Friday, July 29, 2011

St. Martha

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Jesus and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?" (Luke 10:40)

St. Martha usually gets press for being the "hostess with the mostest"--even going a bit overboard (if that's possible) when welcoming Christ as a guest in her home. But did you know that she also used to moonlight as a dragon tamer?

That's the legend in Provence, anyway. The story goes that, following an outbreak of violent persecution in the Holy Land, Martha of Bethany--along with Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, and a few other New Testament notables--relocated to the south of France.  (Who wouldn't?)  One of the local towns suffered regular attacks by a rather hideous monster with a taste for humans and a tendency to set things on fire.  When strong knights with catapults were unable to prevail, the locals called in St. Martha...who, with a splash of holy water and an uplifted cross, tamed the fearsome beast.  Using her girdle as a leash, she then led it to the village...where the townsfolk promptly and mercilessly slaughtered it.  After Martha converted the populace to Christianity, they repented of killing the recently civilized creature and therefore--to this very day--honor it with an annual festival and parade on or near St. Martha's feast.  (St George: Eat your heart out!)

Except when taken out for its yearly stroll through town at the end of July, this lovely piece of devotional art (I can personally vouch that this photo does not do it justice) hangs out in a side chapel of the Collegiate Church of Ste. Marthe in Tarascon, France...inspiring many impressionable children to faithfully say their prayers.

"No one of you should say: 'Blessed are they who have deserved to receive Christ into their homes!'  Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh.  He did not in fact take this privilege from you.  As he says: Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me."

--from a sermon by St. Augustine

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