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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Just a quick note. I have not purposely disabled the comments. I'm a tough old bird who has spent her life teaching Catechism to squirming second graders and eighth grade boys. I have nothing to fear from you, our readers.

I have in fact tried everything to fix the comments so you can comment. The site is, after all, called "Ask" Sister Mary Martha. I don't know why it isn't working and blogger is no help whatsoever. I'll not have time or access to teenagers even try to fix it until Monday. Until then you shall be, unfortunately, like St. Raymond Nonnatus, who had his mouth padlocked shut. Just some added suffering for Lent.

Let's hope it's resurrected by Easter.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Roadtrip Through Lent

Whenever we travel with Sister Mary Fiacre (even if we're only going around the block) we have to plan our strategy very carefully. We have to take into account if we can get her in and out of the vehicle, if a vehicle is involved. We have to make sure the vehicle can hold us and her and her wheelchair. We have to make sure one of us can lift the wheelchair to where it will be stashed in the vehicle. We have to time the trips between her naps, because it's much, much harder to move her around if she's sleepy. Or asleep.

We bring snacks. Snacks help if she becomes restless when we arrive at our destination.

So for Lent we've tried to take her everywhere. That doubles the strategy. Now we have us, her, the wheelchair, her little wheelchair goodie bag, the groceries, the pew cleaning equipment, school materials, choir books, McDonald's fish sandwiches...for which we have to find room. We like to be environmentally aware so we also fit in anyone who needs a ride if we can. Anyway, that's one more person to help us lift. On a busy day it appears we all live in the car.

I particularly enjoy that because we live in a neighborhood of McMansion people who despise people who live in their cars. I suppose I'll have to confess my glee.

I felt that my Lent had been going well. I've really missed the basketball games, I've found things to give up left and right: milk in the coffee, the coffee, an extra hour of sleep, dinner...not putting on slippers in the morning and walking on the cold floor, spending just about every second with Sister St. Aloysius, God love her, sweeping our neighbor's walk covered with itty bitty leaves that fall in the thousands every day from their massive tree, eating bean soup. I just really, really don't care for bean soup.

I felt I that I was in the Lenten groove, so to speak. That is until I read the story of the patron saint of today, St. Jonas of Hubahem. St. Jonas was a monk working in Persia, probably sweeping the leaves off his neighbor's sidewalk, when he was martyred. He was beaten with clubs and impaled with a stake. Then he was thrown into a freezing pond overnight.

But he didn't die. So the next day they cut off all his fingers and toes. After that they crushed him in a wine press. Then they cut him in half and threw the parts down a well, posting guards around the well so none of the Christians could come back and gather relics.

I wonder if they threw the fingers and toes down the well, too. Fingers are high on the list of things that become relics. I hope the Persians didn't know that.

No matter how bad you have it there is always someone who has it a little worse than you. And there is a person who has it worse than that person, and a person who has it a little worse than that guy. Somewhere there has to be a person who really is the last person. No one has it worse than that guy. I have a feeling that St. Jonas was that person one fine day in history.

I can't imagine being that person, but for the example of St. Jonas whose feast day is today. I will be inspired today to redouble my efforts. Actually, I will have to triple my efforts, since today is Friday, a day on which we always have to double our efforts.

Perhaps a roadtrip with .....the gang.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Good for the Soul

My penance for today is writing about penance.

I often have to speak in front of groups and Catholics and answer questions. That's what prompted me to start this site. I thought it would make things easier, as I could just refer people to Ask Sister Mary Martha and go home early.

Just as often in these situations I learn a great deal. I have been hearing for years that the sacrament of Penance has changed (again) and that it's okay to go with the flow which seems to be group confession. I have saying for years it's not okay.

Here's the truth: It's not okay.

Confession 101.

The Sacrament of Confession has indeed changed a great deal over the centuries. For one thing, we don't call it that anymore. Now it's called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I sort of wish it wasn't called that because, although you do have to reconcile yourself with God, you still have to confess.

Maybe it would be best to call it the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation, but since it seems everyone is too lazy to go, we can't go around making the name longer. With a shorter name, perhaps people will at least talk about it. We could call it "C&R". How's that?

