What I learned from Mary Magdalene

The Beginning

It began with a book given to me by a perfect stranger:

The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, by Cynthia Bourgeault.

From there we had purchased tickets to southern France, on a pilgrimage of sorts, exploring the places where some believe Mary Magdalene spent the last years of her life. 

To be honest, I didn't really understand why we were going.

A few times, I wished we were headed someplace else. But, I trusted my intuition, and understood this journey was important. 

And it was. 

The Journey

Our trip started in Lourdes, the place where a 13 year old girl named Bernadette had visions of a Lady dressed in white. Within days of questioning, the local church claimed she was seeing visions of the Virgin Mary. Bernadette was led by the Lady to a spring in the forest, where to this day people attribute healing miracles to the waters.

We got up at 6am, and bathed in the waters with people from all over the world, looking for healing. 

From there, we went east, where we explored churches devoted to Mary Magdalene.

We went to an ancient stone chair in the forest, believed to be associated with Isis.

We saw Saint Sara, loved and worshipped as patron saint by the gypsy community, even though the Catholic Church has never recognized her sainthood.

We made our way through the Camargue, riding white horses and viewing flamingos and salt fields, sitting by the Mediterranean, and eating succulent strawberries.

And on the last day of our trip, we hiked an hour up a cliff to the caves where Mary Magdalene is said to have spent the last years of her life. 

The Cave

The cave has now been (loosely) converted into a church, but in all honesty, it is really a cave with a door on it. There are altars here and there, and a reliquary claiming to have Mary's bones. 


When we walked inside the cave, there was a mass being held for a group of French school children. Sitting in the cave, avoiding the water dripping from the ceiling, I watched the ritual of mass taking place. 

And I heard Mary say to me:

"All of this is unnecessary. You are whole as you are."

I was a bit taken aback. At first I thought she was referring to the mass - the robed priests breaking bread over gold cups and fancy altars. Perhaps she was referring to the mass. But perhaps she was referring to something deeper.

The Message

A week later, her words still stick to me. 

All of this is unnecessary. You are whole as you are.

Your job, your possessions, your relationships, your thoughts, your education, your ego.

All of this is unnecessary. You are whole as you are. 

And only through love and forgiveness can we return back to source.

The Aftermath

Bags of possessions for Goodwill. Diaries filled with outdated belief patterns. Meditations for forgiveness.

It takes awhile to fully realize the strength of a paradigm shift. 

I realize now, her mantra has guided much of my life. Even while working in data deletion engineering at Google, I was constantly questioning the necessary. 

Do we need this?

What can we let go?

In the cave, at Mary's altar, I wanted to leave an offering, but I had no money to give. So I left what I had in my bag: the special glass I use for making flower essences.

But it was the most joyful offering I've ever given.

Because when we release the unnecessary, we  feel whole.

And when we feel whole, we finally feel free.