Mary Magdalene

Many saints fascinate me, but very few fascinate me as much as St Mary Magdalene. My fascination with her grew even stronger when that infamous novel, The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, was published. As it seemed to lead astray some good Catholics, I was eager to burst many of the myths and falsehoods which that book was propagating. As I was researching for my talk, I drew closer to this great saint to whom there was great devotion in the Early Church. 

Her name appears first in Luke 8:1-3 which says: “The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” The description that is added to her name, “from whom seven demons came out,” has led many, including Pope Gregory the Great, to consider her to have been a sinner who became a great saint. However, as recent biblical scholarship has shown, this is an open question. We are not sure whether she was a sinner or not.

The gospels give us certain sure facts about her. She was there at the foot of the Cross. She was not afraid of the Romans or the crowds. Unlike the apostles who had all disappeared except for John, she stood there with Mary, His mother, and the other holy women, as they witnessed the Son of God breathe His last. She was there as they brought down His lifeless body and placed it in His mother’s loving arms. As she wept for Him, she kissed the nail marks with great fervor.

It was she who went to the tomb early Easter morning, bringing spices to anoint His body. It was she who discovered the empty tomb and saw the angels who told her that she should not seek the living among the dead. When she brought the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples they did not believe her. She returned to the tomb looking for the body of Jesus. That is when she encountered the Risen Lord even though she mistook him for a gardener. Her ardent love for the Teacher is evident in all her actions that historic Easter morning. It is her passionate love for the Lord that makes her stand out among all the figures of the New Testament. No one – except probably Paul – declared their fervent, passionate love for the Lord more emphatically than Mary Magdalene.

Pope St Gregory in one of his homilies writes these words:

At this point we must stop and reflect upon the ardent love in the heart of this woman who would not leave the Lord’s grave even after his own disciples had gone away. She continued seeking him whom she could not find; in tears she kept searching; and, afire with love, she yearned for him whom she believed had been removed. Thus it happened that she alone saw him, she who had remained behind to seek him…

The huge role played by Mary Magdalene in the life and ministry of Jesus reminds us that just like Magdalene many other women were prominent in the beginnings of our Faith. Particularly the Gospel of Luke highlights interactions of women with Jesus and their part in the Salvation History. At a time and place where women were considered second class citizens and where a woman’s testimony was not accepted in a court of law, Jesus chose a woman to bear the most important news in human history, his glorious resurrection. The Acts also tell us of the significant roles played by women in the Early Church. It is unfortunate that the presence of women in leadership roles in the Church gradually faded. In the process we deprived ourselves of the unique wisdom and charisms of women, and probably by continuing to give them prominence we would have avoided several disastrous mistakes.

Having served the Church as a priest for almost four decades, I can sincerely say that the Church needs women and that we cannot do without them. In parishes across the country most of our pastoral staff members are women. They are in the trenches teaching the Faith, serving the poor, and attending to the material and spiritual needs of our people. In our parish many Marthas roll up their sleeves to support and enrich our community in various ways. I want to thank and recognize all the women who give of themselves to build up God’s Kingdom here in Park Ridge. We cannot do what we do without their full participation.

I also want to emphasize the role played by women in the faith life of their children. Certainly dads do play a part. But mothers and grandmothers steer the family’s practice of the Faith. My dad set a great example of prayer that shaped my vocation. However, in her own quiet, prayerful way my mother helped me grow and mature in my spirituality. Therefore I invite all mothers and grandmothers to take their calling seriously and help their families hold on to and practice their Catholic faith.

As an act of gratitude let us pray for all women, for all mothers and grandmothers, that they may imitate the example of Mary Magdalene and teach us to love Jesus passionately.

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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Phone: (847) 825-7605

Mass Schedule

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10:30 am - Upper Church

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