“Apostle to the Apostles,” Contemplative, Penitent

St. Mary Magdalene

There are many questions about the person of St. Mary Magdalene.  Is she the unnamed woman who washes Jesus’ feet in Luke chapter 7?  Is she the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet before His crucifixion?  Is she the same Mary who is the sister to Lazarus and Martha? Throughout the centuries, many theologians have held the belief that the woman in all three accounts is indeed St. Mary Magdalene.

It is believed that she is called Mary Magdalene, or more directly translated, Mary the Magdalene since she is identified with the town of Magdala. An ancient tradition holds that she was from a wealthy family in Bethany but at a certain point in life went to live in Magdala, which had a high number of pagans living there. Here it is believed that she was led away from her faithful upbringing and seduced by worldly pleasures. It is said that she fell so far that she became known by the Jews as a public sinner, the notorious Magdalene.

She converted while listening to Jesus speak in a crowd. Her sins fell from her, as if they were a former life, as she heard His message of mercy and hope which pierced her heart. From that moment on, when she heard Jesus and he cast demons out of her, St. Mary Magdalene followed closely by her Lord, hanging onto His every word. She joined the group of Apostles who followed Jesus and even helped to support them monetarily.

She was known to contemplate everything Jesus said, which is why there is a strong belief that she is in fact Mary, the sister of Martha, who has chosen the better part of sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His every word when He comes to visit their family.

“I have seen the Lord.”

St. Mary Magdalene was present with the Blessed Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross and then went three days later on the morning of Easter Sunday to anoint the body with oil when she discovered the empty tomb. Jesus choose to appear to her before any of the other apostles and He gave her the important mission to proclaim the truth of His resurrection for the very first time in history.

Around the year 41 A. D she was exiled from Jerusalem with a group of Christians to France. She lived out the rest of her days in contemplation of the Lord in a grotto halfway up the mountain of La Sainte Baume. Local tradition states that she eventually ate nothing but the Holy Eucharist and died in a eucharistic ecstasy after receiving Communion for the last time.

There are very few books written about Mary Magdalene, especially in English since she is buried in France. However, the best book to read about her life is entitled, Saint Mary Magdalene: Prophetess of Eucharistic Love by Father Sean Davidson. This book is distributed by the order of priests who keep her Basilica in which she is buried and have been tasked to do so for hundreds of years, so there is much thought, research, and prayer that has gone into the telling of her story.

Feast Day: July 22nd

Source: Fr. Sean Davidson. Saint Mary Magdalene: Prophetess of Eucharistic Love. San Francisco. Ignatius Press. 2017