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Elevating St. Mary Magdalene's Celebration

By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 10, 2016 | In The Liturgical Year

One of the headlines this week is the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments has raised the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene on July 22nd now to a feast

At first glance this can be considered just a minor story; it can be considered simply an announcement on how to update our liturgical calendar. 

But there is more than meets the eye.

The Church's liturgical year has celebrations that vary in rank, starting with Solemnities and Sundays, then Feast, (obligatory) Memorial and Optional Memorial. The Universal Norms of the Liturgical Year and Calendar has a table of the order of precedence. 

As mentioned in the news item, Feasts are next under the rank of Solemnity, and

have their own proper readings at Mass. On feast days, the Gloria is recited at Mass, as is the Te Deum in the Office of Readings.

On some feast days there are three readings (Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel), but not all.

To put it into perspective, there are only 17 Solemnities throughout the Liturgical Year. With Mary Magdalene, there are now 27 Feasts throughout the year:

Feasts of the Liturgical Year
1 After Epiphany Baptism of the Lord Life of Christ
2 Jan. 25 Conversion of St. Paul Apostle
3 Feb. 2 Presentation of the Lord Life of Christ
4 Feb. 22 Chair of St. Peter Apostle
5 April 25 St. Mark Evangelist
6 May 3 Sts. Philip and James the Less Apostles
7 May 14 St. Matthias Apostle
8 May 31 Visitation  Life of Christ
9 July 3 St. Thomas Apostle
10 July 22 St. Mary Magdalene  
11 July 25 St. James the Greater Apostle
12 August 6 Transfiguration of the Lord Life of Christ
13 August 10 St. Lawrence Deacon
14 August 24 St. Bartholomew Apostle
15 Sept. 8 Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary Marian
16 Sept. 14 Exaltation of the Holy Cross Historical Event
17 Sept. 21 St. Matthew Apostle & Evangelist 
18 Sept. 29 Michael, Gabriel, Raphael Archangels
19 Oct. 18 St. Luke Evangelist
20 Oct. 28 Sts. Simon and Jude Apostles
21 Nov. 9 Dedication St. John Lateran Birthday of church
22 Nov. 30 St. Andrew Apostle
23 Dec. 12 Our Lady of Guadalupe USA Marian
24 Dec. 26 St. Stephen Deacon, Protomartyr
25 Dec. 27 St. John Apostle & Evangelist
26 Dec. 28 Holy Innocents Life of Christ
27 In Octave of Christmas Holy Family  Idea Feast

The majority of feasts are dedicated to the life of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Apostles and the early life of the Church. Before this change, Mary was the only woman included in this list of feasts. 

It's not that I'm suddenly revealing a feminist side, but I am happy at the recognition of the dignity of women, especially of one who played such an active role in the life of Christ. What a joyful day to see this saint's role as "Apostle to the Apostles" being elevated and more properly acknowledged. Mary Magdalene experienced the personal forgiveness and mercy of Christ. She was prominent among the women who supported Jesus and His Apostles. She, St. John and the Blessed Mother were the only three who stayed with Jesus through his Crucifixion and death. Above all, Mary Magdalene was the first (as recorded in the Gospels) to see the risen Christ, and she was the first to bear this "Good News" or Gospel to the Apostles.

We are all called to reflect more deeply “on the dignity of women, the new evangelization, and the abundance of the mystery of divine mercy" as the decree states.  And these are clearly examples in the life of Mary Magdalene. 

I'm excited about the new elevation in our summer liturgical calendar, and I have a month and a half to plan some extra ways to celebrate this new feast.

Jennifer Gregory Miller is a wife, mother, homemaker, CGS catechist, and Montessori teacher. Specializing in living the liturgical year, or liturgical living, she is the primary developer of’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Deacon0101 - Jun. 15, 2016 8:47 AM ET USA

    St. Mary Magdalene is a wonderful saint, but she has been adopted as the patron of the "women's ordination" group. I believe this is the Vatican's idea to placate this group while honoring a great saint in the process.