Saturday, January 22, 2011

Introduction to St. Mary Magdalene

View of La Sainte-Baume from my room

This Retreat House is the center of the devotion to St. Mary Magdalene. This was not especially a factor in deciding to come here for the beginning of my retreat and sabbatical. I made my decision because I wanted to return to my Dominican roots. My home parish of Ste. Anne in Fall River was staffed by the Dominican Friars from the Montreal Province. They were in Fall River for 90 years and throughout all my formative years. The parish returned to the diocese my second year in the seminary. I was clearly influenced by the preaching and teaching of the Dominicans, both priests in the parish and religious in the school. It was a Dominican friend in the US who gave me the lead on La Sainte-Baume. It was a good choice. My program here is entirely of my own making. I am following the hours of prayer of the Dominican community

La Sainte-Baume
The following order of prayer is the Liturgy of the Hours which is the tradition of the church for about 1800 years. It is based on the psalms, scripture and readings from the ancient Christian writers of the Church.
7:30am - Morning Prayer,
11:15am - Mid-day prayer followed by Mass,
6:00pm - Vespers followed by adoration until 7:00pm,
9:00pm - Night Prayer

I am taking meals in the salle de pelerins, (pilgrim's hall)
Meals are on this schedule:
8:00am - Petit Dejeuner
12:45 - Dejeuner
7:15 - Dinner

I have been doing my own reflections and readings. Yesterday I began a novena to St. Mary Magdalene. The devotion here is so powerful. In France, where faith is rare, and the practice is rarer, to realize how many people have a devotion to this "apostle to the apostles", as she is called, deserves some investigation.

Trail to the Grotto
The location is significant too. There is a grotto which tradition says is where Mary Magdalene lived after she traveled from Israel proclaiming the gospel. This grotto is hundreds of feet high in the face of the cliff known as La Sainte-Baume. It has been a religious site since the early 400's. And except for a couple of decades, has been continually staffed by religious orders for 1600 years. The walk to the grotto is beautiful. I made the hike for the first time today. I was in the grotto for the second day of my novena. Better planning tomorrow. I arrived at the terrace in front of the grotto several hundred feet above the valley floor and the battery ran out in my camera. So I posted a good picture of the trail and will post more tomorrow. 

Today I also received the key to the grande salle (the grand hall). There is beautiful concert grand piano and I have permission to practice there. Its a great diversion and of course, if I am going to be playing in the Ischia Festival in May, I need to keep the muscle tone in my fingers in good shape.

I received an e-mail from the Garde's. They are coming on Monday morning at 9:00am to pick me up for the day. We will be visiting the Cistercian Monastery near here. I have not learned the exact location, but will post that as soon as i know.

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God bless.