Our guests arrived at Marseille Airport in three shifts. First came Sue from Illinois who I met at St. Ita’s in Chicago during the Illinois Relic Tour last February, and Roberta and Peggy who traveled together from Connecticut. We found a comfortable spot in the airport at a Starbucks in which to wait for Steven… who never arrived, but did leave Chicago to come on the Novena Tour. Before we could figure out where Steven was we were all escorted out of the airport by the guards. It was not just our group, it was the entire airport, and we all had to leave immediately! They discovered a deserted black bag, and life at the airport stopped for several hours.
So the three ladies and I boarded the bus and Véronique stayed behind hoping to figure out what happened to Steven and wait for Marilyn who flew from California and Camilla from Geneva. With no clues as to where Steven was Véronique and her husband Norbert drove the ladies to the hôtellerie. We met Elizabeth just before lunch who traveled ahead of time from Virginia to spend a few days with her family in Toulon before they brought her to the hôtellerie.
Several of us wandered the grounds around the hôtellerie. It was so peaceful and beautiful, crickets humming and birds darting in and out. Father Thomas sat next to an old oak in prayer and meditation with a focus on the Cave beyond.
We walked through the modest cemetery on the grounds of the hôtellerie. Most of the graves were of Dominican Priests and Brothers. I did find the grave I was looking for… Edith Filliette, the founder of the Society of Saint Mary Magdalene.
In July 1979, a humble woman, Edith Filliette, began the Society devoted to St. Mary Magdalene. She had traveled to Provence, France and became convinced of the necessity of spreading devotion to St. Mary Magdalene. This new society was approved by the Dominicans in France, who are the guardians of the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene. The Society, registered in Massachusetts in 1980, and was approved by Cardinal Medeiros in Boston on July 22, 1981. Mrs. Filliette was accepted into the Third Order of the Dominicans Province of Toulouse, France on March 10, 1981, under the chosen name Sister Myriam or “Soeur Myriam.” She died December 8, 1988. The Society of Saint Mary Magdalene continues today with its original objective of spreading devotion to St. Mary Magdalene and supporting the institutions under her patronage.
We noticed a Dominican Friar beginning his long journey up the mountain, to the Cave in the late afternoon. Each day one of the Dominicans climbs the mountain up to the Cave and actually sleeps in the priory next to the Cave, standing guard, you might say, throughout the night. This tradition has been followed for centuries.
Returning to Steven…we found out later that when poor Steven landed in Rome he was told his flight to Marseille had already left! Now of all people for this to happen to, Steven has never traveled out of the U.S. I met Steven at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Joliet during the Relic Tour and he called me later and said that he had quite a spiritual experience when he came to see the relic and that he felt called to go on the Novena Tour. Bravely Steven left his wife and son behind and traveled to Europe for the first time ever, alone. Now, not only did his flight from Rome take off without him, he also had to fly to Venice before he could get a flight to Marseille, and in this transfer, his luggage was lost…. can you imagine?
But when Véronique and her husband Norbert arrived at the end of the day with Steven, he came with a big smile and was very grateful to finally be here, totally happy – what a sport! With Norbert’s shirts to tide him over he will be good to go. Our four San Francisco ladies arrive tomorrow. Hopefully Steven’s bag will show up soon. I can’t imagine how the airline will be able to find the hôtellerie. Sharon Furner warned me of the “glitches” one can encounter in a project like this. Hopefully we will have smooth sailing from here.
After a family style dinner in the hôtellerie restaurant and Steven’s arrival, we gathered outside to pray together the prayer and Gospel reading for Day 1 of the Novena. It feels good to finally be here, and to be together with a common purpose – of getting to know better Saint Mary Magdalene. We stood outside in the pleasant evening air looking at the Cave so high up the mountain. It was exciting to know that we will be up there very soon. As we all walked back to the hôtellerie to retire early after such a long day of travel I was waived over by Norbert who was excited to show me something special. Then he pointed towards the sky over La Sainte-Baume and there was the beautiful and very full moon lingering over the holy cave. It grew in size as the sky darkened. What a beautiful sight to see.
La Sainte-Baume really is a slice of heaven….
Novena to Saint Mary Magdalene—Day 1
Opening Prayer (recited each day of the novena)—Saint Mary Magdalene, you who were pardoned by Jesus, you who greatly loved; show us the way to true conversion and purity of heart. With love you followed Jesus to serve him; teach us to freely offer our lives for our brothers and sisters. You stood at the cross of Jesus with Mary and John. Obtain the grace of faith and hope in our sufferings. On Easter morning, you received from Jesus the mission of announcing the resurrection to His disciples. Help me to believe that life is stronger than death, that love triumphs over all. Dearest Saint Mary Magdalene, please intercede on behalf of my special intention (recite your special intention here). Through your intercession, I trust in the Lord, AMEN.
Gospel of Luke 7:36-50—A Sinful Woman Forgiven
36 And one of the Pharisees desired him to eat with him. And he went into the house of the Pharisee and sat down to meat. 37 And behold a woman that was in the city, a sinner, when she knew that he sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment. 38 And standing behind at his feet. she began to wash his feet with tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 And the Pharisee, who had invited him, seeing it, spoke within himself, saying: This man, if he were if a prophet, would know surely who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, that she is a sinner. 40 And Jesus answering, said to him: Simon, I have somewhat to say to thee. But he said: Master, say it. 41 A certain creditor had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence and the other fifty. 42 And whereas they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which therefore of the two loveth him most? 43 Simon answering, said: I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And he said to him: Thou hast judged rightly. 44 And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon: Dost thou see this woman? I entered into thy house: thou gavest me no water for my feet. But she with tears hath washed my feet; and with her hairs hath wiped them. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss. But she, since she cane in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint. But she with ointment hath anointed my feet. 47 Wherefore, I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less. 48 And he said to her: Thy sins are forgiven thee. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves: Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman: Thy faith hath made thee safe. Go in peace.
Novena Prayer Day 1—The woman of the perfume does not have a proper name; she is ‘the sinful woman’, identified only by her sin. How often have we identified another person, or a group of people, by their sin, or by their perceived sin? How often, like the Pharisee, have we held ourselves above another because of our self-righteousness? Mary receives forgiveness because she throws herself at the feet of Jesus, and weeps out her sin. The beginning of conversion is penance and reconciliation; to allow Jesus to forgive us through the voice of the priest and the ministry of the Church. When we too cry out our sins at the feet of Jesus, we will hear His words to Mary Magdalene, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!”
Closing Prayer—O God, most powerful and gentle, who brought life-giving water from the rock for your thirsty people; draw from our hearts the tears of repentance, so that we, like Saint Mary Magdalene, may cry our sins at your feet; and like her, through your great mercy, we will merit your pardon. Through Christ, our Lord, AMEN.