We praise the Good Lord for the wondrous works he has performed in this world. His ways are truly mysterious, wonderful and awe-inspiring.
A woman of many sins, Mary Magdalene's soul had been touched at the house of Simon the Pharisee. The beautiful courtesan weeps at the feet of Jesus as she anoints Him with her tears of sorrow and the fragrant ointment. Jesus looks at her lovingly, "Go in peace," He says, "your sins are forgiven, your faith has saved you." (Luke 7:36-50) Jesus anointed Mary Magdalene with the message of Peace. Mary Magdalene had these words indelibly written on her heart as she followed Jesus throughout his ministry.
Three years later, our Lord is crucified, and we find Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross, with His mother Mary, and the beloved disciple John. She hears the last words of Christ, is present at His burial, and witnesses His Resurrection. All this has been faithfully recorded in the gospel so that we may remember and venerate Saint Mary Magdalene.
From the Acts of the Apostles, we believe she witnesses the Ascension of our Lord on Mount Olive, and is in the Cenacle at Pentecost. For the next twelve years, she accompanies and shares the lot of the Apostles. Then, during the persecution of the Christians, according to oral tradition, she leaves Palestine with Martha, Lazarus and several disciples. The little group of pilgrims crosses the Mediterranean in a small boat and lands in France. They come ashore in a port near Marseilles, and Lazarus remains there. Martha travels inland and her saintly remains are now in Tarascon. The family of Christ, on pilgrims' feet, has come to preach the Gospel of Peace!
Mary Magdalene adopts a contemplative life, and lives in peace in the hills of La Saint Baume, about 40 miles northeast of Marseille, where she spent the remainder of her life. Some of her companions were Maximin, Sidonius, Suzanna and Marcella, who helped to Christianize those parts of ancient France.
Mary Magdalene died around the year 75 and was buried by Maximin in the crypt of his chapel in Villalata, later renamed St. Maximin. Between the third and fourth century, her body was placed in a magnificent white marble tomb, and remained therein until the year 710. The Cassian Monks had founded their Monastery in St. Maximin in 415 and were the guardians of the Magdalene relics. But when the Saracens invaded France, destroying all Christian symbols, the Monks transferred the relics to a more modest tomb for safety reasons. Before fleeing, they completely buried the tomb and their chapel. When the invaders left in 973, nothing could be found of the relics, though many searches were made.
On December 9, 1279, Charles, nephew of King Louis IX of France (who was canonized as St. Louis) finally uncovered the remains of St. Mary Magdalene. The transfer of the remains was made to the crypt on May 5, 1280. On July 22, the Feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, her relics were taken in procession through the streets of St. Maximin to the joy of pilgrims. This was the beginning of hundreds of years and thousands of pilgrims paying homage to Saint Mary Magdalene, the beloved of Christ, apostle to the apostles, patron of lovers, and bearer of Peace.
Father Bernard, OP, describes this holy place: