The anniversary of the birth of St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, 450 years ago, could not be celebrated in a more appropriate year than this Jubilee Year of Mercy! We can truly call this saint as being the singer of Divine Mercy: “O God, most merciful and high, your mercy is without limits! It is true that you love your creatures! You are more interested in attracting man to You than man comes towards you!
From where is this saint’s hymn on divine mercy coming? Firstly, she realised that God cast His eyes upon her since her conception in her mother’s womb and even though she did nothing to be worthy of this choice, God, in His love and mercy, wanted her for Himself. In this sense, the saint realises that when God shows mercy, He is loving. Moreover, God’s love is His mercy and His mercy is love. Mercy does not emerge from the emotional capacity of pitying someone but it emerges from love. God has mercy on us because we are dear to Him. In Maltese, this seems to be more the union between love and mercy. Someone dear to me, familiar, equal to me, is referred to as ‘dear’, a derivative of ‘mercy, love.’
In her mystic experience, explained clearly in her mystical writings, Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi mentions mercy in an explicit and direct way for about 1,020 times when speaking about God. Her main writings are in fact a transcript by her fellow sisters of all that she used to vocally experience while in ecstasy. Thus these writings see to be characterised by the announcing of the mystery that opened before her and which she announces in the Church through preaching. These teachings are found in five volumes of manuscripts: The Forty Days, The Colloquies, Revelations and Intelligences and The Probation. To these, we have to add other writings of a different genre like the personal letters to members of her family and friends as well as counsels that she used to give to her fellow nuns and which they gathered into a book.
We here going to glance at some thematic considerations about mercy in the saint’s writings.
Mercy as a remedy of indifference
If there is something which Mary Magdalene preaches in there writings, this is surely Divine Mercy in contrast with man’s indifference and ingratitude. She reflects very often on man’s indifference towards God, and asks in an astonishing way what is wanted from God by man to be attracted to Him: “What is needed from You, O great Love?” Is it knowledge? Is it goodness, kindness? Is it Mercy? Is it Gentleness or Love? She asks these questions, to try and understand why man reacts so badly with God, while meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, who is ‘God’s olive branch of peace and mercy,’ and the sufferings He underwent in the hands of the unjust. Christ’s wounds on the Cross ooze in an abundant way mercy so that the soul drinks from it and becomes “in all humility so merciful in a generous way towards her brethren in their spiritual and material needs.”
So it is through this mercy that the malady of indifference is healed. For indifference and a cold heart, God gives the medicine of mercy that unwinds the heart (miseri-cordiai) and moves us towards God and towards our brethren. The soul that drinks from the mercy that oozes from the wounds of Christ feels lighter from holding tight to the material things of this world and with great agility she becomes dedicated to help God and man. In other words, the soul becomes like Christ, lives up to His name.
His Name is Mercy
Maddalena de’ Pazzi reflects also on the meaning of Christ’s name. Christ’s name “in heaven is beauty, on earth is mercy and love, in hell justice.” For us and our salvation, His name is mercy, because He “in everything acts in a merciful way, which mercy is brought about by the great love that He has towards all creatures.” In fact creation is the result of His mercy, redemption emerges from His mercy, the giving of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist is brought about through His mercy, because “His name is mercy,” as expressed by Pope Francis in his book His Name is Mercy.
Since His name is mercy, His identity is Mercy, in the saint’s words “His very own beingis Mercy” insisting that “No one can really understand this Mercy, except God Himself.” We cannot understand God completely. We recognise that He is mercy through His conduct towards us. In His conduct towards us, in this way, God shows His Justice towards us even when He scolds us. He does this to us to improve our lives and stay away from that which hurts us, others and our relationship with Him. His scolding, brought about by mercy, brings us back to our senses and towards Him, so much so that we are ready to receive the forgiveness that is given us through our union with Him.
De’ Pazzi insists that the one who is in hell “God reacts in a merciful and just way”, because mercy does not go against that which is just and right, and justice is not justice if it does not reflect God’s lovingness towards us, but it becomes a vindictive punishment, which is not so with God, as the saint says “With so much mercy you keep inwards and you do not take revenge on the offences that we commit towards you.” Interesting to note is that the saint teaches that our perception that there is opposition between Justice and Divine Mercy is brought about through Lucifer. The saint imagines that through this, the devil puts the stairs which we use to lift ourselves towards God, like spiky creatures, that make it difficult for us to climb up in a hurried pace towards this God of Mercy as we forget that God destroyed this non-existent opposition between Mercy and Justice because through the love that He has towards us, He gave us His Only Son who became man. This love which is expressed in just mercy and in loving justice pushes us to always live in the truth and love of God, embraced in His mercy:
“O my gentle God, what mercy can I receive from You if I don’t abandon myself completely on You? Have mercy on me, my God. I really know that I am not worth this mercy but a thousand hells. However I can really pray for mercy, O God, because in that which is yours, ............... (your intention) So my God, all I can do is pray for mercy, and please release me not from places where many curse You.”