Exciting news: A (1st class) relic of St. Mary Magdalene is on tour in the US and is being brought through California right now!! And so I encourage all of you to visit this relic while you can (if it’s near you) because it is such a special, awesome, and, I’d even say, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet this saint in such a way. Check the itinerary of the relic to see when it’ll be in your area.
And for those of you who aren’t too sure what a relic is or what the Church teaches on relics, you can check out this page on Church Teaching on Relics.
Also, here’s an additional bit of information on how the early Christians understood relics (specifically 1st class relics, like the bones of a saint): From the beliefs that 1) a saint is someone who is in Heaven, and 2) a person is both body and spirit/soul, the early Christians came to think of a saint as being both in Heaven (because his/her soul was in Heaven) and on earth (because his/her body or relic was on earth) at the same time! Thus, the early Christians viewed relics as a kind of “bridge” between Heaven and earth and as sources of God’s power (power that would bring about miracles), and this belief is still maintained in popular piety and devotions today.
Lastly, since the relic on tour is that of St. Mary Magdalene, perhaps it’d be useful to shed some light on who she really is, since her identity seems to be quite confused or simply unknown in our modern times. Here is a brief biography and some information on the saint herself (taken from a handout I got when visiting the relic recently):
A Brief Biography of St. Mary Magdalen
Saint Mary Magdalen, a converted sinner, became a follower of Christ and has been the classic example of the repentant sinner from earliest times. She is identified with the sinner who anointed Christ’s feet in Simon’s house (Luke 7:36) and traditionally is thought to be Mary, the sister of Martha. She had seven devils cast out of her by the Lord (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2), ministered to him in Galilee (Luke 8:2), was among the women at the Crucifixion (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25), and with Mary, the mother of James and Salome, discovered the empty tomb and heard the angelic announcement of the Resurrection of Christ (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-10). She was the first person to see Christ later the same day (Matt. 28:9; Mark 16:9; John 20:1-18).
The New Testament and tradition are the Church’s sources for Saint Mary Magdalen, who is almost always depicted in art with flowing red hair, either with Christ in the house of Simon or beneath the Cross, or alone with her jar of precious oil and or a book, symbolizing the knowledge she had from both Jesus and Mary. Our Saint gets her full name from the town she came from, Magdala, near Bethany; the actual site of the town is in ruins and has been given a variant of the name today.
When our Lord began preaching and going about the countryside He no longer had a fixed abode; He visited the homes of friends or those open to hospitality. The domicile of the two sisters, Mary [Magdala] and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, is considered the house He most frequented. Bethany is only two miles from Jerusalem. Mary and her sister were devoted to Christ and it was at their home that Christ spent His last days before the Passion. The Saturday before Palm Sunday, St. Mary Magdalen showed her complete reverence for the Son of God when she poured out the costly spikenard, approximately the yearly salary of today’s typical working man or laborer, onto the feet of Our Savior. Not only did this act reveal her deep repentance for a former life of sin, but it signaled the price Our Lord would pay for our salvation a mere six days hence. Before she anointed the feet of the Lamb of God, she performed the custom of the times concerning honored guests—she refreshed the top of Jesus’ head with the oil first. To be so lavish as to then bathe His feet was not only an extraordinary event, it was inspired by the Holy Spirit, for once again His Heavenly Father was well pleased with His Son. In keeping with Jesus’ words in St. Matthew 26: 10-13, the memory of St. Mary Magdalen’s work is now immortalized in art. The Scripture passages that tell of this marvel are perhaps among the most often repeated and well known among most Christians.
Saint Mary Magdalen’s Feast Day is July 22nd