Sanitizing Christianity and Downplaying Important Stories

Mary Magdalene was a Prostitute, and that’s a Good Thing


Image by Maria Saveleva from Pixabay

Today is Mary Magdalene’s feast day (July 22), she’s my patron saint. Yet again, people are sending me stuff saying that the Church got her story wrong and that she wasn’t a prostitute, she was rich and financed Jesus’ ministry. People seem to be trying too hard to change her story because someone decided that being a prostitute healed by Jesus makes her look bad.

It does not make her look bad, it makes her human, it makes her someone who overcame a lot. She has value and worth despite what her story is. Attempting so hard and loudly to change the narrative of her life implies that there was something distasteful about the idea of her earning her living with sex work. That’s a very insulting take, especially from people who claim that we all have value and worth to Jesus.

Changing her story shows that there is still a social bias against women who were desperate and sold themselves to provide their needs even within liberal Christianity. It appears that even those who claim to be the most open, who claim that Jesus loves everyone no matter what, are hell bent on cleaning up her story because they don’t like it. That’s not right, and it’s not fair to her or to other women in bad circumstances.

I grew up in a lower middle class family, we had everything we needed and then some. I ended up running away when I was seventeen because of severe abuse, and eventually became homeless. I came to the cycle of poverty because I left the “comforts” I had grown up with. I was a barely-legal adult when I became homeless. I had a car, but no job or housing. I had some terrible circumstances spiritually, and although I had heard all about Conservative Jesus growing up, I didn’t know the real Jesus at all.

The first time I truly met Jesus was when I gave a priest a blowjob in exchange for the blessed sacrament, and the second time I truly met Jesus was in a second desecration attempt where I sat on an altar to worship Baal with that host on my naked breasts. Jesus was truly with me in those moments, but although he was there, I still did not know him.

I met him one day when I walked into a small Episcopal parish and took communion, despite not being appropriately baptized (I do believe that communion should follow baptism not precede it, and I would have honored that, but I honestly didn’t have a clue what I was really doing). Instead of eating a piece of bread and having a sip of wine, I ate the flesh of Jesus and drank his blood. Consuming Jesus changed my life.

Some of us just tend to take the long route to Jesus. The mad scramble to change Mary’s story shows that I’m still lesser than in many people’s eyes, which is a shame because it’s taken me a long time, and taken a lot of convincing by people who love me, to comprehend that God loves me no matter what.

Sanitizing Mary Magdalene’s story tells me that people actually don’t see women who were desperate and did desperate things as being of value. This is the reason I’m so sensitive on the ridiculous effort to change and clean up Mary Magdalene’s story.

She came to me and told me some of her story and introduced herself as my patron for a reason. Of course that’s a personal encounter I both can’t prove and have no interest in doing so, it’s an encounter that was amazing and it was mine. Mary Magdalene told me that she understood me, knew where I had been, and that there was hope. She understood me because she’s been there.

I also have enough experience to know that being possessed with any amount of demons let alone seven, means you’re one fucked up person. That doesn’t happen to someone living life as a good, noble, virtuous citizen. Knowing that she was possessed, I’d be totally flabbergasted if she hadn’t been a prostitute, and cleaning up her story shows people like me who’ve been in bad places that we will never quite make it.

Let the prostitutes, the outcasts, the sinners, like me and Mary Magdalene keep our stories. They are sacred and holy stories about the amazing healing power of Jesus Christ our Lord. The reason she loved Jesus so intensely, the reason she massaged expensive ointment into his feet, was because he had shown her love and compassion, and had healed her. She was so grateful, and she loved him for it.

She’s an inspiration to me, I want to love Jesus as passionately as she did. Find someone else’s story to discount and clean up, realize we have value and worth to God despite where we have been and it makes our stories powerful. Leave the “wicked women” like Mary and I alone to tell of the amazing things Jesus has done for us.

Mary Magdalene, a beautiful woman created in God’s image, who loved Jesus so much, ora pro nobis.



MaryClare StFrancis, M.A. (she/her)

I write nonfiction essays about a variety of topics, as well as memoir pieces.