22 July: Feast of St. Mary Magdalene


I saw this painting a couple years ago in the Prado as part of a great exhibit of Georges de La Tour. 31 of his 40 known paintings were together.

In 2016, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, headed by the great Robert Card. Sarah, issued a decree making – for the Novus Ordo, mind you – what was the Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene into a Feast.  In the Novus Ordo, 22 July is now the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene.

She also now gets her own Preface.

In an explanatory article, the Secretary of the CDW, Archbp. Arthur Roche, says that Francis expressly desired the elevation of this to a Feast.

In the decree we find some of the reasons.  I’m sure you can puzzle this out.

Nostris vero temporibus cum Ecclesia vocata sit ad impensius consulendum de mulieris dignitate, de nova Evangelizatione ac de amplitudine mysterii divinae misericordiae bonum visum est ut etiam exemplum Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae aptius fidelibus proponatur. Haec enim mulier agnita ut dilectrix Christi et a Christo plurimum dilecta, “testis divinae misericordiae” a Sancto Gregorio Magno, et “apostolorum apostola” a Sancto Thoma de Aquino appellata, a christifidelibus huius temporis deprehendi potest ut paradigma ministerii mulierum in Ecclesia.

English release of the same: “Given that in our time the Church is called to reflect in a more profound way on the dignity of Woman, on the New Evangelisation and on the greatness of the Mystery of Divine Mercy, it seemed right that the example of Saint Mary Magdalene might also fittingly be proposed to the faithful. In fact this woman, known as the one who loved Christ and who was greatly loved by Christ, and was called a “witness of Divine Mercy” by Saint Gregory the Great and an “apostle of the apostles” by Saint Thomas Aquinas, can now rightly be taken by the faithful as a model of women’s role in the Church.”

Here is the Preface:

Vere dignum et iustum est,
æquum et salutáre,
nos te, Pater omnípotens,
cuius non minor est misericórdia quam potéstas,
in ómnibus prædicáre per Christum Dóminum nostrum.

Qui in hortu [sic … horto!!!] maniféstus appáruit Maríæ Magdalénæ,
quippe quae eum diléxerat vivéntem,
in cruce víderat moriéntem,
quæsíerat in sepúlcro iacéntem,
ac prima adoráverat a mórtuis resurgéntem,
et eam apostolátus offício coram apóstolis honorávit
ut bonum novæ vitæ núntium
ad mundi fines perveníret.

Unde et nos, Dómine, cum Angelis et Sanctis univérsis
tibi confitémur, in exsultatióne dicéntes:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dóminus Deus Sábaoth…

Note that quippe a conjunction, when paired with a pronoun, quae gives us a reason or a cause.   We thus say something like, “as one in fact who” or “inasmuch as she”. Usually you see this with subjunctive.. but… well….  Apostolatus is 5th, so its genitive is apostolatûs.  That manifestus seems repetitive, since we have apparuit right away.  But manifestus, can mean, along with “evident” and so forth, “palpable”.  Manifestus is formed from manus and fendo, and as such indicates that one hits something with the hand.  That’s why something is “palpable, evident, clear, manifest”.

You know you want to order coffee, so try it now… and stay awake during the vocabulary stuff.

I thought it might be an adverbial use, but it probably isn’t.  There’s a perfectly good manifeste available in Latin. Augustine of Hippo in Contra epistulam Parmeniani 4,8 wrote: Quem proptera saepe nomino, quia ita manifestus apparuit, ut ubicumque fuerit nominatus nullus se ignorare respondeat.  Leo the Great in tr. 71 wrote: Et licet reuolutio lapidis, euacuatio monumenti, depositio linteorum, et totius facti angeli narratores copiose ueritatem dominicae resurrectionis adstruerent, et mulierum tamen uisui, et apostolorum oculis frequenter manifestus apparuit, non solum conloquens cum eis, sed etiam habitans atque conuescens, et pertractari se diligenti curioso que contactu ab eis quos dubitatio perstringebat admittens.  The phrase manifestus apparuit also happens to appear manifestly in old Prefaces in versions of the Gelasian Sacramentary, such as in the Liber sacramentorum Augustodunensis: Vd. <per Christum dominum nostrum>. qui post resurrectionem suam omnibus discipulis suis manifestus apparuit. et ipsis cernentibus est elevatus in caelum. ut nos diuinitatis suae tribueret esse participes: Et ideo cum angelis.  In any event, the construction is well attested.  If we go farther afield and look for manifeste, manifestius, etc., with forms of appareo we get lots of occasions from Classical writers such as Quintillian, Pliny Elder.  In Latin Fathers we find it in Cyprian of Carthage, Novatian, Augustine of course, often,  It’s a commonplace.

Back to the Preface.

The decree states that conferences will have to work out their translations of the preface.


Truly is it worthy and just, advantageous and salutary, that in all things we proclaim You, Father Almighty, whose mercy is not less than (Your) power, through Christ our Lord – Who, manifest, appeared in the garden to Mary Magdalene, for indeed she loved Him while he was living, saw Him on the Cross dying, in the sepulcher sought Him lying, and, being the first, adored Him from the dead rising, and He honored her with the duty of apostleship in the presence of the apostles, so that the good news of new life would reach unto the ends of the earth.  Whence we also, O Lord, with Angels and Saints, profess to you, saying in exultation: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts….

