St. Mary Magdalene: The Saint Everyone Gets Wrong
First, the things Mary Magdalene is not: Jesus’ secret wife, Jesus’ secret lover, the founder of another sect of Christianity, or a prostitute.
The things Mary Magdalene is: only Apostle other than John to stay with Jesus during the Crucifixion, first one to see Jesus after his Resurrection, and the one who goes to tell the other Apostles that Jesus is alive.
Jesus cured her of seven demons, and she became one of his most devoted followers. During his crucifixion, she is present at his passion, death, and resurrection.
In the Gospel of John, Mary is weeping at the tomb when Jesus approaches her. She, not realizing who He is, asks when the body is. When he calls her by name, she recognizes him, calls him teacher. She then goes and tells the other Apostles, “I have seen the Lord!” This earned her the title, “Apostle to the Apostles.”
There is not much else known about Mary Magdalene. Unlike other Apostles, she is not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Her story is left unfinished, like many women of the bible. The Greek church says she died in Ephesus. In France, the tradition is that she lived there for 30 years, evangelized Provence, lived as a hermitess, and then died in Aix.
So how did she get to be known as a prostitute? It all has to do with Pope Gregory I (aka Gregory the Great). Although the idea had been around since Ephraim the Syrian, a homily given by Gregory in 591 sealed the deal. He said the seven demons cast out of Mary were clearly sins, that the perfume she used to clean the feet of Jesus had not been bought specifically for him, but had been used to adorn herself in order to participate in sins of the flesh. Her story was confused with that of Mary of Egypt, who was a hermitess and repentant prostitute. Many writers, however, considered Mary Magdalene to be a prostitute, up until the 1990s. Many still teach that she was one. All because of a single homily in 591.
The Roman Missal and Calendar were revised in 1969 and neither mention Mary Magdalene as repentant sinner, so some changes have been made.
Her feast day is July 22. She is the patroness of apothecaries, women, perfumers, pharmacists, hairdressers, and tanners.