St. Gregory, commenting on these words of the Divine Master—“qui non renuntiat omnibus quae possidet, non potest meus esse discipulus”—said that he who undertakes to fight the devil must put off the vestments of earthly things: “Qui contra diabolum ad certamen proper at, vestimenta abiiciat, ne succumbat.”
It was the 5th of July, 1587, when God, having taken [St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi, his] faithful servant into ecstasy, gave her to understand it to be His will that she should go barefooted, choose the meanest among the habits of the Religious, and take for herself the poorest cell and the most wretched bed.
She, without interposing a single thought of delay, being still in ecstasy, took off her shoes and stockings, and, going to her cell, removed therefrom every object, even the least one, with the exception of a Crucifix on the little altar; she also stripped the bed, leaving only a straw mattress and a board.
Then, going to the room where the nuns’ habits were kept and repaired, she opened the closets to see what tunics they contained. Selecting the most worn and patched one, she withdrew to another room, where, taking off the one she had on, she put on the other.
The contentment and joy of her heart at seeing herself so meanly clad for the love of God was so great, that, fixing her eyes on heaven, she thanked Divine Providence for it as for a special benefit, and, with unutterable emotion of affection, recited the Te Deum.
After this, making a bundle of her former habit, she brought it to the room of the mother prioress, and, taking an inkstand, with pen and paper, immediately went to the choir, and then, ascending the altar of the Blessed Virgin and kneeling down, placed the paper in the bosom of the sacred image, with her profession renewed in writing upon it, in these words:
“I, Sister Mary Magdalen, make profession of and promise to God—to His most pure Mother, the Virgin Mary, to St. Catherine of Siena, and to Francis the Seraphic, and to all the celestial court—obedience, chastity, and poverty in the manner in which God at this moment makes me understand and know; with a firm purpose of never leaving it unless I should have a true light, making me know that it is pleasing to Him, as I now understand that it is truly Himself who wants me to observe this poverty; hence, confiding in His help and mercy, I make this profession— in manu puritatis Mariae—in the hands of Mary’s purity.”
Whilst she wrote this spontaneous formula, she kept her left hand continually on the hands of the image. Then laying down the pen, with her right hand on the inkstand, and gravely stretching out her left hand on the paper, and, finally joining both of them with energy, she said with a firm voice:
“If anybody shall tell me that I invent a new rule, I will answer that it is no novelty, but simply perfecting my rule, as all should do.”
The Rev. Father Placido Fabrini
Chapter XVI (excerpts)
Note: Father Fabrini republished Father Antonio Isoleri’s translation of an 1852 Florentine edition of the original 1611 biography of St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi, which was written by her spiritual director, Vincenzio Puccini: “Vita della vener. Madre Suor M. Maddalena de’ Pazzi, fiorentina monaca dell’ordine carmelitano, raccolta e descritta dal M. Vincenzio Puccini con l’aggiunta della terza, quarta, quinta e sesta parte.” In 1619 the English College Press published an English translation of this biography by Sir Tobie Matthew, “The life of the holy and venerable mother Suor Maria Maddalena De Patsi a Florentine lady, & religious of the Order of the Carmelites.”
Here is Tobie Matthew’s 1619 translation of the profession formula that is quoted above:
I Suor Maria Maddalena make profession, and do promise to God, and to his most pure Mother the Virgin Mary, to S. Catharine of Siena, and to the Seraphicall Francis, together with all the celestiall Court, Obedience, Chastity, and Pouerty in such sort, as God at this instant doth make me vnderstand; and know it with firme purpose that I will neuer leaue it, vnles I shall haue true light, that his pleasure is otherwise, as now I vnderstand that it is truely he, who is pleased that I shall obserue this kind of Pouerty. And therefore, confiding in his help and mercy, I make this Profession in manu Puritatis Mariae, in the hand of the Purity of Mary.
Fabrini, P. & De’ Pazzi, M.M. 1900, The life of St. Mary Magdalen De-Pazzi: Florentine noble, sacred Carmelite virgin, translated from the Italian by Isoleri A., [publisher not identified] Philadelphia.
Puccini V et al., 1619, The Life of the Holy and Venerable Mother Suor Maria Maddalena De Patsi Etc. [the Translator’s Dedication Signed: G.b. I.e. Sir Toby Matthew.], English College Press, Saint-Omer, http://name.umdl.umich.edu/A04486.0001.001, accessed 24 January 2023.
Featured image: The Ecstasy of St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi is an oil on canvas painting attributed to the Italian painter Alessandro Rosi (1627–1697). Its creation date is ca. 1650–1660 and it is part of the collection of the Musée des Beaux Arts in Chambéry, France. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)
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