Sunday, July 24, 2016

Attention former wanton women and men: Feeling like the Magdalene has been taken away from you?

Mary Magdalen with Our Lady and St. John at the Crucifixion.

St. Mary Magdalen.

Recently St. Mary Magdalen has been entirely rehabilitated from former prostitute to Equal to the Apostles - to use the title the Eastern Church always attributed to her, while respecting the traditional faith that she was also the former sinner depicted in the Gospel.

Contemporary scholarship explains to us that the only thing we really know about her is that she was the first to encounter the Risen Christ and was sent to the Apostles to communicate the news.  More or less.  It's an important development in the Latin rite - especially for Christian feminists.

As a formerly promiscuous young man, very attractive, very cute - what?  Just pretending - so often you read former sex addicts conversion accounts and you get the impression they were some sort of model or porn-star - but I digress.

Charles as a big fat sinner.

Very seriously - as a former sinner, the Magdalen was my go to saint.  She was for Bl. Charles de Foucauld as well - proving men can be former sluts, and other sinners, such as Teresa of Avila - proving that though she most likely never had an impure thought - she considered herself to be a great sinner.  Generations of Carmelites have taken the Magdalen for their model in penance and prayer, as well as taking her name as their name or title in religious life.  The entire Western Church regarded her as a reformed sinner, penitent.  Our Lord revealed to St. Margaret of Cortona that she was the Magdalen of the Franciscan Order.

If you are disappointed the Magdalen has been all scrubbed up and respectable - do not fear.  There are many former sluts to have recourse to - many.

Mary of Egypt and Thais
were former prostitutes.

One of the greatest is St. Mary of Egypt.  Most definitely a former prostitute who earned her livelihood from dance and escort services.  In fact, in art, she has been confused with the Magdalen.  Perhaps that accounts for what many like to call a misunderstanding of who the Magdalen was?

Then there is Margaret of Cortona - not so much a prostitute, but a mistress, concubine to a nobleman and a single mother.  Her story is quiote contemporary and commonplace these days.

Charles de Foucauld had a mistress before his conversion as well.

St. Margaret of Cortona,
laywoman, Franciscan penitent.

Maria Goretti, a saint who seems to repel modern taste because she resisted the advances of her would be rapist and murderer, worked it out, as it were, that her attacker, Alessandro Serenelli could be a wonderful example of a penitent for modern times.  St. Maria appeared to him in a dream while he was in prison, effecting in his soul a marvelous conversion, he lived a life of penitence until his death.  A would be rapist, Serenelli used the pornography of his day and was most likely what we would call a sex addict.  His attack was the culmination of more than one amorous 'attempt' to get Maria's attention.  Before he died, Serenelli explained the path he chose:
"Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.  My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried." - Alessandro Serenelli
The Brothers of St. Francis, 
Capuchins from Marche, 
welcomed me with angelic charity 
into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant.
- Allesandro

To be honest, I don't read too many contemporary accounts of the saints - unless of course they have died close to our age - but the modern versions of the Magdalen's life and the dissecting of tradition and cult associated with the Saint, really sap the devotion out her story and her venerable memory.  So, I am quite content to venerate St. Mary Magdalen as the Church has done for centuries.  I remember I made a pilgrimage to Ste. Baume, and my way back to Assisi from Compostella many years ago.  A Dominican laughed at me and mocked me for asking him to bless a small medal of the Saint, as well as for my naivete in accepting the legend she was a former prostitute turned penitent who ended her life in that cave in Provence.

I wasn't discouraged.  Nor am I discouraged today.

 Just remember, included in the genealogy of Christ is Rahab* the Harlot: "Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab" (Matthew 1:5).

*It's where we get the term 'rehab'.  (Just kidding - I made that up.)

"By faith Rahab the harlot 
did not perish with the disobedient, 
receiving the spies with peace."
-Heb 11:31


  1. Luke 8:2: "Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out..." Anyone who is possessed by seven demons is in very bad shape. Mary Magdalene is a favorite of mine not because she was a great sinner (though who knows what someone with seven demons in her will do) but because she was a mess. I too was a mess, and, by God's grace, I am not as big a mess as I used to be (though not entirely healed). I think a lot of us who have been through a lot can identify with her.

  2. My first exposure to MM was Yvonne Elliman playing her in JCS and that's always colored my perception of her - she seemed gentle and caring.


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