In June of 2018, I spent just shy of a week traveling with girlfriends in the South of France. We were with our guide, Paula Lawlor, and a day of it in Marseille with another tour guide companion of Paula’s, Veronique Flayol. This pilgrimage came with many blessings from beginning to end. To be honest the gifts keep coming. Paula is unlike any other tour guide I have encountered. She is brilliant in her own right and comes to us with such a diverse background. She has a very inquisitive and investigative mind; and thrives on sharing as much as she can with you. Paula is well rooted in her faith and searching out truth and fact to share with all whom she encounters. She is so thorough, kind and caring. Just take a quick gander through her blog site and you will know what I mean.
Well in advance of the trip we were sent personalized Novena booklets to help us prepare for our journey. You knew then that the Holy Spirit would bring many blessings. Her itineraries are filled with added information and photos of things you will be seeing. Another one of Paula’s special touches was each evening, as we enjoyed good food fellowship and drink, Paula would hand out materials with more detail of what was to come the following day, and small sticker photos of some of the highlights of the present day – a kind of recap to aid in our journaling.
I pray I will someday have the privilege of touring with Paula again. You should too.
Toni Van Horn
June 2018 Pilgrimage
Encounter Mary Magdalene…….in Southern France!
In June of 2018, five church friends and I flew to southern France for a 5-day pilgrimage. The purpose was to come to know Mary Magdalene through an age-old tradition stating she and other Christians were forced to flee the Holy Land by boat and landed in southern France where they lived out the rest of their lives.
I first came upon this tradition in 1999 through a pilgrim travel book I was using to take my mother to France. I have always had a fondness for Mary Magdalene, but it seemed like everything I was reading, to get to know her better, was not trustworthy. I was not sure about this southern France tradition found in my pilgrim book and so we did not visit. I began my quest to find more information about Mary Magdalene. I continued to run into what I thought were unorthodox opinions on Mary Magdalene. Some authors made Mary Magdalene into a wife of Jesus, a mother of a child with Jesus, a Holy Grail, a goddess, a source of energy, a prostitute and so forth. I could find very little about Mary Magdalene in the south of France. I began to get frustrated and decided to stick with what I knew of Mary Magdalene from the Gospels.
Fast Forward 14 years later……my spirituality and love for Jesus in the Catholic Church had grown immensely. I traveled to Rome and discovered a relic of Mary Magdalene, her foot, in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini. It was here Mary Magdalene moved my heart and I was so full of joy!! Since then I have searched for more information on Mary Magdalene which led me to Paula Lawlor of Magdalene Publishing.
I found Paula as a trustworthy resource that enlightened me to the true Mary Magdalene-just as my 1999 guide book revealed. I have had a fascination for years to learn more about the First Adorer – Mary Magdalene. I want to adore Our Lord with the same desire and zeal as she.
Paula Lawlor of Magdalene Publishing provided the resources to come to visit and experience how Mary Magdalene was the greatest Adorer of Jesus. Paula Lawlor offers a guided pilgrimage to southern France that took me and my friends to beautiful holy places. We experienced amazing authentic French food and wine, we witnessed spectacular scenery such as the lavender fields of Provence, the waters of the Camargue, hiking to the Cave – La Sainte Baume and the top – Mount Pilon, the healing waters of the Holy Family Sanctuary / Our Lady of Graces and lovely encounters of meeting many delightful locals where we drank wine, ate, and sipped coffee in their village squares.
This pilgrimage burned a hole of yearning in all of us. We attended Mass and Adoration in various churches, the most striking was in the Cave where Mary lived for 30 years. We traveled and came to know the places of worship for the companions of Mary Magdalene who traveled by boat from the Holy Land to France that motivated us to come to know these saints in a deeper level. We also visited one of the only known apparitions of St Joseph (1660) in Bessillon, near Cotignac!
The hunger we acquired for our Catholic faith did not dissipate when returning home, it just increased all the more, and encouraged us to become more like Mary Magdalene in Adoring Christ. Each experience touched each of our souls and enriched our spirituality. Paula Lawlor’s pilgrimage to France offered a beautiful awakening to Mary Magdalene and her companions, for which I will be eternally grateful!
Don’t wait . . . go for a visit! Mary Magdalene and Paula Lawlor promise not to fail you!!
June 2018 Pilgrimage
This was an amazing pilgrimage! I traveled with a small group of friends, and we had the time of our lives visiting one beautiful town after another in the South of France. The food and wine we enjoyed were fantastic. The hotel in St-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume was charming, and Paula is so knowledgeable about both Mary Magdalene and the area of Provence. The highlight is, of course, making the climb up La Sainte-Baume to visit the cave where St. Mary Magdalene spent her final days and then spending time in the Basilica of St Mary Magdalene where her relics reside. I hope to one day return again!
June 2018 Pilgrimage
Continuing My Spiritual Journey with Mary Magdalene: July, 2013
I work. A lot. In the spring of 2013 I was not sure I could continue unless I took vacation, but not one where I would just “veg out.” Rather, I needed a vacation that was going to reach my soul. I have been on my spiritual journey since 2010 when I had a crisis of faith. Since that time, I have been studying and experiencing my spiritual beliefs in many ways. I had studied Cynthia Bourgeault’s book entitled “The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity” and was pulled to know more about the “Apostle to the Apostles.”
