Mary Magdalene – Apostle to the Apostles

Prostitute or Apostle? … Upgrading Mary Magdalene
A misinterpretation of the Gospels has contributed to the confusion surrounding Mary Magdalene, writes Fr Brendan McConvery CSsR
The change in status of a liturgical celebration from ‘obligatory memorial’ to ‘feast’ normally entails little more than the inclusion of the Gloria in the Mass and the requirement to use certain special texts in the Eucharist and the Divine Office. In the case of the upgrading of the liturgical celebration of St Mary Magdalene, July 22, it is much more than that.

As the explanatory statement by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, states, “the Holy Father Francis has taken this decision precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy to stress the importance of this woman, who shows great love for Christ and was very dear to Christ”.

By giving her the same liturgical status as an apostle, the change also restores to Mary the oldest title by which she was known, Apostola Apostolorum, “the Apostle to the Apostles.”

The earliest use of the title, “Apostle to the Apostles” is in an early commentary on the Song of Songs by a shadowy figure in the early Church called Hippolytus, dating from the early 3rd Century.


It has been suggested that at least part of this commentary began life as an Easter homily.

Using the text of the woman’s search for her beloved in Song 3:1-4 as a prototype for the search by Mary and the other women for the body of Jesus on Easter Sunday, the text comments, “they show us a good testimony of those who were made apostles to the apostles, sent by Christ. It is to these that the angel first said ‘Go and tell his disciples: ‘He goes before you into Galilee, there you shall see him’’ (Mark 16:7, Matt 28:7). So that the apostles might not doubt that these women were sent by the angels, Jesus himself comes to meet the apostles so that the women might be truly recognised as apostles of Christ and make good the failure of ancient Eve by their obedience.”

The New Testament does not limit the use of the term ‘apostle’ to the 12 chosen by Jesus. Matthias, for example, replaces Judas and Paul is very insistent on his apostolic status, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (I Cor. 9:1).

At the end of Romans, he greets a husband and wife, “Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was” (Rom. 16:7). Ephesians 4:11 lists apostleship among a list of offices and charisms for the work of ministry.

Mary passes the test for apostleship under several heads. When Peter invited the first Jesus community to select a replacement for Judas: “Out of the men who have been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was living with us, from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us, one must be appointed to serve with us as a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22 NJB).

As her name suggests, Mary had followed Jesus from her hometown on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and had been present at his death on the Cross (as none of the male disciples had been, bar the Beloved Disciple). She had also been a witness to the empty tomb (prior to Peter and the Beloved Disciple – John 20:2ff) and had been sent by the Risen Lord to tell his disciples that he had risen (John 20:17-18).

Mary’s title, ‘Apostle to the Apostles’, continued in use well into the Middle Ages. St Thomas Aquinas used it of her, because she announced to the apostles what they in turn would announce to the whole world.

Somewhere in the centuries that followed, Mary’s title got lost and she became the prototype of the repentant sinner and prostitute. Prostitution was as common in the land of Jesus as it was elsewhere. One of the marks of Jesus’ ministry was his ability to reach out to ‘tax collectors and sinners’ including women who were regarded as sinful.

A certain misinterpretation of the Gospels has contributed to the confusion surrounding Mary Magdalene. What we know about Mary from the Gospel evidence is relatively clear.

As her name implies, she was a native of the town of Magdala or Migdal on the shores of the  Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:2)

She had experienced some kind of dramatic healing or deliverance through Jesus (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2)

She became, along with other women, a member of the itinerant Jesus community, following him and the apostles from Galilee to Jerusalem (Luke 8:3, Mark 15:41)

She was a witness to the crucifixion and the burial of Jesus (Mark 15:40,47)

She was a witness to the Empty Tomb and encountered the Risen Lord (Mark 16:1ff, Matt 28:1, Luke 24:10, John 20:1ff).

An incident popularly associated with Mary is not included in the list above. It is the incident in the Gospels where “a woman who was a sinner” gate-crashed a party in the house of a Pharisee called Simon to anoint the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:37-38). That woman is unnamed.


