Today is the 146 birthday of the Marcel Proust. Big deal, right? It’s just that the OED’s WOTD today is “madeleine”. “Madeleine” makes me think immediately – and in an appropriately nostalgic way – of a certain feast, of a certain priest, and of a certain cookie.
The feast of St. Mary Magdalene is coming up soon, on 22 July. As of last year she has a feast, again, in the Ordinary Form calendar, and she was given her own preface (which has a Latin error in it, btw… HERE).
The priest I have in mind I met in Rome. He was very kind to me. He was once rector of St. Cecilia in Trastevere and also ran a residence for college age men who lived in community, ate and prayed together. Some went on to pursue vocations to the priesthood. I stayed there for a summer when I was studying Latin with Fr. Reginald Foster in one of his early (famous) summer boot camps. Foster, as a matter of fact, introduced me to this group. After I left the hell-hole that was my US seminary, I stayed there again for a summer before enlisting in a new seminary in Rome and diocese. I phoned him the day I was “deselected” (yes, that was really the word the rector used, the coward), and he told me to kick the dust off and come to Rome, there would be a place for me and he’d help me find a new path. Thus began my long Roman era, serving Masses in the cloister of St. Cecila, doing office work at the Sant’Uffizio, and sorting Italian from the less … acceptable Romanaccio I was quickly picking up in the streets of Trastevere. I recall sitting under orange and lemon trees in the courtyard with this priest on a still blazing warm evening, and listening to him reminisce about his mother, Maddalena, who had also died on her name day, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. It was 22 July 1989. I had never seen a priest roll up the sleeves of his cassock before and that image and the moment has stuck in my head ever since. Anyway, say a prayer for don Antonio, who died a few years ago, and for his mother. Try to remember also the mothers of priests.
The cookies I have in mind are called “madeleines”. These are beautiful little scallop-shaped affairs, instantly recognizable. They aren’t really named after Mary Magdalene, but, who cares? You might try making some. If you don’t have a mold – US HERE – UK HERE.
Rightly or wrongly, Mary Magdalene has long been associated in art and literature with ongoing penitence for past sins. Hallow her upcoming feast with a thorough examination of conscience, which can be bitter. Then, after GOING TO CONFESSION, have some madeleines… perhaps with Mystic Monk Coffee. They will sweeten your remembrance of things past.