Mary Magdalene vs. Margaret of Scotland

Welcome to the Faithful Four, friends. After weeks of learning and voting and occasionally squabbling (in a holy, churchy kind of way) we have whittled the field down to four spiritual heavyweights: Mary Magdalene, Margaret of Scotland, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Emma of Hawaii. Collectively, it's a fascinating group of four heroes of the faith stretching from Biblical times to the 20th century.

As we like to tell our five-year-olds when they join their first soccer team (that's football for our friends across the pond), "there are no losers, everybody's a winner." Of course we're lying. Thus, while we can sing the praises of these saints, only one Golden Halo will be awarded.

Today Mary Magdalene (Meredith Gould) takes on Margaret of Scotland (Penny Nash); tomorrow Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Neil Alan Willard) battles Emma of Hawaii (Heidi Shott); and on Spy Wednesday the championship round will take place. In this round, we let our four remaining Celebrity Bloggers loose as they answer the question "Why should Saint XX win the Golden Halo?" In other words, they've been charged with letting us know why their particular saint is so awesome. And, in a nod to the fact that the SEC is responsive to the cries of (some of) the masses, we are including a few works of saintly art.

To make it to the Faithful Four, Mary Magdalene dispatched John Huss, Joan of Arc, and Evelyn Underhill with relative ease. Margaret of Scotland bested William Temple and John Cassian before squeaking by Enmegahbowh. See the updated bracket and then please vote just once.

What calls any of us to embrace a particular saint? Our saints are extraordinary models of Christian faith and fidelity.  Throughout history, all have endured conditions and situations that, despite our best imaginations, we cannot fully comprehend.

These women and men of God are spiritual Sherpas, guiding us along the path; welcoming us back when we wonder and wander away. What makes Mary Magdalene first among equals is simply this:

“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…” (Mark 16:9).

Jesus is indisputably the Christ, and entrusts Mary Magdalene with the near-thankless task of reporting his Resurrection from the dead. The disciples do not immediately believe her story of death defeated. Gospel stories about their resistance to hearing this liberating truth from a woman foreshadows a woeful and ongoing history of truth denied and evangelists mocked. (I sometimes find myself asking what has changed.)

While I have a (short) list of holy women and men who help sustain my faith, Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, is my radical go-to saint. Contemplating her love and loyalty to Christ Jesus keeps my heart from breaking whenever I focus too long on wreckage wrought in the name of religion. For all this and more, she’s already wearing a golden halo.

Click here to see my Mary Magdalene board on Pinterest.

 -- Meredith Gould

Why should Margaret of Scotland win the Golden Halo? Because she was an awesome, saintly saint! Oh, yeah? you may ask...well, read on.

Margaret was intelligent, beautiful and devout, and she walked the walk of Christian service. After her rescue from shipwreck in Scotland, she gave up her plan of withdrawing into a nunnery and married a rough Scottish king and changed the ethos in the court and castle. Eventually the king himself was converted to the faith, thanks not only to her fervent daily prayers but also her daily charitable works.

She rose at midnight to pray (remember how her husband followed her into a cave, thinking she met with an enemy, only to find her in earnest prayer for him?) and in the mornings refused to eat anything herself until she had fed from her own hand nine orphans and given bread and alms to all the needy people who crowded into the great hall. She and King Malcolm washed the feet of beggars who came to them for assistance, even when it wasn’t Maundy Thursday.

Inspired by the Bible, during Advent and Lent, she hosted 300 non-royal people in the castle for banquets where she and Malcolm waited the tables, and she established not only several monasteries (including rebuilding Iona) and churches (for which she sewed fine vestments herself) but also had hostels constructed for the poor.

Further, Margaret had shelters built for travelers and paid the ransom to set free English captives. And she created a free ferry system across the Firth of Forth to convey pilgrims to the shrine of Saint Andrew. I just love ferries, don’t you?  Gliding across the water in the brisk salt air, wind in my hair, gulls wheeling and crying overhead, plumes of sea spray arching over the bow as the boat cuts through the waves...What? Oh. Sorry.

Margaret was a queen and wealthy, but she considered herself only a steward of that wealth. She used her power, influence, and resources to assist the poor and the hungry, orphans and pilgrims, prisoners and captives, as well as to build hostels, churches and abbeys. Instead of withdrawing from the world, she lived a disciplined life of labora et ora, work and prayer, in the world.

Margaret was not born at a time when she could touch Christ in person, but she strove to seek and serve Christ in everyone that she met in her own time and place. Plus she established the Queen’s Ferry and was awesome. She set an example for all of us to follow. And so, she deserves your vote for the Golden Halo!

