St. Mary Magdalene, Patroness of Dominican Order, Described as Apostle, Seeker, and Prophet

Sister Geneal Kramer, OP

July 28, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – St. Mary of Magdala – faithful follower of Jesus throughout his ministry, death, and resurrection – is not only the Apostle to the Apostles but a seeker and a prophet.

That was the gist of a July 22, 2020, presentation by Sister Geneal Kramer, OP, on the Feast of St. Mary of Magdala – claimed as the Patroness of the Dominican Order, the Order of Preachers, because of her unique role of preaching the resurrection of Jesus to the apostles. 

Sister Geneal began her talk by speculating on how Mary of Magdala – apparently an important citizen in her town since she was named according to the town rather than in relation to her husband or father – met Jesus, and whether she was called as the other apostles were. Scriptures do not record the actual call of Mary of Magdala as they do of St. Peter and St. Andrew, Sister Geneal said. 

St. Mary of Magdala “just appears on the scene, a woman cleansed of seven demons in Luke 8:2, along with Joanna, Susana, and many others who provided for Jesus and his disciples out of their resources,” Sister Geneal said. “I like to think these women heard these words [of call] and responded whole-heartedly by leaving all and following Jesus.”

Throughout the two years that Mary followed Jesus, she was a seeker, Sister Geneal said. “To seek is a sign of faith already present,” she added. “One would not seek unless they had faith they would eventually find the object of their seeking.” Sister Geneal also noted the “radical incompatibility between seeking one’s own glory and being open to God’s revelation. Only the person who is truly open to seeking God can be open to the unexpected.”

St. Mary of Magdala encountered the unexpected on the morning of Easter Sunday, when, after finding Jesus’ tomb empty and seeing Jesus – whom she thought was the gardener – she heard him call her name and recognized him. “When Mary heard her name, her joy was overwhelming,” Sister Geneal said. “She wants to have him as she had him before: as friend, counselor, teacher, and companion on the road. But Jesus comes to her not as he was prior to his death, but as he is now bodily and glorified, present and ungraspable, intimate and universal.”

Sister Geneal pointed out that St. Mary of Magdala’s desire to cling to the past has a special application today during the pandemic. “How many of us are longing for a return to normal after the pandemic?” Sister Geneal asked. “But what is normal? Will we be the same or will we have changed? Will we be open like Mary to how the Spirit is present to us in the now?”

St. Mary of Magdala assumed her prophetic role when she left the garden to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection to the apostles, Sister Geneal said. “Perhaps Mary of Magdala is another prophet calling us again to fidelity to God’s promise and not to human power for our salvation,” she said. Like St. Mary of Magdala, today’s disciples can “encounter the living God, Christ alive today,” Sister Geneal concluded.

Sister Geneal’s presentation was part of a series of monthly virtual talks presented by members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Enactment Committee. This is one of four Enactments approved by delegates to the Congregation’s 2016 General Chapter.