St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi

Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin
(by Fr. Prosper Gueranger 1870)
Our Paschal Calendar gives us three illustrious Virgins of the beautiful Italy. We have already kept the feast of the valiant Catharine of Sienna; in a few days, we shall be honouring the memory of Angela de Merici, surrounded by her school-children; today, it is the fair lily of Florence, Magdalene de Pazzi, who embalms the whole Church with the fragrance of her name and intercession. She was the loving imitatrix of our Crucified Jesus; was it not just, that she should have some share in the joy of His Resurrection?

Magdalene de Pazzi was one of the brightest ornaments of the Order of Carmel, by her angelic purity, and by the ardour of her love for God. Like St. Philip Neri, she was one of the grandest manifestations of the Divine Charity that is found in the true Church. Magdalene in her peaceful Cloister, and Philip in his active labours for the salvation of souls, both made it their ambition to satisfy that desire expressed by our Jesus, when he said: I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I, but that it be kindled (St. Luke, xii. 49)?

The life of this Spouse of Christ was one continued miracle. Her ecstacies and raptures were almost of every day’s occurrence. The lights given to her regarding the Mysteries were extraordinary; and in order to prepare her for those sublime communications, God would have her go through the severest trials of the spiritual life. She triumphed over them all; and her love having found its nourishment in them, she could not be happy without suffering; for nothing else seemed to satisfy the longings of the love that burned within her. At the same time, her heart was filled to overflowing with charity for her neighbour: she would have saved all mankind, and her charity to all, even for their temporal well-being, was something heroic. God blessed Florence on her account; and as to the City itself, she so endeared herself to its people, by her admirable virtues, that devotion to her, even to this day, which is more than two hundred years since her death, is as fervent as ever it was.

One of the most striking proofs of the divine origin and holiness of the Church is to be found in such privileged souls as Magdalene de Pazzi, on whom we see the Mysteries of our salvation acting with such direct influence. God so loved the world, as to give it his Only Begotten Son (St. John, iii. 16); and this Son of God deigns to love some of His creatures with such special affection, and to lavish upon them such extraordinary favours, that all men may have some idea of the love wherewith His Sacred Heart is inflamed for this world, which he redeemed at the price of His Blood. Happy those Christians that appreciate and relish these instances of Jesus’ special love! Happy they that can give Him thanks for bestowing such gifts on some of our fellow-creatures! They have the true light; whereas they that have an unpleasant feeling at hearing of such things, and are angry at the thought that there can be an intimacy between God and any soul of which they are not worthy, this class of people prove that there is a great deal of darkness mixed up with their faith. We regret extremely that we have not space for a fuller development of the character and life of our Saint.

We therefore proceed at once to the Lessons given in her Office. Even they are too short, and give us but an imperfect idea of this admirable Spouse of Christ.

Mary Magdalene was born at Florence, and was of the illustrious family of the Pazzi. It might be said of her, that she entered the way of perfection when a babe. When ten years of age, she took a vow of perpetual virginity; and having taken the habit in the Carmelite Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels, she became a model of every virtue. Such was her purity, that she utterly ignored everything that is opposed to that virtue. She received a command from God, which she fulfilled, of fasting on bread and water for five years, Sundays alone excepted, on which she might partake of Lenten diet. She mortified her body by a hairshirt, discipline, cold, abstinence, watching, want, and every kind of suffering.

Such was the ardour of divine love that burned within her, that not being able to bear the heat, she was obliged to temper it by applying cold water to her breast. She was frequently in a state of rapture, and the wonderful ecstasies she had were almost daily. In these states, she was permitted to penetrate into heavenly mysteries, and was favoured by God with extraordinary graces. Thus strengthened, she had to endure a long combat with the princes of darkness, as also aridity and desolation of spirit, abandonment by all creatures, and divers temptations: God so willed it, that she might become a model of invincible patience and profound humility.

