Today is the feast day of a (formerly!) wildly sinful woman — seven devils’ worth. She is mentioned a dozen times in the Gospels. 11 times as a devotee of the One Who cast out those seven or figurative seven. She’s been thought every manner of awful female, but it’s not supported in the Bible — only that she was very sinful. Once.
None of us should guess whether she fell in love with Jesus of Nazareth in a woman way, but one could almost say she fell in love in a daughter, a sister, and dear friend way. I have fallen in love in a daughter way and it was most delightful and transforming — like Ruth and Naomi, Anne and Marilla, or like me and Papa JPIIG.. and later, Papa Benedict.
I have fallen in love in a sister way and it was and is something so special, I have no way to describe it except to say that I miss it every day. Perhaps like in Little Women, or perhaps like me and my internet-met sisters, 4 of whom I met and toured NY and Ontario with. Imagine singing, “Lean on Me” in a carful of crazy gals from all over who would also pray a Rosary in the car later, remembering one’s slowly dying sister who couldn’t make it after all. Or praying the Our Father in downtown Toronto, holding hands, because the news had actually gotten even worse. To gorge and laugh ourselves senseless on Sambuca and Ferraro Roche, to bunk in together to save motel money, to wake up and swim like doofusi. Or like me and Fr. John. Sisters and brothers who laugh together, and who cry together. Vulnerably.. vulnerably.
To fall in love in a dear friend way, well, what on earth could compare? Any age, any gender, any stratosphere of life, it doesn’t matter. Like .. like anyone we’ve ever known who were inseparable. Maybe also like Lenny and George, or the latter day duos I knew. Or like me and Fr. Joseph. I would follow him to the gallows. He’d be singing, and I’d be urging him to sing for two. And to hold my hand. Both hands. And drag me, if need be. And he WOULD. I can’t tell you what that knowledge means to me.
So, in what ways did Mary of Magdala not love the Master? Surely, she was even motherly toward Him and the Apostles and disciples she came to serve. She went to the place where everyone died or were threatened with death. She would not be separated from Him or from His poor Mother. And later, as nights became days with no sleep, she crept out to Arimathea’s garden tomb to the Body, and might still be there today, if the *Gardener* she’d begged for the Body’s whereabouts, had not spoken her name with the very same inflection as her Jesus.. Rabboni!! It is recorded that He said, “Don’t cling to me, as I have not yet ascended to the Father.” It is clear to me, as it was to her, that He was also saying, “There is no veil between us anymore. I am always with you. ALWAYS, now. You, of Me. I, of you. One.”
And after you fall in love with someone who proves that your name is safe in his or her mouth, like Jesus and Mary, you rise in love.
And you quite possibly name a child after someone who never quits at the labor of love. As my grandmother did (all 3 boys’ middle names are Joseph, both girls’ middle names, Mary), and as I did — my little Madeline Jean, my jelly bean queen (one of my songs for her). How grateful I was to have a holy reason to build something on “Magdalena.”
[St. Mary Magdalen is patroness of contemplative life, converts, glove-makers, hairdressers, penitent sinners, perfumeries, people ridiculed for their piety, pharmacists, sexual temptation, tanners, and women.]