Dominican Saints 101: St. Mary Magdalene
July 23, 2012
After Magdalene was converted to penitence the Lord bestowed such great grace upon her that after the Blessed Virgin no woman could be found to whom greater reverence should be shown in this world and greater glory in heaven.
These are the words of Bl. Humbert of Romans (ca. 1190-1270) describing the importance of devotion to St. Mary Magdalene (feast – July 22, co-patroness of the Dominican Order). They are incredibly striking and possibly unexpected. Yet, they go to show how St. Mary Magdalene was viewed in the medieval world. In 1295, the Dominican Order was given care of the Shrine of St. Mary Magdalene at Le Sainte Baum (the Holy Cave), in southeastern France. Because she carried the news of the Resurrection to the apostles, she was referred to as the “Apostle of the Apostles,” and from the beginnings of the Dominican Order, she was proclaimed co-patroness of the newly founded apostolic Order of Friars Preachers. Aside from her importance in the Gospel texts as being the first to convey the news of the Resurrection, St. Mary Magdalene was seen as the perfect model of penitence, especially in the middle ages. Thus in its old liturgy, the Dominican Order placed a great emphasis on her penitence and conversion from a life of sin to one of purity, and it connected this conversion to her role as apostle:
Infirm to Healer then draws near, / she brings a flask of perfumes dear; / and from disease of many kinds, / at word of Healer, cure she finds. (Matins and Vespers hymn)
In other words, her love for Christ, which led her to the empty tomb, opened up for her the moment to be healed. As she sought to care for Him, He cared for her and cured her. Her penitence and complete trust in His mercy brought her to the point where the risen Christ opened her eyes and her mind to His new life. Her penitence led her to the Healer who then sent her with the healing news of the Gospel. May we too be given the grace to follow her example of penitence that we might then become faithful preachers of the Gospel. Grant to us, most merciful Father, that as the blessed Mary Magdalene, by loving our Lord Jesus Christ above all things, won the forgiveness of her sins, so may she obtain for us, through your mercy, everlasting happiness. Through Christ our Lord.