She was remarkable for her charity towards others. She would frequently sit up the whole night, either in doing the work of the Sisters, or in waiting upon the sick, whose sores she sometimes healed by sucking the wounds. She wept bitterly over the perdition of infidels and sinners, and offered to suffer every sort of torment, so that they might be saved. Several years before her death, she heroically besought our Lord to take from her the heavenly delights wherewith He favoured her; and was frequently heard saying these words: “To suffer; not to die.” At length, worn out by a long and most painful illness, she passed hence to her Spouse, on the twenty-fifth of May, in the year 1607, having completed the forty-first year of her age. Many miracles having been wrought by her merits, both before and after death, she was canonized by Pope Clement the Ninth. Her body is, even to this day, preserved from corruption.


Thy life here below, O Magdalene, resembled that of an Angel, who was sent by God to assume our weak and fallen nature, and be subject to its laws. Thy soul was ceaselessly aspiring to a life which was all heavenly, and thy Jesus was ever giving thee that thirst of Love which can only be quenched at the waters of life everlasting (St. John, iv. 14). A heavenly light revealed to thee such admirable mysteries, such treasures of truth and beauty, that thy heart, unequal to the sweetness thus given to it by the Holy Ghost, sought relief in sacrifice and suffering. It seemed to thee, as though there was but one way of making God a return for his favours, the annihilation of self.

Seraphic lover of our God! how are we to imitate thee? what is our love, when we compare it to thine? And yet, we can imitate thee. The year of the Church’s Liturgy was thy very life. Each of its Seasons did its work in thee, and brought thee new light and love. The divine Babe of Bethlehem, the bleeding Victim of the Cross, the glorious Conqueror of Death, the Holy Ghost radiant with his seven gifts, each of these great Realities enraptured thee; and thy soul, renewed by the annual succession of the Mysteries, was transformed into Him, Who, that He might win our hearts, gives these sublime celebrations to His Church. Thy love of souls was great during thy sojourn here; it is more ardent now that thou art in possession of the Sovereign Good; obtain for us, O Magdalene, light to see the riches which enraptured thee, and love to love the treasures which enamoured thee. O riches! O treasures! is it possible that they are ours too?
St. Magadalen of Pazzi
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, a shining example of virtue and holiness, was born at Florence, in 1566, of illustrious parents. She received the name of Catherine in baptism, but on entering the Convent, she changed it to Mary Magdalen. The lessons of her office in the Roman Breviary testify that her life was perfect from her earliest youth. Her only enjoyment, when yet a small child, was to be taken to church, or to listen to the histories of the lives of the saints. She prayed for hours before she was able to read. Being asked what she was doing, she replied: “I pray God for grace to learn what I should do to please Him.” When she was sent to school, they gave her, as is the custom of the country, a little basket of refreshments. She, however, gave it to some prisoners whom she passed on her way, and thus fasted until noon. At another time she abstained from food or drink until she had been to church. When scarcely seven years of age, she began to mortify herself in divers ways. She denied herself her favorite fruit; took only two meals, one at noon and one at evening; refused to be present at the theatre; read with great avidity spiritual books, especially those which treated of the life and sufferings of our Saviour, and which implanted in her heart that ardent love of Christ of which her life gives so bright a record. In her eighth and ninth years, she had so intense a longing to receive holy Communion, that she could not, without tears, look at those who had the grace to partake of this food of angels. She was therefore permitted to receive her first communion, at the age of ten years. How this holy act filled her heart with joy and happiness is more easily conceived than described. She herself declared it was the happiest day of her life. Soon after, she consecrated herself entirely to God by taking the vow of perpetual chastity. Having reached her twelfth year, she had increased her mortifications to such an extent, that she wore a penitential robe, of hair-cloth, slept upon the floor and wore, during the night, a crown of thorns upon her head.” She mortified her tender body in these and many other ways, in order to become more like her beloved Jesus. When 15 years old, several rich and noble young men asked her hand in marriage; but she assured her parents that she had already chosen a much richer and more noble bridegroom, to whom she would always remain faithful, namely, Jesus.

