Lives of the Saints

Our Models and Protectors

May 29
  May 25

Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi

Virgin, Carmelite
(1566-1607)

Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi
Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi

Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi was the only daughter of the illustrious Camille de Pazzi, related to the Medicis of Florence. She was born in the year 1566, and was baptized with the name of Catherine. As a child she loved to go into solitary places to enter into prayer with God, who revealed Himself to her from her tender years without the aid of teachers, as her Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. She made a crown of thorns one day, and wore it for an entire night, enduring great pain. She received her First Communion at ten years of age; at twelve years, she made a vow of virginity and took great pleasure in teaching Christian doctrine to poor children.

Her father, not knowing of her vow, wished to give her in marriage, but she persuaded him to allow her to become a religious, and chose the Carmelites, because there the nuns received Communion frequently. She entered in the year of the death of Saint Teresa of Avila, 1582, at the age of sixteen. It had been more difficult to obtain her mother's consent; while she was a novice, her mother sent a portrait artist to the convent, with instructions that her daughter be portrayed in lay clothing. The Sisters complied with her request, and the portrait can still be seen in the Convent. She became professed at eighteen years of age in the Carmelite monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence, May 17, 1584, Feast of the Holy Trinity. She changed her name of Catherine to that of Mary Magdalene on becoming a nun, and took as her motto, Either suffer or die.

Her life thereafter was one of penance for sins not her own, and of love for Our Lord, who tried her in ways fearful and strange. She was obedient, observant of the Rule, humble and mortified, and had great reverence for the religious life. One day, when she seemed to be at the last hour of her life, she rose from her sickbed and hastened everywhere throughout the convent, saying during her ecstasy, O Love! O Love! No one knows You, no one knows You, no one loves You! For five years she was tormented by demons with fearful temptations of pride, sensuality, gluttony, despair, blasphemy; they became so violent that she said, I do not know whether I am a reasonable creature or one without reason; I see nothing in myself but a little good will never to offend the divine Majesty.

God raised her to elevated states of prayer and gave her rare gifts, enabling her to read the thoughts of her novices, and filling her with wisdom to direct them. She was twice chosen mistress of novices, and then made Superior. On her deathbed she asked her Sisters to love only Our Lord Jesus Christ, to place all hope in Him, and be perpetually ardent with desire to suffer for love of Him. God took her to Himself on May 15, 1607. Her body remains incorrupt.

Reflection. Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi was so filled with the love of God that her Sisters saw it in her love for them, and called her Mother of Charity, and the Charity of the Monastery.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).