Saint Mary Magdalene (Former Prostitute) (first century AD)
Patron: wayward women
Feast day: July 22
The Scriptures identify Mary Magdalene by name only three times: as the woman from whom Jesus exorcized seven demons, as one of the women at the foot of Christ on the cross, and as the first to discover the risen Jesus at the tomb on the day of the Resurrection. Pious tradition (common belief on a nondoctrinal matter) extended beyond Sacred Scripture and identified Mary Magdalene as the adulterous woman whom Jesus saved from being stoned to death when he said to her accusers, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Some also believed her to be the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and then anointed them with perfumed oil. Some people allege that the male, patriarchal Church is responsible for imposing the image of a former prostitute on Mary Magdalene to keep her “under control.” Many spiritual writers and theologians, however, believe that there was truly a Christian motive behind the identification.
Jesus’s life and trials epitomized mercy and love, and what better example of those traits than showing forgiveness to a woman whose life was marred by sin? Jesus went beyond showing mercy and may have intervened on Mary Magdalene’s behalf, preventing her from being murdered because of her sinful lifestyle. Rather than being an insult, the “former prostitute” label demonstrates that a woman at the lowest social and spiritual realm — a woman who committed the very public sin of prostitution — could rise to the highest heights, serving as “apostle to the apostles” by announcing Christ’s Resurrection.
Biblical scholars still debate the issue — some insist that Mary wasn’t a prostitute or adulteress, and others contend that the circumstantial evidence says she was. The Church has never formally declared her occupation, but the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who had a popular TV show in the 1950s, thought that Mary’s dubious past was a romantic example of how much divine love can forgive: anyone and anything. Mary also had the honor and privilege of being at the foot of the cross when Christ died on Good Friday.
So far from being dismissed by the Church Fathers, Mary Magdalene became the premiere example of a sinner being redeemed and rising to great levels of holiness, thanks to the divine mercy of God. Over the centuries, many “Magdalene” houses have been established to help save women from the abuse and exploitation of prostitution. The belief has always been that if someone as notorious as Mary Magdalene can turn her life around and become a devout disciple of the Lord, then, by God’s grace, anyone can follow in her footsteps.
Last updated: March 21, 2013 at 21:37 pm
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