[Martha] said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Jn 11:19-27
Many years ago, my friend Vivienne introduced me to St Martha’s Novena, to be said every Tuesday, while lighting a candle. I am attaching it here in case you have an urgent problem you would like to lift up in prayer to Martha tomorrow:
I resort to your aid and protection.
As proof of my affection and faith,
I offer you this light,
which I shall burn every Tuesday.
Comfort me in all my difficulties
and through the great favors you did enjoy
when the Savior was lodged in your house,
intercede for my family,
that we be provided for in our necessities.
I ask of you, Saint Martha,
to overcome all difficulties
as you did overcome the dragon
which you had at your feet.
In the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
This novena may well have been the start of my relationship with Martha. I learned then that she tamed a dragon terrifying the town of Tarascon in southern France. Some time before, she had landed in Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, a small town on the Mediterranean not far from Arles, France. She got there in company of Mary Magdalen (sometimes said to be her sister), Mary Salome (mother of James and John), Mary Jacobe, and her brother Lazarus, who ended up being the first bishop of Marseille — so goes the legend.
I see Martha as the patron saint of hospitality. Maybe I should write Hospitality with a capital H. Her house in Bethany is where Jesus liked to stop on his way to and from Jerusalem. Martha, did you ever wash his dusty feet as he reached your home?
I’m asking this question because once on the Camino, as we reached the refuge next to the Templar church of Eunate, one of the two hospitaleras washed our feet, recognizing Christ in the pilgrims that we were. Nothing is more moving than having one’s feet washed after a long day’s walk, the gentle touch of two hands wiping away the day’s fatigue.
How I would like to visit your house in Bethany, Martha! Does my own house bears some resemblance with yours — in a village in the countryside, with a large garden, and a silence that quietly hums in your ears? How wonderful it would be to have the sort of a home where Jesus would love to come and stay to rest and pray and talk over a glass of wine and some bread and cheese!
For many years now, I have dreamed of having a house, a Bethany, for someone needing a break from everyday struggles, a safe place, of silence and peace. Not long ago, as a matter of fact, a young friend going through trying times asked if she could come and stay with us for a weekend. Was this a sign from You, O great Godde, that this dream was to come true? She did come and stay and we had a quiet time together, time when we each did our own thing, as well as ate together, prayed together, and talked together.
One comes across homes where one feels one could stay for a while to catch up with one’s thoughts and prayers and dreams, to forget the sharp angles of life and rediscover instead its gentle and soft sides. This is what Martha and Mary offered to Jesus. This is what some of us dream to do, can do, are invited to do. Today, Jesus comes in many guises; this is our true challenge. He can show up as a bruised friend, or as the Other, more difficult to like, to appreciate, to welcome. Sent by Him, as Him.
I pray St Martha today to help me discern with this dream of offering our home as an oasis to those passing through on their way to their own Jerusalem.
One with you in Him, the Risen One.
Art: St Martha, Sara Drescher Braswell, Everyday Saint’s Series