St Martha of Bethany was a virgin and was born sometime in the 1st century. Her brother, Lazarus, was also a saint. With her sister Mary and brother, Lazarus, Martha often had Jesus as a guest in her home at Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem. Martha declared her faith before Jesus as Messiah and son of God (JO II, 1-45). When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary sat and listened to him while she was left to do all the work, Jesus said that Mary was not to be admonished for her contemplative behavior.
We see her again when, at the tomb of her brother Lazarus, she pronounces those profound words of faith which have come into our funeral liturgy: "I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, he who is to come into the world."
According to medieval legend, Martha, Mary and Lazarus went to France after the death of Jesus. Martha evangelized Provence where she is credited with slaying "La Tarasque", the man-eating dragon (half-animal, half-fish) with horns and the tail of a serpent. This confrontation with a cross and holy water was in the Rhone valley. The story goes like this: The dragon was said to have traveled by sea from Asia. People pleaded with Martha to find someone, to rid their village of this foul creature. The dragon killed people and sank their boats. Martha sprinkled holy water and made the sign of the cross over him, then tied him up in her girdle. While he was weakened, the people slew him with spears and stones.
To this day she is venerated by Roman Catholics in Provence. Her feast day is July 29th. Because she took care of the hungry, followers of Jesus traditionally know her as the patroness of housewives, waiters, waitresses, and cooks. Let us follow her example in caring for our homeless, poor and needy among us! Let us pray also to her for the needs of the parish and for our own personal needs, material and spiritual.
Let us pray to St Martha:
O Saint Martha, teach me to offer the simple gifts of kindness and hospitality to others as you did to Jesus and others. Let my hands be open to God's Word in my life. Bless and pray for all those who come to my door.