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Handmaid, Princess or Saint?

20 March 2006

     About fourteen years after the Ascension, followers of Jesus Christ were sent afloat aboard a ship without sails, rudder or oars by pagans in Jerusalem.  Passengers included St. Maximin, to whom St. Peter entrusted the care of important pilgrims, the body of St. Anne, and sacred religious objects including the Holy Grail.  The ship that was condemned to eventual shipwreck and accidental exit into the Atlantic somehow arrived in the vicinity of Marseilles, France around 42 AD.  Finding the port and actually docking safely was another story.  A handmaid of the sisters of Lazarus or the sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary or these sisters plus Mary Magdalene supposedly was the key to safe landing.  A girl named Marcella, Cella, Sera, Sara or Sarah was responsible.  Her identity and background remain debatable and is the subject of confusing traditions to this day.  More recently, it was the subject of very imaginative fiction.  None of them married into the French royalty as proposed.

     St.  Martha.s  handmaid was present when Jesus cured the former of a seven year issue of blood.  According to the Golden Legend, it happened during the early part of the Savior’s public life.  The handmaid was referred to as the maiden that Martha herself raised.  There was no word about her ethnic background.  She must have been old enough to at least pronounce these words of wisdom, gratitude and praise for Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that bare Thee and the paps that Thou sucketh.”  One to three years later, during the Last Supper, it would have been a very tight squeeze for her to be in her supposed mother’s womb.  She stayed with Martha in the convent and preached for ten years after the saint’s death.  Martilla was supposed to have been in her sixties when she died.

     The female writer who said she invented the character Princess Sarah, based that on a version of the ship having an Egyptian girl about nine years old.  She would have been just a pigment of the imagination 14 years before the arrival of the ship.

     One story says that the girl taunted one of the sisters who then stepped off the ship into the water and dared the girl to follow her.  Sara, as some stories called her tried to walk on the water but started sinking when she realized what she was doing.  One of the sisters rescued her.  This sounds very much like St. Peter’s experience in Galilee retold with different characters involved.

     There is a St. Sara story about a girl who lived in a cave turned convent situated near a river.  She was raised a Christian.  This sounds like Martilla by a different name.  The Coptic Christians have a story about a St. Sarah who was born of wealthy parents in Upper Egypt, became a nun and died at about the age of 85 years.  Martilla was raised in a home of wealthy people and if Martha died around 75 AD as her sister did, then Martilla after surviving about 10 more years would have died in year 85.

     Interesting and of note are the stories and pictures of a painting and a statue of St. Sara al Kali.  Kali means black.  Gitanos (gypsies) venerate her as their saint who was the servant of the two sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary and saved them.  During the yearly celebration of her feast, Gitanos from everywhere come to light candles, sing tributes and reenact her accomplishment.  They carry her statue to the sea in a procession amid a lot of merry-making as well as prayer.  There is a crypt where the remains of the Saints Mary of the Sea are interred.  St. Sara’s shrine is there.  A picture on the Internet shows a painting of a dark skinned female child dressed in a long robe and a mantle.  Another article shows a picture of the statue of a young woman dressed in real clothes.  She looked like one of the multiple statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary but with a dark skin.  There is a black Virgin Mary statue in the Philippines.  It is the miraculous Virgin of Antipolo.  Tradition says that the virgin or statue’s color was due to the original statue having been made from dark wood.  However, there is the Lady of Guadalupe who appeared looking and speaking as an Aztec complete with brightly colored clothes plus the stars, moon and sun.  The shrine with the statue is supposed to be filled with gifts of simple jewelry, thankful notes, children’s clothes and children’s crutches left by those who were miraculously cured.  This seems to be a similar phenomenon as the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes except for the focus on children.  The big difference is that St. Sara al Kali was on earth at about the year 42 AD which is well within the Blessed Mother’s lifetime.

     In two stories about St. Sara al Kali, she was not aboard the ship originally.  She was on the shore when she had a vision of the ship carrying the Saints Mary of the Sea.  She supposedly was a descendant of the Roma people who retained from ancient times the ability to take advantage of mind over body powers and techniques.

     The waters of the sea were getting rough.  There was an impending storm.  She had to rescue the saints by PRAYERS!!!.  In one story, using her mantle or other part of her attire as a raft, she met the ship and guided it into the port.  A different story says that one of the sisters threw her cloak on the waves for Sara to ride on.  Sara floundered and one of the sisters picked her up.  It may have been less fantastic than that.  She could have started swimming towards the ship and from the distance her clothes floating on the water’s surface gave the appearance of a raft being ridden on.  A closer look revealed that such was not the case and someone may have thrown her something to hold on to till she was finally pulled to safety.  Anyhow, she attempted to rescue the pilgrims in bad weather at the crucial climax of their impossible voyage.  They were sent afloat to die and were probably already written off as dead.  The Lord had other plans.

     Just before Jesus gave up His spirit on Calvary, the Blessed Virgin Mary approached the cross.and begged Him to take her along.  It was not time.  He commissioned her for a very important job.  He said: “Woman, behold thy son.”  She thus became the duly appointed Mother of all mankind.  St. John represented us. To him He said: “Son, behold thy mother.”  We all, including the Apostles, became her children.  At that instant, her duty to care for and protect us started well before her death, the Assumption to heaven and her coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth. 

     “Sarah” means princess.  Even as princess, she was entrusted with the responsibility to help us.  Being in the upper room on Pentecost Day, she was given special gifts and powers to do her job.  The ship without sails carried the VIP’s of the early Christian Church.  Among them were her own sisters and other saints.  Also, relics and the body of her own mother as well as the vessel that her Son used to consecrate the wine into His own Blood were aboard THAT ship.  The Princess did not wait till Queenship to help.  She did not carry any device to save them with.  Such were not needed.  She planned to accomplish her mission through prayers and succeeded. 

     I can just imagine Jesus stretched out on the Mediterranean sand with hands clasped under His head and feet propped on a rock grinning from ear to ear thinking: “More power to you, Mom.  I’ll wait here.”  This part is fiction but … who knows???

     Our duty to obey started at the same time.  We should at least show respect for her and all the other children specially the Divine One.

To the Dignity of Women

All Rights Reserved MMVI

Magdalena D. Guerrero, M.D. (dr G)

In Honor of my Patron Saint