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Who was Mary Magdalene?

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he had told her.                   -Jn 20:11-18 (via USCCB)

Who was Mary Magdalene?

Not much is known about her outside of Sacred Scripture. She is mentioned in all four of the Gospels as being a follower and supporter of Jesus and His mission. Mark and Luke's Gospels mention that seven demons were cast out of her, implying that she may have been leading a sinful life up to that point. She stood by the cross with Our Blessed Mother Mary, enduring the whole of the crucifixion by her side.

Mary had a great love for Jesus and his mission. She was one of several women who traveled with the apostles. She was also there to anoint Him and was first to see and touch His risen body. Jesus commissioned her to tell the others the good news of His resurrection, earning her the title, “The Apostle of the Apostles.” After His ascension and Pentecost, Mary spent time under the tutelage of Our Lady along with the apostles, becoming one of the first evangelists of the early Church.

Her prominence as an early Christian was both surprising and revolutionary, given the limited roles for women in ancient Israel, and considering her past. It would be quite a scandal for an up-and-coming Rabbi to bring someone like Mary Magdalene into his inner circle.

Not much outside of Sacred Scripture is available in terms of early Church writing. There were, however, several widely held traditions that were almost universally accepted up until the Protestant reformation. Many Catholic theologians believe that Mary Magdalene was not only the woman who was first to witness the Resurrected Christ, she was also thought to be the woman who bathed Jesus’s feet with her tears and lavished him with perfumed oils. Some also maintained that she was the “Mary” referred to as the sister of Martha, who pleaded with Jesus to save her brother Lazarus. Their intercession inspired Our Lord to perform one of His greatest and most astounding miracles.

There is some evidence that Mary was exiled to France during the early persecutions of the Church in the Holy Land. She ended up near Gaul, first evangelizing the area with a small group of early Christians, and eventually retreating to a mountaintop cloister-cave, where she spent her time in praise and adoration of Jesus, her Savior. She is said to be one of the early archetypes for Catholic mystics such as Sts. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and others.

Her relics are reportedly housed in the Basilica of Mary Magdalene, located in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, France.

Mary Magdalene can teach us much about living the resurrected life. Her extravagant, lavish love of Our Lord is one that we can look to for example. Once forgiven and set free of seven demons, she gave her life entirely to Jesus and followed wherever He would lead her. She was transformed by the merciful love of Jesus, she never looked back, and she became one of His earliest evangelists. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

Want to learn more about the intriguing story of Mary Magdalene? Check out this two-part Women of Grace television series, “Mary Magdalene and Eucharistic Love” with Father Sean Davidson.

Join us for this week’s Women of Grace Rosary Crusade. May we like Mary Magdalene share the good news of Jesus’s resurrection this Easter season with everyone placed in our path.

Happy Easter! Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen! Alleluia!!!

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