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Lord of all pots and pans and things

Lord of all pots and pans and things

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, St Francis de Sales recommends putting aside some time for prayer ‘in the hour when the evening meal is being prepared1.  Oh, St Francis!  You might have been writing for the laywoman, but it was one who had a chef at her disposal… or a sister, I suppose, as Mary of Bethany was doing just that when she ‘sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking‘ (Lk 10:39), leaving Martha to scurry around in the kitchen.

Living ‘in the world’ as we do, we necessarily are Martha for most of the day.  As a poem that adorns many a kitchen reads, ‘Although I must have Martha’s hands, I have a Mary mind2.  That ‘Mary mind’ – or contemplative heart – must compete with our daily work for our attention… and there’s always so much to do, isn’t there?  But before we Marthas dismiss St Francis de Sales as laudable but impractical, consider ‘The Housewife’, a poem written by a veritable Martha, aka Fay Inchfawn:

See, I am cumbered, Lord,
With serving, and with small vexatious things.
Upstairs, and down, my feet
Must hasten, sure and fleet.
So weary that I cannot heed Thy word;
So tired, I cannot now mount up with wings.
I wrestle – how I wrestle! – through the hours.
Nay, not with principalities, nor powers –
Dark spiritual foes of God’s and man’s –
But with antagonistic pots and pans:
With footmarks in the hall,
With smears upon the wall,
With doubtful ears, and small unwashen hands,
And with a babe’s innumerable demands.
I toil with feverish haste, while tear-drops glisten,
(O, child of mine, be still.  And listen – listen!)
At last, I laid aside
Important work, no other hands could do
So well (I thought), no skill contrive so true.
And with my heart’s door open – open wide –
With leisured feet, and idle hands, I sat.
I, foolish, fussy, blind as any bat,
Sat down to listen, and to learn.  And lo,
My thousand tasks were done the better so.

Just a few minutes in the midst of our busy-ness can open up our hearts enough to let God in and sanctify our work.  As we remember St Martha, whose feast it is today, let us ask her to pray for us that we will not ‘worry and fret about so many things‘ but remember to keep re-focusing our attention on the Lord, who is to be found among the pots and pans and things – if only we care to look.

St Martha of Bethany, pray for us.


1 I’ve looked, but I’m afraid I can’t find the quotation now.  If I find it subsequently (or if you know, post a comment and) I’ll update the post.

2Lord of all pots and pans and things‘ .  Authorship is there attributed to Klara Munkres, but I’ve also seen it attributed to Cecily Rosemary Hallack (1898-1938) or even ‘unknown’.

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