jesus’ mercy and patience. He didn’t send her away, but encouraged her to trust in His forgiveness. What I appreciate about St Mary Magdalene here is that although she was suffering from feelings of despair, she still ran to Jesus and did not run away from Him… she still went to Him to ask for pardon and to ask if there was still hope for her. I think this is a good example for anyone suffering from despair – to not run away from God, but to run towards. It’s also evident here that in her repentance, St Mary Magdalene didn’t think of anything else and was concerned about nothing but finding forgiveness. She showed so much contrition. Later, she found Jesus again:

“The instruction over, Jesus went to a retired place, whither Mary herself and Martha led Magdalen to Him. She fell on her face weeping at His feet, her fair flowing loosely around her. Jesus comforted her. When Mary and Martha had withdrawn, she cried for pardon, confessed her numerous transgressions, and asked over and over: “Lord, is there still salvation for me?” Jesus forgave her sins, and she implored Him to save her from another relapse. He promised to do so, gave her His blessing, and spoke to her of the virtue of purity, also of His Mother, who was pure without stain. He praised Mary highly in terms I had never before heard from His lips, and commanded Magdalen to unite herself closely to her and to seek from her advice and consolation. When Jesus and Magdalen rejoined the holy women, Jesus said to them: “She has been a great sinner, but for all future time, she will be the model of penitents”. (Vol. 3, pp. 125-130)

In reading the book, I saw that the anointing of Jesus that St Mary Magdalene did was not an isolated event, but that she did this several times, maybe many times. People often did not understand but she did not let that discourage her from showing her love for Jesus. He however always accepted her love.

“It was dust before Jesus and the disciples, preceded and followed by crowds of people, started at last down the mountain of Gabara. Magdalen, obeying only her impulse without regard to appearances, followed close after Jesus in the crowd of the disciples, and her four companions, unwilling to separate from her, did the same. She tried to keep as close to Jesus as she possibly could, though such conduct was quite unusual in females. Some of the disciples called Jesus’ attention to the fact, remarking at the same time what I have just observed. But Jesus, turning around to them, replied: “Let them alone! It is not your affair!” (Vol. 2, 477-480).

The visions also describe another time when St Mary Magdalene anointed Our Lord. This was when Jesus went with three of the Apostles to Bethel and stayed at a house. Lazarus and his sisters were there too; seemingly after Lazarus was raised from the dead.

“As Jesus was sitting on the edge of the fountain, Magdalene came forth from the house and poured over His hair a little flat flask of perfume. She did it standing at His back, as she had often done before. I wondered at her boldness.” (Vol. 3. pp. 582-583).

The book tells of St Mary Magdalene’s first anointing of Jesus, which happened before she completely turned to the penitent life, but was drawn to love Him:

“The Pharisees were in animated discussion with Him when Magdalen, who with her companions had approached the entrance, all of a sudden darted into the hall. Inclining humbly, her head veiled, in her hand a little white flask closed with a tiny bunch of aromatic herbs instead of a stopper, she glided quickly into the center of the apartment, went behind Jesus, and poured the contents of her little flask over His head. Then catching up the long end of her veil, she folded it, and with both hands passed it lightly once over Jesus’ head, as it wishing to smooth His hair and to arrest the overflow of the ointment. The whole affair occupied but a few instants, and after it Magdalen retired some steps. The discussion carried on so hotly at the moment suddenly ceased. A hush fell upon the company, and they gazed upon Jesus and the woman. The air was redolent with the fragrance of the ointment. Jesus was silent. Some of the guests put their heads together, glanced indignantly at the Magdelen, and exchanged whispers. Simon Zabulon especially appeared scandalized. At last Jesus said to him: “Simon, I know well of what thou art thinking! Thou thinkest it improper that I should allow this woman to anoint My head. Thou art thinking that she is a sinner, but thou art wrong. She, out of love, has fulfilled what thou didst leave undone. Thou hast not shown Me the honour due to guests”. Then He turned to Magdalen, who was still standing there, and said “Go in peace! Much has been forgiven thee”. (Vol. 2, pp. 477-480).

To put it shortly, I’m very inspired by this book. I love St Mary Magdalene’s boldness, how she was not afraid of losing human respect as she showed her love for Jesus, and how she hoped that He would accept her though others did not. I love her Jesus still accepted her and forgave her, and helped her to become a Saint. This also gives me hope because I can relate to being a sinner. I think her life really shows us that no matter what our past was, we can love Jesus greatly, as long as we don’t place boundaries on our love or are too timid or fearful.

St Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

Here is some information about her

(If anyone is interested in learning more, the book is available for sale from TAN, or you can find the references in the linked book given above. The book “Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations” is in the public domain and contains all the quotes).

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