The Vatican announced that Pope Francis has raised the July 22nd memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to the rank of Feast rather than Memorial. The Decree issued by Congregation on June 10th titled: “Apostolorum Apostola” (Apostle of the Apostles) was accompanied by an article by Archbishop Roche which provides a reflection on the Decree and on the biblical and liturgical texts of this Feast. “Given that in our time the Church is called to reflect in a more profound way on the dignity of Woman, on the New Evangelization and on the greatness of the Mystery of Divine Mercy, it seemed right that the example of Saint Mary Magdalene be proposed to the faithful.”
Mary Magdalene accompanied Jesus through much of his ministry. We do not know how long, but her experience of being "freed from seven demons" turned her life around and she became a devoted follower. When most of the disciples fled into hiding, she was one of the few who followed Jesus to Calvary. She witnessed the horror of his death - the blood and water flowing from his side - and the burial and sealing of the tomb. She knew the reality of his death and burial.
Her devotion took her back to the tomb in the company of other women. The Gospel accounts differ in the details but in John's, Mary's love for Jesus makes her unable to leave the tomb. Her Lord is dead - the loss of his body the ultimate catastrophe ... but through her, Jesus was going to tell the apostles and ultimately the whole world the great truth that he had conquered death and was risen to new life.
In this Novena, we invite her to walk with us - reflecting on the first Easter morning when death gave way to newness of life - despair was healed by hope - and the embryonic Church looked to new horizons which would take it to the ends of the earth and far into a future it could not have imagined...
We are part of that future and take our place in the great unfolding of the life of the Church, praying and discerning how we announce the Good News of Jesus' life, death and resurrection to the people of the twenty-first century and hand on the rich legacy of our faith into a future we cannot imagine.
The Novena – nine days of prayer – the nine days leading to the Feast of Mary Magdalene (22 July) – or any time when a time of reflection and prayer about a decision might be helpful. It is suitable for personal use – but could profitably be used in a small group.
Each day for the next nine days - or for the period you choose, we will take two verses from John's account (20: 1-18) - use them for contemplation - and then ask for the intercession of Mary Magdalene who so obviously loved and was loved by Jesus to pray for the blessing of God and an outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit.