Saint of the Day – 22 July – The Feast of St Mary of Magdala – “Apostle to the Apostles” (born probably in Magdala – died at an unknown date possibly in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France, or Ephesus, Asia Minor). Patronages – against sexual temptation, apothecaries, druggists, pharmacists, contemplative life, contemplatives, converts, glove makers, hairdressers, hairstylists, penitent sinners, penitent women, people ridiculed for their piety, perfumeries, perfumers, reformed prostitutes, tanners, women, diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah, 8 cities. Attributes – alabaster box of ointment, long hair. During the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene was regarded in Western Christianity as a repentant prostitute or promiscuous woman, claims not found in any of the four canonical gospels.
Mary Magdalene was one of Christ’s disciples. She has been identified with several Marys in the Gospel: Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus; Mary, the sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears; Mary, a woman who cared for Jesus and his apostles on their journey. Today scholars believe that Mary Magdalene was not the sinful woman in Scripture although she has been confused with this unnamed woman for centuries. Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honoured in the Bible than Mary Magdalene. Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.
Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women. Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or possibly, severe illness.
Writing in the New Catholic Commentary, Father Wilfrid J. Harrington, O.P., says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.” In the Jerome Biblical Commentary, Father Edward Mally, S.J., agrees that she “is not…the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”
Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.” She was not the sister of Martha and Lazarus! She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother. And, of all the “official” witnesses who might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given.
Matthew, Mark, and John record that Mary of Magdala was present at the crucifixion of Jesus and that she was among the women who visited the tomb on Easter morning. Luke mentions her presence only at the tomb on Easter. According to John, Mary was specially privileged to see and speak to the risen Lord on Easter morning. She thought He was the gardener until he said her name.
So Mary Magdalene was near Jesus in His darkest hour and again in His most glorious hour. Moreover, she was an outstanding disciple of Jesus. Because Mary Magdalene was the one who brought the news of Jesus’ resurrection to the apostles, she is called the Apostle to the Apostles.