Meudon (Hauts-de-Seine), Sunday April 9, 2023, 7 a.m. I wake up slowly in my room. A priori nothing differentiates this day from all the others, except that… for the first time in my life I am aware that this Easter day celebrates the resurrection of Christ. My apartment is empty, my children now each live with their father… In two hours I will be officially homeless and will leave, alongside my sidekick Claire, to open via Magdalena!
7:43 a.m., Massy, Chilly-Mazarin, Morangis (Essonne). We are sitting on a bench at the entrance to Saint-Michel de Morangis park. For our first day, we walked 22 kilometers and here, no refuge for pilgrims as on the way to Compostela. Just concrete, planes. Despite our experience, our bags are ten times too heavy. We feel exhausted, the sun begins to set, families return home. Claire is dejected. Are we so naive that we thought the doors would open at the mere mention of our status as pilgrims? I pull myself together: I dug up a list of numbers for the seven priests in the area. Six said no. There is one left to contact.
– No sorry, I’m in the provinces.
– But do you have the number of someone you know? We are pilgrims, we are going to Jerusalem. And… it’s Easter, after all!
– There may be the nuns at the Saint-Joseph Catholic school …
Hope suddenly returns! Claire and I are running a few hundred meters from the park. A huge building and a green door. Claire rings. An eternally long silence ensues. Will they respond? I launch a “Marie Madeleine, we are working there! So do what you have to do, please!”
A long silence can also announce deliverance. The door opens, a slender nun with a wonderful smile welcomes us. Claire is stunned, her heart in joy and incredulous. Me, I burst into tears, seized in the depths of my being. With them comes the pain of the body, the guilt of having left my children, the doubt about my ability to take on this project…
It is 6 p.m., the hour of Adoration. In this timeless chapel, the sisters sing a song… of Mary of Magdala! This evening we sleep like queens and enjoy a wonderful Easter meal, served by Sister Françoise Raphaëlle, Oblate of Saint-François de Sales!
The next day, at the time of departure, the nun, opening the door for us, said to us: “If you have found a place to stay in Morangis, with Marie Madeleine, the woman who opens the doors, you will find everywhere to sleep. May God bless you!” We realize that our pilgrimage has begun.
Wonderful encounters, these gifts on the way, will then follow one another… In Sens (Yonne), we laugh a lot with the sisters, apostles of love of the missionary Family of Notre-Dame and exchange with passion on Mary Magdalene, the sinner with the seven demons or the “big boss” of the Apostles. She was named “Apostle of the Apostles” for having announced to the disciples the Resurrection of Christ, according to the Fathers of the Church, a title recognized by John Paul II. In Villeblin (Yonne), Louis gives us essential oils against our pain… There is also, in Guerchy (Yonne), our meeting with the artist Jean-Louis Espilit and his companion Denis Prince. It is at their place that I choose my hiking skirt straight from Rajhastan and that I hope not to leave until Magdala…
Twelve days later, we finally arrive at the beautiful and long-awaited basilica of Vézelay. Our first place of contact with Mary Magdalene and her relics. Facing the Eternal Hill, Claire is overjoyed as if she were seeing an old friend again. Me, curiously, I do not feel anything.
Soon, however, we meet Anne-Marie Bonhomme, a former nun; she writes icons distilling the light of Christ whom she caught a glimpse of when she was close to death. “Marie Madeleine did not wait for Christ to be whole”, she confides to us. This statement strikes me! There is also Frédérique Le Marchand, who paints works inspired by the face of Christ. She reveals to us that in Hebrew, the words saint and harlot differ only by one sound. “The pilgrim is not on the way but in becoming”, she explains.
Claire and I find ourselves for three days caught in a whirlwind that is beyond us, where information about Mary Magdalene comes to us from everywhere, except from the place supposed to contain the relics of the saint. Claire meditates and attends the blessing of the pilgrim. I don’t find any sense in it and instead ask Anne-Marie to bless me. After these first fifteen days of walking where the pain of leaving our families fades, where the path begins to become our home… we feel in the depths of our beings that Mary Magdalene is calling us.