— Council of Vienne ♰♰♰

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

On the Conversion of St. Mary Magdalene


Against sexual temptation, penitent sinners, reformed prostitutes

by Richard Challoner, 1807

Consider first, the sudden and wonderful change God was pleased to work in the heart of this glorious penitent. Behold a woman in the city that was a sinner, (saith St. Luke) when she knew that Jesus was at meat in the house of the Pharisee, brought an alabaster box of ointment; and standing behind at his feet, she began to wash His feet with her tears; and she wiped them with the hairs of her head, and she kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment, Luke vii. 37, 38. See here, my soul, a penitent indeed; thoroughly penetrated with the sense of the dreadful evil of her sins, and therefore not to be restrained, either by shame or fear, or any considerations of what the world would think, or say, from running immediately to her Saviour, though then at table, and in the midst of the Pharisees, and there to do public penance, without regard to their censures or contempt. O see what it is for a soul to have her eyes truly opened, to discover the deformity of her sins, and to view those odious monsters in their true shape, which have so long possessed her! She thinks every moment an age, till by running to our Lord, she can get rid of her guilt, whatever it may cost her, or whoever may scoff at her, or censure her for it.

Consider 2dly, the chiefest ingredients in Magdalen's conversion; her faith, her humility, her love, her penitential tears, and her dedicating now to the service of her Lord all that she had before employed in sin. Her faith, joined with her humble confidence in the goodness and mercy of her Saviour, appears in her running to Him to be washed and cleansed by Him from all her filth, in the true fountain of life. Her humility appears, in her not daring to come before His face, nor to address herself to Him in words, but standing behind at His feet, and speaking to His heart by floods of tears. Her ardent love shews itself, in her often kissing His feet, and in the penitential tears it produces; and is therefore taken notice of by our Lord, as the main disposition towards her justification. Many sins are forgiven her (said he) for she hath loved much, ver. 47. And now her hair, her precious ointments, her whole person, are wholly dedicated to her Saviour, to whom, from this time forward, she adheres, with such an inviolable fidelity, and unalterable affection, as not even to suffer herself to be kept off from him, either by the ignominy of the cross, or the horror of the sepulchre. See, sinners, what it is to be a perfect convert, what it is to be a penitent indeed.

Consider 3dly, the lessons all Christians may learn from Magdalen's conversion. And first, a sense of the wonderful mercies of God, who thus changes, in an instant, the greatest sinners into the greatest saints; that so we may never despair of the conversion of any one, nor ever presume to despise poor sinners, how abandoned soever, or to prefer ourselves before any of them ; since whatever they are to-day, to-morrow they may be great penitents, and great favourites of heaven. Secondly, we must learn, from this great example, a ready compliance with the graces and calls of God; with a courage and resolution to overcome the opposition we shall be sure to meet with in our return to God, from old habits, human respects, or any other considerations. Alas! if Magdalen had regarded the censures of the world, or delayed her conversion, for fear of what the Pharisees should say or think of her, in all appearance she would have died in her sins. Thirdly, we may learn by her example, that the most effectual means for the remission of all our sins, and the advancing of our souls to the perfection of all holiness, is an ardent love of our blessed Redeemer, and a repentance influenced by love. Happy we, if we can but learn of her to go daily in this penitential spirit to the feet of Christ! He never rejects a penitent.

Conclude, if thou hast followed Magdalen in her sins, to imitate her also in her conversion : and the more, and the greater thy sins have been, to make the greater return of love to Him, who has so mercifully spared thee in thy sins, and so lovingly forgiven thee that immense debt, which thou owedst to His justice.

by Leonard Goffine, Published 1896

Mary Magdalen, a sister of Lazarus and of Martha, of Bethany, was a notorious sinner in Jerusalem. Moved by the preaching of Jesus, she did public penance. She went openly into the house of the Pharisee with whom Jesus was sitting at table, threw herself at His feet, anointed them with precious ointment, washed them with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. Jesus, knowing her contrite heart, forgave her her sins (Luke vii. 37, 38), and from that time forward she became the most zealous and faithful of the women who were disciples of Our Lord. She followed Him, always ministered unto Him of her substance (Luke viii. 3), and when He died was standing under the cross. Prayer:

We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may be helped by the intercession of blessed Mary Magdalen, at whose prayers Thou didst raise up again to life her brother Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. Who livest, etc. Amen.

