Mary Magdalene Feast Week in PROVENCE – July 2017

Mary Magdalene feast week in Provence begins before and ends a day after her July 22nd feast day. I am now in Provence and will soon be with my Saint Mary Magdalene Novena Pilgrimage group celebrating the feast, all week long. If you find yourself in the South of France this July you can enrich your vacation and your spiritual life by participating in some of the Saint Mary Magdalene feast day festivities surrounding her July 22nd feast day.

Jesus most likely met Mary Magdalene at Magdala on the Sea of Galilee for that is where she lived. Mary Magdalene is also known as “Mary of Magdala.”

The gospel presents Mary Magdalene as an active character at Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and empty tomb. Certainly Mary Magdalene filled the role of an apostle as she was one sent forth with orders. These were specific orders given first by an angel at the empty tomb: “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Matthew 28:7, and “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” Mark 16:7

Then by the risen Christ: “…go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ ” John 20:17; and again by the risen Christ: “…Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:10

Later tradition proclaimed Mary Magdalene “Apostle to the Apostles” because the risen Christ appeared to her first and gave her instructions to relay His message to His “brothers” (favored disciples), which she carried out immediately.

Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene by Pietro da Cortona, c. 1640-50,
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

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The Provençal Tradition

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There is a widely recognized, time-honored alliance between Mary Magdalene and Provence. Two significant sites of pilgrimage bear witness to this claim: Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene in St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and La Sainte-Baume, a mountain cave on the plain of the Plan d’Aups, overlooking the Massif de la Sainte-Baume.

Tradition has it that, after the execution of St. James the greater in Jerusalem (son of Zebedee and Mary Salome), Mary Magdalene, her sister Martha and brother Lazarus were persecuted by the Jews of Jerusalem and imprisoned. The Jews were afraid of the crowd if they were to execute the prisoners so they towed them off the shores of Palestine in a boat without sails or oars or supplies and abandoned them to the open sea. Others in the boat included Mary Jacobe, mother of James the lesser and the sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary, Mary Salome, mother of the apostles James the greater and John the beloved, Maximin, one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, Cedonius, the blind man who was miraculously healed by Jesus, Marcelle, Martha’s servant, and Sara, maid of the two Marys.

Low relief, in gold-leafed wood, from the altar of the Rosary in the Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene in St. Maximin, depicts Mary Magdalene and her companions being sent off to sea.

After narrowly escaping death during a storm at sea the boat finally came to shore on the coast of Gaul in a town now called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Camargue.

Mary Jacobe, Mary Salome and Sara remained in Camargue. Martha traveled towards Avignon and ended up in Tarascon. Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Maximin and Cedonius traveled on to Marseille where Mary Magdalene began to preach.

Mary Magdalene Preaching in Marseille, c. 1518,
John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art

They ended up converting all of Provence. Lazarus became the first bishop of Marseille. Mary Magdalene then went on to Aix where Maximin had already gone, some twenty miles north of Marseille.

Maximin became the first bishop of Aix and Mary Magdalene retreated to a mountain Cave on the plain of the Plan d’Aups known as La Sainte-Baume (47AD) where she remained alone for the last thirty years of her life in contemplation, prayer and penance. She is said to have been lifted up by the angels seven times each day at the canonical hours and fed heavenly nourishment. The tiny chapel of Saint Pilon on the crest above La Sainte-Baume was built in memory of Mary Magdalene being raised by angels.

When the time of Mary Magdalene’s death arrived she was carried by angels to the oratory of Maximin, where she recieved viaticum. She died in Maximin’s arms and her body was laid in an alabaster sarcophagus in an oratory he constructed in the Gallo Roman town of Villa Latta or Tégulata, which after Maximin’s death became St. Maximin.

Mary Magdalene’s Last Communion by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1484-9,
John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Maximin gives Mary Magdalene her last communion in bas-relief,
Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur, Aix-en-Provence

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Mary Magdalene Feast Week in Provence Festivities

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 — at 8 pm the cloistered Dominican nuns of the Monastery Sainte-Marie-Madeleine at St Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume hold a procession with the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene on their grounds.

