By Marlena Chavira-Medford
A couple of years ago when Del Mar resident Paula Lawlor visited a friend in the south of France, she had no inkling that the trip would also prove to be a powerful spiritual journey. It was there that she visited Sainte Baume, a mountain cave where Saint Mary Magdalene spent the last 30 years of her life in isolation. Though Lawlor had never known of the place before, said she felt a divine presence in that cave as she prayed to the saint.
“And the very next day, my prayers were answered,” she said. “I was praying about very real problems, and I had a very powerful experience.”
So powerful that she felt enveloped in a new passion. She said she wanted to tell everyone about what took place, and to experience what she had. After working on the project for several months,
Lawlor was able to arrange a tour of the Relic of Saint Mary, which began Feb. 14 in Northern California and is ending in San Diego on March 14. The relic — which is a portion of Saint Mary Magdalene’s tibia, or shinbone — will make local stops at: Saint Therese of Carmel in San Diego on March 12; Church of the Resurrection in Escondido on March 13; and St. John the Evangelist in San Diego on March 14. The Dominicans have guarded the relic since the 1200s, and therefore the tour is centered on Dominican parishes.
The experience at Sainte Baume impacted Lawlor so much that she said she felt inspired to learn all that she could about Saint Mary Magdalene. During her research, she discovered that while delivering a homily in the year 951 Pope Gregory I referred to a “woman Luke called a sinner and John called Mary.” Lawlor said that created a legacy of confusion, inaccurately linking the mentioned prostitute to Mary Magdalene, despite the fact that gospel never states that she is. Inspired to bring this misconception to light, Lawlor wrote a book about it, “A Love Devout — The True Untold Story of Mary Magdalene.”
Lawlor, who is a mother of seven and a member of St. James Parish in Del Mar, said she feels the recent book and tour are among her life’s most important work yet.
“The funny thing is that before this, I had no special devotion to [Saint Mary Magdalene], but I almost feel like I was meant to tell her story. Too many things keep coming together too easily for me to think otherwise. My hope is that more people come to know the true story of [Saint Mary Magdalene], and that they have their own miracle. It happened for me, and I know it can happen for anyone.”
For more information about Lawlor, her book, and the current tour please visit magdalenepublishing.org.