Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine
We started our day traveling to the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine in St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, a forty-five minute drive from the hôtellerie. We had an appointment with Fr. Sean Davidson, a Missionary of the Most Holy Eucharist. Several years ago Fr. Florian Racine co-founded this Order, with Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon. Fr. Florian is now the pastor of the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine. During the 2013 Illinois Relic Tour, Fr. Florian sent Deacon James Devine (another missionary) to the U.S. for the 31 days of the tour. Deacon James gave spiritual talks in each of the 36 churches we visited on “Saint Mary Magdalene and the Most Holy Eucharist.” It was a beautiful and inspiring talk during Lent and the people who came could not seem to get enough of what Deacon James had to say about the Most Holy Eucharist. For that reason, I wanted to have one of the missionaries speak to us.
In 1279, King Louis’ nephew, Charles II (Count of Provence) acquired knowledge that the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene were buried at the town of St. Maximin in a church with the same name, so he ordered excavations to search for them. On December 10, 1279, deep in the earth, he found the marble tomb. When he tried to open it a wonderful scent of perfume filled the air. Inside was her body with a wooden plaque wrapped in wax that said “Here lies the body of Saint Mary Magdalene.”
Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine
Construction of the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine began in 1295. The front of it remains unfinished today.
The wooden pulpit in the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine was hand carved by a Dominican.
Fr. Sean chose to use the scenes of the life of Saint Mary Magdalene that were carved into the enormous wooden pulpit in the center of the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine to tell us her story. Fr. Sean’s Life of Saint Mary Magdalene was beautiful and he delivered it with real passion. How fortunate the town of St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume is to have the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist as their parish priests.
The skull of Saint Mary Magdalene in its gold reliquary was in the main altar behind the Blessed Sacrament.
After Fr. Sean’s talk we walked a few blocks through the town of St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume to get on our tour bus to go to Sanary-sur-Mer for lunch.
Estelita and Ofelia walk together to our bus.
Sanary-sur-Mer was our destination, a lovely fishing village just west of Toulon.
We ate at Le Provençal—a restaurant owned by the same family for three generations, that prepared typical Provençal cuisine.
We started with an aperitif sangria and some tapenade. Then we were served their famous fish soup. The main course that most of us chose was something called St. Pierre which was a white fish wrapped in filo dough and then baked. It was so tasty!
The lady waving is my friend Valerie. I met her after Mass in the Cave last October with her nanny, Sandra. The three of us climbed to Chapel St. Pilon together. She told me about her family’s restaurant and the cute fishing village in which she lived. I later stopped in for a wonderful lunch and then arranged to bring the Novena Tour group here.
Eugénie (on the left) is Véronique and Norbert’s daughter. She was helpful to both of us in our organization of the Novena Tour. She was in school in Marseille for tourism and turned our Novena Tour in as her final project for school. Eugénie is now working at Ibis Hotel in town and joins us when she has free time.
For dessert Valerie served us all a beautiful plate of tiramisu, a meringue and a dollup of chantilly.
Roberta and Peggy’s friends join them again for lunch.
After lunch we did a little shopping in the village and walked around the tiny harbor of Sanary-sur-Mer. I love Sanary.
I walked into the Eglise St. Nazaire in the center of the village. Fr. Florian was pastor here before he was assigned the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine. I noticed a statue of St. Thérèse in the church. She seems to appear everywhere we go.
Back at the hôtellerie they had a picnic dinner out in the back. It was such a lovely evening.
This evening was the Official Opening of the Feast in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume so we took our tour bus back to town to the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine to participate.
Norbert Flayol announced the Opening of the Feast—an honor passed down from generation to generation in the old Provençal family.
The candlelight procession, with the skull of Saint Mary Magdalene in its gold reliquary, begins and ends at the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine. It makes its way to the old Dominican Sister’s Convent in St. Maximin, with singing and praying along the way and a short stop for a special blessing at the Sister’s old Convent.