Monastère Sainte Marie-Madeleine
Chemin du Deffends
83 470 SAINT MAXIMIN LA SAINTE BAUME

04 94 78 04 71
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Reliquary of Saint Mary Magdalene that is carried in their procession.
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After the procession there is a celebration in the nun’s chapel.
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Thursday, July 20, 2017 — from 9-10 pm there is the Official Opening of the Feast which is announced at 9 pm in the square in front of the basilica by Norbert Flayol. Norbert is a local resident and member of the Association Santo Madaleno. His family roots go back many, many years in Provence and he has the honor of making the announcement of the Opening of the Feast each year for the rest of his life, where it will then be passed down to another to carry on the Tradition.
Norbert Flayol announces the Opening of the Feast
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The Opening includes a lovely Candlelight Procession through the streets of the town of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume with relics of Saint Mary Magdalene (her skull in a gold reliquary). Candles are passed out in the basilica for all to participate.
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Skull of Saint Mary Magdalene in a gold reliquary
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Pilgrims and locals are carrying the skull of Saint Mary Magdalene. When they carry her skull in the gold reliquary they cover the skull with a gold face plate. Everyone carries candles in the procession through the streets of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, singing and praying their traditional Saint Mary Magdalene hymns and prayers. It is truly a beautiful and holy event.
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Saturday, July 22, 2017 — at 9 am in there is a Pilgrimage to the Cave of La Sainte-Baume—a Feast Day Procession with the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene (a piece of her tibia) which begins on the prairie below at the Hostellerie-de-la-Sainte-Baume in Plan d’Aups and ends up the mountain in the Cave of La Sainte-Baume. The Hostellerie-de-la-Sainte-Baume in Plan d’Aups is about a 25 minute drive from the basilica.
At 11 am Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Cave of Saint Mary Magdalene.
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Hostellerie-de-la-Sainte-Baume in Plan d’Aups
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Feast Day Mass in the Cave of La Sainte-Baume begins at 11 am.
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Many leave their petitions and special intentions on the Rock of Penitence in the Cave above the altar….
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….and light candles near the beautiful statue of Mary Magdalene Carried by Angels in the Cave of La Sainte-Baume.
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Sunday, July 23, 2017 
— at 9 am in the morning the Feast Day Mass festivities begin at the square in front of the basilica with gun shots, flutes, and drum rolls as the Association Santo Madaleno’s marching band comes to greet the Mayor of St Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. The marching band continues through the streets waking everyone up making sure all are aware of this important Feast Day Mass celebration.The Feast Day mass in the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine begins at 10:30 am – come early if you want to get a seat for this large basilica is overly full on this special day every year. After the Mass there is a celebration in the square in front of the basilica. Later in the day there is another gathering in the basilica to hear the life stories of Mary Magdalene and then the grand procession with the skull of Mary Magdalene being carried through the streets of St Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. A lovely day for all.
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Norbert Flayol on Mary Magdalene Feast Day
Norbert Flayol is on the left.
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Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist is based in the town of St Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and Fr Florian Racine, the founder of the order, is also the pastor of the parish of the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine.
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The “Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist” is a public clerical association, which has for its charism the promotion of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in parishes and dioceses. The association was erected by Bishop Dominique Rey, bishop of Fréjus-Toulon on July 17th 2007 in Paray-le-Monial, the sanctuary where Jesus made known to St. Margaret Mary his “thirst” to be loved in the Blessed Sacrament.

The moderator is Fr. Florian Racine and the community is based in the town of Saint Maximin, France and is in charge of the Basilica which contains the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene.

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Other helpful information….

BASILICA HOURS:        7 am – 7:30 pm every day except Monday
9 am – 7:30 pm on Monday

Daily MASS Schedule:  8:30 am – Tuesday to Friday
6:30 pm – Monday to Friday
12 noon – Saturday

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament:     Tuesday at 9 am to Friday at 6 pm

Chaplet of Adoration:     6 pm – Tuesday to Friday

Confession:     6 – 6:30 pm – Monday to Saturday

MARKETS

Large Provencal market – every Wednesday
Small market with local producers – Saturday & Sunday morning

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