Hope in the Lord — St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle of the Apostles

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

“Chosen because you are beloved and beloved because you are chosen.”

This is the way that St. Anselm of Canterbury described St. Mary Magdalene. She has been on my mind during these days as we prepare to move the Chancery (with a new name, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center) from the grounds of the former St. Mary Magdalen Church, closed in 1996, to a new location — the grounds of the active Holy Family Church. The actual move likely won’t happen until next March or so, but I am already reflecting on how to continue the presence of St. Mary Magdalene.

Lo and behold, Pope Francis solved the problem. He just made an extraordinary change in the liturgical calendar of the church, raising her annual celebration from a memorial (what most saints have) to the rank of feast, which is on par with the 12 apostles.

He did so for very moving reasons. First, St. Mary Magdalene is an extraordinary woman at the heart of the Church’s life. There are many legends that link her to the various references to a woman named Mary who appears in sacred Scripture: the sister of Martha and Lazarus or the one who poured expensive nard on Jesus’ feet and wiped them dry with her hair.

While scholars will continue to write tomes on each, there is one narrative of Mary in which the identity of St. Mary of Magdala is not disputed.

She is the one mentioned at the foot of the cross of Jesus and the one who on the first Easter morning was privileged to encounter the Risen Jesus in the garden near His tomb. Through her tears at the loss of her Savior to a cruel and unjust death, she recognized Him when He spoke her name: “Mary.”

It was she who in her joy and excitement ran to the apostles and told Peter and John who then took off on foot for the empty tomb. Truly, she was
chosen because she was beloved and beloved because she was chosen.

She is also called the “Apostle of the Apostles.” The beautiful letter written by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, uses this phrase as a title to the formal announcement of this change in the liturgical status.

In the letter, he quotes the words of Jesus from John 20:17: “where the Lord says to Mary, ‘Noli me tangere’ (‘Do not cling to me’ Jn 20:17). This is an invitation to enter into an experience of faith that goes beyond materialistic assumptions and the human grasping after the divine mystery which is not simply addressed to Mary but to the entire Church.

This is an ecclesial moment! This is an important lesson for every disciple of Jesus Christ to neither seek human securities nor the vainglory of this world, but in faith to seek the living and risen Christ!”

St. Mary of Magdala, may you raise up the dignity in the Church of all women and men to receive the Good News of Jesus, now risen and glorious, and to announce His presence here and now in the hearts of all, especially those most in need of Him.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz


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