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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sister St. Unger

Some people are really terrible at being sick. Today's opportunity for suffering stems from Sister St. Aloysius' terrible cold. (I told you opportunities would present themselves everyday!) She's suffering with a cold and I'm suffering from her suffering.

She's attempting to soldier on, but I may have to conk her out with a frying pan before too much longer. She's having post nasal drip and is making Felix Unger noises while trying to pretend she's not making any noise.

I had a flashback, or perhaps it was a vision, since I have never ingested hallucinogens. Suddenly I was 8 years old. My father, who was a terrific carpenter by hobby, was once again remodeling a section of the house. He eventually remodeled the entire house but on this particular day he was stopped in his remodeling tracks because he whammed his thumb with a hammer. His thumb was the size of his head.

He refused to go to the emergency room even though my mother was relentlessly insisting that he go so they could drill a hole in his thumbnail and relieve the swelling. I was on his side in this. Drilling a hole in one's thumb nail that's already swollen to the size of one's head doesn't seem like a good way to relieve pain.

But his refusal to go had nothing to do with pain. We lived in a small town. Anything that went on at the hospital was printed in the local newspaper. If your child stuck a pea up his nose and went to the emergency room, it was in the paper the next day. Six people would ask you about your child's nose and the pea and pass judgement on your parenting skills and/or your child's mental capacity. My father didn't want to see:

Mr. _________ __________of
2249 W Oak St.
was treated and released
at St. Elizabeth's Hospital after
he whammed his thumb
with a hammer.

I'm sure they included the address so people could drive by your house and gawk at the guy who whammed his thumb.

He suffered all day and then sat at the supper table barely able to eat. Since my mother couldn't bring herself to conk him out with the frying pan, she was still fussing at him.

"He refuses to go to the hospital because he doesn't want his name in the paper and we have to sit here and listen to him...." She then mimicked what my father was doing, which was to suck air through his teeth in an inverted hiss. "It's ruining everyone's dinner!"

The poor man ruined our dinner and then relented. Guess what it said in the paper the next day? I'm sure my mother has it in a scrapbook somewhere.

So we've had a Lenten festival of discomfort all the way around today, with suffering, pretending not to suffer, listening to someone suffering but pretending not to suffer, and offering it all up to the Glory of Jesus.

Oh Joy!

A recipe for days to come. Just wait until Sister Mary Fiacre and I catch the cold simultaneously and all three of us are listening to each other suffer and pretending not to suffer. Add the Stations of the Cross and stir.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hat Today, Hair Tomorrow

I have been trying to piece together how we lost our hats.

First, there was the Vatican II press debacle. I distinctly remember that before Vatican II every woman wore a hat in church. That's because the Church made women wearing hats a rule in 1917. Before that they didn't have to have a rule because no self respecting woman would even leave the house without her hat and gloves. Now we're lucky if the girl has anything we could clothing on at all.

Then, I remember that everyone seemed to think that Vatican II took away the hat rule. But I have to wonder if people weren't entirely sure about the hat rule or that mantillas had become the Mass going fashion rage or what.

I have a theory about the mantilla rage. Women didn't have a fancy hat to wear in those days except at Easter. What most women wore to Mass back then was a bandanna. Everyone showed up at Mass looking like Polish peasants. We're talking about 60's hair now. Bandannas flatten out your hair...mantillas do not...problem solved. Which is very ironic considering why women had to wear a hat in church in the first place.

Because what I DO remember is that we went from hats, to bandannas and scarves, to mantillas, to the chapel veil.

I should say the mis-named chapel veil. There is no veil involved. The chapel doily, let's call it. Grandma's across the globe wondered what happened to all their decorative end table lace for at least ten years.Going from the mantilla to the chapel doily caused all hell to break loose in the head covering choices. It seems the chapel doily gave women free reign to slap whatever they could find in their purses on their heads as long as a bobby pin would hold it on there: Kleenex, placemats, the church bulletin, whatever they could grab.

And then suddenly ...no hats.