In her 17th year, after having overcome many obstacles, she entered the convent of the Carmelites at Florence, on the same day on which St. Teresa left this world and went to Heaven. As she had taken the name of the woman so devoted to our Lord, she endeavored also to imitate her in her love of Christ and in all her other virtues. On the feast of the Holy Trinity she took her vows with such piety and fervor, that after the ceremony she remained for two hours in raptures. The same happened for 40 days in succession, after she had received holy Communion. At other times, also, she fell into raptures, and had most extraordinary visions as well as revelations, in which she received many wise instructions from the Almighty, and the gift of prophecy. The fire of heavenly love in her was sometimes so ardent, that she had frequently to cool her hands and her breast with cold water. She would often seize the crucifix and exclaim: “O Love! O love! I shall never cease to love Thee!” On the Festival of the Invention, or finding of the holy Cross, she ran through all the corridors of the convent crying: ” O love! how little Thou art known! how little Thou art appreciated! Ah! come, come, all ye souls, and love your God! ” She often wished to possess so loud a voice that it might be heard through the whole world, when she would cry to all mankind: “Love God! love God!”

Nothing caused her more pain than to hear that the All mighty had been offended by others. She daily offered certain prayers and penances to God for the conversion of pagans and sinners, and exhorted her sisters in the convent to do the same. For the salvation of souls she offered herself to the Almighty to be afflicted with all possible diseases and pains; she was even willing to bear the torment of hell, provided that she were not forced to blaspheme God there. One day she said: “Were the Almighty to ask me what reward I desire for the little good I have done with His grace, my answer would be: nothing but the salvation of souls.” The time of Carnival was for her a time of prayers and severe penances, which she performed in order to appease the wrath of Almighty God, whom she knew so many offended at that time. She tortured her body by wearing hair-shirts, by flagellation, watching, enduring cold and heat, and by most austere fasting. During 22 years all the nourishment she took was bread and water, except on Sundays, when she partook of Lenten diet.

Meanwhile it pleased the Most High to prove His faithful handmaiden by great affliction. Five long years she was I tormented day and night with impure and blasphemous thoughts; but she always struggled with them valiantly, not allowing herself to become downcast or despondent. She often took the image of Christ or of the Blessed Virgin, and embracing it, prayed to God for aid. For the last three years of her life she had to endure divers painful maladies, and suffered so greatly from decay of the gums, that she lost one tooth after another. To this was added a burning fever and violent headache. To increase her suffering, God deprived her of all the spiritual comfort she had heretofore enjoyed. She had constantly to keep her bed, except at the time of Mass and Communion, and it was wonderful to behold how, during the first of these three years, she was strengthened by the Almighty to be present at the divine sacrifice and to receive the Blessed Eucharist, while directly afterwards she had to return to her room, where she I remained so totally exhausted that it was to be supposed she was dying. They tried to dissuade her from so frequently receiving holy communion; but she said that without it she would not be able to endure her suffering, as it endued her with strength. Therefore it was daily given to her when she was no longer able to leave her room. The patience with which she bore her sufferings is not to be described. Her continual saying was: “To suffer, not to die.” She desired to suffer as long as possible out of love to Christ. One day when her confessor, in order to comfort her, said that her sufferings would come to an end at last, she replied: “No, my father, I desire no such comfort, but hope that I may be permitted to suffer unto my life’s end.” At another time, she said: “I hope to die like my Saviour, on the cross,” by which she meant, in agonies and pain.

