When I was preparing to leave my first ministerial position at Saint Mary Magdalen in Altamonte Springs, Florida, one of our parishioners approached me. Bettye was a "small person," had sung in our parish choir, was on the liturgy commission, and participated in many other parish ministries and events. She never let her diminutive size get in her way; she drove a huge, specially-equipped van, and was always quite a presence.
She came into my office as I was packing and she said she had a gift for me, a relic of Saint Mary Magdalen. I was a little skeptical, but I thanked her for her gift. I have had it in every office in which I have worked since leaving the parish in 1990.
Well, yesterday, after my conversation with Mary Lou, I decided to do some investigating. Here are a few photos of the relic, which is housed in a metal case embedded in a small cross.
I suddenly remembered yesterday that Bettye also gave me a small gold and marble box, which I had in a cabinet here in my credenza.
I lifted the cloth piece and found a piece of paper hidden beneath.
I realized that this was what people who work with the authentication of relics call "the papers."
Since Fr. Fragomeni is, what many consider an expert in the field of relics, I decided to send him a scanned copy of "the papers." It looked pretty official to me and was written in Latin.
I received a response from him late last night:
Now, the relic about which you ask.
This is a Ferrante relic. He was the Redemptorist postulator for relics in Rome.
What you have is the document for a relic of St. Mary Magdalene, Penitent. It was sealed in Rome on May 3, 1975.
It is a first class relic ex ossibus . . . from her bones. I assume you have the theca with the piece of bone. This is a holy gift and a sacramental of a great woman: the apostle to the apostles.
I was floored. Even reading that again gives me chills.
I feel like I need to have some kind of ritual on July 22 each year, her feast day.
This is such an inspiration to me, as I try to do my best at this discipleship business. Having a relic of Saint Mary Magdalene close to me will surely continue to inspire.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.