The 8:30 AM daily breakfast at the Hôtellerie-de-la-Sainte-Baume includes a variety of drinks – coffee, tea, hot milk and powdered chocolate, juice and water. There is always toast and french bread, butter and jam spread out on the long family style tables. It is a typical continental breakfast. We sometimes bring our own fruit and Madeleines to have a little something extra. We are all called to the dining room with a bell just as the doors open, then grace is prayed by one of the Dominicans. Thirty minutes later the tables are cleared by the volunteers and Sisters and we are shuffled out and the dining room doors are closed. So if you want something to eat in the morning, it is best to be on time.
After breakfast we got on the bus and headed for a very, very old City by the Bay—MARSEILLE. It takes about an hour and a half by bus from the hôtellerie. Our first stop was Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the largest church and the highest spot in the city, with a spectacular panoramic view. The bus can only get so close—we still had quite a few flights of stairs to climb to get to the front entrance.
A panoramic view of the bay and port of Marseille, and la Mediterranée
View of Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure from Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde
The ex votos are placed high on the walls and the engraved plaques cover the walls below in many of the side altars of the basilica and in the crypt below, giving thanks to Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde and other Saints for many miracles received over the years.
Then we went down to the Abbeye de Saint-Victor. Now it is a parish church, In the Middle Ages, it was part of a great Abbey, which has now disappeared.
Abbeye de Saint-Victor in Marseille
Below the church are crypts where you can see evidence of the faith of the first Christians.
This V century chapel in the crypt contains an altar which uses a sarcophagus, handed down from the relics of Saint Jean Cassien (who settled into monastic life here and built a small chapel in 416 AD). The statue on the right wall is Notre-Dame de Confessions (end of the XIII century). This medieval name means ‘Our Lady of the Crypt.’ The statue is of walnut. The dress of the Virgin is dark green with gold stars, and that of the child is golden with green stars. By this play on colours, the clothing of the mother makes the clothing of her son stand out. The son is holding the world in his hand.
The adjoining nave is the Confessional de Saint Lazare. The bas-relief above the altar, representing Saint Mary Magdalene is from the school of Pierre Puget (XVII century). Men from the Middle Ages sculpted the figure above the pillar on the right, in which the people of Marseille wanted to recognize Saint Lazarus (this is where the name ‘Confessional de Saint Lazare’ comes from, a name that was given to this place).
From Abbeye de Saint-Victor we walked across the street to Four des Navettes, where for 200 years they have been making the specialty “Navette,” a hard biscuit in the shape of a boat, flavored with orange blossom. Then Pascale drove us just to the other side of the port and we walked up to Au Vieux Clocher where we ate a delicious lunch under the shade of their red umbrellas.
Bill and Patrice, friends of Peggy and Roberta, joined us for lunch.
DAY 5 and Air France finally came through yesterday while we were in Aix-en-Provence, although we didn’t know it. Late last night Fr. Henri-Dominique came strolling in with a red suitcase on wheels that was delivered to his room. He also had a small package which he had received from my daughter Jenny, in Prague, containing my new prescription sunglasses. Steve and I were quite happy with our gifts.
Marilyn and Camilla have become good friends.
Camilla had to leave us in the afternoon to fly back to Geneva, so we had a group photo taken after lunch.
We walked to the Place de Lenche, and Véronique explained that underneath this ‘Place’ there used to be a prison. It was the place where Lazarus was imprisoned and beheaded. Most people in Marseille don’t know that. We think it is important to know. I was told Lazarus only lived seven years in Gaul before he was killed.
A little further we found Place des Trieze Cantons, which is the spot where there used to be Temple Diana. Mary Magdalene actually came to the steps of this temple and realized they were worshiping idols and she began to preach to the people about Jesus Christ and the Resurrection. Many conversions came because of her preaching.
A few more blocks and we were at Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure, where inside is a reliquary of Lazarus containing his skull.
Rose and Norma in Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure with the skull of Lazarus in the reliquary on the altar behind them.
Now we discover the real treasure of Marseille…
On the outer edge of Marseille there is a church called L’eglise des Aygalades. On the wall outside there is a fountain dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene, with a bas-relief of Saint Mary Magdalene sleeping on the rock. Maybe she drank from this source when she was preaching in Marseille…
The real name of the church is Notre Dame de Mont Carmel or Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. We were told by the pastor, Pérè Antoine, that when the Carmelites first came to Europe, it was here at Aygalades that they established themselves. Elizabeth was especially pleased to know this because she is currently studying to become a Third Order Carmelite. She will have much to share with her Community when she returns home.
