Mary Magdalene: role model for bishops

The Very Reverend June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, gives the sermon during the service for the Ordination and Consecration of the Bishop of Salisbury and the Bishop of Stepney. Service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral, on the Feast of Mary Magdalene, Friday 22nd July 2011:

We celebrate today the life and witness of the very first apostle, Mary of Magdala, prominent amongst the Galilean disciples because, as we’ve heard, she was the very first person to encounter the resurrected Jesus. You’d think this unique status would’ve communicated to subsequent generations an invitation to a discipleship of equals, but instead we’ve been handed down persistent misrepresentation of this Mary, from the typifying her as a prostitute – hence the asylums for ‘fallen women’ in Ireland during the last two centuries called Magdalene Laundries – to the sexualising of her relationship with Jesus in ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

I’m grateful to the Dean of Chichester who told me of a discussion he had with the Liverpudlian sculptor Arthur Dooley concerning Mary Magdalene. Arthur began his working life as a welder in the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead and it was only by getting a job as a cleaner at the St. Martin’s School of Art that he worked his way towards an artistic vocation. He summarised the disservice the Church has done to Mary down the ages when he said to Nick Frayling, “There’s not a shred of evidence that she was a tart!”

Mary Magdalene was sent, as Adrian and Nick are now sent, entrusted with a task and a message and commissioned by Jesus with his blessing. So here are a few of the ways in which we’ve come to understand that sending, for Mary, for Adrian and for Nick.

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