Feast Day: July 22
The feast of St. Mary Magdalene (from Magdala, near the Lake of Galilee) has been celebrated on this date since the tenth century. Except for the Mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene. Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been persistent legend in the church that she is the unnamed sinful women who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50. Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Lk 8:2) – an indication, at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or, possibly severe mental illness.
Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.” She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother. And, of all the “official” witnesses that might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given. She arrived at Christ’s tomb that morning shortly before dawn. Discovering that the stone had been moved, Mary Magdalene ran to the apostles Simon, Peter, and John and brought them back to see.
Mary Magdalene became such a faithful follower of Christ that her name is placed first in the list of women who accompanied Jesus (Lk 8:2; Mk 15:47; Mt 27:56). And even on Calvary, the faithful Mary Magdalene took her stand beneath the cross. Her “loving worship” and her “faithful love” kept Mary close to Christ. St. Gregory the Great said: “Though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed.” In the Gospel according to John (chap. 20) we read that Mary Magdalene was so distraught that she did not even recognize the risen Lord when he stood before her.
According to the Eastern tradition, after Pentecost Mary Magdalene accompanied Mary, the Mother of Christ and John, the Apostle to Ephesus, where she died and was buried. The example of St. Mary Magdalene’s ardent love for Christ, her courageous stance on Calvary, and her profession of faith in the risen Lord are relevant for us also, who have not yet fully understood the Scriptures (Jn 20:9). And it is impossible to write about Mary Magdalene today without acknowledging “The Da Vinci Code,” which suggest that Mary Magdalene was a “holy vessel” that “bore the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ.” Biblical scholars and theologians find no reliable historical evidence that Jesus was married to her or anyone else.
Nevertheless, for centuries, Mary Magdalene has been recognized as the “Apostle to the Apostles.” Her testimony gives witness that we are all sinners in need of the saving power of God, whether our sins have been lurid or not. More importantly, we are all, with her, “unofficial” witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Saint Mary Magdalene, pray for us and our evangelistic hearts for Christ!
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Gallick, Sarah. “The Big Book of Women Saints.” New York, NY: HarperOne, 2007.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons