St. Mary Magdalen: Icon of the Laity, Icon of Religious Life

Magdalen College, Warner, New Hampshire — These were four important years of my life in regards to my vocation to Consecrated Religious Life. It is curious, how this lay-governed, lay-administered Catholic institution responding to the Second Vatican Council's teaching about the lay vocation and lay apostolate, opens so many souls to Consecrated Religious Life and Ordained Priesthood. How does this happen? I smile when I re-read my Vatican Council II document Lumen Gentium with remarks exclaimed in margins alongside paragraphs about the laity. Underlined phrases jump from pages inspiring me to be a holy laywoman of the third Christian millennium! I was ignited by these documents, and the living and learning of them at Magdalen College. Like Mary Magdalen, I wanted to be an Apostle to the Apostles. The margins of sections on Religious Life, however, were quite tidy.

Interestingly enough, the zeal to be an apostle for Holy Mother Church was the first step toward my vocation as a consecrated Religious Sister. Walking the right direction came at Magdalen as I learned the importance of the laity in the Church.

Before attending Magdalen College, I lived the typical young Catholic-American life. A natural, sincere search for happiness merged with a cultural inclination to live in my head, exclude reality, and foster distaste for sacrifice. In my restlessness, I became attracted by the truth of my Catholic Faith. I delved into its truths and the nature of the human person at Magdalen. Through my studies and relationships, I put words to experiences of past emptiness and recognized partial truths I had accepted as absolutes. I began to distinguish true happiness from the fictional happiness preached in movies, on television, and blaring over radio waves. I recognized how this culture shaped the ways I spoke, thought, and lived. The innate tension between my world view and my nature to love and be loved in this world of isolation had drawn me to such a unique school not for the purpose of career or monetary success . . . but how to learn love to live, and live to love.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” I was told in my first Magdalen Tutorial, and with this truth before me I was examining life with bigger eyes than ever! Life at Magdalen fostered in me virtues necessary in a Catholic leader and for ultimate happiness: self-sacrifice, self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-discipline. These pillars of selflessness allowed me to choose rationally and freely, a human life truly worth living. Studying the Church’s Social Teachings and living them in a common life, I learned how my sanctification was real and tangible in every act, and that every moment was holy and ordained by God.

Most important was the sacramental and prayer life I encountered at Magdalen. Ultimately, I was formed by the Holy Eucharist. This was my preparation to respond obediently and selflessly to His call. His total outpouring of Love in the Sacrament of Sacraments every day was the “source and summit of my life” and demanded a radical response. At Magdalen, I was given the graces and formation to clear the debris so as to follow Him.

Perhaps the answer to the curious fact that a large percentage of Magdalen College graduates are called to Consecrated Religious Life and Ordained Priesthood lays in the telling life of her Patroness. While Magdalen is the icon of the New Evangelization for this lay-founded, lay-governed College, she is also the icon of Consecrated Religious Life. While she was the Apostle to the Apostles, the first to spread the Good News, she was also the first to leave the world, become a contemplative, and consecrate herself to her Rabboni. The radical love that had her keeping watch at His tomb so as to share the news of Her Beloved Lord was also the radical love with which she desired to give her heart to Him exclusively.

Sr. Maximilian Marie belongs to the order of Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI. She graduated from Magdalen College in 1999.

For more information about Magdalen College please call 1-877-498-1723, email, or visit the website.

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