Grow in virtue inspired by St. Mary Magdalene

Saint Mary Magdalene is a disciple of Christ to whom every person can relate. She was a sinner, experienced human weakness, and was persecuted and humiliated. The fact that she brought this sin and shame to Christ is what makes her a great Saint.

This eBook shares three lessons we can learn from Saint Mary Magdalene and how we can look to her as an example of humility, repentance, bravery, and evangelization.

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When is St. Mary Magdalene’s feast day?

Saint Mary Magdalene’s feast day is celebrated on July 22nd. 

For what is Mary Magdalene best known? 

Mary Magdalene is perhaps best known for being the woman who had seven demons cast out of her (Mark 16:9) and for her immoral lifestyle. Though her life of sin is an important part of her story, far more important is how she lived after meeting Christ. Her life of virtue, and of penitence for her past sins, is why she is considered a great saint, and looked to as proof of God’s mercy and grace. 

Mary Magdalene is also known for being the most prominent woman mentioned in the New Testament, aside from the unique place of the Lord’s Mother. She accompanied Jesus and His disciples from early in His Ministry to the end in His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. She was the first person Jesus appeared to after His Resurrection, and the first person the Lord asked to proclaim the Good News of the  Resurrection.

Was Mary Magdalene a prostitute?

Mary Magdalene has long been referred to as being a prostitute, though nowhere in Scripture does it specify that she was one. The Gospel writers do share that she was a great sinner, without specifying in what way. Nonetheless, in the ancient world, women without a father or husband to provide for them often ended up in that profession.

Was Mary Magdalene the woman caught in adultery?

St. Mary Magdalene is thought by some to be the woman caught in adultery, whose stoning the Lord prevents, and whom He tells to “go and do not sin again” (John 8:11). However, since He also says this to the sinful woman who anoints His feet, this not a likely connection. In fact, neither the Greek nor Latin Fathers of the Church held this view. 

“Saint Mary Magdalene is an example of a true and authentic evangeliser, that is an evangelist who announces the central joyful message of Easter.” - Archbishop Arthur Roche, Apostle of the Apostles 

Was Mary Magdalene the same as the sinful woman, or the sister of Martha and Lazarus?

In Luke 8:2, we meet “Mary, called Magdalene.” St. Luke describes her as a woman “from whom seven demons had gone out.”  This tells us two things about her background. She is Mary from Magdala on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (whether by birth or residence, we do not know), and a woman whose wayward life led her to be possessed by seven demons.  

Since this identification immediately follows Luke’s account of the sinful woman who anoints the Lord’s feet with expensive ointment, and whom the Lord asks to save some for His burial (Lk. 7:36-50), the sinful woman is often understood as Magdelene.

Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus of Bethany is likewise often identified as the same person. This Mary similarly anoints the Lord’s feet with a costly ointment, as the sinful woman did and as Magdalene would do of Christ’s Body in death. In this view, Bethany is likely her origin, Magdala where she lived. 

In general, the opinions on who Mary Magdalene was tends to be divided along Greek and Latin lines. The Latin or Western Fathers of the Church generally hold that St. Mary Magdalene, the sinful woman, and Mary of Bethany are the same, while the Greek or Eastern Fathers that they are three different women. Scripture provides no clear solution to this question. 

“Christ showed special consideration and mercy to this woman who showed her love for Christ by seeking him in her anguish and suffering in the garden, or as Saint Anselm says in the prayer mentioned above with ‘lacrimas humilitatis’ (“the tears of humility.”)" - Archbishop Arthur Roche, Apostle of the Apostles 

Why was Mary Magdalene possessed by seven demons?

Scripture doesn’t mention why Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven demons. This expression may mean seven individual demons, or, since the number seven can symbolize some kind of “perfection,” some hold that it simply means she was completely possessed. Others believe that it represents the practice of the seven deadly sins. Since the demons can associate with particular sins, and the capital sins collectively represent all sins, the three views are not incompatible.

Was St. Mary Magdalene sick?

The fact that Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her suggests that she may have suffered from illness, as well. This was the case with the boy who convulsed and foamed at the mouth before Jesus delivered from possession (Mt. 17:18). Both mental and physical illness can exist in the possessed, for which reason the Church carefully discerns between natural and demonic causes in every case of alleged possession. The Lord would have known immediately, of course, and healed her of both spiritual and physical illnesses. 

Is Mary Magdalene Jesus’ wife?

No, Mary Magdalene was not Jesus’ wife. Our Lord was not married to any woman. Any reference that is made to Christ and His Bride refers to the Church— of which all the redeemed are members. Some contemporary works of fiction make such claims, but nothing in secular history, nor Church history and tradition, supports them. 

The only relationship between Jesus and Mary was that of Teacher and disciple, Savior and saved. This is  the same love and friendship between the Lord and those whom He has redeemed––beginning with the Apostles and disciples who accompanied Him during His lifetime. 

Why is St. Mary Magdalene called the “Apostle to the Apostles”?

St. Mary is called “Apostle to the Apostles” because she was the first person Christ instructed to proclaim the Good News of His Resurrection to the Apostles (John 20:17). It is said that Saint Hippolytus (c. 170- c.235) gave her this title. 

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Where do we read about Saint Mary Magdalene in the Bible?

We read about Mary Magdalene in the New Testament. The most prominent Scripture passages we can read about Saint Mary Magdalene are when she is mentioned as one of the women that accompanied Jesus during His ministry (Luke 8:2). Here we also learned that she had seven demons cast out of her, when she is named as being present at the foot of the cross (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, Luke 23:49, John 19:25), and when Jesus presents Himself to her after the Resurrection (John 20:11-18). 

Was Mary Magdalene at the Last Supper?

Mary Magdalene was not mentioned in Scripture as being present at the Last Supper, though we do know she was present at Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection. It is quite possible, however, that the Mother of the Lord, Mary Magdalene, and other women were indeed present. 

What did Mary Magdalene do after Jesus’ Ascension?

According to the most commonly held tradition, Mary Magdalene and other friends of Jesus went by boat to the south of France and converted the whole of Provence. This account holds that she retired to a hill or cave, La Sainte-Baume, where she lived a life of great penance for thirty years and then died. 

What can we learn from Saint Mary Magdalene?

In an address given by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 on Saint Mary Magdalene, he said, 

The story of Mary of Magdala reminds us all of a fundamental truth. A disciple of Christ is one who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for His help, has been healed by Him, and has set out following closely after Him, becoming a witness of the power of His merciful love that is stronger than sin and death.

Where is Mary Magdalene buried?

Following the tradition that Mary Magdalene ended up in the south of France, it is said that she died there and St. Maximinus buried her in his chapel, known today as the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene, in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. Today, people continue to visit the crypt at the Basilica to pray at her tomb and to view her relics.

What is Saint Mary Magdalene the patron saint of?

Saint Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of repentant sinners,  hairdressers, perfumeries, and contemplative life.