Acta Sanctorum: St. Mary Magdalene (July 22)
July 22, 2024
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 B)   Abraham exulted that he might see the day of Christ and by this token he saw and rejoiced. You too, if you keep watch daily at the doors of wisdom, steadfast at its threshold, if you stay awake through the night with Magdalen at the entrance of his tomb, if I am not mistaken you will experience with Mary how true are the words we read of the Wisdom which is Christ: She is easily seen by those who love her and she is found by those who seek her. She


anticipates those who desire her and shows herself to them first. He who, as soon as it is light, keeps watch for her will not have to toil, for he will find her seated at his doors.” So did Christ, Wisdom himself, promise in the words: “I love those who love me, and they who from early morning keep watch for me will find me.”


     Mary found Jesus in the flesh. For this she was keeping watch… You, who no longer ought to know Jesus according to the flesh but according to the spirit, will be able to find him spiritually if you seek him with a [similar] desire, if he finds you likewise vigilant in prayer. Say then to the Lord Jesus with the desire and the affection of Mary: “My soul has longed for you during the night, my spirit too, deep within me; from early morning I will keep watch for you”. Say with the voice and the mind of the Psalmist: “God, my God, for you as soon as it is light I keep watch, my soul is athirst for you”. And see if it is not your lot to sing with him: “We have been filled early in the morning with your mercy, we have exulted and been delighted”.


     Keep watch then, brethren, intent in prayer; keep watch and carefully guard your actions; especially since the morning of that day which has no sunset has already shone upon us. For already eternal light has come back to us from the nether regions, more serene and more pleasing, and the morning has given its welcome to the newly restored Sun. Indeed it is time now for us to arise from sleep; the night has passed away, while the day has drawn near. Keep watch, I say, that the morning light may rise for you, that is Christ, whose coming forth has been made ready like the dawn, ready to renew often the mystery of the morning of his resurrection in those who keep watch for him. Then you will sing with jubilant heart: “God the Lord has shone upon us… For then he will give you a glimpse of the light which he has hidden in his hands, telling his friend that it is his possession and he can attain to it. (Bl. Guerric of Igny)
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
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


Almighty God, 
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene 
to health of mind and body 
and called her to be a witness to his resurrection: 
forgive our sins and heal us by your grace, 
that we may serve you in the power of his risen life; 
who lives and reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
God, now and for ever. Amen. (English Missal)