We had an early breakfast in a side dining room of the hôtellerie and then boarded our tour bus for a 2 hour drive to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in time for the 10:30 Sunday Mass at the parish church. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a little fishing village where Mary Magdalene and her companions on the boat landed in 47 AD after being forced out of Palestine. Some of the people we know who accompanied her on the boat were Martha and Lazarus (her sister and brother), Maximin (one of the 72 disciples of Jesus), Mary Jacobé (married to Joseph’s brother Cleophas, and mother of the apostle James – the less), Mary Salomé (wife of Zebedee and mother of the apostles James – the great and John), Marcelle (Martha’s maid), and Cedonius (the blind man that Jesus healed). There are several stories about Sara (maid of the two Marys), one—that she traveled on the boat from Palestine to Gaul with Mary Magdalene, another—that she welcomed Mary Magdalene and her companions as they landed in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and stayed with the two Marys as their maid. The gypsies called her Sara the “Kâli,” meaning both gypsy and black in their language.
It was the remains of these three woman, St. Mary Jacobé, St. Mary Salomé and St. Sara, that were found under the crypt in this parish church of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in December of 1448 by King René, Count of Provence. The fishing village gets its name from the three Marys that were at the Empty Tomb, who landed there in 47 AD.
Inside the parish church of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer the relics of St. Mary Jacobé and St. Mary Salomé are kept in a reliquary high above the main altar.
Véronique and Steven are in front of the glass casing containing many relics, memorabilia and ex votos, which are paintings describing the miracle a person received from the two saints as a way of showing gratitude.
A SIDE NOTE: We found out that Steven’s luggage was now in Venice. Thanks to Elizabeth sharing her razor (she and Marilyn were in the room across the hall) and Steven hand-washing his T-shirt the night before, he seemed fine and was just happy and grateful to be here with all of us.
The relics of St. Sara are kept in the crypt below. For many years the gypsies, who came to venerate the relics of St. Sara, had to come in through a separate entrance (notice the lighted stairs on the right) as they were not allowed in the main church.
We dined at Brasserie Le Belvédère overlooking the exact spot on the coast of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer where Mary Magdalene’s boat landed almost 2000 years ago. After our aperitif of sangria and some delicious tapenade the majority of us had my favorite meal, moules et frites (mussels and french fries). Marie-Madeleine Brou, a woman from Paris that I met in 2009 at La Sainte-Baume, joined us for the day. It was crystal clear, sunny and warm.
After lunch we walked across the street, took off our shoes and stepped into La Mediterranée, imagining ourselves welcoming Saint Mary Magdalene and her companions when they arrived…. it felt warm and wonderful, and was very calm—like a lake.
One of the four artists we are studying on our Novena Tour is VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890). In June of 1888 Vincent van Gogh stood on this same shore and painted his famous painting Barques sur la plage (above). He had taken a 30 mile stagecoach ride from Arles to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to recover from health problems. Other paintings he did in that week by the seaside are Trois cabanes blanches aux Saintes-Maries, Rue Saintes-Maries and Les barques à voile aux Saintes-Maries.
Vue des Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer by Vincent van Gogh (1888)—the fortress parish church, whose former name was Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer, stands tall in the background.
We took a relaxing afternoon boat ride up the Rhône River through the Camargue enjoying the lovely landscape and a cool breeze in the heat of the day. The Camargue is really beautiful with its vast variety of wildlife, gigantic birds and free roaming white horses and bulls who ate and played at the lands edge along side our boat, le Tiki III.
Véronique introduced us to the Camargue Cross, which can be seen in the center of the village and on the outer walls of the church and the houses in the village. It is an emblem formed with a Latin cross whose upper ends represent a three-pronged fork (a working tool used by “gardians” or cowboys) and whose lower end is a sea anchor, representing the fishermen, joined together with a heart, as the two groups live together in the Camargue in unity with love and appreciation of each other. We ended the day with a some shopping in the quaint little fishing village of Saintes-Maries.
Back at the hôtellerie a delicious dinner was waiting for us. Our San Francisco ladies—Estelita, Norma, Rose and Ofelia arrived earlier in the day. We all got together for the first time in the garden behind the hôtellerie for Day 2 of our Novena to Saint Mary Magdalene.
Five kind Portuguese ladies invited us to join them in singing a few songs…
…. they then joined us in prayer. We read aloud all the special intentions we had carried from home and intend to take up to the Cave on the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene (tomorrow – July 22nd), and then together we prayed Day 2 of our Novena Prayer to Saint Mary Magdalene. Their very special prayer intention was for all countries in the world to join together and to work together as one, with love and appreciation for each other.
Novena to Saint Mary Magdalene—Day 2
Opening Prayer—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 8:1-3—1 And it came to pass afterwards, that he traveled through the cities and towns, preaching and evangelizing the kingdom of God; and the twelve with him: 2 And certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities; Mary who is called Magdalene, out of whom seven devils were gone forth, 3 And Joanna the wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who ministered unto him of their substance.
Novena Prayer Day 2—The nameless woman who washes Jesus’s feet is now named Mary. And her town of origin is also named. She originates from Magdala. Hence Mary the Magdalene. There has been a debate among Scripture scholars about the Mary’s presented in the Gospel. Is the woman who washes Jesus’ feet, the woman named Mary relieved of seven demons, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus? Is this also the Mary at the foot of the cross and the one who meets Jesus on Easter Morning? Magdala is a town with a reputation. It was a strategic town in the Roman control of the Jewish people. And because of the presence of the army encampment, it had a reputation for debauchery. According to rabbinic literature, the women of Magdala, for the sake of survival, had given themselves over to “infidelity.” What this infidelity consists of is not clear. Did it mean outright prostitution? Had they given themselves to legal marriage or concubinage to the soldiers? Or had they simply abandoned the practice of the faith? All of these would have been considered infidelity according to Jewish law. In any case, in that time, any woman known to come from Magdala was looked upon with suspicion, at the least. This is likely the source of Mary Magdalene’s reputation she has lived with for centuries. Although there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that she is guilty of the sin of prostitution, it does nevertheless make for vivid imagery in Christian art, teaching, and preaching. Mary is relieved of seven demons. Was it the seven capital sins? Were they seven physical demons? The Bible doesn’t say. Seven in the Bible is the number for holiness. And so seven demons means totally devoid of holiness. Jesus restores her completely by expelling seven demons and replacing them with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. We all have “spirits” which draw us away from holiness towards sin. We may not have the privilege of having all the evils that taunt us and tempt us removed in a single instant. We don’t know that Mary’s were either. More realistically is the day to day removal of the evil to be replaced by the good. Mary was likely following Jesus at a distance, or listening to him for a long period of time and gradually came to trust in his compassion and mercy. Conversion of the heart is more frequently a day-to-day, even lifetime process where absolute holiness will be achieved on that day when we stand face to face with God.
Closing Prayer—Lord, Our God, you have consecrated your beloved son and you have sent him into the world to announce the good news to the poor and freedom to captives. Grant to us, like Saint Mary Magdalene, to be free from the grasp of the Evil One so that we may follow the Christ with free and generous hearts. He who reigns for ever and ever, AMEN.