The ARM of St. Michael
The chastity fellowship returns in the month of July to the icon of recovery, St Mary Magdalene (Feast day July 22). The Blessed Mother of Jesus has revealed to her children that the saint of Magdala, witness at Calvary, witness at the opened Easter tomb, great sinner but model penitent for all time, was and is the Church’s first disciple of discernment. Discernment is the ability to be informed and to align our person, our conscience, our choices and actions, morally and wisely.
Discernment is successful distinguishing between right and wrong, good and evil, sin and morality, virtue and vice, wisdom and stupidity, true and false, awakened choice and choiceless slavery, humanity and divinity. Discernment is a grace. For those outside the Christian family, grace is very simply the power of divine light and divine assistance. It is by grace, by God’s bestowing, that humans can come to have reliable knowledge, locate divinely-given capability within, in order to live well on earth. The beginning of this conference happens through the sacrament of baptism. Baptism gives us all-access to Jesus, Master Teacher, Fountain of Grace. Jesus is the author of discernment.
An intimate conversion of Mary Magdalene, emerged through two latter day ‘victim souls’, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) and Servant of God Maria Valtorta (1897-1861). In each account, the portrait of the Magdalene presents what we know today as a high-end escort or call girl. We come to glimpse her flaunted liberality, vanity, sensuality; her expensive attire, perfumes, seduction accessories; the loose court of Jewish and Roman clients who worship her as an aphrodite.
By the intercession of Martha & Lazarus, (her siblings, deducted perfectly from holy scripture by Fr Hugh Pope, O.P. before 1910; and independently/harmoniously verified by both revelations) Mary is drawn slowly over time toward the Rabbi of Nazareth. She eventually becomes convicted by the Word of Purity, Jesus. We learn that she cannot avert falling back again into her old life, she suffers from demonic possession. To receive encouragement and hope, we learn perhaps the most compelling detail for us living amidst the era of corrupted flesh: Christ proceeds to cast out of her seven demons, amounting to complete possession.
Was exorcism accomplished all at once? No. Jesus begins during an opportunity to re-convert the relapsed Magdalene. Let’s look at these seven steps, since the healing and recovery of the chronically ill happens mercifully, by repeated application of doctor medicine and the patient’s gradually cultivated desire to be truly healthy.
The Magdalene’s first shock comes with hearing the sermon on the wandering spirit, when Jesus warns that if a demon is removed by God but subsequently allowed back in again, it brings seven more spirits and the incompletely repentant soul becomes worse than before. This is exactly what had happened to her, and she passes out in horror. Jesus wants us to carefully ponder every decision to re-act-out in view of the certainty of dark consequences.
When she awakens, Christ pierces her heart with searing truth, and she falls again into convulsions with dark forms escaping from her. But her recovery from this second ministration was like she had merely come to after fainting. Is there deep attachment to the addiction-wound? Have we scoured our conscience for every denial of weakness, powerlessness?
A third time, the Magdalene is struck down again with convulsions but now she emerges like one ‘bereft of her senses’, weeping passionately and desiring to depart from the frivolous entourage that had accompanied her to Jesus’ ministry to experience a show. Her ‘drinking buddies’ still manage to coax her away, down the mountain, but they will not return with her the next day. Have we allowed penitent grief to seize us and to express true remorse to God?
On the second day, Jesus in His instruction appears again “to speak for her special benefit and, when He fixed upon her His penetrating glance, she fell once more into unconsciousness and another evil spirit went out of her.” At this stage, Mary becomes desperate for salvation and Jesus tells her “to repent from her heart, to believe and to hope, for that soon she would find peace”. But she remained somehow still under the power of the evil one, “tormented with remorse and despair even to the point of feeling lost forever”. Have we allowed the eye of God to fall upon our carefully protected and hidden wound, have we allowed His Light to fully enter into the presence of our deepest secret, the stupid love of sin?
On the third day, Jesus again ministering to the throng at Damna, “fixed his penetrating glance upon the Magdalene three times and each time she sank down and dark vapors issued from her.” She had to be carried away by others, pale, weak, annihilated, scarcely recognizable. “Her tears flowed incessantly”, she was completely transformed and confessed all her sins to Jesus and received pardon. She fell at his feet and wept, imploring Him to save her from another relapse. Jesus commanded the Magdalene to unite herself closely to His mother, most pure Mary, and seek from her advice and consolation. Can we allow a storm-silencing God to burn into us by flame of purification, hatred of lust, love of chastity, even in the midst of sin, even without the help of rational understanding? Do we finally see the great mercy of Mary’s essential advocacy? Do we pray resolutely to Our Lady of Discernment, Our Lady of Conversion, Our Lady Undoer of Knots?
Through the sinful reformed women of the Church: St Mary of Magdala, St. Mary of Egypt, St Margaret of Cortona, St Mary of Edessa, St. Mary Magdalene di Pazzi, St Thais, St Pelagia of Antioch, Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Afra, we know that conversion out of a sex-based “lifestyle” is not simple or short. We will likely have to endure multiple exorcisms, which will scour our hearts for final, perfect penitence. And if true penitence is somehow missing, then we must dare to confess the radical poverty of this lack, begging the Ocean of Mercy to relieve us of the disease of most lamentable stupidity.
Almighty God, you know how long we have struggled and fallen and risen again and again, bless us to be spared of future relapse by the power of your strength staying with us, You Who alone are strength. Let us be full cooperation with your grace. Destroy in us the spirit of “I can’t” and increase us in the spirit of “I will try”. We pray ardently through Jesus who lives with you in the Spirit one God forever and ever Amen.