By Lucy Johnson
Growing up across the street from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Marinette, WI, the church was literally the center of my life. It stood between my friends’ houses, my grade school, and our house. My mother was active in the Altar and Rosary Society and never hesitated to volunteer any of her six daughters when necessary.
When I moved to St. Paul, MN as an adult and became a member of St. James Catholic Church, the first organization I joined was the Council of Catholic Women (CCW). I identified with the “church ladies,” as they reminded me of my mother, six hours away.
Through the years, I also volunteered my children. In fact, this spring, one of the mothers at my youngest son’s high school commented on how helpful Andrew was setting the tables for the tennis banquet. I was shocked at her surprise; Andrew has worked at funeral luncheons, pancake breakfasts, donut Sundays, and spaghetti dinners since he was a toddler.
In today’s reading, I really identify with Martha and feel that she often gets a bad rap. Someone has to make the coffee and serve the food, right?
The reality is that today, more than ever, the Catholic Church needs both Marthas and Marys—both hospitality and spirituality. Have you ever visited a Catholic church? How were you welcomed? Did anyone smile at you or even be so bold as to greet you, introducing themselves and asking your name?
How about at your own church? Do you try to identify someone new at Mass? Perhaps asking a simple question, such as “Are you visiting?” or “Do you live around here?” or “Are you new?”
Once in a while, I will ask a long-term parishioner if they’re “new,” and we laugh as we realize that we usually attend different Masses or sit in different sections of the church.
Perhaps it is the “Mary” part of our lives that needs to be developed. Do we need to grow closer to Jesus, to listen to His every word? We can begin by reading the daily Mass readings, which can be found online at www.usccb.org or on an app. Better yet, invest in a daily Mass and mediation publication, such as Magnificat.
While it may seem like summer is half-over, it is the perfect time to develop your inner Martha and Mary. Are you going on vacation or up to the lake? Stop in at the local church and observe how you are welcomed. Focus on how you feel as a visitor, and don’t be afraid to smile at someone else or introduce yourself. When you get back home, use the good examples that you saw to welcome strangers. Or perhaps extend hospitality to a neighbor, by inviting them to your house for coffee or a glass of wine. Hospitality is a form of spirituality when done with love and for the right reasons. But we can’t neglect to develop our spirituality. Are you packing some books to read for your vacation? Maybe you want to include the one WINE is reading for its summer book club. There are many spiritual books that make great summer reading.
“Are you a Martha or a Mary?” My answer is yes!
About the Author:
Lucy Johnson lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband Jeff. She has seven children and soon-to-be seven grandchildren. She is a pharmacist and past president of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (2013-15). Lucy is a “Martha” working on her “Mary.”
We spend summers 350 miles from home. I feel like part of the parish here-I help every summer with a major fund raiser, and have made many friends that way.
I guess, in that sense, I’m bringing out my “Martha”. Last night at Mass, the priest, who came last fall from Ghana, gave a new slant on the Martha/Mary story that I hadn’t thought of before. In those days, it was uncommon for women to sit at the foot of the Rabbi. A woman’s place was to serve-not to insert herself into the mens’ world. He said it would be considered by most observant Jews of the day to be wrong. So-Martha was actually trying to save her sister from possible embarrassment or reprimand by asking Jesus to tell her to help her in the kitchen. But Jesus did come to bring a new order and told Martha that Mary hhad chosen the best part. It was interesting to consider this new view of that sstory.
Good thoughts, Lucy! Previously my answer would have been Martha. But the homily yesterday (our priest is away on business for the bishop and the only way we could have a substitute was to move our Mass schedule (temporarily) from Sunday to Saturday at 4 P.M.
Father Ted explained to us that the correct answer was to be both Mary and Martha. He told is that we would not be able to carry out Christ’s mission in this world unless we took the time to fuel ourselves with the Word and His Love. This on-line book club has been great for helping me to do just that. My thanks and appreciation.
I would have to say I’m a Martha. At times where my house was full with kids and my father in law, definitely I thought of the phrase, “Martha of much serving”. Now things are a little quieter, but I do tend to volunteer at church in the Martha capacity. Today I start my training as a sacristan, which I think will suit me.
I always loved the Mary and Martha reading, and especially now since I belong to a company called Mary & Martha. In this company we use the “&” sign a lot, being a Mary “&” Martha. We call it living in the &. Loving others like Martha did through her service, and loving Jesus by listening like Mary. Women are busy and much needs to be done each day that are acts of love in serving our families like Martha, but we do not wanting to miss the moments when we can sit, pray, and listen to Jesus like Mary also. Staying close to Jesus and listening to Him in all we do 🙂