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A Little More Mary, A Little Less Martha View Comments
by Susan Hines-Brigger

As I write this, I am surrounded by a basket of clothes that should be folded and put away, dishes that should be loaded into the dishwasher, floors that should be swept and a million and one other tasks to which I probably should be attending. Oh, and it’s almost dinnertime, too, so I should get busy preparing a meal. But instead, I’m sitting here typing out this column because I have a deadline looming. Not exactly the way I want to wrap up my weekend.

To add insult to injury, my five-year-old daughter, Riley, just came bounding into the room to ask me if I would like to play a game with her and her brother, Alex. I want to say yes, but I find myself saying no.

“I’m really busy,” I tell her, hoping she’ll understand. But the look on her face as she leaves the room tells me she doesn’t. I know the look. I’ve been seeing it a lot these days when I try to explain to my kids, my friends, my family that I’m too busy to spend time with them. Too often lately, I’ve found myself taking the role of Martha from the Bible (Luke 10:38-42).

A Biblical Case Study

The story of Martha and Mary is one that has always spoken to me as a woman, a wife, a mom and a sister. And it’s one with whose message I’ve struggled. The two women, as well as their brother, Lazarus, were friends of Jesus. In the passage, we hear how Mary and Martha invited Jesus into their home.

During his visit, Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him speak. Martha, however, took it upon herself to stay busy with all the household duties. Finally, totally exasperated and irritated, I imagine, she says to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” (Oh, as a mom, how many times I have heard that line from my

Jesus’ answer? “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Lessons to Learn

My friend Jenny often makes reference to that story. She does a good job of encouraging those around her to be a little more Mary and slightly less Martha in their lives. I’m not sure whether to be comforted or concerned that this many years after the Bible was written, we’re still trying to strike that balance. Martha apparently thought Mary had no business trying to be a disciple of Jesus. Eventually, St. Martha became exactly that.

Let’s be honest. It seems that these days we’re all busier than ever, working longer, running faster. And we’re all still struggling. How many moments have I missed simply by choosing to be busy with things that in the long run will turn out to be nothing more than busywork? Will my family remember the times they had matching socks in their drawer, or the times we played at the park?

Striking a Balance

Some of us are better at finding the balance than others. My husband, Mark, is one who seems to have mastered the challenge. I have not. Too many times household chores and work have taken precedence over things such as crafts, board games and snuggling up on the couch with my husband or one of my kids.

Am I suggesting that we dismiss the Martha roles in our lives? Of course not, just as I don’t think we should dismiss the importance of doing those things that we don’t always deem essential. So this month I challenge you to try to find your balance.

But don’t think I’m asking you to go it alone. Nope, I am giving my notice. For the foreseeable future, I will be devoting as much time to the Mary side of my life as to my Martha.

It may mean e-mails and phone calls will not be returned within five minutes—or the kids will have to find their own socks in the basket of laundry—or I will say no more often. But this mom is determined to find a way for work and play to coexist peacefully in my life and not cause me undue stress. I’m doing this not only because it’s good for me, but also for the sake of my family and friends.

To get started, tonight I’m going to choose the better part, ignore the mountains of laundry and spend time with my family. I hope you will join me in this new adventure. After all, that’s what Jesus would want us to do.

Take This and Eat

Just as Martha felt burdened by singlehandedly preparing the meal for Jesus, I also feel the pressures of meal preparation. Trying to find healthy, quick and tasty recipes to prepare for my family has left me looking for a better—and easier—way. Many times I have found myself lamenting to anyone who will listen that I am tired of making the same meals. Every time, friends and family have responded with their tried-and-true recipes. So now I’m reaching out to you, our readers. Send me your favorite recipes: Mail them, e-mail them or post them on our Facebook wall at Help this mom of four find a little more Mary time.

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at "A Catholic Mom Speaks," 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

Thank you for your comments. Editors will review all posts before they are visible on the website.

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Bruno: This saint has the honor of having founded a religious order which, as the saying goes, has never had to be reformed because it was never deformed. No doubt both the founder and the members would reject such high praise, but it is an indication of the saint's intense love of a penitential life in solitude. 
<p>Bruno was born in Cologne, Germany, became a famous teacher at Rheims and was appointed chancellor of the archdiocese at the age of 45. He supported Pope Gregory VII in his fight against the decadence of the clergy and took part in the removal of his own scandalous archbishop, Manasses. Bruno suffered the plundering of his house for his pains. </p><p>He had a dream of living in solitude and prayer, and persuaded a few friends to join him in a hermitage. After a while he felt the place unsuitable and, through a friend, was given some land which was to become famous for his foundation "in the Chartreuse" (from which comes the word Carthusians). The climate, desert, mountainous terrain and inaccessibility guaranteed silence, poverty and small numbers. </p><p>Bruno and his friends built an oratory with small individual cells at a distance from each other. They met for Matins and Vespers each day and spent the rest of the time in solitude, eating together only on great feasts. Their chief work was copying manuscripts. </p><p>The pope, hearing of Bruno's holiness, called for his assistance in Rome. When the pope had to flee Rome, Bruno pulled up stakes again, and spent his last years (after refusing a bishopric) in the wilderness of Calabria. </p><p>He was never formally canonized, because the Carthusians were averse to all occasions of publicity. However Pope Clement X extended his feast to the whole Church in 1674.</p> American Catholic Blog The saints in heaven love and care for us, and so it is fitting that we pray to them and ask for their prayers, as we on earth assist one another through prayer.

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