22 July: Feast of St Mary Magdalene


Keeping-Company.com

Oil painting by Pietro Perugino, c. 1500

Today is 22 July, the feast of St Mary Magdalene. There is a lot that can be said about this person, and about what she contributes to the mission and identity of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. Here are a few images on offer, which may resonate with you in prayer:

1. A summary from the Daily Mass Book (2013):

A faithful disciple of Christ, Mary ministered to his needs after having seven devils cast out from her. Witnessed his crucifixion, was present at his burial, and was the first to see the risen Lord. Commissioned by Christ to proclaim the good news of his resurrection to the apostles (John 20:17-18).

Consider the verbs attached to her: to minister, to witness, to be present, first to see, commissioned, to proclaim. How might we minister to others’ needs? How do we witness to the suffering of another? Are we present? Are we hopeful toward what lies beyond our horizon? How have we been commissioned by Christ? What ‘good news’ do we proclaim?

2. As played by Yvonne Elliman in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1973):

Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh.
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.
And we want you to sleep well tonight.
Let the world turn without you tonight.
If we try, we’ll get by, so forget all about us tonight

(Apostles’ Wives: Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes.)

Sleep and I shall soothe you, calm you, and anoint you.
Myrrh for your hot forehead, oh.
Then you’ll feel
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.
And it’s cool, and the ointment’s sweet
For the fire in your head and feet.
Close your eyes, close your eyes
And relax, think of nothing tonight.

(Apostles’ Wives: Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes.)

Consider the role of Mary Magdalene in this story as comforter in the midst of strife. Here, she manages to soothe and be a presence of gentleness while maintaining strength and resilience. What might that say about our own capacity for healing? What about our leadership?

3. As a characteristic of friendship:

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Excerpt from The Friendship of Women (2006) by Joan Chittister OSB

Consider then, what kind of companionship we seek to offer. Are we able to follow another and accompany them in the deep?

It is not without significance that the founderess shares the saint’s name, Marie Madeleine. Articulated best are the words:

…My name is Magdalen; I will follow my patron saint who so loved Jesus, her good Master, as to accompany him in his journeys and his labours, ministering to him even to the foot of the Cross with the other holy women who did not…abandon him but proved to be faithful companions. | Marie Madeleine, as recorded in the Memoir of Fr Ferdinand Jeantier SJ (1860)

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