St. Mary Magdalene is a saint of many legends. She is traditionally said to be both the sister of Martha and Lazarus and also the penitent woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Her feast today, “…is solely that of the woman to whom Christ appeared and not that of the sister of Lazarus or the penitent woman” (Hoever 323). Since today’s feast is that only of the Mary Magdalene named in Scripture, we will look only at the Scriptural references which mention her by name for her history, as this is in keeping with the specific celebration of this feast day.
St. Mary Magdalene took her name from the town of Magdala, so her name literally means “Mary of Magdala” (Hoever 322). It is good that she did this, because with so many Marys in the Bible, it is easy to get them mixed up! The Bible tells us that she was converted after Jesus expelled seven demons from her. After this, she lived and worked with Jesus and the Apostles in His ministry on earth (Mark 15:41, Luke 8:2-3). She must have been very close to Him, because she was present at Christ’s crucifixion (John 19:25), death (Matt. 27:56, Mark 15:40), and burial (Mark 15:47). She was also the first person the Bible mentions as having seen Jesus after His resurrection (John 20:14-16). It is important to mention, however, that tradition holds that Jesus first appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary, an honor fitting to her as His mother. Of course, this also shows us St. Mary Magdalene’s place in Jesus’ heart – she being allowed to be the second person to see Him after He rose from the dead! Not one of the Apostles was given such a privilege. After Jesus’ resurrection, she was among the first to proclaim the joyful news of Easter – Christ was risen! (Mark 16:10, John 24:9-10). Unfortunately, the Scriptures tell us nothing of her life after these events, so beyond the Resurrection we have only legend. But what we do know is enough to see that St. Mary Magdalene was an important part of Christ’s life, and that we should feel ourselves drawn to imitate her repentance and love for Jesus.
St. Mary Magdalene, please pray for us that we, like you will be freed from our sins and follow Jesus faithfully. Pray too that we will have the courage to spread Christ’s Gospel to the world just as you gave the good news of Jesus’ Resurrection to His Apostles.
So that the Catholic reader may not be confused, the Saint’s feasts are taken from the traditional calendar, so if you follow the new calendar, this feast may not line up with the feast you may be celebrating today.
Hoever, Rev. Hugo. Illustrated Lives of the Saints. Catholic Book Publishing Corps, 2005
Holy Bible. Douay-Rheims Version, Loreto Publications, 2007