This is "Christ's Appearance to Mary Magdalene After the Resurrection" by the Russian painter Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov. (CNS photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Inspired by Mary Magdalene

Reaching out to those on the margins for Christ’s healing touch

Comments Off on Inspired by Mary Magdalene

RaabOn July 22 we celebrate the feast of Mary Magdalene. Her witness to Christ’s empty tomb captures my imagination. From her eyes, we have built the Church. From her testimony emptiness turned into joy, death revealed new life. From the healing she experienced at the hands of Jesus, seven demons flew from her body and emotions. Because of her healing, she opens us to deep truth, to the love Jesus has for the marginalized, the ill and the outcast. She is one of my favorite saints since she touches such mysteries, such beauty of Christ.

Some years ago, a woman called me for an appointment. She had heard me on a Catholic radio station. She said she heard vulnerability in my voice. She wanted to tell her story and for me to listen. She told me she drank for 30 years. She had just found recovery. In her drinking years, she became pregnant. She had a boy on her apartment floor while alone and drunk. After she cut the umbilical cord with scissors, she cracked a beer. She told me her boy died at 16 years old of a drug overdose. He had never seen his mother sober, not one day of his life. She came to me tired, fearful of sobriety and anxious about her past.

We chatted many times. She volunteered in our work among people in poverty. She held a solid job and had an incredible career. Yet she wanted something more. She wanted to make sense of why she did not die after being drunk for all those years. So, she entered RCIA. She taught everyone how to desire God from her stirring questions.

When she showed up at the Easter Vigil, she revealed to me a sleeve tattoo of St. Mary of Magdala. The tattoo was brightly colored and covered her entire arm. Mary Magdalene inspired her because of the healing she experienced at the hands of Christ. Mary became an example for her recovery and the healing of profound grief over her son’s death.

I am still in touch with the woman. She still depends on Mary to help her stay sober. She aches for Mary of Magdala to help the Church reach out to people on the margins. She longs for the “Disciple to the Disciples,” to motivate women in the Church to continue to speak out and claim their authority.

I believe Mary Magdalene breaks through the noise we may experience in ministry. She reminds us of Christ’s healing touch. Her convicted voice shatters confusion about who Jesus is and what he offers us. Mary’s tenacity motivated people to believe in Jesus, who went to his death for us. She points in the direction of the Kingdom as John the Baptist did. Mary insists, because she saw the truth, that God is here and that miracles are possible no matter who we are. Mary Magdalene even chases down alcoholics and brings the poor to the holy ground of Jesus’ presence. Her voice is strong and her perspective is wise. I want to know Mary of Magdala more deeply. I want to hear her voice for myself, her testimony, that Christ’s tomb was empty.

I don’t have a tattoo of Mary Magdalene on my arm. I didn’t hear her testimony firsthand. However, I did walk with a 30-year alcoholic who found sobriety. I listened to my friend grieve her son’s death as she then, in turn, served people, handing out clothing to those in need. I believe in Mary Magdalene because she knew the healing touch of Jesus Christ. I believe Mary of Magdala because she was forgiven and healed by Jesus Christ. I believe in Mary Magdalene because my friend is sober and filled with compassion. I believe Mary Magdalene’s voice rings out within our Church; it heralds victory among people who pray, and those who long to be released from all that keeps people from genuine life and love.

In July, amid vacations and changes in ministry assignments for priests, let’s not overlook the feast of Mary Magdalene. We all need her to intercede for us and for people we have encountered in ministry. Mary of Magdala is the patron saint of contemplatives. Let’s take time this summer to listen to her, to invite her into our hearts, and to imagine the miracles of resurrected life within our Church.

FATHER RONALD PATRICK RAAB, CSC, serves as religious superior at Holy Cross House, a medical facility and retirement home for the Congregation of Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Indiana. Learn more at

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe now.
Send feedback to us at