-- Penny Nash


Mary Magdalene vs. Margaret of Scotland

  • Mary Magdalene (69%, 1,196 Votes)
  • Margaret of Scotland (31%, 548 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,743

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91 comments on “Mary Magdalene vs. Margaret of Scotland”

  1. I almost feel it's time to stop voting and give a golden halo to each of the Faithful Four. This decision was really, really hard, and Margaret of Scotland is such a fine role model, but I had to stick with Mary Magdalene.

  2. It's a tough one today, really. But in the end, I had to stick with the Apostle to the Apostles ... Because so many in the Church for so long did not/would not believe her, or credit her.

  3. Hmmm. Tough one. As much as I love Margaret I have had to go for my all time second favourite saint.

    Mary for Gold!

    (Does anyone know an easy read, adventure-style book written about Margaret of Scotland?)

    1. I was named after Margaret of Scotland and my mother, a children's librarian, bought me the book The Queen's Blessing, about Margaret. I don't know if it's still in print....

    1. Margaret was an Anglo-Saxon princess raised in Exile in Poland, returned to England, and then married the Scots' king on her way to exile again. And she never adapted to her adopted homeland--wouldn't learn the language, and more.

      Even so, this is a hard decision...

    2. Eric, exactly! SHE KNEW THE GUY. I voted for Margaret earlier; I do love the Celts, but come on Eric, she was THERE!

      1. Gail, Thomas & James KNEW THE GUY and were THERE too! They have been gone from our Madness since round one! Vote Margaret!

        1. Since when is holiness based on the people we know? Surely you aren't saying that all those who knew Jesus in the flesh are better than anyone since can ever hope to be, simply because we were born too late?!

    3. It was tough, but in the end "Friend of the family" gave way to "Friend of Jesus."

  4. I know this sounds like the Republican primary but I voted for Mary Magdalene since I think she is the most likely to defeat Emma of Hawaii. I am routing for Bonhoeffer for the Golden Halo but with the Hawaii contingent voting he may come up short tomorrow. 🙂

    1. Excellent "strateegery" as Dubya used to say. Now I feel a bit better about the tremendous lead that Mary Magdalene has. I had voted for Margaret, but I see what you're saying here. Bonhoeffer must win the halo!

        1. ...and I thought Paul and Cranmer would still be here. It's Lent MAAAADNESS! Never assume!! Vote as the Spirit moves you...
          I am rallying hard for Mary M and Dietrich B (both personal heroes), but I continue to be amazed and impressed by Queen E and her relentlessly (inexorably?) gracious supporters.

      1. Katherine...please, please, please I beg you, leave "dubya" out of this!!!! the mention of this @$%&*@+! and my eyes roll B.P. is rising as I type this....

  5. This is really tough. They are both breath-taking. I went with Margaret because she had to overcome the temptations of power and privilege to be faithful. A Golden Halo to both!

  6. "Dance with the one who brung ya," as my ole Daddy (God rest his soul) taught me. The Saxon princess and I have been together through William Temple, John Cassian, and Enmegahbowh. So, once again today, I vote for the compassionate Queen of the Scots who loved the poor and attempted bringing peace to the Highland clans. Celts for Margaret!

  7. It does look like that large golden halo around Margaret may be an attempt to influence some of our younger, dedicated voters.

  8. Mary Magdalene has my vote; she kept her faith in Jesus in a time when it could have cost her life. Her faith reaches across time to be an example I try to follow.

    1. I'm with you, Harold. I couldn't resort to namesake voting this time, surrounded as I am by Marys, Margarets, and even an Emma. I debated and deliberated. Finally, I thought about what it would take to be the very first person to say that Jesus rose from the dead. I think Margaret would vote for Mary, too.

  9. Nice job on those write ups. I am going with Mary as she is in my heart so solidly....but based on these lovely prose, there is no bad choice. Thank you all again for bringing this to us. You made my whole Lent!

  10. Mary Mags. Nothing at all against Margaret, but how could it be otherwise?

    She even gets a starring role in the ancient Easter Sequence, Victimae Pascale Laudes (#183 in the 1982 Hymnal):

    A lamb the sheep redeemeth:
    Christ, who only is sinless,
    reconcileth sinners to the Father.

    Death and life have contended
    in that combat stupendous:
    the Prince of life, who died,
    reigns immortal.

    Speak, Mary, declaring
    what thou sawest, wayfaring:

    "The tomb of Christ, who is living,
    the glory of Jesus' resurrection;

    "Bright angels attesting,
    the shroud and napkin resting.

    "Yea, Christ my hope is arisen;
    to Galilee he will go before you."

    1. Or in the text we Catholics sing out of the Gather hymnal:

      O Mary, come and say,
      what you saw at break of day:
      "The empty tomb of my living Lord!
      I saw Christ Jesus risen, and adored!"

