Born: early first century
FEast: July 22nd
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St. Mary Magdalene
Mary was called Magdalene in the Gospels likely due to her being from an area called Magdala. Aside from Jesus' mother, she is mentioned more than any other woman in the Gospels, and is mostly associated Traditionally with being the first person to know of Jesus' Resurrection.
She is mentioned first as a woman from which Jesus had cast out "seven demons". Historians are unclear as to whether this meant that she was living a sinful life, or whether she was psychologically or physically ill. The Tradition about her being a sex worker before meeting Jesus comes from the story of the woman who anointed Jesus' feet and washed them with her hair. Many believed this was Mary Magdalene because Mary of Bethany - Lazarus and Martha's sister - does a similar act in another story, and these two Marys have been confused and combined for centuries. So, though there is no proof Mary was involved with prostitution or a sexually immoral life, the Gospel writers do seem to agree that she likely lived somewhat of an outcast kind of life before meeting Jesus. There are historians who say the opposite, but her patronage still exists for those seeking a change of heart or a fresh start in life.
Mary is mentioned both at the Crucifixion (while all the other male apostles aside from John had fled) and as the first to speak to Jesus resurrected. Though historians again cannot prove if this was really the case, especially since the Gospels tell such conflicting stories, their greatest motivation to claim this as true come from the culture of the day. Because of the way the court systems and traditional customs worked for people in this time and place, it would not have made sense for the (male) writers of the Gospels to make up these details. Women could not testify in court and, if they were making anything up, they likely would have reinforced patriarchal standards and instead described Peter or another apostle as the first at the tomb.
There is also no historic fact as to what happened to her after Jesus' Ascension, and so a Traditional story goes that she was arrested for her outspoken Christianity and set adrift with several other Christians. The story continues that she may have landed in the south of France and spent the rest of her life meditating in a cave. Other stories say that she stayed with Jesus' Mother Mary and John.
Many theories about Mary Magdalene's life, identity, and relationship to Jesus exist today likely because Jesus and his teachings did bring such liberation to women, who were even more oppressed at that time. Because of this, we can't help but wonder how much the structure of the Church and our still-patriarchal society would change if we were to embrace Mary Magdalene as the one who understood Jesus best and whom he loved most.
how beautiful and wonderful it is to see how you, an outcast, became Jesus’ closest friend and the first one he chose to reveal his greatest miracle to. Be with the outcasts of this earth that we find it hard to love despite Jesus loving them the most. Be with us also when we are excluded or misunderstood. Show us a friendship with Jesus like you had.
Regardless of what kind of past she had, I still imagine Mary Magdalene to be stylish while also pious, confident while also prayerful, and womanly while also faithful. Women with these qualities are no less holy than meek ones who don't care for fashion. The number of times she is mentioned is enough for me to gather that she made an impression and stood out. I used my sister, who is much like this, and a few other strong women I know as references.