Acta Sanctorum: St. Mary Magdalene (July 22)
July 22, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.


July 22
St. Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene, says the gospel of John, stood by the Cross of Calvary with Jesus’ mother and Mary the wife of Clopas. Since the burial of Christ that evening had been hurried, Mary Magdalene, Mary Clopas and another brought spices before dawn on the following Sunday to finish the task. Much to their surprise, the stone of His tomb had been rolled away, and Jesus’ body was no longer within.

The “Madeleine” at once ran back to the Cenacle to tell Peter and John of their discovery. The two apostles hurried over, saw the empty tomb, and left puzzled. Mary herself remained sadly at the sepulchre. When she looked into the tomb, she saw an angel, who asked her why she was crying. Then Jesus himself appeared to her outside. Thinking Him to be the gardener, she asked where the body was. Then He greeted her, “Mary!” When she heard that well known voice she recognized Him. But He sent her back to tell His disciples that she had seen Him, and He was indeed risen. It has been conjectured that Our Lord first appeared to his own mother, but Mary Magdalene was the first public witness to His rising.

There are three women mentioned in the gospels who had a very special rapport with Jesus. One is the sinful woman of Galiee who washed His feet with her tears and anointed Him with perfume. A second is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who loved to hear Him talk, and also anointed His head and feet during His last visit to Bethany. The third is Mary of Magdala, one of those who accompanied the apostles and served them. Since she is at one point described as one from whom Jesus expelled seven devils, many Christians have thought that she was the nameless sinful woman, and Mary of Bethany, too.

When the Catholic Church revised the Missal in 1969, the wiser view was adopted that Mary Magdalene was separate from the sinning woman and Mary of Bethany. Now her feast recognizes only the woman from Magdala. The collect of her Mass says, “Father, your Son first entrusted to Mary Magdalene the joyful news of His resurrection…” In the north window of the church of St. Thomas the Apostle, she and St. Thomas the Doubter are represented flanking the Risen Christ. Both were primary witnesses of His resurrection: Mary Magdalene to whom He first lovingly disclosed Himself; Thomas, the skeptic turned rapturous believer: “My Lord and my God.”

The perhaps natural confusion of the three devoted women was further complicated by divergent legends of what later became of the Magdalene. The Eastern Church said, rather plausibly, that she had gone to Ephesus to live, when St. John took Our Lady there to live with him. The Western Church, or at least the French Church, cherished the story that Mary of Magdalene-Bethany set sail with her brother Lazarus, her sister Martha, and other Christian friends, in a boat without oars, which carried them to the coast of southern France. There they became the first spokesmen of Christianity. In her last years, says the tale, Mary lived as a hermitess in an Alpine cave. Her body was eventually enshrined in the church of Ste. Madeline, Vezelay, France. However ancient and popular in France, this narrative is now considered to be without foundation.

The Mary we venerate, then, on July 22, is that fortunate, affectionate person whom Jesus rewarded by commissioning her to be the first to announce to the world the Good News of His rising. The Church puts on her lips today the words of St. Paul: “He died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sakes died and was raised up.”

--Father Robert F. McNamara


Scripture: Song of Songs 3:1-4

The bride says this:
On my bed, at night, I sought him
whom my heart loves.
I sought but did not find him.
So I will rise and go through the City;
in the streets and in the squares
I will seek him whom my heart loves.
I sought but did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me
on their rounds in the City:
‘Have you seen him whom my heart loves?’
Scarcely had I passed them
when I found him whom my heart loves.


(Year A) When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb (John 20:11).  

We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for.

When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.  (Pope St. Gregory the Great)

Musical Selection
So I found my beloved in the mountains
On the lonely and far distant isles
O'er resounding waters
I heard the whispering of love's breezes
To heal my broken heart
Oh tranquil evening, silent music
And the sounding solitude of the rising dawn
It is there that I hear You
There that I taste of You
In love's banquet to fill my heart
And I found Your footprints
In the sands by the sea
And like Your maiden
I ran along the way to a secret chamber
And there you gave to me
There you taught me, O so well
And I drank of your sweet spiced wine
The wine of God
And there I gave to You
Keeping nothing for myself
And I promised You forever
To be your bride
So I have abandoned
All I ever sought to be
And in dying
My spirit has been released

Lord God,
your only Son chose Mary Magdalene
to be his first messenger of Easter joy;
grant through her prayers and example
that we may proclaim the living Christ
and gaze on him one day in the glory of your kingdom,
where he lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.  Amen.