Mary and Martha

I’ve always been a fairly driven, type “A” personality and have been able to handle, more or less, the demands on my life.  However, in recent years I began suffering from back problems that really took the wind out of my sails.  One thing led to another and before I knew it, a few years had passed and I had not entertained guests in my home.  In fact, I had not gone out much either.  The busy-ness of teenage sons, career demands, ailing parents, and other sundry obligations, along with my own health issues, filled my days.  Those days, then, turned into weeks that obligingly turned into months which seemed to quickly vanish into years and well, the last gathering of friends or family in my home was  for my oldest son’s high school graduation party a few summers ago. 

For me, this is quite the contrary to my interests and enjoyment of company. I simply love entertaining.  My husband and I have always hosted one or two big family gatherings throughout the year as well as the summer bar-b-ques for friends.  And there have always been my own special brunches just for my girlfriends where I set the table with my cherished porcelain dishes and tea cups and we enjoy discussing the things of life.  On any of these occasions I’m known to pull out a board game and ignore moans and groans knowing they quickly turn into peals of laughter that ring throughout the house.  Even my teenagers have been caught up in the love and laughter that is always evident during these times. 

But as often happens, life got the upper hand and so it was that I was recently inspired to host a summer garden party for close family and friends.  The date—July 31—is now on my calendar and everyone has been notified to “Save the date.”  That is apparently the new thing so that people, who like myself have myriad obligations and invitations, will commit to your event. I admit that I am really looking forward to this garden party which will be a morphed version of a Christmas cookie exchange. I know, it sounds weird but you have to know my family to know it is perfect!

However, making the decision to host the party wasn’t an easy one. Struggling to ignore my list of “why-nots,” I forced myself to compile my list of “whys.”  Certainly the list looked impressive, after all with my oldest now graduating from college I realize (1) How important family and friends are in this life that is flying be and (2) I will be more than blessed by the time spent with people who make me laugh and who are truly fun to be around.

Right now I can’t help but think of the story of Mary and Martha.  I believe that these two women exist in each of us, vying for attention but needing to be in harmony. That is why we can become so enamored of their story.  We contemplate why Christ chides Martha and feel empathy because Martha is a very real part of who we are, who we seemingly have to be.  She was on the right track because she was, after all, the one who invited Him in, and yet misunderstood what was then expected of her.   Mary, on the other hand, while seemingly presenting to us an attitude of peace and centeredness that we all aspire to, sometimes seems a bit, well, lazy.  Don’t we sometimes think, “Hmmm…realistically, doesn’t someone need to get these things done?”  But these women exist in Scripture for a reason.

They are meant to show us the balance required to live as a follower of Christ.  Prayer and meditation allow us to discern when we should be Martha or Mary. Both women have a lot to teach us in our lives as Catholic women.

And now the Martha in me has a party to plan so that the Mary in me will be blessed by time with family and friends!

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About the Author

Ms. Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic publisher, author, columnist, and speaker. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, contact her by email (link below) or call her at 248-917-3865. She is the author of the exciting new book Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide which focuses on the joy found in connecting with our past. Our Jewish Roots, along with other excellent Catholic books, is available through her website (link below). Cheryl has a Master’s Degree in Education and lives in the beautiful state of Michigan with her husband and three sons. Cheryl is a contributing writer to the "Today's Catholic - Women in Faith" category at the Integrated Catholic Life.

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2 Comments

  1. Cheryl,

    Thank you for this loving reminder that there is joy and holiness in being both Martha and Mary. I have been spending more time in prayer to discern where God wants me spending my time. It is so easy to allow our To Do lists to be the sole driver of how we spend our time.

    As a working mother, I feel pressured to “be all I can be” at both the office and then at home. Recently, I have been inviting my 5-year-old and 9-year-old to play Monopoly when I get home from work. The dinner dishes can wait. The laundry can wait. I can certainly afford to put my Blackberry down for 90 uninterrupted minutes with my children. It is just a very small step in finding God in my most precious relationships.

  2. Cheryl,

    I love this: “Prayer and meditation allow us to discern when we should be Martha or Mary.” Emphasis, word, when.

    I think you’ve hit upon a deep truth here. The major struggle of my life has been one to move anywhere close to balance. I’ve even called it the quest for Mary moments in my Martha world – but had never discerned that the two could -should- coexist in my very core.

    Thanks for the eye-opener.

    Victoria Walters

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