I'm not 100% sure here, but I think the hats flew out the window because the church stopped the hat rule in 1983. I 'm not sure if the church actually said women don't have to wear hats anymore or they simply didn't put the hat rule on the list. But since 1983 there has been no rule about hats in church.

I think that was a good way to leave things, considering there were women sitting in church with night table decor on their heads and Grandma at home wringing her hands. The whole thing had gotten out of hand.

Why did women cover their heads in the first place? Because a woman's hair was her crowning glory so she covered her head in church to show humility to God. That's why nuns cut off their hair more or less permanently.

How we got from that to your Easter bonnet is not hard to figure out, given the opportunity to have to go shopping for something suitable to wear to Mass. But by the time we get to women in church looking like Geronimo, it's time to cut bait, as they say. Let it go.

If you want to wear something to show humility, go for it. Just don't show up looking like Cochise. And don't go leaving Grandma's furniture naked.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Meat or No Meat

I have done my share of catechism classes and lectures for adult Catholics. One of the constant questions is some blither about how "if the Church is infallible how come it's okay to eat meat on Friday now and it didn't used to be?"

I used to wonder how people had become so rattle brained and inattentive. But I really don't blame the Church Militant (that would be you, if you are Catholic) for the confusion any longer. Let's get out our theological ironing board and straighten out this mess.

"..if the Church is infallible..."

The Church is infallible. It has always been infallible. The Pope wasn't always infallible. The Pope became infallible at Vatican I in the late 19th century. Then papal infallibility became retroactive. So the Pope has always been infallible.

"how come it's okay to eat meat on Friday now and it didn't used to be?"

The underlying accusation here is the the Church changes Her mind willy nilly and that next we'll have married priests and girl priests and birth control. That doesn't happen.

(Although we do have some married priests who came over from the Anglican Church when the Anglican Church decided to have girl priests. Those priests were ordained as Catholic priests and Mrs. Priest didn't have to go anywhere except home to the rectory. I think there are around 60 of them. )

It's okay to eat meat on Friday's now because eating meat on Friday is a church discipline not a Church dogma. Disciplines can change.
Dogma can not.

I think I know why people got so confused.

Confusing things happen.

For example, everyone thinks that women not longer have to wear hats in church. Obviously, in practice, this is the case. I have yet to see any bare headed women getting the bum's rush by the deacon. But the Church has never said that women no longer have to wear hats in church. That discipline did not change.

What happened? During Vatican II one of the Cardinals came out for a press conference and was peppered with questions, one of which was, "Is it true women no longer have to where hats in church?" Where the reporter came up with this question is unknown. Perhaps he was a reporter from "Hair Stylists Weekly" or "The Anti-Hat Herald". The flustered Cardinal said something to the effect of "we could care less about hats", meaning, "we have such important matters to discuss we don't have hats/no hats on the agenda at all."

The next day the Italian press headlined "Vatican Says, "No More Hats for Women!" The Cardinal came rushing back out and said, "No! NO! NO! We didn't say that!" But the horse was out of the barn. The hats were off. Like Mary Tyler Moore arriving in Minneapolis.

You are still supposed to wear a hat in church, girls. No one seems to care that you don't.

The discipline about fish on Friday did change. Here's how it irons out:

1. Friday is always a day of repentance all year round.

This means you are supposed to do penance every Friday. All these centuries the church took care of that for you by telling you the discipline to not eat meat. Handed it to you on a vegetarinan platter.

2. You get to decide what penance you will do every Friday.

The Church decided you were grown up enough now to decide for yourself how you will unite yourself with Christ's suffering and do penance for the sins of the world every Friday. You can even go all New Age-y and do good works! Skip the macaroni and cheese and fish sticks, but don't skip the penance.

3. You still have to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. (And Ash Wednesday.)

You can have meat if you're really sickly or under age 14. And if St. Patrick's Day lands on a Friday in Lent. But you have to get a special dispensation from the bishop to have your corned beef dinner. But not at your house. At the church fund raiser.

