This July 22 marks the first time the Church celebrates the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. Pope Francis announced the news last month and with it elevated not just the day, but the role: Jesus looked at her with great love, revealed Himself and the fullness of His mission to her, and tasked her with telling the Good News. For all the media and politics that would suggest otherwise, women have critical leadership responsibilities in the life of the Church.
I often look to words from Blessed Paul VI which Pope Benedict XVI re-communicated during the final months of his pontificate: “At this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.”
It goes on: “Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.”
As with Mary Magdalene’s commissioning at the tomb, no small task.
Mary Magdalene’s feast day is a reminder of this and, with her intercession, may it make for tremendous renewal at a time of great need. I asked 14 other women what this new feast for the Church means for us.
Helen Alvare, law professor, George Mason University, founder, Women Speak for Themselves:
My first reaction to any person has to draw from Deus Caritas Est‘s “giving every person that look of love which they crave.” Jesus did that with Mary Magdalene. And such a look is the beginning of potential transformation.
Grazie Christie, M.D., radiologist, policy adviser, The Catholic Association
Alone among all the religious traditions of the world the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that women are the daughters of the most high. Just as men are his sons. And even though it is man that goes out into the struggle of life to conquer, it is woman who makes it all possible—with her inspiration, and the home she creates, the lives she welcomes and nurtures, her constant tender support. Does that sound old fashioned? Mary Magdalene was the clear-eyed, generous, affectionate, loyal friend that no one can do without. Even Jesus Himself.
Kathleen Beckman, author, God’s Healing Mercy
St. Mary Magdalene’s first feast day this week is a signal grace for the Church. The timing is Providential. She is referred to as the “apostle to the Apostles!” I recall when Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa spoke to 800 Magnificat women at a prayer breakfast and he boldly exclaimed, “Go and be an apostle to the Apostles!” For women, Magdalene reveals some of the feminine genius taught by St. John Paul II. For all, Magdalene models several ideals of discipleship: repentance, conversation, contemplation, hospitality, service, witness and exemplifies faith, hope and love.
Personally, I feel that Magdalene chose me, I did not choose her. At the request of a nun who directed an annual Passion Play every Lent as a fundraiser for a non-profit medical clinic, I was cast in the role of Magdalene for several years. As I entered into her character, I became profoundly aware of my identity as a sinner, and I grew in knowledge of the great gift of Divine Mercy!
I often contemplate Magdalene’s life before the Blessed Sacrament. Serving in the Church’s ministry of healing, deliverance and exorcism for twenty years, I’ve witness the power of the Christ’s victory over all demonic temptation, oppression, obsession and possession. Magdalene is a model warrior for Christ. In her is the perpetual realization of Christ’s victorious love. Magdalene’s life offers hope in consideration of the sin of the world. She is truly a saint for our time. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!
More to read: Power in the Church? Women have always had it!
Dawn Eden Goldstein, author, Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories: Mary Magdalene’s feast day is a recognition of the dignity that laity and particularly lay women have as cooperators with Christ in proclaiming the Gospel. I discussed this on Fox News.
Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in chief, OSV Newsweekly
St. Mary Magdalene’s deep love for and commitment to the Lord is an inspiration to all who seek to know the Lord more closely. Her story tells of the Lord’s mercy, and her unique role in the early Church — as the first witness to the Resurrection — is now given greater prominence as Pope Francis recently has raised her liturgical memorial to the rank of a feast. To me this emphasizes not just the pope’s desire to highlight the important role of women in the life of the Church, but is more of an invitation for all to experience the Lord’s mercy as St. Mary Magdalene did. Giving her greater prominence in the liturgical calendar is nothing but a blessing for all who seek Christ as she did, both male and female.