A Patron Saint for Hairstylists


St. Mary Magdalen
Feast day: July 22

You can find the story in St. Luke's gospel. A woman, a notorioussinner, bearing an alabaster jar of perfumed oil enters unannounced into a housewhere Jesus is a guest. Without saying a word to the host or to the apostlesor even to Christ Himself, she breaks open the jar and pours the scented oilover the Lord, washes His feet with her tears, then dries them with her hair.For nearly 1,700 years, tradition has identified the unnamed penitent woman asSt. Mary Magdalen. Ever since, artists have depicted St. Mary with a luxurianthead of hair, which led hairdressers to take Mary Magdalen as their patron saint.
It was St. Gregory the Great who popularized the idea of conflating three separatewomen in the gospels into one. According to Pope Gregory, the unnamed sinnerwho wiped Jesus' feet with her hair, the sister of Martha and Lazarus,and the woman who was the first to see the Risen Christ were all Mary Magdalen.Since Gregory's day it has been common to add a fourth woman to the mix - theadulterous woman Christ saved from being stoned to death is also said to be MaryMagdalen.
Who was the real Mary Magdalen? She was one of the women who traveled with Christand the 12 apostles. St. Luke says Jesus cast seven devils out of Mary, but hedoes not say that she was promiscuous let alone a prostitute (another bit of "commonknowledge" that has attached itself to poor St. Mary). Her surname, Magdalen,refers to her home, Magdala, a fishing village on the northwest shore of theSea of Galilee. In the first century the residents of Magdala were notoriousfor their lascivious behavior, which may have been the ancient source of MaryMagdalen's bad reputation.
We also know from the gospels that Mary Magdalen followed Our Lord to Calvaryand witnessed His death and burial. On the first Easter morning she encounteredthe Risen Christ in the garden but did not recognize Him until He spoke her name.Then the Lord sent her to tell the apostles that He had risen from the dead.
Because St. Mary Magdalen was granted the privilege of announcing the Resurrection,St. Hippolytus (c.170-c.235) gave her the title, "Apostle to the Apostles." Theunique grace Mary received is celebrated each Easter in the sequence, "Victimaepaschali laudes," when the Church asks, "Tell us Mary, whatdid you see on the way?" And Mary answers, "I saw the sepulcher theliving Christ and the glory of his rising. I saw the angel witnesses, the linenthat covered his face and the shroud. Christ my hope is risen!"
As with so many of the Lord's disciples, legend steps in where the NewTestament leaves off. The most persistent tradition claims that Mary Magdalen,Martha, Lazarus and Maximinus (one of the Lord's 72 disciples) traveledto the south of France where they preached the gospel. Later Mary Magdalen issaid to have retired to a cave east of Marseilles to live the rest of her lifeas a hermit. Pilgrims have visited the Holy Cave at least since the fifth century.During the Middle Ages a great basilica was built over the site, and among thechurch's most treasured relics were strands of St. Mary Magdalen'sabundant hair. Craughwell is the author of Patron Saints Catholic Cardlinks (Our Sunday Visitor, 2004) and Saints for Every Occasion (Stampley Enterprises, 2001).

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