Let's hope we've finally gotten our theology out of the dryer before it becomes a wrinkled mess. That way, maybe we can skip all this ironing.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Death of the Hula Burger

Sometimes the little sacrifices are the hardest. The Ladies Auxiliary took us out to McDonald's for lunch. One of my favorite small pleasures is the McDonald's fish sandwich, made all the more tasty because it was invented exclusively for Catholics.

Funny that back in 1962 no one accused McDonald's of conducting a war on Catholics by not offering any meatless meals on their menu. Perhaps if there had been a 24 hour news cycle back then, someone would have jumped on it.

In 1962 a struggling McDonald's franchise owner in Cincinnati was only making $75 on Fridays (from the heathens and sinners) while all the Catholics ran over to Bob's Big Boy for their fish sandwich. The enterprising owner invented his own fish sandwich and took it to the big cheeses over at corporate headquarters.

The big cheeses already had a Catholic sandwich in the works. If ever there was proof that there was a war on Catholics, even back in 1962, it was this sandwich. A slice of pineapple on a bun. I'm not kidding. Ray Kroc, the biggest cheese, held a sandwich-off and the fish sandwich won. I wonder if they sold a single "Hula Burger". That's what they called the pineapple on a bun.

Sad.I suppose William Donahue was only an altar boy back then and couldn't have railed about the Hula Burger on MSNBC. If there had been a 24 hour news cycle back then someone could have also pointed out that dancing the Hula is probably a near occasion of sin. give the Catholics a slice of pineapple on a bun and name it the Hula Burger. There's mockery for you!

Today McDonald's makes $300 million a year off Catholics and quasi-vegetarians and people who are afraid of getting Mad Cow disease.

And during Lent the fish sandwich is on sale! I thought in recent years it was a dollar during Lent. This year it's $1.29.

The inventor of the fish sandwich never got a red cent for his invention, by the way. But he did not only save his own struggling franchise, he opened quite a few more. Forty two more.

Don't get confused. God didn't reward him with forty three successful McDonald's franchises because the man made a sandwich Catholics could eat on Friday's thus ending the 1962 war on Catholics. God didn't reward him and neither did McDonald's.

I really enjoy that sandwich, so I fed mine to Sister Mary Fiacre and drank tea. It's pretty easy to identify with the suffering of Jesus over a paper cup of McDonalds' tea, so it worked out very well for me and my soul. I'm torn as to whether or not I'll have a McDonald's fish sandwich during Lent, since the sandwich itself represents a victory, so to speak. Like fireworks on the Fourth of July and the flag on Iwo Jima. I could wait until after Lent.

But then the price goes up.

A continuing sacrifice.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Reverse Lent

St. Francis of Assisi, the Mel Gibson of his day for attempting to bring history to life, invented the Stations of the Cross.

St. Francis also invented the re-creation of the manger scene.

He did both for the same reasons, so that we could understand what really happened to Jesus, the extreme poverty of His birth, the terrible suffering of His Passion.

Lent is the season where we try to more closely identity with the suffering of Jesus. Write that on the blackboard one hundred times.

So when one of our readers sent this list of ideas for Lenten fasting that came from an archdiocese newspaper, I read it with interest. My eyes flew out of my head, hit the monitor and bounced back in again. If I could take my head off and rest it in my lap so I wouldn't have to think about this list, it would help me immeasurably.

I could just brush the whole thing aside and say, with one fell swoop, it's just way too huggy New Ager, "let's feel good about ourselves, please does someone have a guitar? Mass is about to start"-ish for me.

But I feel I have to address the list, if this is the type of thing that's passing for a great plan for Lent these days. Here's the list. Sing along won't you? (I wish I had a guitar to strum):

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on nonviolence.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Now, don't get me wrong. You should keep this list out where you can see it all the time. But this isn't a good list of what to do for Lent. This is a list of things you should be doing in the first place.

