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St Mary Magdalen : Contemplative of Contemplatives
22 July 2017
"This is the kind of story," Dorothy wrote, "that infuriates those who term us superstitious."
Dorothy Day : The World Will Be Saved By Beauty
By Kate Hennessy
Perhaps a better word or concept of/for piety, is the Hindu notion of Bahkti which is a Sanskrit word referring to a very warm, devotional and loving means of practicing or praying. It's difficult to describe it's so bodily too. I think especially of the 15th century Hindu poet Mirabai's ecstatic poems of devotion to the "Dark One," Krishna. Piety is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we ask for this gift. Piety sours into something awful when we impose our personal devotions on others. We've all experienced this self-righteous imposition, or we might have done it ourselves to others in a phase of zeal gone blind. Dorothy's daughter Tamar spoke of this painful (for and to others) period of Dorothy's extended conversion. The only check to this kind of soul-abuse is to be aware of our sinfulness (for me the best example is Pope Francis) which can humble you and, in a word or phrase I'd say - it's better to avoid "finger wagging piety" by way of inviting people to share what you love.
My first picture of St Mary Magdalen was the Crucifixion I drew at age 5. I also put her image in Beato Fra Angelico's icon and the first icon I created of her was called Apostle to the Apostles, her title in the Eastern Churches. Then recently I did a round third icon of the legend of Mary Magdalen preaching to Pontius Pilate after the Resurrection. Now I have a fourth icon commissioned of her also. When I was commissioned to do the second icon I remembered those beautiful Giotto paintings of her being lifted daily to heaven by the Angels. These images come from legends of her life I found in Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's Life of Christ and in a biography of Mary Magdalen by Edith Filliette who founded the Mary Magdalen Society in 1979 and died in 1988.
The legends tell of Mary living in a Cave in Sainte Baume, near Marseille and living literally on her very "much alive-memories" of being near Jesus while he was on earth. Testimonies from hardened skeptical witnesses tell of Anne Catherine Emmerich's twelve years of living on nothing but Holy Communion (the Eucharistic Host).They watched her 24/7 and some became close to her after watching, that they became convinced she was "the real thing".
I guess for me these stories are about a love of God so overwhelming that this love is only fed by God. Don't you have times you are so hungry for God and the solace of a spiritual life that you blame everyone and everything around you for not being enough? And then you turn to God in a prayer and slowly get reconciled to your life again? Reading about Dorothy I see her struggling to put together her personal piety and her mission to renew the church like St Francis. Like Mary Magdalen she was an apostle and a contemplative. I'm going to close with a prayer very dear to St Ignatius, who's feast is coming closer, and a prayer which verbalizes this kind of love : (PS for those who like music I think kd lang must've known this prayer when she wrote "Wash Me Clean" it has the same imploring yet uplifting quality ...)
The Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within thy wounds, hide me
Permit me not to be separated from thee
From the wicked foe, defend me
At the hour of my death, call me
And bid me to come to thee
That with thy saints I may praise thee
Forever and ever...
Fr Bill McNichols
22 July 2017
Send your Holy Spirit to give us the apostolic gift of piety.
St Mary Magdalen and Servant of God Dorothy Day, please be the new patrons of all of us trying to put together so many contradictions in ourselves and especially at this moment in our troubled times. Watching you ,dear heavenly friends, we know this is possible.
Amen... for now