Our Patron, St. Mary Magdalen
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Who is Saint Mary Magdalen?

She is the patron saint of the contemplative life, converts, glove makers, hairstylists, penitent sinners, people ridiculed for their piety, perfumeries and perfumers, pharmacists, and women.

From a Homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great

When Mary Magdalen came to the tomb and did not find the Lord's body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: “The disciples went back home,” and it adds: “but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.”

We should reflect on Mary's attitude and the great love she felt for Christ, for 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, as the voice of truth tell us: “Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.”

Mary Magdalen, Disciple

Mary Magdalen (first century) was a witness of the Resurrection and is patron saint of repentant sinners, hairdressers, and the contemplative life. Known also as Mary of Magdala, she was, according to Luke 8:2 healed of seven demons by Jesus. She was also among the women who accompanied and supported Jesus and the twelve apostles and was present at the Crucifixion and burial (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40, John 19:25). Mary Magdalen is mentioned in five of the six Resurrection narratives in the Gospel tradition: Mark 16:1-8; Matthew 28:1-20; Luke 23:56b-24:53; John 20:1-29; and Mark 16:9-20 (she is not mentioned in John 21:1-23) Peter {June 29} is mentioned in four of the six narratives and is linked with Mary Magdalen in three. He is not mentioned in Matthew 28, the chapter that announces both the Resurrection and the post- Resurrection command to evangelize the world. In Matthew, John, and appendix to Mark’s Gospel, she, not Peter, is the primary witness to the Resurrection. Peter is the primary witness in the tradition of Paul and Luke (1 Cor. 15:5, Luke 24:34). These facts do not undermine the authority of Peter in any way, but they do underscore the complementary roles of women, Peter, and the other disciples as witnesses to the Risen Christ. Among the women, Mary Magdalen is clearly portrayed in Scripture as having the primary role. Later traditions erroneously equated Mary with both the sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50, who anointed Jesus, and with Mary of Bethany who also anointed Jesus (John 11:1- 12:8; Luke 10:38-42).

Her feast, which has been observed in the West since the eighth century, is one on the General Roman Calendar and is celebrated on this day across the ecumenical spectrum: by the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Evangelical Lutheran church in America. Both Oxford and many famous representations of her in art, for example, Giotto’s Crucifixion and Titian’s Noli Me Tangere (Lat., “Do not touch me”), which depicts her meeting with the Risen Christ in the garden (similarly depicted by Rembrandt.)   Her reputed burial place was at Saint-Maximin in modern-day France. The Benedictine church was destroyed by Saracens in the eighth century and later rebuilt by Dominicans in 1295. Her alleged relics are contained in a splendid bronze casket in the crypt. Her feast is also on the Dominican and Cistercian liturgical calendars for this day.

~From “The Lives of the Saints: from Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to John XXIII and Mother Teresa,”
© 2001 by Richard P. McBrien, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

For more information on St. Mary Magdalen, check out the following:

Haskins, Susan. Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993.  

Maisch, Ingrid. Mary Magdalene: The Image of a Woman Through the Centuries.  Trans. Linda M. Maloney. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998.  

Ricci, Carla. Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus.  Trans. Paul Burns. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994.  

Thompson, Mary R. Mary of Magdala: Apostle and Leader.  New York: Paulist Press, 1995.