Grace guards that moment when the spirit halts
to watch the Magdalen
in the mad turbulence that was her love.
Light hallows those who think about her when
she broke through crowds to the Master’s feet
or ran on Easter morning,
her hair wind-tumbled and her cloak awry.
What to her need were the restrictions of
earth’s vain formalities?
She sought, as love so often seeks and finds,
a Radiance that died or seemed to die.
One can surmise she went to Calvary
distraught and weeping, and with loud lament
clung to the cross and beat upon its wood
till Christ’s torn veins spread a soft covering
over her hair and face and colored gown.
She took her First Communion in His Blood.
O the tumultuous Magdalen! But those
who come upon her in the hush of love
claim the last graces. A wild parakeet
ceded its being to a mourning dove,
as Bethany had prophesied. We give
to Old Provence that solitude’s location
where her love brooded, too contemplative
to lift the brief distraction of a wing.
There she became a living consecration
to one remembering.
Magdalen, first to drink the fountained Christ
Whose crimson-signing stills our creature stir,
is the Blood’s mystic. Was it not the weight
of the warm Blood that slowed and silenced her?
Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D. (Jessica Powers, 1950)
Powers, J 1999, The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
“Let the just man break me out of compassion for sinners, let the oil with which one perfumes his head not weaken mine.”
I cannot be broken, tried, except by the just, since all my Sisters are pleasing to God. It is less bitter to be broken by a sinner than by a just man; but out of compassion for sinners in order to obtain their conversion, I ask You, oh, my God! that I may be broken for them by the just souls who surround me.
I ask You, too, that the oil of praise so sweet to nature may not weaken my head, that is, my mind, by making me believe I possess virtues that I have hardly practiced several times. Oh, Jesus, Your name is like oil poured out; it is in this divine perfume that I want to bathe myself entirely, far from the eyes of creatures….
Thérèse of the Child Jesus Letter 259 to Sr. Geneviève
View the original manuscript of St. Thérèse’s letter to Sr. Geneviève—her sister Pauline—at the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
My dear Mother, now I would like to tell you what I understand by the fragrance of the perfumes of the Beloved.
Since Jesus has re-ascended to Heaven, I can only follow him through the footprints that he left, but how illuminated are these footprints, how aromatic they are! I only have to cast my eyes on the holy gospel; all of a sudden I’m breathing in the perfumes of the life of Jesus and I know on which side to run…
It’s not the first place, but the last place that I aim for; rather than moving forward with the pharisee, I repeat, full of trust, the humble prayer of the tax-collector;
but above all I imitate the conduct of Magdalene: her astonishing—or rather her loving audacity—that charms the Heart of Jesus, seduces mine.
Yes, I feel it, even if I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go—my heart, broken in repentance—throw myself in the arms of Jesus because I know how much he cherishes the prodigal child who comes back to Him.
It’s not because the good God, in his prevenient mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I raise myself to Him through trust and love…
Renowned Discalced Carmelite scholar Father François-Marie Léthel concluded Meditation 8 of the 2011 Lenten Exercises for the Roman Curia by citing this final paragraph from Manuscript C. He also notes that, “at the same moment, Thérèse writes to her spiritual brother Bellière:
“You love St. Augustine, St. Magdalene; these souls to whom “many sins were forgiven because they loved much”. Me too, I love them; I love their repentance, and especially… their loving audacity! When I see Magdalene come forward in the midst of the numerous guests, showering the feet of her adorable Master with her tears, that she’s touching for the first time, I sense that her heart has understood the abysses of love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus and that, total sinner that she is, this Heart of love is not only disposed to pardon her but still more to lavish upon her the benefits of his divine intimacy, to lift her up to the highest summits of contemplation. Ah! my dear little Brother, since it was given to me also to understand the love of the Heart of Jesus, I admit to you that has chased away all fear from my heart. The memory of my faults humiliates me, it brings me to never learn on my strength, which is only a weakness, but even more this memory speaks to me of mercy and love. How—when you throw your faults with total, filial trust in the burning all-consuming brazier of love—how wouldn’t they be consumed without coming back?”
Read Father John Clarke’s translation of Letter 247 from Saint Thérèse to Abbé Maurice Bellière (21 June 1897) here.
Nota Bene: We have elected to be as faithful to the original text as possible in our translation, avoiding a re-cast into contemporary idioms. There is the age-old question among translators of French: does avoir confiance mean to be confident, to have confidence, or does it mean to trust? As an example, again and again today, theological translators agree: the best and truest translation of Jésus, j’ai confiance en toi is, Jesus, I trust in you.
Yes, dear Sister, like that great passionate, illuminated Magdalene, let us pass through everything, lost in His Infinity! “Many sins will be forgiven her because she has loved much!” (Lk 7:47) That is what He asks of us: Love that no longer looks at self, but leaves itself and ascends higher than its own feelings, its own impressions; Love that gives itself, surrenders itself, Love “that establishes Unity.” Let us live like Mary Magdalene through everything, day [and] night, in light or darkness, always beneath the eyes of Unchanging Beauty that wishes to fascinate us, to captivate us, more than that, to deify us!
Oh, my Sister, “to be Him,” that is my whole dream; then, do you believe that the Father, who contemplates His adored Word in us, can resist the powerful prayer that one glance, one desire can become? Oh yes, let us be Him, and “let us go to the Father” in the movement of His divine soul.
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Letter 121 to Sister Agnès of Jésus-Marie 11 June 1902
While I was on earth, I took her for my friend; but now that I am in heaven, I have chosen you.
(Avila, Incarnation, July 22, 1572)
A favor on St. Mary Magdalene’s feast
1. On the feast of St. Mary Magdalene the Lord again confirmed in me a favor He had granted me in Toledo, choosing me in the place of a certain person who was absent.
Día de la Magdalena, me tornó el Señor a confirmar una merced que me había hecho en Toledo, eligiéndome en ausencia de cierta persona en su lugar. [Las Relaciones: Capítulo 32]
 This is a probable reference to an event reported by Diego de Yepes in his life of St. Teresa (1615, Madrid). One day in Toledo, Teresa was envying St. Mary Magdalene for the love our Lord had for her. The Lord then appeared to Teresa and said: While I was on earth, I took her for my friend; but now that I am in heaven, I have chosen you.