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St. Martha, sister of Lazarus
29-Jul

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1894:
ST. JOHN tells us that "Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus," and yet but few glimpses are vouchsafed us of them. First, the sisters are set before us with a word. Martha received Jesus into her house, and was busy in outward, loving, lavish service, while Mary sat in silence at the feet she had bathed with her tears. Then, their brother is ill, and they send to Jesus, "Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick." And in His own time the Lord came, and they go out to meet Him; and then follows that scene of unutterable tenderness and of sublimity unsurpassed: the silent waiting of Mary; Martha strong in faith, but realizing so vividly, with her practical turn of mind, the fact of death, and hesitating: "Canst Thou show Thy wonders in the grave?" And then once again, on the eve of His Passion, we see Jesus at Bethany. Martha, true to her character, is serving; Mary, as at first, pours the precious ointment, in adoration and love, on His divine head. And then we find the tomb of St. Martha, at Tarascon, in Provence. When the storm of persecution came, the family of Bethany, with a few companions, were put into a boat, without oars or sail, and borne to the coast of France. St. Mary's tomb is at St. Baume; St. Lazarus is venerated as the founder of the Church of Marseilles; and the memory of the virtues and labors of St. Martha is still fragrant at Avignon and Tarascon.

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1903:
She was sister to Mary and Lazarus, and lived with them at Bethania, a
small town two miles distant from Jeruselem, a little beyond mount Olivet.
Our Blessed Redeemer had made his residence usually in Galilee, till in the
third year of his public ministry he preached chiefly in Judaea, during which
interval he frequented the house of these three holy disciples. Martha seems
to have been the eldest, and to have had the chief care and direction of the
household. It appears from the history of the resurrection of Lazarus thai
iheir family was of principal note in the country. In the first visit, as it
seems, with which Jesus honored them,' St. Luke tells us 2 that St. Martha
showed great solicitude to entertain and serve him. She forgot the privilege
of her rank and riches, and would not leave so great an honor to servants
only, but was herself very busy in preparing everything for so great a guest
and his holy company. Mary sat all the while at our Saviour's feet, feed-
ing her soul with his heavenly doctrine. In this she found such inexpressi-
ble sweetness, and so great spiritual advantage, that she forgot and contemned
the whole world, and would suffer nothing to draw her from her entertain-
ment with her God, or make her lose any one of those precious moments.
At his sacred discourses hei heart was inflamed, her pure soul seemed to
melt in holy love, and in a total forgetfulness of all other things she said to
herself, with the spouse in the Canticles, My beloved to me, and I to him, who
feedeth among the lilies ;' that is with chaste souls, or among the flowers of
virtues. St. Austin observes that this house represents to us the whole
family of God on earth. In it no one is idle, but his servants have their
different employments, some in the contemplative life, ss recluses ; others in
the active ; as, first, those who labor for the salvation of souls in the ex-
terior functions of the pastoral charge ; secondly, those who, upon pure mo-
tives of charity, serve the poor or the sick ; and, lastly, all who look upon
their lawful profession in the world as the place for which God has destined
them, and the employment which he has given them ; and who faithfully
pursue its occupations with a view purely to accomplish the divine will, and
acquit themselves of every duty in the order in which God has placed them
in this world. He is the greater saint, whatever his state of life may be,
whose love of God and hi ; neighbor is more pure, more ardent, and more
perfect ; for charity is the soul and form of Christian perfection.

But it has been disputed whether the contemplative or the active life be in
itself the more perfect. St. Thomas answers this question, 4 proving from
the example of Christ and his apostles, that the mixed life, which is made up
of both, is the most excellent. This is the apostolic life, with the care of
souls, if in it the external functions of instructing, assisting, and comforting
others, which he most noble object of charity, be supported by a constant
oerfect spirit prayer and contemplation. In order to this, a long and fer

vent religious retirement ought to be the preparation which alone can form
the perfect spirit of this state ; and the same must be constantly nourished
and improved by a vehement love and frequent practice of holy retirement,
and a continued recollection, as Christ during his ministry often retired to
the mountains to pray ; for that pastor who suffers the spirit of prayer to
languish in his soul, carries about a dead soul in a living body, to use the
expression of St. Bonaventure. 5 The like interior must animate ; and some
decree of assiduity in the like exercises, as circumstances will allow, must
support those who are engaged in worldly employs, and those who devote
themselves to serve Christ's most tender and afflicted members, the pjor and
the sick, as Martha served Christ himself.

With so great love and fervor did Martha wait on our Redeemer, that, as
we cannot doubt, she thought that if the whole world were occupied in attend-
ing so great a guest, all would be too little. She wished that all men would
employ their hands, feet, and hearts, all their faculties and senses, with their
whole strength, in serving with her their gracious Creator, made for us our
brother. Therefore, sweetly complaining to him, she desired him to bid her
sister Mary to rise up and help her. Our meek and loving Lord was well
pleased with the solicitude and earnestness, full of affection and devotion,
wherewith Martha waited on him ; yet he commended more the quiet repose
with w hich Mary attended only to that which is of the greatest importance,
the spiritual improvement of her soul. Martha, Martha, said he, thou art
careful and troubled about many things ; but one thing is necessary. If preci-
pitation or too great eagerness had any share in her service, this would have
been an imperfection ; which, nevertheless, does not appear. Christ only
puts Martha in mind that though corporal duties ought not to be neglected,
and if sanctified by a perfect intention of charity are most excellent virtues,
yet spiritual functions, when they come in competition, are to be preferred.
The former, indeed, become spiritual, when animated by a perfect spirit
and recollection ; but this is often much impaired by the distraction of the
mind, and in the course of action. In our external employments, which we
direct with a pure intention to fulfil the divine will, we imitate the angela
when they are employed by God in being our guardians, or in other external
functions with which God hath charged them ; but as these blessed spirits in
such employs never lose sight of God, so ought we in all our actions to con-
tinue, at least virtually, to adore and praise his holy name ; but herein the
eye of the soul is often carried off, or its attention much weakened, whereas,
in heavenly contemplation, the heart is wholly taken up in God, and more
perfectly united to him by adoration and love. This is the novitiate of
heaven, where it is the uninterrupted occupation of the blessed. In this sense
Christ so highly commends the choice of Mary, affirming that her happy
employment would never be taken from her. He added, " One thing «*
necessary ;" which words some explain as if he had said, " A little is enough,
one dish suffices ;" but the word necessary determines the sense rather to be,
as St. Austin, St. Bernard, Maldonatus, Grotius, and others, expound it,
eternal salvation is our only affair.

Another instance which shows how dear this devout family was to our
divine Saviour, is the raising of Lazarus to life. When he fell sick, the
pious sisters sent to inform Christ, who was then absent in Galilee. They
said no more L. their message than this : He whom thou lovest is sick. They
knew very well that this was enough ; and that his tender bowels would be
moved to compassion by the bare representation of their calamity. It was
Dot to remove our corporal miseries that Christ came from heaven, and died
READ THE REST AT http://www.archive.org/details/livesoffathersm07butluoft

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21

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December 21, 2014

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