The truth is the Church has been working for centuries to try and make the sacrament more palatable for everyone. Way back in the early church after you confessed you had to do penance that lasted for years. You would stand outside the church in your sack cloth and ashes with a sign around your neck stating just what it was you had done to cause you to stand outside the church in your sack cloth and ashes, like being on the cover of the National Enquirer every day, only it's not just your picture, it's actually you.

It didn't stop there. As your penance went on you got to get dressed again and stand inside the church, at the back. Then, after more time, you could come in a little further, maybe stand at the side. You eventually worked your way back to the Communion rail. Everyone could tell just where you were in your penance by where you were located inside the church. They already knew what you did because of the sign around your neck. Embarrassing.

And guess what? People stopped confessing altogether. The Sacrament of Penance was fading away (sound familiar?) until some Irish monks invented the Confessional which I think would still be more popular than the face to face thing of recent years. No one likes that.

We don't call it the Sacrament of Penance anymore, either. I guess everyone is too weak and lazy to realize that in order to get to reconciliation there is going to have to be some Penance.

The Sacrament of Confession, Penance and Reconciliation. Way too long.

"CPR", an ironically great acronym!

So folks have been telling me that at their parish they do this group confession thing. This is where no one has to confess a thing and the priest gives the whole lot of them absolution, ignoring the fact....FACT...that group confession is only allowed in dire emergencies, such as when the whole town is gathered in the church because the aliens have landed with their killing machines and everyone only has seconds to live. That sort of emergency.

The excuse has been that there is a shortage of priests. You can have group confessions if there is just no other way to have confession at all.

But if this were 1862, you would get out the horse and buggy, put the harness on the horse, put on your only set of nice clothes and ride for a several bumpy, dusty hours into town to get to church and confession and then ride a several bumpy, dusty, tired and possibly dark hours back, unhitch the team and put the buggy away.

A far cry from jumping into the car, radio blasting, with a Slurpee and a bag of chips for the trip and videos in the back seat for the kids.

Which is exactly, if not verbatim, what the bishops said recently about group confession. The priest shortage doesn't count and isn't a good enough for you not to get to confession or for the parish to hold group confession.

Unless the aliens have landed and I just didn't hear them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Up Above the Clouds

I promised I would explain about St. Joseph's involvement in buying and selling real estate, a phenomena that little old Catholic ladies love and I would guess just about every Catholic priest and bishop wishes would stop, all memory of it's existence wiped clean.

Let's start with explaining the practice for the uninitiated, should there actually be any left on the planet.

St. Joseph is the patron saint of building a house and making a home. By extrapolation, he became the patron saint of buying a house. Often in order to buy a house, especially with your ever expanding Catholic family, you have to sell the house in which you live. It's not hard to imagine that you might pray for the intercession of St. Joseph to help you find the new house that you can afford that's big enough, and pray you get enough money for your current residence to make the move.

It's not rocket science.


There's this thing that Catholics do. They don't just pray for the intercession of St. Joseph. They actually purchase a smallish statue of St. Joseph. They take said statue and bury it in the yard of the house, usually the front yard, facing the house.

And you know what? The house sells. Bang - 0- wango. Often for more than the asking price! Face it. People wouldn't keep doing it if it didn't work.

Obviously there are people who have a problem with this. It makes Catholics look like crazy people, out there burying statues in the yard. And poor St. Joseph. I forgot to mention that he is to be buried upside down. I think the idea is that if you put him in a 'stress position' he'll want to get that house sold so he can get out of there. (If you are selling a condo, you can put him in a flower pot.)

Because the most important part of the ritual is that once the house does sell and (and it will), you must dig him back up and take him with you to the new house where he must be honored. Which is another thing the separated brethren get all up in our business about. The honoring saints thing is a problem for them. So the St. Joseph real estate kit makes them apoplectic.

Oh yes! Did I neglect to mention that you can buy a St. Joseph real estate kit? You can get one is just about any Catholic goods store. It consists of a small 4 inch or so statue of St. Joseph and some instructions. I think it costs around $5. But then I haven't priced one in a few years. Adjusted for inflation, maybe $8.

Let's rest here for a moment and take this all in. It's a lot to take in.

Deep breath.

What do I think about it? I'm with the little old ladies. I say, "Go for it!"