To add further to the confusion, there are two similar stories in the Gospels. In the first, an unnamed woman anointed the head of Jesus in the house of Simon the Leper at Bethany a few days before his passion (Mark 14:3-5), but nothing is said about her sinful life. In the second, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed the feet of Jesus with costly nard (John 12:3) at a dinner party her family had prepared for him to celebrate the raising of their brother.

While it is likely that details in these stories feed into one another, they have also been interpreted by preachers as though they were referring to the same event. It should be clear that Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, is not Mary Magdalene and there is no evidence to call either of the other two women Mary.

Recent archaeological excavations of the Magdala/Migdal site prove it to be a settlement of some considerable size and prosperity.

From the Jewish historian Josephus, we know it was a centre for the fishing trade on the lake. Its Greek name, ‘Migdal of the Fish Salters’, suggests that preserving fish was a profitable local industry. Given that Mary is included among a group of women who provided for Jesus out of their own resources (Luke 8:2-3), it is not unreasonable to suspect that she or her family might have made their money from the fishing industry.

What made her follow Jesus was her own experience of his healing power. She was delivered from seven demons. Firstly, “seven” is not a literal number – seven demons implies a mighty destructive force, just as seven gifts of the Holy Spirit implies all the spiritual blessings of the Spirit.

What deliverance from such oppressive force meant in the days of Jesus we cannot say with certainty but Mary seems to have experienced a life-changing freedom that makes her a committed disciple of Jesus.

Archbishop Roche concludes his short commentary on the liturgical change by saying “it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same level of festivity given to the apostles in the General Roman Calendar, and that the special mission of this woman be highlighted, as an example and model to every woman in the Church.”

It is also good to see justice done to her memory after so long a time.

Brendan McConvery CSsR taught sacred scripture for many years in Maynooth and elsewhere. He is an author, with Ciaran O’Callaghan CSsR, of The Three Faces of Christ: Reading the Gospels in the Liturgical Year and is currently editor of Reality magazine.

Mary Magdalene, 1877, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti


Spring Equinox -Waking from Our Slumber

The Spring Equinox is a great time for new beginnings, new birth and new starts! As we have spiritually spent time descending into  the depths of our consciousness, the spring is a great time to rise and embrace the light. Some great things to help celebrate the spring:

  1. Clean your altar space, burn sage and freshen with flowers
  2. Wash you crystals in a light sea salt water bath to activate them and put them in the sun to recharge
  3. Write down all of the things you want to leave behind and move on from, burn them in a chalice or small bon fire and offer them to the universe
  4. Thank your challenges for the role they have played in your life this year and release them
  5. Speak your good intentions into water and pour it into the Earth to grow
  6. Write down things you want to grow this year and plant them in th Earth
  7. Think balance and equilibrium, today is a good time for balance and stabilization
  8. Acknowledge who you are and who you want to be
  9. Be authentic, be you
  10. Be positive, look forward to the future and manifesting health, happiness and connection to Spirit

Happy Spring!



How to Connect to God

Be authentic.

We are not called to be obedient, we are called to be authentic. We were each given gifts that we were meant to use to better the world, to help us rise together, peacefully, joyfully. Life is not meant to be a competition, it is meant to be a journey where we learn lessons – life lessons and we improve the quality of our lives.

Connecting with God is as simple as recognizing we have never lost our connection. Stand in the light as in a bright beam of sunlight, feel the warmth of God coming into you and coming out from you. You are not separate from God and you never have been, you are looking for the forest while you are standing in the forest – God is all around you and in you and in everything.

We all have spiritual gifts we were born with, we all bring our own brand of peace and love and we cultivate that by not being judgmental, by just being and letting others just be. God does not want you to be “prosperous” or “wealthy” or to have “things”. We are misled by our attraction to these shiny things – they mean nothing, they are roadblocks, impediments to accomplishing our true life goals. Raise each other up, lift each other, dance in the spirit, heal each other with the gifts we already have, but have forgotten to use.

Yeshua is not our “lord” he is our brother and our friend. He said he could give us peace that the world can’t provide, lasting peace that makes us content and not feeling empty and alone. God is all around us, God is helping us all the time, we don’t need to be saved, we are safe already.