Inside the old church there is an ancient crypt, just on the left side of the altar…
…. containing the most beautiful statue of Saint Mary Magdalene that I have ever seen.
Véronique and I discovered it last October and wanted to share it with everyone.
…. even her feet are beautiful!
When we arrived by bus at L’eglise des Aygalades, Monsieur Robert Ciabiattini (front left in photo) was anxiously awaiting us. Véronique and I met him and Pérè Antoine last October. Robert took us in the church and told us about Mary Magdalene with great passion and love, then he showed us “his” treasure, the statue in the crypt. He comes there often to visit her and pray. He seems to be in love with Mary Magdalene.
Pérè Antoine then told us a story about a tapestry he had on his wall and said a prayer for us because he thinks it is always important to pray with pilgrims.
Before leaving he asked us if we could all pray the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi with him in French, not knowing if we knew the words. He was quite surprised when we all sang the prayer in English to him. Make me a channel of your peace….
It was a joyful visit to a special place with Pérè Antoine and Monsieur Robert Ciabiattini. We gathered together for one last photo outside the church and then said goodbye, but do hope to come again one day.
Novena to Saint Mary Magdalene—Day 5
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 Matthew 26:6-16—Jesus Anointed at Bethany
6 And when Jesus was in Bethania, in the house of Simon the leper, 7 There came to him a woman having an alabaster box of precious ointment, and poured it on his head as he was at table. 8 And the disciples seeing it, had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10 And Jesus knowing it, said to them: Why do you trouble this woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11 For the poor you have always with you: but me you have not always. 12 For she in pouring this ointment upon my body, hath done it for my burial. 13 Amen I say to you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done, shall be told for a memory of her.
Anointing of Jesus at Bethany
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
14 Then went one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, to the chief priests, 15 And said to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? But they appointed him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from thenceforth he sought opportunity to betray him.
Gospel of Mark 14:1-10—Jesus Anointed at Bethany
1 Now the feast of the pasch, and of the Azymes was after two days; and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might by some wile lay hold on him, and kill him. 2 But they said: Not on the festival day, lest there should be a tumult among the people. 3 And when he was in Bethania, in the house of Simon the leper, and was at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of precious spikenard: and breaking the alabaster box, she poured it out upon his head. 4 Now there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said: Why was this waste of the ointment made? 5 For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and given to the poor. And they murmured against her. 6 But Jesus said: Let her alone, why do you molest her? She hath wrought a good work upon me. 7 For the poor you have always with you: and whensoever you will, you may do them good: but me you have not always. 8 She hath done what she could: she is come beforehand to anoint my body for burial. 9 Amen, I say to you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done, shall be told for a memorial of her. 10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray him to them.
Gospel of John 12:1-8—Jesus Anointed at Bethany
1 Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. 2 And they made him a supper there: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4 Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein. 7 Jesus therefore said: Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always.
Novena Prayer Day 5—Lazarus is alive and celebrating with those assembled at table. Martha is serving and Mary, no longer crying, pours her perfume not only on Christ’s feet but also on his head. Judas objects to “the waste,” when the precious oil could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus defends Mary’s action. Inspired but without fully knowing, Mary has just accomplished in a prophetic manner one of the rites of Christ’s burial, and his preparation for Easter. She brought precious perfume as did the Magi at the manger who offered gold to the king of kings, frankincense to the God-made-man, and myrrh to the crucified. “The house was filled with the odor of perfume”: the Universal Church, filled with the fragrance of Christ, celebrates this royal anointing to the end of time. All of life and faith is in this passage. There is family life around the table; there is service, devotion, commitment, love. There is prophetic ritual and personal prayer. There is also jealousy, deceit, betrayal; and there is redemption. Sometimes we forget that faith exists in everyday life. We forget that we cannot bracket faith as our culture demands. Faith is alive when it shapes and forms everything we do in family, community, church.
Closing Prayer—O Lord, our God, you who inspired Saint Mary Magdalene to pour expensive perfume onto the body of your Son as a preview of his burial; grant to us, by her prayer and example, to seek only to please you and to pour the fragrance of Christ upon those around us. He who lives and reigns for ever and ever, AMEN.