29 July 2012

29 July - Saint Martha

Gardening - Sow your cabbage seeds on the first Wednesday after the 29th of July.

Cabbages are a cold-weather crop, therefore by sowing the seed now (or at least 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost), you ensure that the plants will spend much of the warm weather in growing, and will mature in the cold weather of fall.  The first frost in the Smallest State is usually in the first week in October, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, so anytime in the next three weeks is optimum planting time here.  Judge your own planting time accordingly.


“At Tarascon, in France, St. Martha, virgin, the hostess of our Savior, and sister of blessed Mary Magdalen and St. Lazarus.”

I wrote about St. Martha and La Tarasque last year.  And I have the same reservations about Our Lord’s gentle admonishment.  Every time I hear that story, I am reminded of the centuries-old disdain of those who engage in intellectual pursuits for those who work with their hands.  Sneering references to ‘fly-over country’ and ‘corn-fed’, because the ‘intelligentsia’ can only be found on either coast (and only certain parts of either coast.  Try to get an Ivy-Leaguer to admit that there is intelligent life south of the Mason-Dixon line).  Ivory-tower types claiming that only they know what is best for everyone, and that once we get rid of all our silly morals and embrace the New Order, we will be very happy little (corn-fed) people.  Feministas who are plainly horrified that a person could actually contemplate finding fulfillment for her creativeness in caring for a home and family, rather than enduring the best hours of the day in a sterile office with mind-numbing repetitive chores.

Yes, I know that Our Lord made no reference to any of that.  I still hear it. Mea culpa.

John Shea wrote this reflection on Saint Martha in his Pictorial Lives of the Saints (1889): “When Martha received Jesus into her house, she was naturally busy in preparations for such a Guest.  Mary sat at His feet, intent alone on listening to His gracious words.  Her sister thought that the time required other service than this, and asked our Lord to bid Mary help in serving.  Once again, Jesus spoke in defense of Mary.  ‘Martha, Martha,’ He said, ‘thou art lovingly anxious about many things; be not over-eager; do thy chosen work with recollectedness.  Judge not Mary.  Hers is the good part, the one only thing really necessary.  Thine will be taken away, that something better be given thee.’  The life of action ceases when the body is laid down; but the life of contemplation endures and is perfected in heaven.”

Yes, of course.  But in the meantime, even contemplatives need to eat.


I have been asked what recipes are suitable for the feast of St. Martha.  Catholic Culture has several recipes, most of them based in Provence where she evangelized.  They also have a very wonderful idea of honoring the family cook by taking over the culinary chores, or even closing the kitchen for the day and treating the cook to a dinner out.

On the other hand, try thinking like Martha.  If Jesus were coming to dinner tonight (or lunch or brunch) what would you serve?  (Forgetting, of course, that he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – otherwise, we would probably have the whole thing catered and very likely held somewhere else.)  If this were winter, I’d probably serve Shrimp Chowder or Beef Stroganoff.  Right now, with the temperatures so high, it would be, “How do you like your hamburgers barbequed, Lord?  Medium?  Well-done?” (unless he showed up on Wednesday or Friday, in which case, “Do you like malt vinegar with your fish-and-chips, Lord?”)

And because I don’t fault Mary for taking every opportunity to learn from the Greatest of all Teachers, Jesus would have the nice, comfy Windsor chair in the kitchen – He can talk and I will cook.

So, what would you serve Him?

(ahem!  And no asking Him to turn the water into wine.  Bad, bad, bad!)


O blessed Saint Martha, your faith led Jesus to proclaim, "I am the resurrection and the life", and faith let you see beyond His humanity when you cred out, "Lord, I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God."  With firm hope, you said, "I know that God will give You whatever You ask of Him," and Jesus called your brother Lazarus back from the dead.  With pure love for Jesus, you welcomed Him into your home.  Friend and servant of our Savior, I too am "troubled about many things."

(Pause for silent prayer)

Pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope, and love, and that Jesus, Who sat at your table, will hear me and grant me a place at the banquet of eternal life.  Amen.


Artwork: "Saint Martha", in a Flemish illumination from The Isabella Breviary, 1497.  See Wikipedia for source information.  [I wonder if that is a cookbook she's holding?]