~Letters from Fr. Page by Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, sP
|the altar at St. Joseph's Church, Baraboo, Wisconsin|
|the twelfth station, Jesus dies on the cross, St. Joseph's Church, Baraboo, WI|
|St. Joseph's Church, Baraboo, WI|
Each year when my family and I enjoy our annual camping vacation, we attend Sunday morning Mass at St. Joseph's Church in Baraboo, Wisconsin. It's one of my favorite churches, full of beautiful statues and stained glass. Mass at St. Joseph's is always reverent despite the faint scent of campfire that hovers about my family and I while we worship.
This year something caught my eye that I had never noticed before. While looking at the altar, I was struck by the image of St. Mary Magdalene, bereft, upon her knees in grief, at the foot of the cross. In many churches it's common to see the Blessed Mother and St. John standing at the foot of the cross, but here, they were absent, and Mary Magdalene alone was portrayed in her sorrow. Glancing to my side at the stations of the cross, I saw that once again, there was the Magdalene on her knees, this time joined by Our Lady and the disciple that Jesus loved. And finally, as I turned to leave the church after Mass, I saw yet another image in stained glass, of the saint who loved much, on her knees before our crucified Lord.
I thought of the three times that our Lord asked St. Peter if he loved Him after His resurrection, and St. Peter affirmed his love with three verbalizations. In contrast, Mary Magdalene gave three obvious, yet wordless, displays of love for Jesus, not just as seen in the artwork at St. Joseph's Church, but also in scripture. She knelt at His feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee, with her alabaster jar of ointment, broken open and spilling love for the Lord with abandon. She knelt at the foot of the cross on Good Friday in utter despair. She knelt at the entrance of the tomb not realizing the glory of the resurrection that was just beyond that tearful moment. In each situation, her love was evident without requiring any questioning from the Lord. She is a fragrant flower, blooming at the stem of Love and Mercy.
And the Lord blessed her for her openness, for her inability to hold back her feelings, for her willingness to release her sins and accept the forgiveness of God, and then to go forth to proclaim His love to the world. He accepted her passionate grief, knowing that her own love, watered by her tears, nourished by her compassion, would blossom into a witness for the world on how we, too, are to love the Lord; that is, fully, wholly, unreservedly, through our sorrows and joys, our sufferings and our triumphs, our losses and our gains.
Then, in the end, sweet Mary Magdalene is rewarded for her love with a magnificent entrance into the heavenly gates, carefully holding her jar of fragrant oil, now standing tall, no longer kneeling in sorrow, blissfully entering into the eternal arms of her Savior.
|St. Mary Magdalene by Christi Jentz|
The beautiful painting above is an original creation of Christi Jentz and is available for purchase in small giclee (pronounced zhee-klay) reproductions and cardstock. Please visit her fabulous and informative website, Lumen Christi Art, for more details on how to order her artwork or to simply enjoy the art and background information that she offers. You'll want to check back frequently to read her fascinating blog updates.