A Prayer to St. Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene. Fototeca Storica Nazionale/Photodisc/Getty Images

The historical figure Mary Magdalene (which means "Mary, from Magnala--a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee) was a member of Jesus' inner circle, and often traveled with him during the years of his ministry. She is mentioned often in the New Testament gospels, and is usually distinguished from other women named Mary by being referred by the full name of "Mary Magdalene." Over time, she has come to represent the relationship of all Christian women to Jesus Christ--a composite archetype that is probably quite different than the original historic person.

So long has Mary Magdalene been part of the Christian tradition that there is no record of when Mary Magdalene was officially declared to be a saint. She is one of the most important and revered of all Christian saints, celebrated by Western and Eastern Catholics alike, as well as many Protestant faiths.

What we know historically of Mary Magdalene comes from the four official gospels of the New Testament, as well as frequent references in the various gnostic gospels and other historical sources. We know that Mary Magdalene was present during much of Jesus' ministry and was likely present during his crucifixion and burial. According to Christian tradition based on the Gospels, Mary was also the first person to witness to Christ's resurrection from the grave. 

In Western Christian tradition, Mary Magdalene is said to have been a former prostitute or fallen woman who was redeemed by Jesus' love.

However, none of the writings of four Gospel's supports that view. Instead, it is likely that during medieval times Mary Magdalene became seen as a composite character who assumed a sinful reputation in order to represent the inherent evil of men and women in general--a sinfulness that is redeemed by the love of Jesus Christ.

Writings from Pope Gregory I in the year 591 is the first example in which Mary Magdalene is referred to as a woman of wantonly sinful history.  A good deal of argument exists to this day over the true nature and identity of Mary Magdalene. 

Nevertheless, an extreme veneration of Mary Magdalene has been present in the Christian church almost from the beginning. Legend has it that Mary Magdalene traveled to the south of France upon Jesus' death, and upon her own death, a local cult of veneration began that has never waned and is now present worldwide.  In the modern Catholic Church, Mary Magdalene represents an easily approachable saint with whom many believers maintain a steadfast relationship, possibly because of her reputation as a profound sinner who found redemption.  

St. Mary Magdalene's feast day is July 22. She is the patron saint of religious converts, repentant sinners, of people facing sexual temptation, of pharmacists, tanners and women, and the patron saint of many other places and causes.

In this Prayer to St. Mary Magdalene, believers ask for this great model of repentance and humility to intercede for us with Christ, whose resurrection Mary Magdalene was the first to witness.

St. Mary Magdalene, woman of many sins, who by conversion became the beloved of Jesus, thank you for your witness that Jesus forgives through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness in His glorious presence, please intercede for me, so that some day I may share in the same everlasting joy.

Amen.