I had “Catholic” daughters long before I was a Catholic. By some inspiration, I pushed to name our first child Martha. (Katie preferred Alicia.) Martha virtually forced the name of our second child by skipping around the living room endlessly singing the song “Marian the Librarian” from “The Music Man” in the weeks before Marian was born. So (Marian being a form of Mary) my daughters were named for sisters who waited on Our Lord after he had raised their brother from the dead, and when I became a Catholic over twenty years later, I may not have had the pedigree, but, by golly, at least my kids had the right names! If we had become the parents of a boy, I'm pretty sure he would not have been Lazarus, however. I would have opted for George.
Being the father of daughters (and no sons) has caused a shift in my life somewhere between subtle and radical. While my mother taught me a thousand things, the father-son axis was central to my early life—from backyard baseball to side-by-side worship—and I’m sure that in some corner of my soul I expected to be a father to a son of my own. Instead, I have daughters.
This morning, as I contemplate Saint Martha, her sister, and the many women who followed and served Our Lord, I am touched by a sense of closeness to Jesus. In my love for my daughters, I can appreciate more fully his fullness—loving and caring for women, who loved and cared for him in return, while together they lived in a patriarchal, male-driven culture.
Having daughters softens something in a man and brings out a bit of goodness that might not otherwise be in evidence.
As a final note, I have to say that I love this painting of Saint Martha by Vincenzo Campi, which shows Martha in the foreground, surrounded by a domestic cornucopia, while in the far background at left, Mary sits by Christ’s side. I love too the prayer for today and will do my best to remember it.
your Son honored St. Martha
by coming to her home as a guest.
By her prayers
may we serve Christ in our brothers and sisters
and be welcomed by you into heaven, our true home.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.