Martha and Mary

| | Comments (8) | TrackBacks (1)

I may incur the wrath of St. Blogs for what is to follow. I remind you though, that I am writing from the point of view of one who wishes as closely as humanly possible to choose Mary's part.

I read St. Augustine's sermon in the Office of Readings this morning and had a slightly different perspective on it. Perhaps I am interpreting incorrectly. While I cannot be said to disagree with the great Saint, I wonder about part of his point. Surely Martha will not be busy about corporal works of mercy in Heaven. But part of the communion of Saints, will she not still have an interest in human affairs, in the hospitality of the Spirit? Will she not pray for those who invoke her name and ask for her prayers? In this sense, will she not be feeding the hungry, welcoming visitors, and participating in the healing of the sick? I know that it is a very different participation, it is not the work of the hands. But is it not still a matter of the same interests, the same outward directed heart?

Mary has chosen the better part. But were we all Marys we would have no Mother Teresas. We would have tremendous spiritual benefits and perhaps we wouldn't need Mother Teresas; however, Mary's way is not so easy as it might seem. It is a little way that requires a lot of work.

Is it not possible to integrate the life of the two sisters? Isn't that what many of the great Saints did? St. Francis Xavier, St. Isaac Jogues, St. Katherine Drexel, Blessed Mother Teresa. Did they not have Martha hearts embedded in a Mary life? And even in the experience of the beatific vision, will they neglect the prayers that ascend to them asking for help?

I don't understand the dynamics of heaven, nor can I truly separate the lives of Mary and Martha. If you choose Mary's better part, it would seem that you cannot help but burn with the desire to perform Martha's work. St. Thèrése from within her cloister wished to work in the missions. She wanted to be selected for the Carmel in Vietnam. I think this is the natural outflowing of living Mary's life--the profound desire to bring the message and the reality of peace, caring, and love to all.

(At the risk of irritating Tom) Aren't the great Saints akin to the Boddhisatvas of the Buddhist faith--great enlightened ones who set aside their own transcendance to assist those who have not yet attained enlightenment? Surely the Saints never set Christ aside to assist His struggling brothers and sisters, because they see Christ within each one.

I guess that while I acknowledge Mary's life as the better part, a long history of Saints suggests that Martha's action often flows from the hearts of those who have chosen the better part. For lay Carmelites, called to contemplation in an active world, it would seem a sin to set aside labor necessary in the world in order to retire to some sort of worldly cloister within our houses. And I don't think any lay Carmelite aspires to that. From trying to live the life of Mary, many Martha-hearts are born. God uses our attention and love to point us where we might best serve Him and glorify Him.

In my hurry, I know I haven't expressed the fullness of my intent. But I truly wish to honor Martha, who I believe learned from our Lord's gentle admonishment and whose service began to flow from love of Him and not from the worries and anxieties that rode herd over her.

Bookmark and Share

1 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Martha and Mary.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Today is the Feast of St Martha.... Jesus in the House of Mary and Martha (Vermeer) ....patron saint of housewives (among others.) 19 And many of the Jews were come to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.... Read More


The lesson may be that you must *first* take Mary's part before you can take Martha's part gracefully.

Well spoken. Of course, I must speak in my patron's defense :)

While it is true, of course, that the communion of saints continues to intercede for the [bodily] activities of those on earth, this intercession is nonetheless linked to the transitoriness of this passing age. The connection of the saints to earthly activity is, so to speak, tenuous, for once the last soul passes to the beyond, the connection will be lost, and all earthly cares will be truly forgotten. This is the true eschaton, which frames all of St. Augustine's thought. Bodily cares, needs, and works are necessarily linked to the transitorines of this veil of tears (while there will be bodies in the resurrection, they will be a very different sort of body). When the Kingdom is finally handed over, in its completeness, to the Father, they will be a forgotten memory.

On earth, of course, they are a necessity, and not only this but also represent the very heart of God. But St. Augustine is only concerned lest this flurry of bodily activity come to eclipse the only true peace which comes in the beyond. This latter peace must always be the inspiration for present activity (as you point out).

Blessed Teresa often said that when the sisters were busy they would spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament, when they were really busy they would spend two.

The first Carmelites prayed on Mt. Carmel most of the time and then would come from the mountain to do works of mercy and engage in the apostolic life.

The missionary Martha is lost without the praying Mary, that includes an inner Mary with a comtemplative Mary in a cloisture. And any Martha that loses thier prayer life also become lost.

Mother Teresa's way IS to combine the way of Mary with Martha...contemplation in action...rooted in a deep prayer life including lots of adoration, and taking that out on the street, where the action becomes in a way a form of contemplation...through Jesus, for Jesus, by Jesus.

It's probably the hardest way of all, but perhaps that's why I admire it so much!

Dear Jeff,

I wrote hurriedly, as I tried to imply, so that I hope I did not come across as implying (for I certainly did not mean to) that the contemplative life or cloistered life is somehow lesser or unneeded. If so, I apologize. My intent is precisely the opposite. The only really productive work possible comes from time spent in contemplation of God.

So, if I implied otherwise, please accept my apologies



It's also interesting to notice that Martha gets a feast day while Mary (in our kalendar, at least) doesn't. Of course, that may just be because Mary was often conflated with Mary Magdalene and the Sinful Woman. Anyway.

Father Jim,

Thank you. You answered a question that was in my mind, but which I never thought to ask aloud.



St. Therese's "Bodhisattva vows"

I feel that I'm about to enter into my rest. But I feel especially that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love Him, of giving my little way to souls. If God answers my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth . . .

I can't rest as long as there are souls to be saved. But when the angel has said, "Time is no more!" then I will take my rest . . . My heart beats with joy at this thought. DE 17.7



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 29, 2004 6:55 AM.

Prayer Requests--29 July 2004-- Memorial of St. Martha was the previous entry in this blog.

Lives of St. Declan and St. Mochuda is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll