With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, perhaps St. Martha is the patron saint of Christmas?
This suggestion brought gales of laughter from the audience at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish’s annual Advent Evening of Reflection for Women, Dec. 10 in Warrington.
The evening began with the women gathering for fellowship and sampling refreshments in the church narthex, followed by the talk and reflection in the church.
Retreat facilitator Christine Marie Eberle, a local author, public speaker and educator, used the analogy of the story of Martha and Mary from Luke’s Gospel, a story with which every woman is very familiar.
It provided a deep spiritual awareness to this practical situation in order to help women regain a sense of the sacred for the Advent season.
Eberle read a moving reflection from her book, “Finding God in Ordinary Time,” and performed a thought-provoking dramatic monologue where she explored the possible mindset and heart of Martha, the friend of Jesus who was “anxious and worried about many things,” and what she may have experienced as she was “burdened with much serving.”
In a sympathetic depiction of Martha’s struggle as a hostess tending to the needs of her guests, in contrast with her sister, Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus while listening to his teachings, attendees were invited to evaluate their own roles in their families’ Christmas preparation and celebrations.
“Traditionally, women are responsible for making Christmas happen,” Eberle said. In working so hard to make the holiday perfect, it is “easy to conflate the season of Advent and neglect the more beautiful aspects of preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ in our lives,” she added.
As Jesus told Martha in the Gospel, “There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.”
As part of the evening, women reflected on and discussed with each other the ways they felt God was inviting them to be more present during the Advent season, and what they might let go of in order to do that.
The conversation and laughter flowed easily among the women, ranging in age from 20 to 80, including some mothers and daughters who have made this a yearly Advent tradition.
St. Robert parishioner Deb Tate attended the retreat for the second year in a row with her three daughters: Kelly Schollin, who also belongs to St. Robert’s, Tracy Kawash and Karen Boland, who attend local parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
“My daughters are really busy,” Tate said. “We don’t get together very often without the kids, so it was really nice to have this time together. The evening was a wonderful blend of social and spiritual — inspiring, peaceful and prayerful — and gave me a new perspective on the Scripture. We really enjoyed it and hope to be able to do this each year.”
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