July 22: St Mary Magdalen, Class III

Today is the feast of the most famous penitent saint, St Mary Magdalene. 

Few saints have attracted so many attempts at revisionist history. On the one hand, protestant horror at the idea of a sinner turned saint has gained new followers amongst those attempting to make her a feminist heroine; while on the other, assorted conspiracy theorists have seized on apocryphal works on her life. The traditional Latin liturgy, however, insists on her identity as both the penitent woman and the sister of Lazarus and Martha.  Tradition holds that St Mary and her brother went to Provence after the Resurrection, where St Mary became a hermit.

In a General Audience on 'Women at the service of the Gospel', Pope Benedict XVI commented:

"The Gospels then tell us that the women, unlike the Twelve, did not abandon Jesus in the hour of his Passion (cf. Mt 27: 56, 61; Mk 15: 40). Among them, Mary Magdalene stands out in particular. Not only was she present at the Passion, but she was also the first witness and herald of the Risen One (cf. Jn 20: 1, 11-18).

It was precisely to Mary Magdalene that St Thomas Aquinas reserved the special title, "Apostle of the Apostles" (apostolorum apostola), dedicating to her this beautiful comment: "Just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life" (Super Ioannem, ed. Cai, 2519)."

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