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A relic of St. Mary Magdalene visits Gainesville

POSTED: October 24, 2009 1:00 a.m.

A piece of St. Mary Magdalene

The Revs. Richard Borgman and Thomas Michelet prepare St. Mary Magdalene's tibia piece to be carried into St. Michael Catholic Church in Gainesville. The relic will be on display today and Sunday in Gainesville.

TOM REED/The Times

The Revs. Richard Borgman, left, and Thomas Michelet prepare to carry the case containing a piece of the tibia of St. Mary Magdalene into St. Michael Catholic Church.

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There was a sense of reverence, the clinking of rosary beads and the rumple of fabric as knees bent onto a bench. A relic of St. Mary Magdalene had entered St. Michael Catholic Church in Gainesville.

The relic, a piece of Mary Magdalene's right tibia, arrived in Gainesville on Thursday making its first appearance in the United States.

"Imagine that your life was so holy that 2,000 years after your death that your bones would be bringing people to Christ," said the Rev. Richard Borgman, a local missionary who first had the idea to bring the relic to the United States.

"I took her to Brazil with Bishop (Dominique) Rey and when we came into the cathedral it was filled with thousands of people and they began to clap, run, laugh and jump up and down because they were so happy that it was Mary Magdalene. So the thought that came to me was that I had to bring her to St. Michael in the U.S."

A relic, as described by The Catholic Encyclopedia, is some object, a part of the body or clothes that remain as a memorial of a departed saint.

St. Mary Magdalene's relic spent Thursday at St. Michael, Friday evening at St. Paul the Apostle in Cleveland and will be in Gainesville again today at the Pastoral Center and on Sunday at the John Paul II Training Center.

Local residents are welcome to visit the relic and pray or just take a look at the historic bone fragment.

"I believe it would be really interesting ... if people knew about the very tibia of Mary Magdalene coming for the first time into America," said the Rev. Vincent Sullivan, priest at St. Paul the Apostle. "We have a privilege of a day of veneration of relics. This relic of her tibia knelt in the garden of the resurrection and so proves that holiness is eternal, holiness being the first apostle out there telling the news of the resurrection."

St. Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrection of Christ and then began preaching the Gospel throughout France, according to the Rev. Thomas Michelet.

Michelet, a Dominican priest traveling with the relic, added that St. Mary Magdalene is traditionally called, "Apostle of the Apostles because she was the one that was sent by Jesus to tell them he was risen."

Borgman, a former pastor himself spent time with Bishop Dominic Rey who lived below the mountains of St. Baume, the area in France where Mary Magdalene is said to have spent the last 30 years of her life.

"Then she went to a cave for about 30 years, for the rest of her life and prayed," Michelet said. "She was risen, elevated seven times a day by angels above the cave, so it seems she was in perfect unity with Jesus Christ. ... She died and she was buried there and we had the relics there for a long time.

"This is not only a bone but the presence of Mary Magdalene."

The relic is normally housed in the Frejus-Toulon region of France and watched over by Bishop Dominique Rey.

"We have those relics kept by monks for centuries," Michelet said. "From the 13th century they were kept by Dominicans, since 1279. So for 700 years we have been keeping those relics."


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