For weeks I searched the Internet looking for a trip that encompassed my spiritual and cultural needs. When I found Paula Lawlor’s trip around the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene, it met all of my requirements: July timing, Mary Magdalene and France. I enrolled a friend to join me and we signed up. I have to admit that I wasn’t so taken by the idea of relic viewing (I didn’t really know what that meant) as I was by learning about Mary Magdalene’s life outside of Palestine and experiencing the South of France in glorious summer.
The experience was full of awe, challenges, intimacy and laughter. Let me get the challenges out of the way first as they are of least importance in hindsight. First, traveling anywhere in the world today requires phone communications. Therefore, I encourage everyone going on this trip to obtain international cell phone coverage for the duration of the trip so that local dialing and calling back home are possible. The second challenge was dealing with the twice daily ride from and to the Dominican hostellerie at which we stayed for the entire trip. Being at the foothills of Mary Magdalene’s cave in the Sainte-Baume mountain range, the location is mystical. However, the road to and from the hostellerie is narrow with sharp drop offs and lots of curves. Therefore, I encourage anyone who has a fear of heights – that’s me – to close the curtains on the bus and to bring reading or audio distractions for the short 20 minute trip each way. The third challenge is in understanding that a hostellerie is not a hotel, so daily room service is not available. Therefore, bring your own towels, soap, hair dryer and other personal grooming and hygiene devices.
Now onto the experience and memories of a lifetime. As noted above, the location of the hostellerie is mystical. The view from our room gave us a most spiritual experience at night with the moon over the cave and a picture postcard view of the grotto and basilica during the day. The food at the hostellerie, served family style, is delicious and plentiful, and the wine is free flowing. But eat with purpose – there is a volunteer crew that services the dining hall, not waiters. So this is not the place to linger over conversation. You can walk outside and sit in the beauty of the mountain range to continue your discussions.
The churches, basilicas and cathedrals we visited in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, Marseilles, Arles, Tarascon and Aix-en-Provence were beyond spectacular. My favorite was the Cathedral St Mary Majeure in Marseilles. Built in 1893 in Romanesque-Byzantine style, the mosaics were incredible and the view of the old harbor breath-taking. My other favorite was Saint Martha’s cathedral in Tarascon, a short drive from Arles where we had a wonderful paella for lunch in the restaurant made famous by Vincent van Gogh in his ‘Cafe Terrace At Night’ painting. Arles was also the place to see some Roman ruins as it was on a significant transportation route during the Roman Empire.
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a wonderful seaside town located in the Camargue, a region of France that has wild horses and wonderful rice! Don’t forget to bring home some rice and sea salt. Also, be sure to get your feet wet in the famous beachfront. Aix-en-Provence is ‘the’ quintessential experience of the South of France and not to be missed. Note: Be very mindful of your personal possessions as the market area is prone to pick-pocketing. The artist retreat town of Cotignac was a wonderful change of pace from religious pursuits. And the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Graces was a sweet and simple site, listening to the cloistered nuns sing the hours was a faint reminder of the ‘Sound of Music’ movie.
The feast day festival at the Basilica of Mary Magdalene in the town of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume was the best celebration of a religious figure I’ve ever attended. Dedicated to Mary Magdalene and Maximin (her companion for both the trip from Palestine to France and her stay in France until her death – she died in Maximin’s arms on a site marked with a lovely statue) as well as the historic culture in this area of France, the night time procession of relics was a beautiful expression of love and gratitude to one of the most important figures in Christian history. There are many more stops on the trip that I can speak of, but space is short and you need to experience them for yourself.
Finally, our tour guides of Paula Lawlor and Veronique Flayol were a well-orchestrated dance of religious, historical and cultural knowledge exchanged between guide and traveler. They were attentive, responsible and totally committed to executing their vision for a Mary Magdalene tour. It made us travelers feel safe and exhilarated that we were also experiencing their love for her.
One year later, I am still revisiting in memory and heart my time spent in France on this wonderful vacation. It was just what Yeshua ordered!
2013 Novena Tour
Who is she this Saint Marie-Madeleine? She is a recipient of His great mercy, adorer at the foot of the cross, steadfast disciple during the agony of the Crucifixion, companion of the Blessed Mother, first chosen among all to witness the Resurrection, called “Apostle to the Apostles,” evangelizer to the Gentiles and patron saint of contemplative life, Provence, France, etc. What an amazing role model! For some reason, I had an intense need to know more about her.
One day in the spring of 2013 I stumbled upon information on the Novena Tour. It seemed to be the perfect blend of Catholic history, spirituality and Provençal culture all wrapped up in one package. This was an answer to a prayer. Sainte Marie-Madeleine was calling me.
What were the highlights for me? Living and praying with the Dominicans and pilgrims at the Hôtellerie, participating in the relic processions, visiting the many sites of the early church, climbing to the top of Mount Pilon, Mass in the Grotto, touring the countryside, visiting the site of the first Carmelite monastery in Europe, admiring the Provençal historical costumes, learning traditional songs, standing in awe in front of the lavender fields, praying with the cloistered nuns of the Monastère de Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, dining in Sanary-sur-Mer, sharing the experience with new friends, adoration at the Basilica in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, coming to a true understanding of and devotion to Sainte Marie-Madeleine and her companions in France.
The organizers, Paula Lawlor, Véronique Flayol and Eugénie, poured their heart and soul into this tour. They were excited to be pilgrims along with us! I am so grateful for every memory.
Elizabeth A. Gorny
2013 Novena Tour