Norma and her new Filipino friend, Rose, waited for the procession to begin. The paper candle holders have the prayers and songs of the procession written on them in French. Norma found Rose standing on a street corner with all her luggage in St. Maximin when our bus arrived. Norma took Rose under her wing and we gave Rose a ride to the hôtellerie after the procession and a room in which to sleep, which is exactly where she needed to go, but had no ride. Rose had just arrived from Vienna (originally from Manilla). You would understand how Providence worked in this situation if you realized the impossibility of Rose getting a ride on her own. The timing could not have been better.
They steadied the skull reliquary at the Convent. Apparently, with all the gold it weighs over 400 kilos, which makes 880 pounds. It takes eight men to carry it in procession and another eight are standing by to relieve the first eight. Steven helped carry the reliquary back to the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine. His shoulder was a little bruised the next day but he was very proud to have done it.
The skull of Saint Mary Magdalene
Finally back at the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine
I was thinking It would be nice to have a Saint Mary Magdalene postage stamp. I don’t know if the POSTE has ever issued one. Wouldn’t it be nice to use on postcards sent back to the States or to anywhere in the world? So here is my suggestion below….. Does anyone know how to go about getting the idea approved by the French POSTE?
Novena to Saint Mary Magdalene—Day 6
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 Estelita and Ofelia walk together to our bus.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 27:55-56—55 And there were there many women afar off, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: 56 Among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Gospel of Mark 15:40-41—40 And there were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joseph, and Salome: 41 Who also when he was in Galilee followed him, and ministered to him, and many other women that came up to Jerusalem.
Gospel of John 19:25-30—25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. 27 After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.
The Death of Jesus
28 Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst. 29 Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth. 30 Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.
Novena Prayer Day 6—Mary is called by her surname “Magdalene” to distinguish her from the other Mary’s who are with her at the foot of the cross: Mary mother of Jesus, and Mary, mother of James. All the apostles have fled. Other than the beloved apostle John, there are only the women who followed Christ from Galilee, who followed him in the long climb towards Golgotha and who alone remain faithful till the end. Even though the Gospel does not say it, Christian art has often represented Mary Magdalene not standing like Mary and John near the cross, but closer still, as always at the feet of Jesus, holding onto the wood of the cross, as though ready to grasp the fruit, like a new Eve. In this position, she is witness to the seven last words of Christ on the cross, addressed to the good thief, to the beloved disciple, to Mary his mother, and to the Father. Undoubtedly, abundant tears pour from her eyes, but this time it is not she who pours the expensive perfume on him: rather it is he who offers his precious blood to the last drop, which anoints her and the whole world; and she captures it in the spiritual vase of her heart. We live in a world that places no value on suffering. Suffering is wasted energy or a kind of emotional distress that somehow needs to be eradicated. Mary comes to a realization in her heart, after she herself has received countless blessings and graces from Christ, that it is these pains and sins which Jesus embraces on the cross. Now Mary understands that her sins became the opportunity for grace; that her sufferings are transformed by the eternal sacrifice on the cross into the possibility of eternal presence with the Messiah she has come to know and love.
None of us wants to suffer, and certainly none of us wants the persons we love to suffer. But the reality of the life Jesus chose to enter is one where suffering comes unexpectedly and inevitably. Mary does not dwell on her sufferings. Rather, Mary embraces the source of her blessings. At the foot of the cross Mary now knows that the one who knew no sin, becomes the one to take upon himself her sin and the world’s sins and makes of them an offering to heaven for everlasting life. We must immitate Mary Magdalene and continually plead before the Lord, recognize his grace, and then to give witness to those graces in our lives.
Closing Prayer—O God, you permitted those who loved you the most to draw from your love the courage to remain near the cross of your Son. Give us a love as strong as that of Mary Magdalene, and in spite of the fear of suffering and death, may we remain faithful in your service. Through Christ, Our Lord, AMEN.