Saint of the Day|
Mystical life has spiritual peaks, but also some valleys
St. Mary Magdalen Dei Pazzi underwent tough times to be with God
By Tony Staley
Many people long for a rich spiritual life and want to be able to
touch the divine.
But what most people seem unaware of is that, with the good times
of spiritual delight, there also comes spiritual depressions. For
many of the spiritually gifted, their prayer life bears a
remarkable resemblance to biblical stories of nations who would
enjoy several years of abundant crops followed by years of
famine. This reality seems particularly true for the mystics.
Among these mystics is St. Mary Magdalen Dei Pazzi, who was born
in 1566 at Florence, Italy, into a distinguished family. She was
named Catherine at her baptism and studied at St. John Convent in
Much like another Catherine, who lived two centuries earlier in
nearby Siena - she resisted attempts to have her marry. She had
learned to meditate at age 9 from the family confessor. She made
her First Communion at age 10 - an incredibly early age in this
era - and, a month later, vowed to live as a virgin.
At age 16, so she could receive daily Communion, she followed the
example of another great mystic, St. Teresa of Ávila, and joined
the Carmelites in 1582, the same year Teresa died.
Once in the Carmel of St. Mary of the Angels in Florence,
Catherine took the name Mary Magdalen. She made her vows in 1583
from her cot because her superiors thought she was about to die.
Instead, she had a two-hour mystical experience. She had similar
experiences for the next 40 mornings after receiving Communion.
Soon afterward, she became seriously ill and underwent many
ecstasies. After recovering, she lived an extremely severe life.
For the next five years, she was in the throes of spiritual
depression and aridity until recovering in 1590.
For her, the suffering was a way to share in the suffering that
Jesus had experienced.
While in mystical ecstasy, the person is acutely aware of their
spiritual union with God and their senses are detached from the
material world. During her ecstasies, some members of the
community wrote down what she said - her comments filled five
volumes - and were later published.
She also had several spiritual gifts, including healing. She also
could predict the future, read minds and bi-locate.
For the last three years of her life, she was bedridden. She died
in 1607 on May 25, the day on which we celebrate her feast. She
was canonized in 1669.
While the life of a mystic may look attractive, St. Mary Magdalen
Dei Pazzi reminds us that it can be quite demanding. Most of us
will find it far better to develop a simpler daily relationship
with God, though even then we may experience some dry times.
Sources: Dictionary of Saints and Saint of the Day