A Garner of Saints – Saint Mary Magdalene

detail from the oil painting 'The Penitent Mary Magdalene' by El Greco, c.1577; Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Identified in the legends with Mary of Bethany, the Mary out of whom Christ cast seven devils, and the woman who anointed his feet. Born at Magdala of a noble family. After the Ascension, and fourteen years after the dispersion of the Apostles, the Jews took her, Maximinus one of the seventy-two disciples, Lazarus her brother, Martha and Marcella the handmaid of Martha with the blessed Cedomus, and putting them in a boat without oars or pilot, set them adrift on the sea. They were driven to Marseilles, and as no one took them in, they spent the night in the portico of a temple. The next morning, when the people came to sacrifice, Mary preached Christ to them, and many were converted. Presently the prince of the province came up with his wife, and when Mary preached to them he promised to believe if Christ would grant them a son. Not long after, at Mary’s intercession, the prince’s wife conceived. Then the prince and his wife determined to visit Rome, and Mary was left guardian of their household. But they were taken in a violent storm, in the midst of which the princess bore a son and immediately expired. And coming to a rock on the sea, the prince persuaded the sailors to touch there, while he landed and laid the body of the princess in a cave with the babe on her breast. After covering them with his cloak, he rejoined the boat and proceeded to Rome, where he found Peter and told him all that had happened. Peter comforted him, confirming him in the faith and taking him to Jerusalem. At the end of two years the prince returned to Gaul. On reaching the rock where his wife lay, he saw a child running about, and on approaching he found that it was his own son who had been miraculously fed at his mother’s breast through the intercession of the Magdalen. As he looked the mother began to breathe, and waking as if from sleep she thanked Mary, adding that she had been on the same pilgrimage as her husband. So they returned to Marseilles and told all this to Mary, and destroying the temples of idols the prince received baptism with all his people. He next built a church and appointed Lazarus to be the first bishop of Marseilles. Meanwhile Mary departed to the wilderness, where she lived unknown for thirty years in a place prepared by angels, but destitute of flowing water and herbs, for she was supported by celestial food, being carried daily up into the air by angels at the seven canonical hours and refreshed by the songs of heaven. At length a hermit who dwelt some way off heard the voices of the angels and saw Mary carried by the angels. Desiring to see the vision more clearly, he approached. As he came near Mary called him to her and revealed her identity to him. The Lord having told her of her approaching dissolution, she sent the hermit to Maximinus, who had been appointed bishop of Aix, telling him to be in his church on the morning of the following Sunday, as she would be borne thither by angels to receive the sacrament. As she was naked, she requested the priest to give her his cloak in order that she might come to the church more decently. When the time arrived Maximinus found Mary in the church in the midst of a choir of angels, raised two cubits from the ground, her hands extended in prayer and her face shining like the sun. And when Maximinus was afraid to approach her, she comforted him. After he had called together the clergy. and the priests he gave her the sacrament, and prostrating her body before the altar, her spirit flew up to Heaven. Her body exhaled a fragrant odour for several days, until it was finally buried by Maximinus. 22 July.

Attributes

  • Carries the vase or pot of ointment with which she anointed the Saviour’s feet, while her hair is long and loose.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint Mary Magdalene”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 April 2017. Web. 26 May 2017. <>