For Lent we can pare this list down really quickly. The things I put in bold are actually sins. You should always be refraining from these things. I can't think that I've ever heard anyone have to encourage people to fast from sin. Take a break from sinning during Lent? And what? Get back to it in time for Spring Break?

Lord Have Mercy.

So cross off all the things in bold.

And cross off all that feasting. This is lent. No feasting.

Heaven help us.

Now the list looks like this:

Fast from emphasis on differences;
Fast from pessimism;
Fast from worry
Fast from complaining
Fast from negatives
Fast from unrelenting pressures
Fast from bitterness
Fast from personal anxiety
Fast from facts that depress;

Now the four things in bold italics are things that are more or less out of your control. It would be nice if we didn't have unrelenting pressure and depressing news which can cause personal anxiety. But here we are in the real world, not the world where the Care Bears live. It would be nice if you would put your faith in Jesus and calm down.

So out they go. Now we have:

Fast from emphasis on differences;
Fast from pessimism;
Fast from complaining
Fast from negatives
Fast from bitterness

Aren't these all just ways to describe the same thing? Suck it up. Walk it off.

So we're down to emphasizing our areas of agreement for Lent.

Well. Kum Bye YAH. That should bring us closer to Jesus' suffering.

The list reminded me of a character from the old Superman comics. I think the man came from a place called "Bizarro World" where everything was opposite. Lent in reverse, feast on being sin free and happy! Just jump ahead to Easter!

Next we'll have the reverse Stations of the Cross where we all play the glad game.
And we will.
Right after Lent.

Lental Soup

We have had quite a few questions about giving up something for Lent so let's dive in.

One reader asks if she should give up her favorite hobby for Lent.

I think she should think that one over carefully. It might be a great penance for her, but what will her family look like after their heads are all bitten off? Just asking.

Another reader wonders about cranberry sauce. It seems her young daughter particularly enjoys that canned jelly kind that makes a sound like "FOT!" as it exits the can. This mother only serves this treat once a week, so she is wondering if she just shouldn't serve it at all to go easy on the poor girl, or what.

I say, serve it every day. Lent happens every day during Lent. And while you're at it, make the whole family watch that stuff come out of the can. That should be good to free some souls from Purgatory and bring everyone closer to Jesus.

And speaking of Lent happening every day, we've had a small discussion about taking Sunday's off of whatever our Lenten sacrifices turn out to be. You can take Sunday's off, as someone mentioned, because Sunday is always a feast day.

But I wouldn't do it. That just seems to me that you are skating out on a technicality. Just like every day during Lent is Lenten, every candle on the Lenten Wreath of Sundays is purple, except for that one pink one on Laetare Sunday ('laetare' means 'rejoice' and is a foreshadowing of the joy to come). You can take that Sunday off. Otherwise, stick to your suffering.
One reader is considering giving up her 'me' time for Lent. I didn't realize Catholics had any 'me' time that didn't involve prayer and/or fasting. Live and learn. I guess Jesus had some 'me' time out in the desert, but Satan showed up and ruined it. Right during His bubble bath.

I also have to make a clarification to my rule of thumb, the 'besides' factor, as one reader seems confused:

Everything I can think of has an "and besides" next to it. Sometimes, the "and besides" is something like, "it will bring me closer to Jesus" so I figure those types of things to give up would be OK.

Bringing you closer to Jesus is not a "besides factor". It is the whole factor. Lent is our opportunity to walk a mile in Jesus feet'. (I don't think He wore shoes. I know He is often depicted in sandals but He admonished His disciples to 'take no shoes'. I also imagine they took no cranberry sauce, canned or otherwise.) Not Jesus' everyday feet. His feet on the way to the cross. We are trying to identify with Jesus' suffering.

Which brings me to that LIST (you'll have to look in the comments section), which just made my head spin. Reverse Lent: topic for tomorrow.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Goodbye NBA?

We've had a lot of questions about Lenten sacrifices. We'll dive in and answer them in a momentarily. So many questions, so little time.

