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Ordinary Time: July 29th

Memorial of St. Martha, virgin


July 29, 2009 (Readings on USCCB website)


Father, your Son honored St. Martha by coming to her home as a guest. By her prayers may we serve Christ in our brothers and sisters and be welcomed by you into heaven, our true home. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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Old Calendar: St. Martha; Sts. Felix, Simplicius, Faustinus & Beatrice, martyrs

Jesus liked to stay at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, his friends at Bethany, when he was in Judea. One of these visits has ever remained dear to Christian memory. On that occasion Martha, busily serving the Master, asked Him to persuade Mary to help her. Without in any way reproaching Martha, Jesus explained to her that certain souls, called by God, should choose a better part still — the primary duty of listening to Him and contemplating Him. This feast is celebrated today both in the Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

St. Martha
Martha was born of noble and wealthy parents, but she is still more illustrious for the hospitality she gave to Christ our Lord. After His Ascension into heaven, she was seized by the Jews, together with her brother and sister, Marcella her handmaid, and Maximin, one of the seventy two disciples of our Lord, who had baptized the whole family, and many other Christians. They were put on board a ship without sails or oars, and left helpless on the open sea, exposed to certain shipwreck. But God guided the ship, and they all arrived safely at Marseilles.

This miracle, together with their preaching, brought the people of Marseilles, of Aix, and of the neighborhood to believe in Christ. Lazarus was made Bishop of Marseilles and Maximin of Aix. Magdalen, who was accustomed to devote herself to prayer and to sit at our Lord's feet, in order to enjoy the better part which she had chosen, that is, contemplation of the joys of heaven, retired into a deserted cave on a very high mountain. There she lived for thirty years, separated from all human intercourse; and every day she was carried to heaven by the angels to hear their songs of praise.

But Martha, after having won the love and admiration of the people of Marseilles by the sanctity of her life and her wonderful charity, withdrew in the company of several virtuous women to a spot remote from men, where she lived for a long time, greatly renowned for her piety and prudence. She foretold her death long before it occurred; and at length, famous for miracles, she passed to our Lord on the fourth of the Kalends of August. Her body which lies at Tarascon is held in great veneration.

Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

The true identity of Mary, the sister of Martha is unknown. See the feast of St. Mary Magdalene and from the Catholic Culture Library Who Really Was Mary Magdalene? by Father William Saunders for further explanation.

Patron: Butlers; cooks; dietitians; domestic servants; homemakers; hotel-keepers; housemaids; housewives; innkeepers; laundry workers; maids; manservants; servants; servers; single laywomen; travellers.

Symbols: Water pot and asperge; cooking utensils; ladle or skimmer; broom; bunk of keys at her girdle; two asperges; dragon bound with a girdle (symbolizing temptation resisted); torch (symbolizing enlightenment and zeal); censer (symbolizing prayer and worship); boat; covered table with cloth, cups, pitcher and bowl containing fruit.

Things to Do:

  • Take note of our special project Family and Friends of Jesus Scrapbook Album, which has materials directly related to the feast of St. Martha:
    From St. Martha one basic lesson learned is that there is both active and contemplative work. Some vocations require more of one, but we all need to stop and experience quiet to pray, meditate, contemplate. Parents' time allotted for prayer is shorter than unmarried singles or religious, but time should be set aside. Children need to learn to start putting time aside for personal prayer and spiritual reading. This will help to develop good life-long prayer habits.

    Another lesson to learn is that we serve Christ our Brother when we serve others through our work, whether it be the daily duty of household chores or other charitable work outside the home. In serving others we serve our Brother Christ.
  • Since St. Martha is the patron of cooks, today would be a good day to honor and thank the person (usually Mom!) for all her meals she has prepared. Surprise her/him by cooking a special meal or take her/him out to dinner.

  • An excellent book for meditation called Praying While You Work: Devotions for Use of Martha Rather Than Mary by Dom Hubert Van Zeller. The book has been reprinted by Sophia Institute Press under the name: Holiness for Housewives: And Other Working Women

Sts. Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrice
The two brothers were cruelly tormented, and at length beheaded at Rome in the persecution of Diocletian, in the year 303. Their sister Beatrice took up their bodies out of the Tiber and gave them burial. She concealed herself for seven months in the house of a virtuous widow called Lucina, with whom she spent her time, night and day in fervent prayer, and in the exercise of other good works. She was discovered and impeached by a pagan kinsman, who designed to possess himself of her estate, which was contiguous to his own; she resolutely protested to the judge that she would never adore gods of wood and stone, and was strangled by his order in prison the following night. Lucina buried her body near her brothers on the side of the highway to Porto, in the cemetery called Ad Ursum Pileatum. Pope Leo translated their relics into a church which he built to their honor in the city, they now lie in that of St. Mary Major.

Excerpted from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Volume 7