Mary Magdelene de' Pazzi


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Carmelite nun and mystic. She was born in Florence of a wealthy family closely associated with the Medicis. Two contemporary portraits show that she was strikingly beautiful, but she renounced everything to become a Carmelite nun there in spite of strong family opposition. She was professed in 1584, became novice-mistress in 1598, and later subprioress. From 1604 onwards she was bedridden and suffered much pain and aridity.

Her spiritual life was extraordinary and included many visions and ecstasies. During these she sometimes seemed lifeless, but at others she conversed with Christ and the saints. Her words then spoken were recorded in detail and form an important component of her seven volumes of writings. She sometimes prophesied future events and could read the secrets of hearts.

These favours were balanced by acute sufferings, based on sharing in the sufferings of Christ for sinners, heretics, and infidels. Violent headaches and hyper-acute sensitivity with temptations to suicide were accompanied by paralysis. Knowing that death was near, she exhorted the sisters to love Jesus alone, to trust in him implicitly, and encourage each other constantly to suffer for love of him. She died on 25 May. A cult began almost at once and is centred on her still incorrupt body at S. Maria degl'Angeli, Florence. She was canonized in 1669. Feast: 25 May.

AA.SS. Maii VI (1688), 177–351; writings ed. F. Nardoni (7 vols., 1960 ff.); Ermanno del SSmo Sacramento, ‘I manuscritti originali di S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi’, Ephèmerides Carmeliticae, vii (1956), 323–40; Lives by Sr Maria Minima (1941; Eng. tr. 1958), and A. Ancilli (1967); see also B.L.S., v. 135–7; Bibl. SS., viii. 1107–31; H.S.S.C., viii. 189–93.

Subjects: Christianity.

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