Meanwhile, I've been pondering my own sacrifice of the season. I
think of my Lenten sacrifice the way my mother used to handle Christmas gifts: lots of small surprises we didn't expect, a couple of things we asked for, and the one big gift.

So as Lent goes on, I can give up things left and right, all day long as the opportunities arise. There is a parking space right next to the door of the super market but I'll skip parking there and park farther away. That sort of thing. I can sacrifice my time and energy in ways I didn't see coming. All because of my added awareness from the one big gift.

So...what am I asking for for Lent?

Two things spring to mind. I could stop working on the blog for the whole sheebang. That seemed like a really good idea for about five minutes. The truth is, I would love it. Oh well.

The other thing popped into my head last night while we rooted for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Los Angeles Lakers. I could give up basketball. I would hate that. We're heading into the playoffs and all the teams take every game very seriously from now until the finals. Last night's game was a good example of what I'd be missing. Sister Mary Fiacre stayed awake during the whole thing because of all the yelling.

(Here in LA we've had to listen to a lot of stuff about how Kobe Bryant has 'matured', meaning he is a better team player, mentoring his younger teammates. Last night when LaBron James stripped Kobe of the ball in mid court and ran uncontested to a slam dunk, the look on the face of Mr. Bryant spoke otherwise.)

I was very excited at the start of this basketball season because it seemed to me, as pointed out by Mr. Charles Barkley, that off season trades had somewhat leveled the playing field, giving more teams a fighting chance. But the truth is it seems now as though it just plain leveled things flat and the season so far has been ....not so exciting. Chicago still doesn't have anyone who will drive to the basketball, the Clippers still don't have any defense, the Lakers still fall apart under pressure and Steve Nash's back is killing him.

All that may change during the second half of the season. I would miss it all.

Not only would I miss it all, the game would still be on in our living room area, because Sister St. Aloysius, who I have converted from baseball to basketball, would be watching with Sister Mary Fiacre who enjoys the fast movement and the colorful costumes. I would still pray for the souls of the Laker Girls and the Lovabulls without seeing them debase themselves.

So this is a definite possibility.

My fear is that since the first part of the season has been so dull that I almost never make it through an entire game anymore, I won't really miss it if I give it up now.

I suppose I could go offer my services as assistant coach for the eighth grade boys team. I would really hate that.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Plans for Lent

I think Lent is my favorite time of year.

I love Christmas, too.
Christmas and Lent.

I remember being told by one of my grade school nuns that Easter should make us the most happy. Theologically speaking, yes.

I guess I am a winter person. I'm certainly always dressed for it.

Lent is just around the corner. It starts on the 21st of this month, so I want to get ahead of things and issue two warnings.

First, don't go berserk because it's about to be Lent and gorge yourself on things you are about to give up. New Orleans may need the tourist trade these days, but you don't need the girls gone wild. Or all those beads.

Second, think very carefully about what you are going to give up for Lent. The things people give up for Lent is a singular pet peeve of mine.

If you want to lose weight or quit smoking, do it on your own time. Lent isn't about looking better in your jeans or avoiding emphysema, although we wish you the best on both those counts.

Lent is about giving up something that will be a daily reminder of the fact that it's Lent. Then while you're thinking about the fact that it's Lent, maybe you'll remember what Lent is all about.

We're leading up to Jesus' death here, so we're thinking about why Jesus died and what he gave up for us. He died for our sins. Mel Gibson did a wonderful job of depicting what he gave up, subsequent drunken tirade not withstanding.

It would be great if you would stop biting your nails, but it's not going to cut it for Lent. You're not going to give up physical things for physical self help. You're going to give up physical things for spiritual self improvement.

And atonement.

Is there ever enough atonement?

Look around.


Only give up coffee if you don't need to cut down on your caffeine.

Here's a good rule of thumb: If the thing you want to give up has an "and besides" behind it, perhaps it's not the thing to give up, as in "I'm going to give up butter for Lent because I slather everything with butter....besides, it will help my cholesterol levels."