      (It's the one verse of the sequence that I know by memory. 🙂 )

  11. Tough vote here! Going with Margaret - in FAITH she acted and fueled by her faith she reached out to others. What a mighty witness and role model for us! Obviously Mary Mag is awesome but 'right place, right time'. Put another way: Mags was the poor, Margaret fed and clothed the poor....
    Meredith-thanks for the wonderful collection of art work on Pinterest!

    1. I don't think Mags "was the poor" in the sense of lack of material resources. We learn from the gospels she is one of those who provided for Jesus and his disciples.

      1. Agreed, Sharon. According to Scripture Mary Magdalene would have been 'feeding and clothing' Christ himself.

  12. As Lady Wisdom tells in proverbs "A bad messenger brings trouble, but a faithful envoy, healing." Proverbs 13:17. So who better than Mary M. to spread the word of the resurrection? the faithful envoy, always present yet seldom heard. The one who, unlike the rich young man of the parables, was able to give up everything and follow Jesus, using her money and position to support Jesus' ministry.

    "[Mary Magdalene's] claim to apostleship is equal in every respect to both Peter and Paul's, and we know more about her exercise of her vocation than we do most members of the Twelve. Unlike Peter, she was not unfaithful to Jesus during the passion, and unlike Paul she never persecuted Christ in his members. But, like both, she saw the risen Lord, received directly from him the commission to preach the Gospel, and carried out that commission faithfully and effectively." Sandra Schneiders, "Written that You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel".

    and at the risk of being overly lengthy,
    "[Mary Magdalene] is the converted sinner, ... the contemplative soul, and... the herald of the Resurrection. . . How can one speak of the mercy of God if one has not experienced it oneself, whatever the magnitude of one's sins may be? How can one speak of God without speaking 'with God'...? And finally, how can one not bear witness to the fact that the mystery of suffering, separation and death finds resolution through faith in the Resurrection of Christ, his victory which gains all people their own. The theology underlying Mary Magdalene is an admirably concentrated fusion of the paschal mystery and the meaning of faith in Christ." Guy Bedouelle, OP, Dominican Ashram, Vol. 18, no.4, p. 171 (1999).

  13. I too loved the write-ups. I had to continue to vote for Margaret, although I have a feeling she is going down in this round. Natalie--When I was a child, our librarian mother brought my twin sister (Margaret) and me a book from the library about Queen Margaret & it was definitely an adventure story. I have no idea what it was called, and it's probably long out of print, but I remember the story to this day.

  14. Difficult, but with my Scottish roots and the fact that Mary touched Him and Margaret had to have faith.......

  15. This is getting too hard. I'm Scotch-Irish, so Margaret should be my vote. But Mary is fascinating. At one time thought to have been a prostitute to Jesus' lover; quite a stretch! She was the first evangelist in a time when women had little standing and, as much as Jesus' mom, loved Jesus. Her problem, so much legend, so little fact! whereas Margaret's story is well documented (with some embellishments I'm sure) from her time spent in Hungary (not Poland - sorry Jeff) to the many historical places associated with her. I will be happy, no matter who winds, but my vote goes to Margaret.

  16. Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection. There is simply no more to be said.

  17. Here is an excellent picture book about our godly non-Scot
    Margaret, The Good Queen A Story About Queen Margaret Of Scotland
    by Jan Johnson
    5.0 of 5 stars 5.00 · rating details · 1 rating · 0 reviews
    Published by HarperOne

  18. Like my compatriots above, Mary Magdalene has my heart. I keep a beautiful icon of her announcing the Resurrection on my home altar. She has often been my encouragement at times when, as a religion journalist, I've had to bring news about the Church that people didn't believe or want to hear. God be thanked for this Apostle!

  19. Just to echo what everyone else has said - these are such wonderfully written pieces.

    "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe."

  20. We had such an excruciatingly beautiful rendition of "Were You There?" at All Saints' yesterday. And yes, the Mag WAS there. She has my vote today for that reason and many others.

  21. Aye, greatly conflicted...but I'm voting for Mary Magdalene today (Scotch-Irish background notwithstanding)...

  22. Wow. These don't get any easier, do they? Suppose that's the point...All those other guys have to do is bounce a ball around...

  23. Fantastic write ups. I knew this one was going to be hard!! I went with Margaret though... must admit the write up swayed me a bit. (especially "Margaret was not born at a time when she could touch Christ in person, but she strove to seek and serve Christ in everyone that she met in her own time and place. ") But I feel like either one is win-win. Well done!

    1. I was planning to walk with Mary Magdalene all the way, but the write-up swayed me as well. Following Jesus having not met Jesus might result in one being "more blessed" but it sure is harder.