Here is the “working translation” of the Preface:

Preface of the Apostle of the Apostles

It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
whose mercy is no less than His power,
to preach the Gospel to everyone, through Christ, our Lord.
In the garden He appeared to Mary Magdalene,
who loved him in life,
who witnessed his death on the cross,
who sought him as he lay in the tomb,
who was the first to adore him when he rose from the dead,
and whose apostolic duty was honored by the apostles,
that the good news of life might reach the ends of the earth.
And so Lord, with all the Angels and Saints,
we, too, give you thanks, as in exultation we acclaim:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might …

Roche explained in his article that this act in the present ecclesial context, and thus it responds to the desire to reflect more deeply on the dignity of women and the new evangelization, and the mystery of divine mercy.  I admit that all of those are mysterious, but I digress.  Roche includes some nifty quotes about Mary Magdalene, too.  I’m sure the English of that article will soon be available.  I’m not going to translate it here, for lack of time.

There is something weird in Roche’s explanation, however.  At the end, after trotting out some Thomas Aquinas about Mary Magdalene as “apostolorum apostola“, he writes:

Perciò è giusto che la celebrazione liturgica di questa donna abbia il medesimo grado di festa dato alla celebrazione degli apostoli nel Calendario Romano Generale e che risalti la speciale missione di questa donna, che è esempio e modello per ogni donna nella Chiesa.

Therefore it is just that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same level of feast given to the celebration of the Apostles in the General Roman Calendar and that it underscore the special mission of this woman, who is an example and model for every woman in the Church.

That’s odd.  Mary Magdalene has been a favorite saint of mine ever since, well…. ever.   The Church’s tradition, particularly Gregory the Great, mostly identified as the same person, Mary Magdalene, the woman with the jar of nard, and the sister of Lazarus and Martha.  Certainly she was at the foot of the Cross and at the tomb on the morning after the Resurrection.  There’s no evidence that she was a prostitute or the adulteress brought to the Lord in John 7.  In Mark 16:9 we read that the Lord had performed an exorcism for her: “But he rising early the first day of the week, appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.”  This is also in Luke 8:2: “Mary who is called Magdalene, out of whom seven devils were gone forth”.   Augustine thought these were perhaps the seven deadly sins or vices.  It may have been on this foundation, along with some ambiguity about various Marys in the Gospels, that she was conglomerated into also being a fallen woman who then repented.  At least from that tradition we got some really great paintings!

Also… and here is something for you who are interested in art history… some day when you have time, check out the strong similarity of paintings of “penitent Magdalene” and of dying Cleopatra with the asp at her breast.  Warning: some of them can be a little spicy.  But I digress.

In any event, in the Novus Ordo – Mary Magdalene now has a Feast, which happens also to be the same level as the celebrations of the Apostles.

That doesn’t put her on the level of the Apostles.  Sorry, it just doesn’t.  Watch how some libs and feminists will do just that.  

His scriptis, this was overdue.  I’m glad that – in the Novus Ordo – Mary Magdalene has her Feast.

Here is an interesting point dropped to me by a reader about how Mary Magdalene was honored in Holy Mass before the Council.

Before 1960 or so, Mary had a Creed!  (For those of you who don’t know, in the older form of Holy Mass the Creed is said a lot more often.)  Here’s a shot of her formulary from a Missal from 1947.

Here is her formulary from 1962.  No Creed.  Kind of a demotion.

A rocky history, this feast.  Perhaps like the saint herself?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Antonin says:

    An apostle is one who is sent directly by Christ on a mission, in contrast to a disciple who is called to follow. Mary Magdalen clearly fits the category of one sent directly by Christ On a mission – to announce to the others his resurrection. [So?]

    Clearly she is on the same level as the other apostles theologically – there is not question about that. [Oh YEAH??] The dignity of men and women is absolutely equal in the economy of Christ. [These two statements have nothing to do with each other.]

    How and in what manner they exercise their mission differs and this is an important distinction to keep in mind. But the functional exercise of apostolic office and authority in the Church does not depend on function but on Christ,

    Great move by the CDW. And one more reason calendars need to be harmonized between the OF and EF to better realize the fruits of theological reflection exercised my the Magisterium of the One Church

    [Whatever Mary Magdalene is and whatever the College of the Apostles with Peter is, they are not the same or equal.]

  2. rhig090v says:

    In re of St. Mary Magdalene losing her “credo” around 1960, this was due merely to a rubric “simplification”. Whereas after, only 1st class feasts now have a credo, along with any 2nd class feasts of those present in the upper room at Pentecost (that’s how I remember it, Our Lady, the Apostles, and feasts of the Lord), have a credo, these two classes corresponded to what was before doubles of the first and second class. Major doubles and doubles, were merged into being 3rd class feasts which have no credo, whereas I believe before 1960, a major double vs a double was the dividing line between credo or no credo. Since that distinction didn’t exist after 1960, assuming I have my specifics correct, any major double feast would have been demoted via losing its credo.

