Martha, Martha


In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.
(Psalm 94:19)

Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful:and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
(Luke 10:41-42)

Both David (the psalmist) and Jesus draw a contrast between the drain on resources caused by multiplicity and the peace to be derived from simplicity. David describes an internal environment and Jesus an exterior one but, of course the two are intimately linked.

Martha’s busy-ness was concerned with the tricky task of being a good hostess for an horde of visitors which meant having to juggle several balls in the air at the same time. Mary was simply concerned about sitting at the feet of our Lord and learning from Him.

Anyone who has tried meditating will recognise David’s description. Our body may be as still as Mary’s but our mind is, like Martha, bustling around like a shuttlecock from one thing to another and, very often, back again. The key difference, though, is that Martha’s activity is purposeful and useful whereas the thoughts rattling around inside our head are often neither. Both of the sisters are focussed on Jesus, just in different ways. A contrast is often made between Mary as emblematic of the contemplative life and Martha of the active one. This is true so far as it goes there is, however, what Al Gore would no doubt call ‘that little known third category‘ where action follows contemplation…to read more click here


Centering Prayer: Some Reflections

An Old Woman Praying Nicolaes Maes

Some Christians think that Centering Prayer is an invaluable way to deepen their spiritual lives, others think that it is the work of the devil and many more have never heard of it. For the benefit of the latter I shall briefly summarise it based on this leaflet (pdf)

The Guidelines

1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.

3. When engaged with your thoughts*, return ever-so gently to the sacred word.

4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

On the subject of choosing the ‘sacred word’-
The sacred word expresses our intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
The sacred word is chosen during a brief period of prayer asking the Holy Spirit to inspire us with one that is especially suitable for us. Examples: God, Jesus, Abba, Father, Mother, Mary, Amen. Other possibilities: Love, Peace, Mercy, Listen, Let Go, Silence, Stillness, Faith, Trust, Yes.

The practice is recommended for 20 minutes a time, twice a day. Its proponents argue that it is based on an ancient Christian practice referred to in, for example, the medieval English work The Cloud of Unknowing which is true so far as it goes. It is no coincidence, however, that this practice emerged and was publicised at a time when Eastern meditation techniques based on Hindu or Buddhist mantras were gaining many adherents in the West. Indeed it is strikingly similar to Transcendental Meditation which also recommends two twenty minute periods with eyes closed. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with Christianity appropriating and Christianising this or that aspect of non-Christian cultures, philosophies or practices, The key question is always: does this provide a bridgehead to advance Christianity into new areas or a breach to permit non-Christian beliefs to invade the Church? In the case of centering prayer we can only answer that question when we have some sense of its benefits or risks…click here to read more

Mary & Eternal Life

 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent
John 17:3

There are degrees of knowledge, particularly knowledge of persons. The longer we know them and the more intimately then the better we know them. In a life beyond the veil of death when we shall encounter Divinity face to face then, certainly we shall know Him far better than we can today. Nonetheless eternity starts now, that is, eternity enters into us and we into it to precisely the extent that we know God. Every moment where we meet Jesus, in the Gospels, in the sacraments, in prayer, in our neighbours is an occasion where time expands into timelessness. There can be no doubt that the human who entered most fully into this intense relationship with the Father, through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit was Mary His mother. In the Old Testament Book of Ruth we can see a type or figure of this relationship.

Ruth is one of these Very Small Books of the Bible that I referred to in my blog Sense & Sensuality. It is a curious work to be incorporated into the Jewish scriptures and there is no obvious reason to account for its presence. It is a lovely story certainly but the Jews had many lovely stories that didn’t make the canonical cut. In the context of Jewish historical narrative it does tell us who King David’s great-grandmother was but since, as it turns out, she was not only not a Hebrew but, worse than that, she came from their hated neighbours the Moabites, against marrying whom there were strict regulations in much of Old Testament times, you might think that the Jews would be inclined to downplay this fact rather than canonise it. The author of Ruth and the compilers of the canon probably saw in the story not simply an historical account but one which was also profoundly symbolic….Click here to read more

Did Teresa of Avila teach Centering Prayer?

St. Teresa’s Transverberation by Joefa de Obidos (Wikimedia Commons)

Last winter on social media, I came across another Catholic author who was promoting yoga. Not as an exercise program, but for spiritual growth. I was shocked. I asked her why she wasn’t promoting prayer instead. She answered, “Meditation is prayer!”


