A tour of St. Mary Magdalene’s relics through parishes in California is drawing “thousands” of people, many of whom are moved with great emotion during their visit, according to organizer Paula Lawlor.
The month long tour – which began in Oakland on Feb. 14 and concludes in San Diego on March 14 – displays a leg bone fragment of St. Mary Magdalene. According to the Bible, the saint was the first to witness and announce the resurrection of Christ. For more than 700 years, the relic has been housed in a cave in southern France, where St. Mary Magdalene is believed to have spent the final three decades of her life.
“Relics remind us that the saint was a real person like you and me, made up of skin and bones,” Lawlor told EWTN News on March 9. She explained that St. Mary Magdalene “is a saint that many people feel close to because she was like the rest of us, she was a sinner, so people feel comfortable with her.”
Lawlor – a member of St. James Parish in Del Mar, San Diego County – said that thousands of people have come to venerate the relic at local parishes, and generally respond with “excitement, joy, very much emotion” and “tears.”
“Mary Magdalene gives people the gift of tears. People don't know why they are crying, but they are crying,” she said. “Tears is what she shed when she first encountered Jesus at the house of Simon as her heart was converting.”
The relics have made stops in February in northern California cities such as Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley and Santa Clara, and moved on to southern California cities – including Los Angeles, West Hollywood and San Diego – during the March portion of the tour.
Lawlor said the tour came about after she experienced a personal miracle while visiting the relics in Sainte Baume, France in the summer of 2009.
While visiting a friend, Lawlor stumbled upon the location of the relics by accident, yet decided to enter the cave and offer a personal intention to St. Mary Magdalene. Lawlor said the very next day, her private prayer was answered in full.
“I couldn't believe it at first,” she said. “I knew it had to do with her intercession.”
“I had a true desire that all people could experience for themselves what I had experienced,” Lawlor said. “I started to think about the possibility of bringing the relic to California because so many more people could be touched by her presence, people who would never be able to travel to her cave.”
In June 2010, she wrote to all 11 California Bishops, “asking if they would write a letter of invitation to the bishop in France, Bishop Dominique Rey, inviting the relic to be venerated in their respective diocese.”
Within weeks, Lawlor got an e-mail from Bishop Rey stating that he had received all the bishops' letters and that she could organize a tour with the relic visiting California for one month on the condition that the Dominican's accompanied the relic, “because they have been guarding the relic since the 1200's,” she explained. Lawlor received official permission for the tour in November of 2010 and immediately began preparations for this year's event.
Lawlor said that ultimately, her prayer is “that all people could experience their own miracle through the intercession of St. Mary Magdalene.”
“I believe this is what she herself wanted to do and I am merely the instrument,” she said. “It is incredible to me that I may have been chosen for this role, because before I went to her cave in 2009, I had no special devotion to her – I really never thought about her.”
The organizer called St. Mary Magdalene a “saint of mercy, because of the mercy that was given to her,” as well as a “saint of conversion,” who “will help people turn their life towards God as she did.”
Lawlor noted the importance of Catholics venerating relics, saying the act encourages “us to meditate on the holiness of the saint's life, as they were wonderful examples to all people when they were living.”
“Because of their example they attracted people to follow them in their service to others and their faith-filled life,” she said. “Just as God's work was done through the lives of the saints, so does his work continue after their death.”
“Just as we are drawn closer to God through holy people, those holy people – even through their remains – inspire others to come closer to God even after their deaths.”