  3. Father G says:

    Here is the approved English translation of the preface for use in the Ordinary Form: http://www.usccb.org/about/divine-worship/liturgical-calendar/saint-mary-magdalene.cfm

  4. Fr. Kelly says:

    ” The Church’s tradition, particularly Gregory the Great, mostly identified as the same person, Mary Magdalene, the woman with the jar of nard, and the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Certainly she was at the foot of the Cross and at the tomb on the morning after the Resurrection. There’s no evidence that she was a prostitute or the adulteress brought to the Lord in John 7. ”

    St. Gregory, and indeed the Church’s liturgy also identifies her as the sinful woman at the house of Simon the Pharisee who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. (and who is forgiven much because she loves much) Luke 7. It is only the accident of a chapter break that separates this account from her being named as one who accompanied Jesus in Luke 8:2, mentioned above.

    While it is not conclusive, I would stop short of saying that there is no evidence that she was a prostitute. She is clearly a wealthy woman, Simon is shocked that Our Lord would allow her to touch him. If Simon’s shock comes from the fact that Our Lord allows Himself to become ritually unclean by contact with her, there aren’t all that many sins she could be committing that would render Him unclean apart from the sins of the flesh. (there is no indication that she had a flow of blood as did the woman who touched his garment at another time.)

    I’m not arguing that she certainly was a prostitute, but the evidence is pretty strong for her as the sinful woman who washed Our Lord’s feet with her tears, (Luke 7:36 – 8:3) especially when we read St. Gregory’s homily at Matins along with the hymns for the 3rd class feast of Mary Magdalene, Penitent.
    And circumstantially, the description of this woman in Luke 7 seems to fit someone with such a reputation. When Our Lord draws her out of this life, might He not do this by driving out 7 demons from her?

    My point is that there is some evidence that prostitution was her profession and the Lord forgave her and drew her out of that life. From that time on she clearly lives a life of penitence.

  5. teomatteo says:

    Some years ago i read an interview with Sandra Meisel (sp?) on the Ignatius Insight site. I liked her comment that St Mary M. could have been 20 years older than Our Lord, she could have been toothless, her hair fallen out and very over weight. And a beautiful Saint! Why she is often pictured as this hollywood lush is beyond me. A saint.

  6. robtbrown says:

    Fr Z,

    You might find the following interesting. The comment before Theophylactus is from Gregory

    De Maria autem hic Marcus septem Daemonia eiecta fuisse testatur; et quid septem Daemonia, nisi universa vitia significant? Quia enim septem diebus omne tempus comprehenditur, recte septenario numero universitas figuratur. Theophylactus. Septem ergo Daemonia Maria habuit, quae universis vitiis plena fuit. Aut septem Daemonia septem virtutibus spiritus contrarios dicit, ut spiritus absque timore, absque sapientia, absque intellectu, et quaecumque alia donis spiritus sancti opponuntur. Hieronymus. Ei autem de qua eiecerat septem Daemonia, primo ostenditur: quia meretrices et publicani praecedent synagogam in regnum Dei, ut latro praecessit apostolos.

    [Gratias persolvo.]

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    St. Apollonia, virgin and martyr, is known to have been about 80 years old when she was martyred, but she had a good set of teeth until the Romans knocked them out of her head.

    She’s always pictured as young and beautiful, not as an 80 year old with good choppers. It’s an iconic convention for virgins.

    Moving along, there are a few other men and women with “equal to the apostles” as a title, and none of them were bishops or priests, so none of them count as being apostles.

  8. robtbrown says:

    For those who don’t read Latin, the above points out the importance that seven devils had been cast out by Christ. Seven devils indicates that she was full of all vices. It wasn’t merely a matter that she ate too many desserts or drank one too many glass of wine.

    Nb: St Jerome refers to prostitutes (meretrices). Jerome died over 100 years before Gregory was born.

  9. teomatteo says:

    robert, when i read that St. Mary Magdalene had seven demons i thought that she was elderly, to accumulate that many had to take some time.

  10. Father G says:

    Father Ryan Erlenbush posted on his blog 4 years ago a very convincing argument, in my opinion, of how Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the penitent woman are all the same person: http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2016/07/st-mary-magdalene-is-sister-of-sts.html

  11. Charles Sercer says:


    There were definitely a few minor double feasts on which the Credo was said in the (pre) 55 Missal. Mary Magdalen was only a minor double; Church Doctors used to have the Credo said on their feasts, and most of them were minor doubles.

    In short, whether or not the Credo was said didn’t have so much to do with the ranking of the feast as it did with who/what the feast was.

    Case in point 1: pre-55, June 24, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, was a Double of the 1st Class with an Octave, yet a Credo was not said (unless it fell within the then-existing Octaves of Corpus Christi or Sacred Heart, during which a Credo would be required even on Feasts that fall within those Octaves which wouldn’t normally have one).

    Case in point 2: pre-55, on July 14th was the feast of St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church; despite only being a minor double, a Credo was required due to the title of Doctor.

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