When I learned that I was to be the father of a daughter, I was a bit terrified.
See, I grew up in a household with a very strong mother. My mom was a licensed home builder, one of the few women in my hometown to run such a business. She is smart, confident, hard working, tough, loving, loyal, and generous. However, between not having had a sister to all the complex messages that girls receive in today’s culture, I had anxiety concerning my ability to raise a young woman in this mold. There is definitely grace in that I married a strong woman from a family of strong women! But my anxieties about my own abilities persisted and still often haunt me.
Over the course of my faith journey, I have come to learn deeply from the many saintly women in my life. The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene gives me an opportunity to reflect on these amazing women.
Mary Magdalene is known as the Apostle to the Apostles and a myrrh-bearer. Mary Magdalene is often improperly conflated with other Marys in the Gospels. What we know for sure is this:
- She was a woman of means who supported the ministry of Jesus after being healed of seven demons.
- She was present at the crucifixion and burial.
- She was the first to witness the risen Lord.
As the Apostle to the Apostles, Mary was the first messenger sent by the risen Jesus himself to share the good news of the resurrection: “I have seen the Lord!” In order to be a witness and receive this message, Mary went towards suffering. She is named first among the women who went to anoint the body of the buried Jesus.
Mary Magdalene was remarkable. And she is the type of woman I want my daughter to be. Mary Magdalene was a person willing to go towards–not away from–difficult situations. She was faithful and loving, even in the worst circumstances. Mary Magdalene proclaimed to the Apostles and to the world the work of the risen Christ in her life.
Reflecting on Mary Magdalene leads me to give thanks for the women who have shaped my life and faith journey: Anne Burley invited me to visit and experience the youth group at St. Martin’s-in-the-Field’s Episcopal Church when I was a senior in high school, allowing me to experience Christ in that community. When I decided to be baptized during my freshman year of college, Linda Tassie became my God-mom and nurtured me in the early years of my faith, encouraging my involvement in the life of the Church. The Rev. Charlotte Waldop was the celebrant at my wedding and my first model of powerful pastoral care. The Rev. Deacon Sue von Rautenkranz has been and continues to be one of my key mentors and spiritual advisors, helping me to grow and discern throughout my ministry career. At Virginia Theological Seminary, Lisa Kimball was a vital presence of wisdom and grace for me through the topsy-turvy liminal space of seminary, speaking the Good News of into my life through her joy, encouragement, and guidance. And my wife, Lauren, has been a steady presence of faithfulness and loving-kindness throughout a remarkable and challenging journey. From her profession to serving in the community, she models for the kiddos a simple, joyous faith of generous and compassionate servanthood.
In the same way, we draw strength and direction from the stories of the saints, I believe we also grow in faith through sharing stories of and gratitude for those everyday saints who shape our lives directly.
On this Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, I want my daughter to know the stories of the faithful women in my life. (My son needs to hear them too!) I pray their stories give her hope and encouragement, equipping her to be vulnerable and bold in her life of faith. And in the mold of all these awesome women, I want her to know that, in the midst of the graces and challenges of this life, she has the capability and strength to proclaim the Good News of the risen Jesus to the whole world.
A Prayer for Today
Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Wwho are the faithful women that have spoken the Good News of Jesus into your life?