We are safe, we don’t need to be afraid, we are well, we are happy, everything else is truly an illusion, a lie. There are forces out there that want to plant seeds of fear, pain, sickness, sadness and make us think we are not happy, that we are unhealthy, that our lives are LESS than they COULD be. It is not  true.

Be authentic. Be you. Don’t be afraid.

Butterfly v1

Breaking Free

We need to stop. We really need to stop perpetuating the narrative that has been enslaving us all for millennia. Christianity makes no sense and there is no reason not to say so. Again, God sent his only son, who also was God, to save us from – himself? This doesn’t work. There is no mystery of faith, it just makes no sense.

Jesus did not institute a religion, he came and said the laws of the pharisees and the sadducees kept everyone in bondage. He didn’t say replace it with new laws, he said he came to fulfill the law, to bring it to completion. Jesus never said, “bow down to me and worship me as your Lord” – ever. He didn’t say kneel before me because I am a king. He actually said call no man “father” so maybe all of the priests out there need to stop and reconsider. He didn’t say women were inferior – he held them in high esteem contrary to all social norms of his time.

So why is our practice of Christianity based on things that don’t make sense?

He said he came to save us, but from what? Eternal damnation from…himself? Maybe he was saving us from ourselves. Maybe he stepped in to re-orient us to a better way of living and existing on this planet AND how to align ourselves with the spiritual realm that exists beyond this physical world. He told us you reap what you sow, our actions have consequences. Origen, a second century Christian theologian, claimed that Jesus taught the concept of reincarnation. The power brokers of his time declared him anathema and many of his works were destroyed. From the early days of Christianity, a movement to shape it for personal gain had already begun. The Bible was corrupted from the beginning and conversion by force became the new religion’s weapon. 2000 years later it is embedded in our DNA and we are once again slaves – just as when Yeshua came to free us.

Yeshua left us with the Holy Spirit to teach us. Mary Magdalene was in direct contact with that spirit. How can we reconnect? Do we know when we encounter the divine? We have forgotten how to trust our own intuition and understand we too, can be in contact with the Holy Spirit.



Spiritual Discernment in the Age of Social Media

The good news is there is lots of information available, the bad new is there is lots of information available. If you are serious about finding a good spiritual path that works for you, how do you discern the good from the bad, the good from  the evil,  the charlatans from the authentic?

Yeshua said follow me, you are my friends, you decide. I think that is a good place to start. You decide, you research, you explore, but then in the end you decide. Free will.

If you don’t follow me you will __________(fill in the blank). Threats, coercion or fear tactics are a signal that this is likely not a good path.

You have to do, say, recite, believe everything I tell you even if you don’t think its right or true – all in the name of obedience. Not allowed to think, understand or internalize and does not recognize free will –  not the right path.

I will protect you from _________ and without me you are at risk. Fear again, not cool.

Give me your money to show your commitment, Jesus wants you to plant a seed so you can prosper, what you give you will get back 10 fold, planting a seed spreads the true word of God. Definitely the wrong path.

Pay for miracles, absolution, special oils, amulets, water and  this will free you from your problems. Nope, this is not a good path.

Touch the TV screen and you will be saved! Yikes!

Ask yourself this…saved FROM WHAT?

Did God send his only son – who by the way is God – to save you from the wrath imposed by himself for not agreeing to follow him and be saved from….himself? Sigh, we need to think and not just continue in our old habitual ways.

Yeshua did say follow me, I will give you peace. He wants us to understand his teachings so we can free ourselves from negativity, from unhealthy attachments, from things tying us down and upsetting us and keeping us from living. It’s all in what we chose to think about – which should be love, health, peace and avoiding conflict. It starts and ends with us. It’s not the Bible which is a corrupted document or the age old dogmatic indoctrination. He sent us the Holy Spirit to lead us from inside ourselves – when he left. That is the true teacher.