Although, if you slather butter on everything and not having it will kind of ruin the taste of your food as far as you're concerned and you could care less about your cholesterol level, than I say, give up the butter. But if the whole time you've given up the butter and your food is ruined and you keep thinking about how the doctor is going to clap you on the back and say, "Good job!", forget it. You have taken the wrong path to penitence.

And don't try to sidestep your plan. If you've decided to eat your oatmeal plain, with no brown sugar or milk or raisins or anything, and then you eat eggs half the time for breakfast, shame on you, you slacker. No one let up on Jesus.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bad News

Every Sunday we park Sister Mary Fiacre in front of the Mass for Shut-ins. We're not sure how aware she is, whether she realizes she 'at' Mass or not. She tends to like things that move very fast, like basketball. So unless there is a flurry of activity with some incense, the Mass just doesn't seem to actual draw her attention.

We feel it's our duty to bring her to Mass each Sunday, because contrary to popular belief it is indeed a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday. Better be safe than sorry. For eternity.

I can tell you unequivocally that many people, many who consider themselves very good Catholics, seem to have the idea that Mass is optional. I know this because these people ask me about it all the time.

"Sister, how serious is it to miss Mass on Sunday?"

"Did you go to Saturday Mass?"

"No, Sister."

"Were you in ICU, hooked up to monitors?"

"No, Sister."

"Were you struck on the head and had amnesia?"

"No, Sister."

"Then unless you make it to confession before you fall down the basement stairs or your grandmother hits the gas instead of the brake while you're standing behind the car getting the groceries out of the trunk, you can expect to go straight to Hell."


The question isn't whether or not missing Mass is a serious sin. The question is why do people not know that it is a serious sin.

"I don't think it's a serious sin."

Well, God does. God doesn't really care what you think (although he loves you very much). He wants you at Mass on Sunday.

How do we know this? God tells us things. For one thing, He has those pesky Ten Commandments, which is probably how we ended up with Saturday Mass for those people who can't figure out if Saturday or Sunday is the Sabbath. All they know is, Monday they have to be at their desks.

It's Sunday. I know...it used to be Saturday. But the other handy conduit of God's rules, the Pope, changed it to Sunday. It works out better for everyone, too, because then everyone can do their grocery shopping and laundry on Saturday and rest on the Lord's day like they're supposed to. We even rest on Sunday....between rosaries.

"We were so busy, and everyone was tired, and we looked at the clock and missed the last Mass. We didn't miss Mass on purpose."

Too bad. You'll pay really close attention to the clock in Hell, hoping it will be over soon, but it never will be.

"Why would God punish us for all eternity for missing one Mass?"

Because you've made it clear you don't want to hang out with Him. You would rather attend a sale at TJ Maxx. You get the Max for the minimum in God's laws, too.

By the way, it's not okay for you to attend the Mass for the Shut-ins if you are not one.

And brace yourself...if you are the cause of anyone else not attending Mass on Sunday that is a double sin on you. Think of the mountain of sin you are lolling around with there in bed with that hangover!

Sometimes we take Sister Mary Fiacre to an actual Mass if we don't have anyone to stay with her at home. We park her next to the organist, which keeps her alert. And if anyone asks us why we've taken the trouble to bring her we tell them, "It is a serious sin to miss Mass on Sunday."

Really, it is.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Glorified But No Longer Worshipped, RIP Anna Nicole Smith

We were as shocked as everyone else the other day, while watching CNN to determine the things for which we should pray, to see that Anna Nicole Smith had expired. May God have mercy on her soul.

We were also shocked to realize that we knew who she was, since there really isn't any reason we should know who she was. May she rest in peace.

We knew enough about her to know that we should put the repose of her soul at the top of our prayer list. It doesn't seem to either of us that she was prepared for any type of reconciliation with God. She wasn't even wearing a scapular. Poor thing.

We didn't have to watch CNN very long to see quite a number of pictures of Anna Nicole Smith, each looking very different from one another. I could feel Sister St. Aloysius squirming on the couch next to me. I knew she was about to blurt out another one of her theological brain twisters.

