Saint Mary of Cleophas

Mary of Cleophas (Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ, A. V. “of Cleophas”), who followed Our Lord and described by John as standing by the cross of Jesus in company with his mother and Mary Magdalene (Joh 19:25).

The Protestant Tyndale Bible Dictionary notes that “this woman goes by several names, but in each account she appears among Jesus’ faithful female disciples, standing by the cross and witnessing the empty tomb.” Theresa Doyle Nelson points out that “St. Mary of Cleophas seems to have a variety of titles within the Bible. She is referred to as Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Mt. 27:56), the other Mary (Mt. 27:61), Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses (Mk. 15:40), Mary the mother of Joses (Mk. 15:47), and Mary the mother of James (Mk. 16:1 and Luke 24:10). Her view echoes that of St. Jerome’s that “it is customary in Scripture for the same individual to bear different names.”

St. Mary of Cleophas is blessed to be part of the “holy kinship” of the Savior. She belongs to the family of saints! She is the aunt of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, and sisterof the Blessed Virgin Mary and sister-in-law of St. Joseph. She is married to St. Cleophas (Alphaeus) and is the mother of St. James the Less, St. Joseph (Joses), St. Jude and St. Simon (those who are referred to as the “brethren of the Lord in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3). According to tradition, she is also the mother of St. Salome (one of the Three Marys). That makes her the grandmother of St. James the Great and St. John the Beloved Disciple. What a wonderful and holy family she has!

Her feast day on April 24: “The 24th of April is the feast day upon which the Church remembers St. Mary of Cleophas, one of the “three Marys” that stood at the foot of the Cross. How fitting that we should be engaged in meditations designed to take us on a walk with Jesus during His Passion on her feast day. We place ourselves in the various scenes where Mary of Cleophas was actually present, watching the brutality and tortures Jesus endured, step by step, through to the point where they roll the stone of the sepulcher. At different moments during the process we, readers and participants alike, try to remove ourselves from the scenes as a means to save ourselves from potential embarrassment or discomfort in showing our emotions. Mary of Cleophas, along with Mary His Mother and Mary Magdalene, remained fully absorbed in each of those scenes.”

Round the name of Mary of Cleophas all sorts of legendary excrescences gathered in later days. Saint Mary of Cleophas was put on a boat with others by the Jews with St. James the Greater in the year 47, and pushed out to sea without sails or oars. She died in Ciudad Rodrigo, and to have been venerated with great honour at Compostela. The island in France where she landed, after her miraculous journey from Jerusalem, is called les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (“the Holy Marys of the Sea”), named for Saint Mary of Cleophas, Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint Mary Salome.

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