When her sufferings had continued for three years, the physicians pronounced her end near. Magdalen requested Extreme Unction after holy Communion; and having begged her sisters to forgive her all her faults, she exhorted them specially to love God and hate themselves. After this, she continued during twelve days in the most edifying exercises, and then ended her holy and wonderful life, not so much consumed by the violence of her bodily suffering as by her fervent love to God, in the year 1607, on a Friday, and almost at the same hour at which our Saviour died for us on the Cross. A few days before her death she said: “I die without even being able to comprehend how it is possible for any one to commit a mortal sin.” Soon after her death, God made her entering into the abode of the Blessed known to the world, not only by many miracles, but also by the change that took place in her holy body. From being emaciated and pale by severe penances and a painful sickness, it suddenly became resplendent with beauty and moved all who beheld it to glorify the Almighty. The most delicious fragrance emanated from it. In 1663 when, by order of the Government, the body of the Saint was examined, it was found entirely uncorrupted and exhaling the same fragrance. It is rightly believed that God thus rewarded the virginal purity which the Saint had preserved unspotted by means of penances and prayers, fervent partaking of the holy Sacrament and filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin. She had always evinced the greatest horror of the vice of impurity, and could not remain in the presence of persons addicted to it, without a feeling of abhorrence. This was manifested even after her death. A youth of loose morals approached the bier, on which the body of the Saint was lying, to gaze at her remains. When he, however, imprudently cast his eyes upon her face, the corpse averted it from him, which made so deep an impression on him, that he confessed his fault and promised with tears to reform his life.

st mary mag with jesus OL

Practical Considerations

I. “To love God and hate ourselves” was the last instruction which St. Magdalen gave to her sisters in Christ, and by which she had regulated her own life. The hatred which she bore to herself she clearly manifested by her severe fasting, by her many austere penances, by her love to God, by her horror of sin, by her victories over temptation, by her heroic patience in suffering, by her insatiable desire to suffer out of love to God, and also by her mortifications, as she never partook of either food or drink except at stated times, never participated in the frivolous enjoyments of the Carnival, nor went to theatres, and deprived herself of fruit, of which she was very fond. In which point will you follow her example, and show not only your hatred to self but your love to God? You can best imitate her by depriving yourself, on certain days, of all food, except at your meals, and by abstaining from profane amusements. Do this out of love to God, and you will manifest your love to Him and your hatred to yourself. If you will not consent to this, you plainly show that you love yourself too well, as you allow your body all it craves. And though this may not be a sign that you hate God, since the pleasures of which you refuse to deprive yourself may be harmless; yet it is a sign that you do not love God as you ought to love Him. II.

For five years St, Magdalen was tormented almost day and night with the most horrible temptations to impurity, blasphemy and despair; but she always combated them, without allowing herself to be cast down or despondent. She called God to her aid and, sustained by His grace, she always conquered. Satan endeavors generally to torment with manifold temptations, those who are assiduous in serving the Lord. For, as St. Gregory says: “Those of whom he is sure, he does not torment much.” A servant of God ought therefore not to be grieved, but pray and combat. The Almighty who permits such temptations for our own good, will surely not forsake us, and, strengthened by Him, we shall conquer hell. Therefore no one ought to despond, as by so doing he prepares an enjoyment for the enemy of man and causes him to increase the temptations. “When our enemies, writes St. Climacus, see that we fear and tremble they attack us so much the more violently.” Hence, let us courageously arm ourselves and fight against them. In truth we have no reason to fear or become downcast, whether we, regard God, ourselves, or Satan. Regarding God, faith teaches us that he does not permit us to be tempted beyond our strength, as St. Paul assures us. (I Cor. x.) He also offers us His grace that we may overcome our temptations. He strengthens us in our weakness, as we are also taught by Holy Writ. If we regard ourselves, faith teaches us that we have our free will, by the power of which, we can either resist temptations with the grace of God, or consent to them. ” Man has his free will, says St. Cyril of Jerusalem; Satan may tempt him, but cannot force him against his will.” If we regard Satan, we know, as has just been said, that he cannot force us to consent. “Behold, says St.Bernard, the weakness of our enemy. He is able to conquer him only who is willing to be overcome. Our enemy can tempt, but it is in our power to consent or not.” What reason have we therefore to fear? If we combat courageously, the victory will be ours.

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