Two months ago, my brother forwarded an email from a colleague, asking about Centering Prayer. A friend was pushing it relentlessly. I looked at the website of the Catholic group that promotes Centering Prayer and found this in the FAQs:
This form of prayer was first practiced and taught by the Desert Fathers of Egypt … the Carmelites St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux…

The other day a new reader asked in the comments about meditating on Sacred Scripture. “Is this the same as the method of Fr. John Main, who has adapted an Eastern mantra method for Christian meditation?”


I have written a little on this topic before, but I think it’s time to revisit it. Let’s start with Teresa of Avila.

Continue reading at Connie’s blog Contemplative Homeschool.

Create a guided Christian meditation for kids, step by step

David and Goliath from the Breviari di Marti, 14th-15th century
(photo credit: Wikipedia).

I’ve had a lot of requests lately, especially since my interview on Carmelite Conversations, for more details on teaching children to pray. So I’ve decided to write a step-by-step post to help you create these meditations for your children or students.

I will walk you through a meditation I created for my boys. We’ll use the story of David and Goliath as a basis for this meditation, because everyone is familiar with it.

You can write a meditation for your kids without first praying over the Scripture passage yourself. I was making a Bible-based curriculum for the boys for a few years before I realized how akin it was to Christian meditation. At that point, I tried meditating on the Scripture passage first. What happened?

The lesson became more personal. I was more excited about it. My kids and I were then focusing on the same things in our spiritual lives. How cool is that? I taught with more enthusiasm and gained a deeper connection with them.
 Step 1: Read and Meditate on the story yourselfSo, find a Bible and read I Kings 17. This is a long story, so I encourage you to read it outside your prayer time. You don’t want to spend all your time with God reading. You want to spend your time in conversation with Him.

Then set aside about thirty minutes for prayer, alone in a quiet place where no one will interrupt you. Place yourself in God’s presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your meditation.

Read the rest at  Contemplative Homeschool.

Meditation for kids: the thankful leper

File:CodexAureus Cleansing of the ten lepers.jpg  Instructions for Parents I recommend that you meditate on Luke 17:11-19 in your own prayer time before presenting it to your kids. If you’re not sure how to do this, look at last Thanksgiving’s meditation. Talk to the Lord about it from your heart. Ask Him to teach you to be truly grateful, and to lead your children towards thankfulness.

Next, read and discuss the passage with your children. Use your favorite children’s Bible. Define any words they may not know. (I have highlighted some words in the meditation you may want to define before praying with them.)

Choose one or two of the optional activities at the end of this post to help them dig deeper into the meaning of the passage.

Finally, read the meditation aloud to them, pausing for several seconds to a couple of minutes after each of the first two paragraphs. Ask them to repeat the final prayer after you, sentence by sentence.
This meditation works best with children ages seven to ten. For younger or older children, see the variations. It is especially appropriate for those making their First Confession this year.

 Read the meditation at Contemplative Homeschool.

Teach your kids the one thing necessary

Are you teaching your kids to do mental prayer? I’ve written about this in the past with a few examples  of kids’ meditations. Today I’m sharing with you a meditation for kids about… mental prayer.

You may want to print this out.

File:Georg Friedrich Stettner (attr) Christus im Hause der Martha.jpg
1. Read aloud to your children Luke 10:38-42, using your favorite children’s Bible. This is the Gospel from last Sunday, so they should recognize it.
2. Study the painting above. (It’s Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, attributed to Georg Friedrich Stettner). Ask them to identify the people in the painting. Discuss the painting in this manner: “Martha and Mary are both holding something. What do you think those objects are? What does each represent? (Mary is reading the Bible. This represents meditating on Sacred Scripture. Martha is holding a duck, symbolizing being busy with household tasks.) Who are the other people in the picture? What are they doing? How many people appear to have been listening to Jesus? (Only Mary does.) Does Mary look disturbed by what Martha is saying? (No, she looks peaceful.)
3. Discuss: Why do you think the artist filled the foreground of the picture with food? (To show how much work Martha had to do or had been doing.) Do you think Martha was doing something important? (Yes, Jesus and His disciples needed to eat.) What could she have done differently so she could sit and listen to Jesus too? (She could have made a simpler meal.)
4. Remind your children of the Feeding of the 5000. How much food did Jesus need to feed all those people? (5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.) Do you think Martha needed to work all day to cook for Jesus? (Probably not, because He could have fed them miraculously, as He had done before.) Why do you think Martha was working so hard? (She was probably trying to show Jesus how much she loved Him by making Him a great meal.)

Continue reading at  Contemplative Homeschool.