Pope Says Saint a Model of "Purified Love"
Letter Recalls Life of St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi is a symbolic figure of living love that recalls an essential dimension of every Christian life, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this in a letter to the Cardinal Ennio Antonelli of Florence, Italy, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Carmelite mystic's death (1566-1607).
"She did not let herself be conditioned by the world; the world, though Christian, did not satisfy her desire to become ever more similar to her crucified Spouse," wrote the Holy Father.
Born in Florence on April 2, 1566, into a noble family, she was baptized with the name Catherine. The future saint entered the Monastery of San Giovannino of the Dames of Malta.
It was there, on March 25, 1576, that she received her first Communion, and then a few days later, she made a vow of perpetual virginity.
When she was 16, she entered the cloistered Carmelite Monastery of St. Mary of the Angels and took the name Mary Magdalene.
In March 1584, she fell ill, but was able to make her religious profession later that year on the feast of the Holy Trinity.
"Thus began an intense mystical period from which would come her fame as a great ecstatic," recalled the Pope.
Her confessors, in order to determine if these ecstasies where divinely inspired, obliged her to tell her superiors everything that she was experiencing. Her sisters wrote down her words during and after the ecstasies.
Benedict XVI described these as intense experiences "that, at only 19 years old, rendered her capable of understanding the mystery of salvation -- from the incarnation of the Word in Mary's womb to the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost."
These experiences were published as "Forty Days" (1584), "Discussions" (1585), and "Revelations and Understandings" (1585).
The volumes describe "eight days of wonderful ecstasy from the vigil of Pentecost to the Feast of the Trinity," wrote the Holy Father.
He continued: "Five years of interior purification were to follow -- Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi spoke of it in her book 'Probation,' in which the Word, her Spouse, removed from her the feeling of grace and left her, like Daniel in the lions' den, to suffer many trials and temptations.
"Her great desire for Church reform was born during this time, after witnessing rays of light from on high in the summer of 1586, showing her the true state of the Church in the era after the Council of Trent.
"Like Catherine of Siena, she felt 'compelled' to write letters to the Pope, cardinals of the Curia, her archbishop and other Church leaders, encouraging them to work for the 'Renewal of the Church,' as the title of the manuscript says."
Eventually, tuberculosis forced her to slowly withdraw from the active life of the community.
"Purified love, which beat so strongly in her heart, opened her to the desire for full conformity with Christ, her Spouse, even unto sharing with him the 'nudo patire' [naked suffering] of the cross," the Pope continued. "The last three years of her life were a true Calvary of sufferings for her."
She died on May 25, 1607. Her incorrupt body is under the altar of the Church of the Monastery of St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi in Careggi, Florence.
She was beatified on May 8, 1626, by Pope Urban VIII, also from Florence, and was canonized by Pope Clement IX on April 28, 1669.
Benedict XVI added: "During her life she would ring the bells and exhort her fellow sisters saying: 'Come to love Love!'
"The great mystic from Florence, from her convent and from the Carmelite monasteries that aspire to her, we pray that we may still hear her voice in the entire Church, spreading the proclamation of God's love for every human creature."