In the celebrated history of St. Mary of Egypt, which we find in the first volume of the Lives of the Fathers, we read that at twelve years of age she fled from her parents, and went to Alexandria, where she led an infamous life and became the scandal of the city. After sixteen years spent in sin, she wandered off to Jerusalem; when, on the festival of the Holy Cross, she was led to enter the church, more from curiosity than devotion. On the threshold she was thrust back, as if by some invisible power; she attempted a second time to enter, and again was repelled, and a third and a fourth time the same thing happened. The wretched creature withdrew then into a corner of the portico, and there she was interiorly enlightened and saw that God had refused her entrance into the church on account of her wicked life.
By chance, she raised her eyes and saw a picture of Mary which was painted in the vestibule. She turned to it, weeping, and said: “Oh mother of God, have pity on this poor sinner! I know that, on account of my sins, I do not deserve that thou shouldst regard me; but thou art the refuge of sinners: for the love of Jesus, thy Son, help me. Obtain for me that I may enter the church, for I desire to change my life, and go and do penance wherever thou
shalt direct.” Then she heard an interior voice, as if the blessed Virgin answered her: “Come, since thou hast invoked me, and wishest to change thy life, enter the church, for the door will no longer be closed against thee” The sinner entered, adored the cross, and wept. She returned to the picture: “Oh Lady” she said, “I am ready; where shall I retire to do penance?” “Go,” said the Virgin, “beyond the Jordan, and thou wilt find the place of thy repose.”
She made her confession, received holy communion, passed the river, reached the desert, and understood that there was her place of penance. During the first seventeen years that she lived in the desert, the evil spirits fiercely assailed her, to make her fall again. What did she then do? She recommended herself to Mary, and Mary obtained for her strength to resist for seventeen years, after which the conflict ceased.
Finally, after fifty-seven years spent in the desert, in the eighty-seventh of her age, through Divine Providence, she was found by the abbot St. Zosimus. To him, she related the story of her whole life, and begged him to return there the following year, and bring her holy communion. The holy abbot returned and gave her communion. Then she implored him again to do the same thing. He returned the second time, and found her dead, her body surrounded with light, and at her head, these words are written in the sand: “Bury in this place the body of me, a miserable sinner, and pray God for me.” A lion came and dug her grave, the abbot buried her, and, returning to the monastery, he related the wonders of divine mercy towards this happy penitent.