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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
children!)

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 www.Facebook.com/StAnthonyMessengerMagazine. 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 CatholicMom@franciscanmedia.org.

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

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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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