First of all, I don't care what people think about Catholic traditions. I'm happy to glom onto anything that reminds the faithful to honor the saints. Especially lovely old St. Joe.

I'll admit I feel a little queasy about burying a statue in the yard. And if you are a St. Joseph bury-er , you have to admit, at least to yourself, that if it wasn't a little statue of St. Joseph that you had to bury but a big honking one, like the size of your Immaculate Conception garden Mary, you probably would feel really foolish getting out the spade to bury him. It could take a while to dig that hole and then you have to bury him. Upside down, no less.


Second...the fact that you have to bury St. Joseph makes the whole thing into a ritual. You have to think about St. Joseph the whole time you're out there with your trowel or your serving spoon, digging through the sod. You better mark the spot so you can come back for him. You have to wash him off when it's over.

And honestly, a while back I was ready to say enough already to the St. Joseph real estate ritual but for two things:

1. The gigantic St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal was built because Blessed Brother Andre relentless bugged St. Joseph to get him the land it on which it is built. Then after the whole thing was built--and if you've ever seen it, it looks like you arrived at the top of the beanstalk at the Giant's house--there was not enough money to finish it by putting on the roof. Everyone was wringing their hands over what a mess that would be and Blessed Brother Andre just smiled and said, "Put the statue of St. Joseph out there with no roof. He'll want a roof over his head and he'll build one." Guess what happened?

2. The St. Joseph real estate kits can be found in Catholic goods stores across the country. If the priests and bishops really wanted to put a stop to it they could. If they can denounce the woman in Georgia who sees Mary in her front yard once a month, they can ask the real estate kit to be yanked from Catholic goods stores. They don't. Why?

Because I think in as much as the poor buried upside down statue is embarrassing, when it comes right down to it, they feel as I have come to feel, that allowing the faithful this small ritual, as long as no one thinks they can just bury the statue and never think twice about St. Joseph or his intercession, that things that connect us together by way of tradition and to the Church by way of the saints is not so bad.

Just don't let your Baptist neighbor catch you out there with your statue and spoon in hand, for all our sakes. We'll never hear the end of it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Patron Saint of Everything You Need

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph. Thank Goodness for St. Joseph is not just an aspirin slogan. What would we have done without him? Mary would have been an unwed mother!
I think my greatest admiration of St. Joseph stems from how very understandable a person he was, although technically speaking we know almost nothing about him. Most of his story actually comes from sacred Tradition, a tradition that has it's roots in books that were officially thrown out of the New Testament.

Here's the story: Mary's parents have given her over to the temple at age three to be a consecrated virgin. Mary has to leave her post at age thirteen or so and the temple elders have the sticky task of finding a husband for a girl who is a consecrated virgin. It's not like they are going to have people lining up for the job.

So the temple elders have all the eligible bachelors or widowers throw their staffs in a pile. The staff St. Joseph throws in grows a rose. Joseph is not thrilled, but he does his duty.

This is why we love St. Joseph. From here on, St. Joseph, struggling against fear and doubt and things that seem just plain crazy, always makes the right choice. It is always the most difficult choice.

Thank goodness he was one of those people who remembers his dreams! I know quite a few people who say they never dream. They are mistaken. Everyone dreams. Some people simply never remember their dreams.

Here's an interesting study: Sleep researchers found that cats deprived of sleep didn't start acting strangely for about four days. I don't know how they could tell, since they were dealing with cats, but the researchers said that cats eventually, after 3 or 4 days, developed 'paranoid tendencies'. I've never met a cat that didn't seem to think, 'They're trying to kill me!" at least once per day. But there you have it.

But cats deprived of dreaming (which can be detected by Rapid Eye Movement, REM sleep) became instantly psychotic. Again, not sure how they could tell the psychotic part.

My theory is that your brain uses dreams to 'defragment' like your computer does in the wee hours.

St. Joseph, lucky for us, remembers his dreams when on several occasions an angel comes to him during REM sleep and tells him everything is going to be okay, or to hurry up and pack and get out of town.

St. Joseph had to believe some things that were very difficult to believe. For that reason he is the patron saint against doubt and hesitation.