EPISTLE. Cant. iii. 2-5; viii. 6, 7.

I will rise and will go about the city: in the streets and the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him and I found him not. The watchmen who keep the city found me: Have you seen him whom my soul loveth? When I had a little passed by them, I found him whom my soul loveth. I held him: and I will not let him go till I bring him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that bore me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and the harts of the fields, that you stir not up, nor awake my beloved till she please. Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm, for love is strong as death; jealousy as hard as hell; the lamps thereof are fire and flame. Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it: if a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing.

The soul that, following the direction of the watchmen, that is, the priests, teachers, and rulers of the Church, seeks Jesus, He goes to meet, gives Himself up to, takes up His abode in, with all His love, with all His treasures. The soul which has found Christ for delight forgets all outward things, and no longer has love or joy but for and in Christ. How should it be otherwise? What can be wanting to him who truly possesses Christ? This love for Him Who loved us unto death shows itself by outward acts that are heroic. So Mary Magdalen loved Jesus. Follow her example.

GOSPEL. Luke vii. 36-50.

At that time : One of the Pharisees desired Jesus to eat with him. And He went into the house of the Pharisee, and sat down to meat. And behold a woman that was in the city, a sinner, when she knew that He sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and standing behind, at His feet, she began to wash His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment. And the Pharisee, who had invited Him, seeing it, spoke within himself, saying : This man, if He were a prophet, would know surely who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him, that she is a sinner. And Jesus answering, said to him: Simon, I have somewhat to say to thee. But he said : Master, say it. A certain creditor had two debtors, the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And whereas they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which, therefore, of the two loveth him most? Simon answering, said : I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And He said to him: Thou hast judged rightly. And turning to the woman, He said unto Simon : Dost thou see this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet; but she with tears hath washed My feet, and with her hairs hath wiped them. Thou gavest Me no kiss; but she, since she came in, hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but she with ointment hath anointed My feet. Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less. And He said to her: Thy sins are forgiven thee. And they that sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves: Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And He said to the woman: Thy faith hath made thee safe, go in peace.

Magdalen, who had sinned openly, openly did penance. In like manner, he who has given public scandal must seek to make amends for it by public good example.

Magdalen confessed her sins, says St. Ambrose, not with words, but with abundant tears of penitence. To tell her sins to Christ, the All-knowing, was not necessary; but what a confession was there in the posture of humiliation, and in the tears that flowed from the contrite sinner. Would you obtain forgiveness? Confess with contrition, like Magdalen.

The words, "Thy faith hath made thee safe," denote a faith active as love. Faith and love are in truth never separated, for he only truly believes who also loves; and he only loves according to God s will who believes in Him. Therefore believe in truth, love, and show your love by earnest hatred of every sin, by flying from occasions of sin, by fighting against your passions, by change of your life, and by humble confession, and as true as God lives you will be saved, as was Magdalen ; the peace of God will enter into your heart.


O most loving Jesus, give me an earnest will to forsake all evil, and to return to Thee, my chief good, to repent of my sins out of true love, to guard against them for the future, to shun the occasion by which I have hitherto been enticed into sin, and by the practice of good works to redeem the time lost. Grant me this, O Jesus, by Thy bitter passion and death, and through the intercession of the holy penitent Magdalen. Amen.

"Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much."--Luke 7:47

(Can be Prayed as a Novena for Nine Consecutive Days)

St. Gertrude relates that St. Mary Magdalen said to St. Mechtilde: "Whosoever shall give God thanks for all the tears I shed upon the feet of Jesus, our most, merciful God will grant him, through my intercession, remission of all his sins before his death, and a great increase of love to God."

O Most merciful Jesus, I give Thee thanks for that work of piety which the blessed Mary Magdalen wrought on Thee when she washed thy feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed them and anointed them with fragrant ointment; whereby she obtained from Thee such signal grace that Thou didst pour into her heart and soul so great love of Thee that she could love nothing apart from Thee: beseeching Thee that by her merits and intercessions Thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant me tears of true repentance, and pour into my heart Thy divine love. Amen. 

(Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be the Father)

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