Relic tour of St. Mary Magdalene to make a stop in archdiocese

A relic tour of St. Mary Magdalene is making a stop in the St. Louis Archdiocese next month.

A reliquary containing a part of her tibia, or leg bone, will be on display at two archdiocesan parishes and the Dominican Priory in Midtown St. Louis beginning Thursday, March 21. It is part of a tour that started in Illinois in February. St. Mary Magdalene is often referred to as the "apostle to the apostles," and is recorded as the first witness to the resurrection of Christ.

"Mary Magdalene was the ultimate penitent who was profoundly changed through the mercy and grace of Our Lord," said Paula Lawlor, relic tour coordinator. "Her complete conversion inspires all humanity with hope."

According to tradition, Mary Magdalene and her sister, Martha, and brother, Lazarus, were persecuted by the Jews of Jerusalem and imprisoned after the execution of St. James in Jerusalem. The three were towed off the shores of Palestine with a group of others in a boat without sails, oars or supplies and abandoned in the the open sea. After escaping death, the boat finally came to shore on the coast of Gaul (France) in a town now called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Camargue, near Marseille.

Mary Magdalene and others went on to Marseille, where they preached and converted the whole of Provence. She then retreated to a mountain cave on the plain of the Plan d'Aups known as Sainte Baume (meaning holy cave), where she remained by herself for the last 30 years of her life in contemplation, prayer and penance.

In 1279, Charles II, nephew of St. Louis, King of France, learned that the relics of St. Mary Magdalene were buried in the town of St. Maximin, and he ordered the site to be excavated. A marble tomb was discovered on Dec. 10, which included her entire body, except for her jaw bone.

Upon opening the crypt, the air was filled with an aromatic fragrance. The sarcophagus contained a piece of parchment wrapped in wax dated 710 A.D. and a wooden tablet with the words, "Here lies the body of Mary Magdalene." It also was discovered that her remains had been secretly transferred so they wouldn't be found during the Saracen invasions.

Years later, Pope Boniface VIII established the Dominican order at Ste. Baume and St. Maximin, and the Dominicans have remained guards of the relics since then. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, including kings, popes and saints, have traveled to Ste. Baume and St. Maximin to pray before the relics. 

Thursday, March 21: • St. Mary Magdalen, 4924 Bancroft Ave. in south St. Louis; 7:50 a.m. candlelight procession carrying the relic into the church, followed by Mass; 9:15 a.m. Chaplet and Litany; 9:30-10:30 a.m. spiritual talk; 11:30 a.m. Mass; 1 p.m. relic departs. Call (314) 352-2111.

• St. Mary Magdalen, 2618 South Brentwood Blvd. in Brentwood; 2 p.m. candlelight procession carrying the relic into the church; 2:15-3 p.m. Confessions, followed by Mass; 4-6 p.m. Confessions; 4:30 p.m. Chaplet and Litany; 5 p.m. Rosary; 5:30-6:30 p.m. Blessed Sacrament exposed for spiritual talk, followed by 7 p.m. Mass; relic departs at 8 p.m. Call (314) 961-8400.

Friday, March 22:

• St. Dominic Priory, 3407 Lafayette Ave. in St. Louis; 8 a.m. Morning Prayer with preaching; 11 a.m. Mass, with veneration throughout the day; 2 p.m. Rosary or Chaplet to St. Mary Magdalene; 4:30 p.m. Evening Prayer with preaching. Call (314) 678-9427 for more information. 

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