Miniature Lives of the Saints – Saint Martha, Virgin

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Martha; designed by Comper, c.1905-7; east window, All Saints' Convent chapel, Oxford, England; swiped with permission from the flickr account of Father Lawrence Lew, OPArticle

Saint 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 Saint 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. Saint Mary’s tomb is at San Baume; Saint Lazarus is venerated as the founder of the Church of Marseilles; and the memory of the virtues and labours of Saint Martha is still fragrant at Avignon and Tarascon.

If in all things, says the Imitation, thou seekest Jesus truly, thou shalt find Jesus; but if thou seek thyself, thou shalt find thyself also, but to thy own ruin.

Those who are at sea rest, though the ship be in perpetual movement, and the needle is still true to the pole. Let us regard God aloae in all our actions; so shall we find interior rest in the most agitated life. — Saint Francis of Sales

When Martha received Jesus into her house, she was naturally busy in preparations for such a guest Mary sat at His feet, intent alone on listening to His gracious words. Her sister thought that the time required other service than this, and asked our Lord to bid Mary help in serving. Once again Jesus spoke in defence of Mary. “Martha, Martha,” He said, “thou art lovingly anxious about many things; be not over-eager; do thy chosen work with recollectedness. Judge not Mary. Hers is the good part, the one only thing really necessary. Thine will be taken away, that something better be given thee.” The life of action ceases when the body is laid down; but the life of contemplation endures and is perfected in heaven.

He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

MLA Citation

  • Henry Sebastian Bowden. “Saint Martha, Virgin”. Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 2 March 2015. Web. 22 November 2017. <>