Written By Deej Dambrauskas
When I was in the sixth grade, I received the sacrament of Confirmation. This required strict study, including memorizing the entire Baltimore Catechism. We spent months preparing for this special day, when we would personally accept full responsibility for the formation of our faith. The promises made for us at baptism were now promises we would vow to uphold.
The “fun” part of all this was choosing a new name. We were to pick the name of a saint whom we admired to be the model of our Catholic formation for the rest of our lives. Sister Clementine began at the front of the class, and asked each one of us what name we were going to take as our Confirmation name. Most of the girls chose “Theresa”, after St. Theresa of the Little Flower. When Sister finally got to me—I was toward the back of the room—I said loudly and proudly,
Finally, Sister asked cautiously, “Why Mary Magdalene?”
“Because I like what she did,” I replied. “I want to be just like her!”
Sister quickly moved on to the next child.
Even at the tender age of 11, I knew what Sister was thinking. I also knew her thinking was dead wrong.
Let me state here loudly and clearly for everyone to hear: Mary Magdalene was NOT a prostitute!
The four gospels agree on almost nothing. Most events appear in only one or two of the gospels, and the ones that do appear in all four have very different versions. Even the Resurrection has different versions in each gospel. But when it comes to Mary Magdalene, all four gospels agree—she was a woman who had seven demons cast out by Jesus. Yes, they even agree on the number of demons! Though Jesus did have dealings with prostitutes, Mary Magdalene was not one of them. Mary Magdalene was closer to Jesus than anyone. She was his confidante. He told her everything. He trusted her as he trusted no other. She knew Jesus and his mission almost better than Jesus knew it himself.
That Jesus waited until Mary was alone to reveal his Resurrection to her first and foremost is no accident. She was the one he loved most. She was going to be the first one to know. And more than that. She was going to be the one responsible for letting the world know. Not Peter. Not John. Not even his mother!
Christianity exists because of Mary.
So close was Mary to Jesus, that after Jesus’ ascension, when the Church was new, Peter and the other apostles would seek Mary’s guidance on issues. She knew the Master’s heart like no one else did. If Peter had a question, he’d ask Mary. Mary was the authority on “WWJD”. So sought after was her advice, that her official title is “Apostle to the Apostles.” Think about that. She was apostle to the apostles!
Women in the early Church were active in leadership roles. Priestesses worked side by side with priests. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, when men took over, that the oppression of women in the Church began. One of the things they did was totally change the Magdalene narrative. It was in the Middle Ages that men decided to turn Mary into a common whore. It is reprehensible that that image stays with her today.
On this Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, meditate on the close relationship she had with Jesus. Ponder the magnificent role she had in the formation of the Church. Ask her to share with you the wisdom she shared with the apostles.
On this day, like what she did. Want to be just like her.