The Story of St. Mary of Egypt

Thursday, April 1 is the feast day of St. Mary of Egypt. I came across her story of forgiveness and redemption on EWTN News and thought I would share it with you since it ties in so nicely with many mysteries of the rosary. Mary of Egypt was born in 344 A.D. and worked as a prostitute for 17 years. She joined a pilgrimage to Jerusalem so that she could sell her services to those travelling to venerate the relic of the True Cross. Upon arriving at the church where she intended to lead many into sin, a mysterious force prevented her from entering with the other pilgrims. After trying several times she gave up, went into a small courtyard, and began to cry in remorse. Upon seeing a statue of the Virgin Mary, she prayed for permission to enter the church promising to give up her sinful ways. Mary granted her permission. Changed by the experience and touched by God’s mercy Mary of Egypt lived as a hermit in the desert for 47 years.

desert
Image by Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr

Thursday, April 1 is the feast day of St. Mary of Egypt.  I came across her story of forgiveness and redemption on EWTN News and thought I would share it with you since it ties in so nicely with many mysteries of the rosary.  Mary of Egypt was born in 344 A.D. and worked as a prostitute for 17 years.  She joined a pilgrimage to Jerusalem so that she could sell her services to those travelling to venerate the relic of the True Cross.  Upon arriving at the church where she intended to lead many into sin, a mysterious force prevented her from entering with the other pilgrims.  After trying several times she gave up, went into a small courtyard, and began to cry in remorse.  Upon seeing a statue of the Virgin Mary, she prayed for permission to enter the church promising to give up her sinful ways.  Mary granted her permission.  Changed by the experience and touched by God‘s mercy Mary of Egypt lived as a hermit in the desert for 47 years.

I find this story inspiring in this last week of Lent.  As I said in my earlier post about Holy Week, it is not how you start but how you finish that counts.  We see this theme played out in Jesus‘ parable of the workers.  Each worker received the same wage regardless of when they started working.  Similarly, we all receive the same grace no matter what time in our lives we start to follow Jesus.  Or look at the parable of the Prodigal Son.  He left his family and squandered his inheritance.  And yet his father welcomed him back with open arms.  And even a prostitute of 17 years not only found redemption, but was ultimately exalted by becoming a saint.

So you haven’t been as vigilant as you would have liked for Lent.  Maybe you didn’t abstain from meat on Fridays, fast, or keep your Lenten sacrifice.  But if Mary of Egypt’s example is any indication, there is always time to turn around and embrace the way of our Lord.

Mary of Egypt’s story fits into many mysteries of the rosary.  Here are some meditation ideas the next time you pray the rosary:

  • The First Joyful Mystery — Like the Virgin Mary,  think about how God is calling you in your life.  And like Mary of Egypt, God often calls those who seem the most unlikely and unworthy.  Maybe sometimes you feel like someone undeserving of God’s grace.  But He calls you all the same.  You just have to have the courage to say yes to God’s plan for you.
  • The Fifth Joyful Mystery — I talk about how it is never too late to look for God in your life.  Mary and Joseph could not find Jesus for three days.  Mary of Egypt “lost” Jesus for 17 years as a prostitute.  And yet she found her way back, received forgiveness, and lived in God’s grace.
  • The First Luminous Mystery — John the Baptist called all of us to repent and make way for the Lord.  That is exactly what Mary of Egypt did.  It is no coincidence that after being allowed into the Church, Mary of Egypt travelled to Jordan and received communion at  a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist.  Her healing and coming back to God started by renouncing sin, receiving forgiveness, and making room in her life for God.
  • The Second Luminous Mystery — At the wedding at Cana, Mary instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus asked of them.  Mary of Egypt also did whatever Jesus asked of her which meant living out her life alone in prayer.  That could not have been an easy life.  But it shows that when we put our faith in God, miracles do happen.  What miracle did the Lord give Mary of Egypt?  The gift of grace and the solitude for her to fully embrace it.

Mary of Egypt’s story relates to many more lessons in the mysteries of the rosary such as doing God’s will, receiving forgiveness, and never giving up on God who never gives up on us.  Remember, it’s not how you start, but how you end that counts!  And I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Easter.

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