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Feastday / Memorial Mass Readings     |     Words of Wisdom

1566 – 1607
Feast – May 25th

Beatified: 1626   Canonized: April 28th 1669

St Mary Magdalen de PazziShe was born Catherine de Pazzi on 2 April 1566, in Florence, into a difficult time in Church history (interior difficulties and forces for change from outside the church.  The Council of Trent had concluded in 1563), of a noble ancestry – her father was Camillo Geri de' Pazzi and her mother a Buondelmonti.

She was named Lucrezia after her maternal grandmother, however due to a love of St Catherine of Siena, she adopted the name Catherine.

In early childhood she developed a great love of prayer, solitude & penance. She showed great charity to the poor, desired to give witness to others and to pass on the faith, was also very sweet and charming, a favourite of all.

She received early religious training from the Jesuits, and was taught to meditate on the Passion of Christ, using a recently published book which she brought with her to Carmel. She had great attraction to the Blessed Sacrament – longing to receive it and a delight in touching or being near those who had received the Host or had just been to communion.

She made First Communion at 10 years of age and made a vow of virginity to God shortly after. At 14 – sent to school at the convent of Caalaresse. On leaving school, told her parents of her desire to enter religious life.

In December 1582 she entered the Carmelite Convent of Saint Mary of the Angels, founded in 1450 and known for its strict observance of the rule.  Part of the rule in this convent was to receive communion daily, so this was an important reason for her decision.

The Monastery was frequented by many noble women, most famously by the future wife of Henry IV of France.

In 1583 she received her clothing – taking the religious name of Mary Magdalen, and in 1584 (29 May) her profession.  She was ill at the time hence her profession was brought forward, fearing her death. After profession, she experienced an extraordinary daily ecstacy for 40 consecutive days, appearing on the point of death. She recovered miraculously & was able to fulfil her duties in spite of her bad health. Her offices were – mistress of externs (girls coming to the convent on trial), teacher & mistress of juniors, novice mistress (6 years), superior (1604).

Between the years 1585-90, she experienced inward desolation and temptations and external diabolic attacks.  These were a lack of joy in God’s presence, that her entire life seemed a mistake, a severe testing against chastity, doubting her vocation, a desire to leave the monastery and suicidal thoughts.  She bore all with great courage and humility, growing in virtue and the admiration of her community.

From the time of her clothing with the religious habit till her death the saint's life was one series of raptures and ecstasies, of which only the most notable characteristics are:

First, these raptures sometimes seized upon her whole being with such force as to compel her to rapid motion (e.g. towards some sacred object). Secondly, she was frequently able, whilst in ecstasy, to carry on work belonging to her office, e.g., embroidery, painting, etc., with perfect composure and efficiency.

Thirdly – she gave utterance to those wonderful maxims of Divine Love, and those counsels of perfection for souls, especially in the religious state. These have been preserved to us by the saint's companions, who (unknown to her) took them down. She spoke sometimes as of herself, and sometimes as the mouthpiece of one or other of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity. These maxims of the saint are sometimes described as her "Works", although she wrote down none of them herself.

In her ecstasies, Jesus was urging her to reform her community and the church.  The spread of the gospel, the salvation of souls, the renewal of religious life and the Church were her major focuses.  A lot of her letters were directed towards leading cardinals and the future Pope, Cardinal Allesandro de Medici, Archbishop of Florence.

Despite her ecstasies, she carried on her duties fully with no disruption. She rose early to light the fires in the kitchen & laundry, and spent hours cooking and washing.  She was devoted to the aged & infirm in the monastery. Known for her common sense, high standards and strictness of governance and a great charity that accompanied it.

She also had gift of reading hearts and the gift of seeing in the distance. She was a strong upholder of the value of suffering for the love of God and the salvation of souls.  ‘To suffer & not to die’ is the motto that has been attributed to her.

She died on the 25 May 1607 -  after a painful illness of 3 years, which she bore with great courage & joy.  Her last words were; ‘Benedictus Deus’ – Blessed be God.

Many miracles followed her death and in 1610 the process for beatification began under Paul V. It finished in 1626 under Urban VIII. In 1667 she was canonized under Clement IX. She was canonized not for her ecstasies but for her perfection in living a life of Love, and a fidelity to daily duty and love of neighbour. Feast is May 25th.

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