Published November 12, 2009
The relic, a large piece of St. Mary Magdalene’s tibia, will be available for veneration in the church for one day only on Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Pastor Msgr. Edward J. Dillon is planning a series of events to mark the special occasion, beginning with a Holy Spirit Preparatory School student-led procession of the relic into the church sanctuary at 12:30 p.m.
The relic will be on display in the church and available for public veneration from 12:30 until 6 p.m. In addition, volunteers will lead a rosary each hour in which those in attendance are invited to participate. The rosary will be followed by a brief presentation about the relic.
Members of the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher will serve as guardians throughout the day. At
6 p.m., Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory will celebrate a Mass in honor of the relic’s presence in the archdiocese. A final rosary will be prayed at the conclusion of Mass with a procession out of the church around 7:30 p.m.
The relic will also be venerated in other parishes on its first North American tour. On Nov. 21, it will be venerated at St. Joseph Church, Marietta, and on Nov. 22-23 at St. Monica Church, Duluth.
After the stop at Holy Spirit, it will journey to Prince of Peace Church, Flowery Branch. Finally, the relic will stay at Our Lady of the Americas in Lilburn on Nov. 28 and the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers on Nov. 29 before continuing on to France.
Richard Borgman of the John Paul II Training Center for the New Evangelization in Gainesville, and initiator of this tour, addressed the authenticity of the relics.
“The tradition of the Church is historically pretty close to being infallible in this area,” said Borgman. “King Louis XIV crawled on his knees up the mountains to venerate the relics of Mary Magdalene, and the princes of Europe and their ladies and the queens made special pilgrimages to this grotto in the 1200s.”
For centuries the relics were missing, disappearing from about A.D. 710 when the Saracens pillaged the south of France and the Church hid sacred objects to safeguard them.
Then in 1279, the relics were discovered by Charles II of Anjou in a crypt of a chapel in the town of St. Maximin in a sarcophagus that did not have her name but that contained a piece of old parchment dated A.D. 710, which read, “Here lies the body of Mary Magdalene.”
Upon discovering the bones, Charles II sealed the crypt and gathered all the bishops for an official opening and inspection. All of the bones including the skull were found intact. The only missing bone was the lower jaw bone which was later found and identified by the pope as the same jawbone that had been venerated, for centuries, as the jawbone of Mary Magdalene, at St. John Lateran Church in Rome.
A letter of authentication from Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon indicates that the relics have been venerated, without interruption, since their rediscovery in 1279.
Holy Spirit is located at 4465 Northside Drive, Atlanta, GA 30327. Overflow parking will be offered at Northwest Presbyterian Church (4300 Northside Drive) and St. John’s United Methodist Church (550 Mt. Paran Road.). A complimentary shuttle to Holy Spirit will be provided at both locations.
For information on veneration events at the other tour stops, please contact the appropriate parish. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses for each parish may be found on the archdiocesan Web site at www.archatl.com/parishes.