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Books

The disciple Marta, and Domenica the preacher

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24 October 2020

“Welcome to Tarascona, an ancient French town [...] You may be wondering who I am and why I am speaking to you from this small French town. I’ll give you some clues: I am an Israeli woman, I was a disciple of Jesus and an ancient legend links my name to that of Tarascona - we read in the first chapter of the book Marta di Betania. “Io credo, Signore” [Martha of Bethany.“I believe, Lord”] (Cinisello Balsamo, San Paolo, 2020, pages 140, euro 14) by Marinella Perroni, founder of the Coordinamento Teologhe Italiane [Coordination of Italian Theologians]. The enigma revealed by its title; it is about the woman who a long tradition has transformed into the patron saint of homemakers, innkeepers and hoteliers. “Many centuries ago - they say in 48 A.D. - from distant lands, I landed in Marseilles by sea and here, in the marshes of the Camargue, I distinguished myself for heroic deeds. I preached at length, performed miracles and tamed a monster, and so freed the inhabitants of these places from a terrible scourge”. In Scripture, Mary’s sister presents herself in an enigmatic way. The two stories that transmit her memory to us, one of Luke and one of John, connote her in a way that is not only different, but also discordant. For Luke she is a woman distracted by the many tasks of domestic work; for John she is a disciple capable of expressing the highest confession of faith of the whole of the fourth Gospel. “The success that in the following tradition Martha always had with the cauldron in her hand, perhaps does not surprise us - one reads on the back cover of Perrone’s book - but we should question the fact that Martha did not have as much success in the fourth gospel, which plays a role similar to that of Peter in Matthew’s gospel”. The book is part of the series Madri della fede [Mothers of the Faith], like Domenica da Paradiso (Cinisello Balsamo, San Paolo, 2020, pages 144, euro 14). This volume by Adriana Valerio dedicated to the mystical disciple of Savonarola Domenica Narducci da Paradiso (1473-1553), who strongly defended her activity as a charismatic preacher, even before the ecclesiastical authorities who challenged her. A simple woman, who spoke with images taken from the daily life of a God who came “for our love to do the laundry in the boiler of this world”.

by Silvia Guidi