Always one to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, Sister St. Aloysius suddenly asked, "What will she look like in heaven?"

"That's a big assumption," I thought to myself. I'll have to confess that. I mean in a confessional, as a sin.

I knew Sister St. Aloysius was referring to the glorified body of Anna Nicole Smith.

It is the teaching of the Church that when you die, your soul goes wherever it's going to go. (Most of us pretty much have a guarantee of a stop in Purgatory. I know I'll be there. I just hope there are still enough practicing Catholics left in the world to help pray me out, as I will be there quite a while.) Then at the end of time you are reunited with your body in heaven (or hell).

It's your body you are reunited with, the one on your driver's license, not the one you lie about to your doctor and at the class reunion. I think, by the way, that this should be a very good motivation to get in shape NOW. This is eternity we're talking about.

Now St. Augustine surmised that you would be at your peak in heaven. He thinks around age 35. So if you die before 35, you'll turn 35 in heaven. If you're 92, you'll roll back to 35.

Works for me!

The hippies are probably 'bummed out'.

If you are missing parts of your body, you'll get them back in heaven, so they can experience the fullness of the ecstasy of heaven. Maybe not your appendix. You didn't need that here, either. You'll also get them back in hell, because you won't miss out on any part to be subject to agony. I'm sure you'll have your appendix back in hell.

The sum of all of this, your body in heaven, is called the 'glorified' body.

Which brings us to Miss Smith. She has a couple of parts she won't get back anywhere. She would get to shave four years off her age. That would seemingly bring her a little ecstasy. Not in pill form. But if St. Augustine is correct she may go back to the body she had before she became a spokesperson for some diet drink or food or whatever it was. We know Dan Marino will look good in heaven.

I'm sure we'll all look our best in heaven, which for me isn't much of a step up. But we won't care in heaven. Which is part of what makes it heaven.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

St. Valentine's Bay

I promised I would come back and tell you about St. Valentine's Day since I missed St. Agnes' feast day. I have to warn you that what I'm about to tell you could be considered superstitious. You'll be okay as long as you remember to call on St. Valentine during the process.

The question is which St. Valentine do you call on? There are two.

I was always under impression that the St. Valentine that St. Valentine's Day is celebrating was a bishop who visited people in prison and eventually landed in the pokey himself. While he was there he cured the jailer's daughter of blindness and sent her that nice note we discussed. (Did we discuss that note? I know I talked with someone about the note....."love, Valentine" which is how we ended up with love notes, according to some. My brain is like cottage cheese. Large curd.)

When I was a girl in Catholic school the old nuns told us that the reason we have candy on St. Valentine's day is that St. Valentine brought candy, or treats of some kind, to the prisoners when he visited the slammer. (He could have brought them oranges. Oranges were a big treat back in the day. I always felt sorry for the people for whom oranges would be a treat when I was a child. I think I still do.) I thought the St. Valentine/candy thing was the whole story of Valentine's Day, period. The old nuns were never wrong.

But the truth is, not only were they sometimes wrong, they sometimes flat out made things up.

For example, the sixth grade nun was famous for telling her students each year the tale of the tied up woman. No one could wait to land in her sixth grade class to hear the story.

It seems there was a woman whose scalp itched terribly. It became so intense that she had to be tied down so she wouldn't scratch the top of her head right off. Someone had to watch her so she wouldn't wriggle loose.

The tormented woman begged her keeper to untie her for just one moment so she could scratch her head and get some relief. The keeper took pity sake on her and turned her loose and she scratched the top of her head right off.

There was an ant's nest under there. According to the old nun, an ant had crawled up the poor woman's nose, apparently then gone back and got all the other ants and talked them into building a nest between her scalp and her skull.

I don't think that happened. Really. Do you?

So it turns out not only did the old nuns leave out a lot of the St. Valentine's story, they left out a whole other St. Valentine. There was another St. Valentine. This one was beloved by the little children and when he was imprisoned the children threw love notes over the prison wall to him.