green pond with geese


Sharing – Gemini Moon

lunar gemini is an intriguing placement; it is full of contradictions, as many gemini placements are. those with lunar gemini experience a wide range of feelings and emotions, but struggle feeling them despite their ease in expressing them verbally. at first glance, they are bubbly, witty, carefree; when you take a closer look, they have […]

via gemini moon — viétoiles

Longing for God Beyond the Edges

I have spent years in the throws of an aching longing for God – about 17 years to be exact. Though not brought up Catholic, I was baptized Catholic and my husband and I returned to the faith when my third child was born and we decided they needed a faith tradition. We became immersed in the beauty of the Church, the mystery the saints, then our faith matured. I went on to delve into the mysticism, gobbling up John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, St. Francis, Catherine of Sienna and I  think that is when the longing started.  I felt I was endlessly being drawn into the depths of spirit and couldn’t get enough – I was in love with God and s/he with me. We meditated together, rested together, seemed to gaze at each other and like being in love, my last thought of the night was of God and my first thought in the morning the same. Thomas Merton and Teillhard de Chardin came next. brilliant men who expanded spirituality beyond the edges.

My yearning drove me to look and read and revel with delight at all I uncovered. My philosophical mind turned over all the details I would mine and look at all the nuance. And the yearning never stopped, I ached, I pined, I had brief respites of peace, but then the longing would begin again. When would I cease? When would I find what I was looking for? Months turned into years which turned into more years. Spiritual direction and exploration of the stages of faith – purgative, illuminative and unitive. Spiritual exercises of St Ignatius and understanding the shifts between stages of faith – we don’t stay in one stage, we vacillate between them.

Still the yearning, but now reality starts peeking in, seeping in to lift up the corners, shine light on the dark places. The yearning isn’t stopping, I am still being led – pushed – to continue searching. Time with the Redemptorists – a lovely nun told me God gives certain souls a long rope to go exploring, I found comfort in that, but my soul was still restless. Carmelites next, other Christian alternative Gospels – Buddhism – nothing satiated me. An Atheist friend pounding on the Church, pointing out her obvious flaws – defense mechanisms kick in – my defense of Catholicism bolsters my faith not his, interesting turn of events.

It doesn’t last. Patriarchy reigns, prayers changed to more “accurately fit the Latin vulgate,” sex abuse scandal continues, Pope Francis excuses the guilty priests. Churches close, priests ruin parishes and are left unchecked as they rule over their serfdoms, Pope Benedict says women priests would be a more egregious sin than pedophile priests….(Saint) John Paul II knew the extent pedophile epidemic and did nothing – except protect Bernard Law by bringing him to Rome and then giving him a cushy job there. No punishment for the guilty princes.

(what am I doing here?)

Pope Francis says something (though now I forget what) is as useless as a Grandmother.

(Really? Women’s only contribution is motherhood?)

Nothing is working the old prayers are stale, it feels like indoctrination, it feels robotic, cradle Catholics have no idea what they believe in – aside from the big three – 10 Commandments, no abortion and we are all sinners. It begins to feel like a cult. Women priests can not even be DISCUSSED, priests get excommunicated for supporting women in  the priesthood, pedophiles are still being hidden and sentenced to a “lifetime” of prayer.

I give up.

I meditate, I think about Yeshua (less baggage than Jesus). I think a lot about Mary Magdalene and the bad deal she has been given by the boys in the Church – no, she was not a whore ever. She was the Apostle to  the Apostles. I invite Yeshua and Mary to pray with me, I make up my own rituals – I write things on little pieces of paper that I don’t want in my life – debt, negativity etc. – and I burn them in a chalice made of pottery. I ask Yeshua and Mary to help me. I write what I want to bring into my life – greater spiritual awareness – on a piece of paper and bury it like a seed waiting to grow. I still research, but the aching is gone, I feel more peaceful. I find Mary Magdalene in France. A light seems to be going on and I realize, as many times as I went back to the church, the Holy Spirit was actually leading me away. I feel more at peace now, more clear.

The Holy Spirit led me away from the Church and then told me why – Biblical corruption (Yeshua wrote nothing down and said the Holy Spirit would lead us after he was gone), the Romanization of the Church, corruption and power mongers in the Church.

The Holy Spirit is no longer there, Christianity is not what Yeshua taught.

I’ll leave it there. For now. Our Lady of Pontmain (Good Hope) in Marseilles is smiling.

Our LAdy of Pontmain