A continuation of my Female Saints series
Did you know St. Martha fought dragons?
Seriously, guys. She did a lot more than just make dinner for Jesus. (Not that making dinner for Jesus is nothing, right?)
But most of the time being called a "Martha" is a bad thing, and that's always bugged me a little. We tend to just remember her first appearance in the gospels:
If this was all we knew about Martha, then she wouldn't come off too well, would she? But we can also relate to her. Who hasn't had work to do at a party, worried about dishes and serving and the turkey in the oven, while other people are just sitting around, not thinking about everything that needs to be done? It might not be a good reaction, but it's one that we can relate to.
Often, this passage is used to illustrate the "active" and "contemplative" ways of life. There's some merit in that. Mary is the contemplative, at the feet of Jesus, lost in prayer, and Martha is the one who serves Jesus, who works in the kitchen and makes the house ready for His visit. Both sides are important in the Christian life, and to have just one side isn't good.
But Martha is a lot more than just the housekeeper. In the Gospel of John, we see her great faith after her brother, Lazarus, has died:
Martha shows her belief in Jesus here, and testifies, like Peter, that he is the Messiah. She knows who He is. She knows He could have healed her brother if he had been there earlier, but she also accepts Lazarus' death. Her faith in Jesus isn't shaken by this event.
Martha is strong in both her temperament and her faith. She isn't perfect--Jesus tells her that she has to learn the 'better part' in Luke’s Gospel--but she has many admirable qualities that can be overlooked. She has common sense, strength, a desire to serve and take care of her family, and a concern for others.
So--what about the dragons? (Come on, Emily, get to the good stuff.)
Well, that's from a French legend:
There might not be a lot of dragons around today, but St. Martha is still a good saint to keep in mind when the dragons of chaos and doubt roar in our daily lives.
She's the patron saint of cooks, and her feast day is July 29.