Both stories have prisons and love notes. I say it's a toss up as to who which St. Valentine you want to go with. Both Valentine's are in heaven, available to pray for you.

And to help you find out who is your intended.

So here's what you do. On the eve of St. Valentine's Day Eve you need to get your hands on five bay leaves. Now I'm not much of a cook, so I don't know if you can get your hands on fresh bay leaves, but if you can, I recommend that you do so, because you are going to pin these bay leaves to your pillow, one in each corner and one in the middle.

It's that middle one that concerns me. Those old dry bay leaves in the jar would be miserable to sleep on, let alone the pin.

And by the way, think ahead and use safety pins all around.

I guess you could flip the pillow over and sleep on the bay leaf free side. But...the idea here is that after you do this you will dream of your intended. Since you dream in lighter stages of sleep it seems to me that sleeping on the middle bay leaf and it's safety pin might just help you dream more. Just a thought.

You can see how this all borders on the superstitious, which is a sin. But I think if you keep praying for the intercession of St. Valentine (whichever one) you'll be fine. The bay leaves will just remind you about the saint and his feast day and God's will and all of those perfectly fine things.

If you just want to pin some old bay leaves to your pillow and snore away, forget it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Near Occasion of Fudge

This is the hardest part of the year. Not just because the Chicago Bears lost the Superbowl. (Not that I care so much, I'm a basketball fan, but I used to live in Chicago and now everyone there got drunk for nothing. Sad.)

It's February. Aside from Black History month and St. Valentine's Day (can we please call it by it's proper name SAINT Valentine's Day) we just slog along with no real holidays, no joyous celebrations (unless you live in Indiana) no deep examination like during Lent. Between now and Easter it's all down hill with just a "too much candy day" and a "too much booze" day in March.

The priest and the Infant of Prague are in their everyday green.

So let's talk about near occasions of sin. That'll be fun! And Lent is just around the corner!

The term is self explanatory. A near occasion of sin is anything that might lead you to sin. If you can't keep your fingers out of the cookie jar, don't take it down off the refrigerator in the first place. Avoid the kitchen. Don't bring change for the snack machine at work.

It's not a sin to eat cookies, by the way. That was a metaphor. It has been my experience here that people have a little trouble with metaphors and .............sarcasm. Perhaps if they could hear my flat tone, they would recognize the sarcasm when I am employing it.

There are four types of near occasions of sin: proximate, remote, necessary and voluntary.

This is where things can get a little confusing. So let's try to use an example. Let's say you are allergic to fudge. The doctor has told you that if you eat fudge, your head will swell up and you'll die. Every Tuesday, little Suzie next door makes fudge. Can you go over to Suzie's house on Tuesday?

Maybe. How much will power do you have?

Can you sit there while Suzie makes the fudge, stirs it, asks if you want to taste the spoon? Can you relax while the fudge cooks, while she slices it into bite size pieces and sprinkles it with walnuts and powdered sugar?

If the "fudge" is sin, then when you visit Suzie on Tuesday that is a proximate, voluntary near occasion of sin. You went right over there on purpose, knowing full well there would be fudge abounding. You could visit Suzie on five other days (not Sunday...you need to be at Mass), but no, you steamed right in there on fudge day. You knew.

If it's your job to clean Suzie's house every Tuesday, that would be a necessary occasion of sin.

I guess if you just sit out on the porch or drive back and forth on your bike outside that would be a remote occasion of sin. I guess.

The big question is: Is a proximate voluntary occasion of sin a sin in itself?

Obviously, yes. You went over to Suzie's knowing there would be fudge the whole time you were there and you still went so you could be as close to the fudge as you could, soaking up all the fudgeness. Certainly it will just be a matter of time before you just have to try one little taste and your head swells up and you die.

Straight to hell. For a bite of fudge. Are you proud of yourself now?

There. Now we've covered that concept. What else needs clearing up?