Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. (Although we tend to say “feast” for the days we celebrate saints, they are actually classified as memorials on the Church’s liturgical calendar.) Just a month or so ago, Pope Francis elevated the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast day. This means that her feast day is celebrated, liturgically, on the same “level” as that of the Apostles. While she is one of the best known figures in the Gospel, there is still plenty to learn about this amazing woman of faith.
- Mary Magdalene is often referred to as the “Apostle to the Apostles.” Why? She was the first to recognize that the tomb where Christ had been laid three days prior was now empty, and Christ raised from the dead. Christ appeared to her but she did not recognize the Risen Lord until he spoke her name. Then she brought this great news to the Apostles.
- Nowhere in Scripture is Mary Magdalene identified as a prostitute, but many people believe she was.
- Jesus performed an exorcism on her, casting out seven demons. Clearly, she had much to be grateful for, and we can assume that she became a devoted disciple of Christ because of this.
- Mary Magdalene, whomever else she may have been, was one courageous woman. When all but one of Christ’s Apostles abandoned Him as He was crucified, Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross with Mary, the Mother of God and the Apostle John. For hours, these three watched, waited and prayed as their Beloved died a horrific death. Despite any fear they may have had of the Roman government, their love for Christ gave them the courage to be with Him in the most agonizing moments of His life. Mary Magdalene was one gutsy lady.
- Her special title is “Penitent.”
What so few realize is that Saint Mary Magadalen, because her gratitude and humility are equal to her unparalleled love, is delighted to bear, through all Christian centuries, the title Penitent in order that through her the mercies of her Lord might be made manifest. For actually, in all the days of her life that followed upon her anointing the feet of Jesus in the house of Simon, the Pharisee, she grew in love and prayer and contemplation to such a height that, except for Our Lady’s whose life transcends in holiness that of the lives of all the saints together Saint Mary Magdalen’s life may be said to be the holiest of all the holiest women in the Church.
Today, on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, let us ask for her intercession that we too may live a faithful life of courage, despite our circumstances, despite our doubts and fears. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!