St. Joanna likely lived a life that stacks up well against today’s measures of success. Although the Scriptures contain just two mentions of St. Joanna (both remarkable in their brevity) modern Christians can reasonably surmise without artifice that she was wealthy, privileged, well connected among the ruling class of her time, likely very well educated, and that she lived a more than comfortable life, married to a man of great political importance. Yet what should be the most transcendent indicia of her life and success – that she displayed such virtue in her life that her presence among Jesus and his disciples and her witness to Christ’s resurrection was documented for all time by St. Luke – does not even register on the scale of modern measures. That omission needs correction, for her sake and for ours.
Luke 8:1-3: 1Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
According to Scripture, St. Joanna was graced with the opportunity to be healed by the Lord of an unnamed affliction and to follow Jesus through His earthly ministry. (Luke 8:2). She was the wife of Chuza, steward to King Herod Antipas, the Roman client King in Galilee during Jesus’ time (Luke 8:2). St. Luke also tells us that Joanna was one of the women who provided for “them [meaning Christ and His disciples] out of their means”. Later, St. Luke tells us, she was witness to His passion at the foot of the Cross, and was among the women who first learned from an angel of Christ’s resurrection (Luke 24:9-10). That is all of the documented evidence we have of St. Joanna’s life, all we moderns can definitively “know” about St. Joanna.
However, if we tour Scripture through the viewfinder of her possible perspective upon the events and circumstances of the New Testament, the conclusion that surely St. Joanna was given great opportunities to accept and live out divine faith, and rose to meet those opportunities, becomes inevitable. That is the purpose of this website – to explore through meditations and speculations the likely circumstances that St. Joanna encountered and – in line with St. Luke’s call out – in all likelihood met with grace and equanimity.
Janet McKenzie, Companion – Mary Magdalene with Joanna and Susanna (The Succession of Mary Magdalene Triptych, First Panel)©
Yet St. Joanna has been all but forgotten among the ages and pages of history since her death. The scant two mentions in the gospel of St. Luke yield virtually all we reliably know of her other than stories from Church Tradition undocumented and now largely unremembered, yet remarkable nonetheless because they place St. Joanna in circumstances that indicate she was or became fearless in defense of her faith in Christ. She, according to Church Tradition, claimed the head of St. John the Baptist “from an unclean place” after Herodias ordered it to be discarded once Salome’s famous dance before Herod concluded, and arranged for its proper burial. Considering the court intrigue of the times, St. Joanna must have been bold and determined – yet astute enough to hide those qualities.
St. Joanna is but one example of the many now nameless disciples who followed Christ. Like St. Joanna and the other myrrh bearers whose names we know, they were called to and touched by a divine presence.
This website is dedicated to the nameless and faceless Christians and other men and women of virtue and faith who have populated history, and no doubt live among us today. Their stories may not be known during their lifetimes, much less remembered after their deaths. But like St. Joanna and the other myrrh bearers, the anonymous women and men of Faith through the ages offer us a path to salvation by reminding us that the keys to the Kingdom are granted upon the weighing of the measure of our lifetime’s effort and service – upon our answer to a divine call – and not upon the basis of our societal standing.