Learning from Mary Magdalene

by | Jul 21, 2021 | Across the Ages


The feast day of St. Mary Magdalene is upon us, and there is much to be learned from her. Mary Magdalene is named in all four Gospels of the bible and is known to be the woman referred to at other times when not named. In comparison, the only other woman named so frequently is our Holy Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is significant. Of the thousands following Jesus, of the large numbers close to Him, she was not only named but multiple times. The Gospel writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit to teach the Life of Christ and the Truths He taught them; her witness was then important to that purpose, even though culturally it was a patriarchal society. 

“On the day of St. Mary Magdalen’s feast, Mechtilde saw our Lord sweetly folding the humble penitent [Mary Magdalen] to His Sacred Heart. Mechtilde was astonished, remembering the words, “and incorruption bringeth near to God” (Wisd. vi. 20) and here was Magdalen!  But our Lord reassured Mechtilde: “The intensity of love that she bore Me on earth,” He said, “is the measure of the union which associates her with Me in heaven.” (St. Mechtilde)

After all, isn’t that what we really want? To have more than just our toe in the door of purgatory, but to live in the Heart of God for eternity? And in every instance, what Mary Magdala teaches us is adoration of Jesus. 

Unfortunately, we are too often distracted by adoration of …. ourselves! Fr. John Bartunek has the gift of identifying our own false thinking and naming it for what it is. In this piece he describes many ways in which satan uses our thoughts against us including: “the devil will in general try to keep that person comfortable and at ease. He will suggest thoughts of self-justification (“I’m not as bad as everyone else… I’m just doing what other people are doing…  No one can really follow the Ten Commandments anyway… God is merciful and he won’t blame me for my sins…”). Notice how these kinds of thoughts aren’t really false, but they can blind someone from seeing the full truth about their actions; they can dull a person’s conscience”. Notice how common these thoughts are even amongst church-going Christians. Yet Fr. Bartunek identifies them as Satan’s methodologies for those “already on a path of sin in their life, if they are moving away from God”. How easily we can surround ourselves with the artifacts of religion, but our attitude and behaviors reflect the true disposition of the heart. [i] 

In addition to addressing our thoughts in our daily examen, we can be proactive and bring Jesus into our actions throughout the day. This allows Him to form us in the moment, taking on the mind of Christ, and thus avoiding opportunity for satan to put such thoughts into our minds. Venerable Bruno Lanteri (founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary) suggested: 

“At the start of each action,

  • Give a simple and loving look toward Jesus to see how he would do what you are about to do, or how he would do it as if he were in your place.
  • Unite your heart to his and your action to his own in order to gain from this the energy and strength to do it with his spirit, that is, according to all the purposes and plans, with all the perfection, with which he desires that you do it.
  • Pray that he will place his hand upon your hand, that he will work together with you, since without him all that you do will be defective.
  • In your evening Examen, compare your actions with those of Jesus Christ..”[ii]

 When we uncover our sin, St. Mechtilde would teach us to also remedy this with St. Mary Magdalen’s help: “Mechtilde understood that she [St. Mary Magdalen] had obtained at our Lord s feet the privilege of obtaining for all those who invoked her the gift of true repentance” .[iii]  

“Heaven showed her [Mechtilde} that this fire had been kindled in Magdalen’s heart for the first time when she heard Christ say: “Thy sins are forgiven thee, go in peace”. (Luke vii. 50). It was so strong in her that from that time all her thoughts and actions were changed into it.” 

St. Mary Magdalen was completely surrendered to Jesus which allowed her total conversion. We have those moments of metanoia waiting for us every day, simply needing our surrender. 

Perhaps ask God: what do you want me to learn from Mary Magdala? 

[W]hen Mary Magdala wrapped her arms around Him on Easter Sunday, the Risen Lord’s first words to her were: “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17). “ … “The experience of Mary Magdala on Easter Sunday morning is a paradigm of the Eucharistic experience of the members of the Church” … “In Holy Communion we take Him into us with all the love and affection of Mary Magdala, knowing full well that we cannot hold onto Him in this manner. His Eucharistic presence will melt away, and like Mary Magdala we must “let Him go” so that He can depart and return to the Father. But we also know that He does not leave us orphans (John 14:18). We know that He departs only to come back to us in the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Douglas Bushman) [iv]


Therefore, we continue to pray for Pope Francis, all clergy and religious, and our worldwide church. 

Mary of Magdala,

woman of the resurrection.

Pray for us as we too go and tell what we know — 

that Jesus is alive

and at work through us.

Guide us all through your story.

Teach us to live always in the light of the resurrection. Amen 

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊


Photo by Rijksmuseum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


[i] Fr. Bartunek http://www.spiritualdirection.com/2013/04/29/can-evil-spirits-be-good

[ii] Venerable Fr. Bruno Lanteri OMV The Means for Perfecting Every Action in the Day  https://www.omvusa.org/bruno-lanteri/writings/quality-actions/  

[iii] St. Mechtilde on Mary Magdalen pages 28-30 https://ia801402.us.archive.org/2/items/theloveofthesacr00mechuoft/theloveofthesacr00mechuoft_bw.pdf  

[iv] Douglas Bushman, Eucharist: Seasons of Grace http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/realpres/seasons.htm

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