Mary Mags, What a Woman

Today I would like to introduce a woman to you, someone who is very close to my heart. I am in a household at Franciscan called Rosa Mystica. In Rosa we look to St. Mary Magdalene as one of our patron saints. Today I would like to look at her as a model of what it means to be a woman. I see beauty, especially feminine beauty, in this incredible woman.

It is known from the Gospels that St. Mary Magdalene had been healed by Jesus from seven demons. As a result, she was filled with an incredibly deep love. She knew what it was like to be tormented by demons, but then she knew what it was like to be healed. But more than that, she knew that Jesus was the one who healed her. She had received satisfying and healing love. She knew that she would still be in a state of torment and sinfulness if she had not met Jesus. As a result, she loved Jesus with a deep love. She loved Him with all that she had. Her love took her all the way to the cross. Although many of Jesus’s followers left Him when He was crucified, St. Mary Magdalene was one of the few who stood by the cross, in the horror of it all, until the very end.

There is another story, almost always attributed to St. Mary Magdalene, of a sinful woman who came to the feet of Jesus and washed His feet with her tears of repentance at her sinfulness, dried His feet with her hair, and anointed His feet with costly perfume. She emptied herself out of love for Christ.

We find a wonderful model of feminine beauty in St. Mary Magdalene. One of the beautiful things about being a woman is our call to self-giving love. We are called to love. We are most beautiful when we live out this call to love. But it is almost impossible for us to be able to give love to those around us without first receiving love. The only love that can truly satisfy us, satisfy us to the point of being able to give love in return, is the love that we receive from Christ. It is a process; first we receive the love, and then we can give the love. St. Mary Magdalene demonstrates this so clearly! She first was healed by Christ, and then she was able to empty herself out for love of Him. If she had not first received the healing love of Christ, she would not have had the strength or love to have stayed with Him until those last moments at Calvary. She was able to stand with the One who had loved her so fully in His very last moments. We as humans can only do small things. The Savior of the world didn’t need St. Mary Magdalene or anyone to stand with Him as He died, but this little gesture pleased Him. In the same way, our little deeds done with love please Him. Even though it’s hard, we are called to love.

I think many women today, myself included, struggle with longing. Longing to be loved, longing to have someone to love, longing for worth, longing to be beautiful, longing to eat chocolate… The list continues. But this all goes back to our call to self-giving love. God puts desires in our hearts for a reason. He would not give us a desire He doesn’t plan on fulfilling. We desire to receive love, because that is how we were created. Especially as women. But we also desire to give love, because again, that is how we were created! And so I believe that many of our longings we experience as women can go back to these two fundamental ideas. When we do not allow ourselves to receive the love of Christ, how can we ever expect out hearts to be satisfied? And how can we ever expect ourselves to be able to love those around us? Our hearts were created to be satisfied with His love.

My dear sisters, allow yourself to be filled with His love. Give Him a chance to lavish love on you. You are His beloved daughter. You are cherished.

Be YOU

Our society puts a huge emphasis on how everyone needs to be unique. But at the same time, society is constantly pushing us to conform to be just like everyone else. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but fashion trends basically revolve around everyone buying the same exact brand/article of clothing. For example, the era of Ugg boots, the “necessity” of North Face jackets, and the trend of Toms. I’m not saying any of these are bad, but I am saying that these definitely represent trends in our society that push us to look and act like all those around us while at the same time trying to be distinct. I feel that this constant push; the push to be ourselves while trying to look exactly like all of our closest friends, is not doing our identity, our self-image, or especially our spiritual lives any favors.

The truth is that we are each a beloved daughter or son of God. He has created us with a unique dignity and purpose that only we personally can fulfill. The push to be like everyone else, while at the same time be your own person is only setting us up for confusion. We will never be satisfied as long as we are seeking both these ends. We are created to be satisfied. God did not want us to be stuck in the middle of two unattainable realities. He created us to be us. To be completely us. And to be only us.

On a personal note, I play the clarinet, and one of my favorite things to do with my clarinet is to play it at Mass. I just love that I am able to praise God through my instrument. But this was a struggle for me at first. Being the only musician at Mass playing clarinet, I often thought what I was doing was completely useless and just silly. I don’t know if this is common at your church, but the clarinet is not exactly the instrument of choice when it comes to music at Mass. It looks funny, it is very quiet, and has a unique sound. But eventually, I came to the realization that God has given me the clarinet by which to praise Him. In my opinion, a guitar would be much more practical for leading worship, but that’s not what I’ve been given right now. Who am I to say what is fit for worshipping God? He gives us each individual gifts, and it only makes sense that we should give those gifts right back to Him, no matter how unique or funny they may be. God gave me the clarinet, so I am going to give it right back to Him!

It is time to forget the lie and the confusion that we need to be uniquely ourselves all the while being exactly the same as everyone else. We need to be Christ’s. It is time to recognize our identity in Christ and use whatever it is He has given us to praise Him, however humbling and humorous that may be. For when we are truly who we are in Christ, beauty radiates. Be courageous. Be bold. Be YOU.