By Jean Lupinacci

We only celebrate two feast days in July, and the first one is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene on July 22, followed by the Feast of St. James on July 25. Today, we focus on St. Mary Magdalene. The Church elevated her feast from a memorial in 2016. This elevation put her on a par with the male apostles, who we also celebrate with feast days. Feast days come just after Sundays, and Solemnities in importance – memorials for saints come under feast days. Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of women. She is mentioned in the gospels 12 times, more than many of the apostles.

Mary Magdalene was from the city of Magdala near the shores of the Sea of Galilee and traveled with Jesus as one of his followers after he healed her of seven demons. She remained at the cross with the other women after the apostles had run away. In the Gospel of John, she was the first one that Jesus appeared to after his resurrection and proclaimed the news of the resurrection to the other apostles. She is known as the “Apostle to the Apostles” for that reason.

Mary of Magdala is sometimes confused with other women named Mary in the gospels, including being incorrectly labeled as a prostitute and sinful woman. Some people thought she was a sinful woman because Luke’s gospel says that “seven demons had gone out of her,” but what that meant in first-century Palestine was that she was ill, not sinful. She is also confused with the sinful woman in Luke 7 who anointed Jesus’ feet. Mary of Magdala was likely a woman of wealth. We know this because Luke 8:2-3 mentions her with other women as one who provided for Jesus and his mission out of their resources.

Mary of Magdala is a beautiful role model for women in the Church today as a faith leader! She was a faithful disciple, a friend and benefactor of Jesus, and a witness to the faith. She loved Jesus so much that she bravely went to the tomb to anoint him after witnessing his terrible death on the cross when others had abandoned him. She also recognized him by his voice when she encountered him in his resurrected body.

Many women today are persecuted and misunderstood. We can turn to Mary Magdalene for support and understanding. She proclaimed the truth and stood firm when people did not believe her. She experienced the truth of the resurrection before anyone else. When the community thought all hope was lost, she gave them hope. She is a beacon of hope for us in modern times. We can use that hope to propel us outward into our community to serve others.

St. Mary of Magdala Pray for us!