He is the patron saint of workers, work, carpenters and cabinet makers because he was a working carpenter. I think in recent years stone masons and brick layers have been added to his patronage list because there are scholars who believe the word for his job was misinterpreted as 'carpenter' but that the word actually means 'stone mason'.

Whatever. "Worker" certainly covers all but the incredibly lazy.

He is the patron saint of the dying and a holy death and a happy death because he disappears out of the New Testament altogether so it has been surmised that he died. And since he died with Mary and Jesus at his side, what could be happier or holier?

He is the patron saint of travel because he safely moved his family from Bethlehem to Egypt and then back to Nazareth by donkey. And you're complaining because your SUV doesn't have a video player in the back to keep the kids quiet. (By the way....if you're going on a road trip with your children and you plan to have the children watch videos in the back seat the whole time, I have a tip for you: stay home. Your children can watch videos on the couch as they normally do. You'll save money and your children will get the same amount of information.)

I'm glad that St. Joseph is the patron saint of travel since St. Christopher is kaput.

St. Joseph is the patron saint of finding a home, a residual effect of having to move three times, and by extension, the patron saint of buying and selling real estate. I think we should talk more about this later, since, if the scapular thing bothers many people, burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard to sell your house will really drive you around the bend.

And of course, St. Joseph is the patron saint of families, fathers and expectant mothers as everything he did along those lines turned out so spectacularly well!

The only patronage that escapes me is that St. Joseph is the patron saint of Italy. I'm not sure why. Maybe because our own Holy Father lives there. Whatever the reason, the Italians made a great choice!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Luck O' the Irish

Now that I've ruined every one's week with my views on Medjugorje I'm prepared to suffer myself with what I was shocked to find is now being called "St. Patrick's Day Weekend."

This is wrong on so many levels.

To begin with, I have always made a habit of ducking certain holidays as much as possible. They are the ones that have to do with excessive drinking squared. By "squared" I mean the whole point of the holiday is excessive drinking (a sin, by the way) plus an added bonus.

Excessive drinking + guns = New Year's Eve
Excessive drinking + masks = Halloween
Excessive drinking + small bombs = July Fourth

Excessive drinking + more excessive drinking = St. Patrick's Day.

My father used to call it 'amateur night'. My father was no amateur himself.

I have never quite been able to figure out what happened with St. Patrick's Day. Here we have a great saint whose feast day is celebrated only by excessive drinking and Irish food. Everyone knows the Irish have the worst cuisine on the planet! St. Patrick wasn't even Irish. Poor St. Patrick. What went wrong?

Just today we were in the supermarket. I couldn't figure out why they had put squeezy bottles of mustard over by the meat section. Or why party food, like salsa and avocados, were on sale. Sister St. Aloysius reminded me of the Church fund raiser this weekend. As I am all set with my fuzzy pipe cleaner shamrock, I had let the whole thing out of my mind, as I always do with the wretched excess holidays.

Sister St. Aloysius does not have a pipe cleaner shamrock to wear yet, so we were perusing them there in the store next to the leprechauns and the shiny green top hats. Two women joined us at the rack. "Look," said the red head, "these shamrocks don't have four leaf clovers!"

"They're not supposed to," I told her. "The shamrock is a symbol of the Holy Trinity. St. Patrick used it to teach people that there are three Persons in One God...see...one stem, three leaves, but one clover...it's one, but it's three...see...? If it had four leaves it wouldn't be a shamrock."

It was at that point that my eyes fell upon the shopping cart they shared. A case of "Shamrock Ale." Poor St. Patrick and his lesson plan, literally gone to hell in a hand cart.

The only explanation I can come up with is that since Irish people drink a lot (don't start in on me about this, I've been to Ireland and the people there drink a lot, so much so that they remain sober), someone decided that the way to celebrate the saint that brought Christianity to the pagan Irish is to drink. Oh! and to have the beer dyed green! So appetizing.

Just another level wrongness. The leprechauns are tossed in there for those remaining heathens clamoring for gold.

At least this year the festivities don't land on Friday, so every one's Church fundraisers are safe from having to obtain a special dispensation from the Bishop to eat the corned beef. You can even have some at home around your supper table this year. You should eat the Church corned beef if your parish is serving it up, whether you like it or not. They need the money.

I really can't abide corned beef, so I'll be having extra for Lent.

Don't Shoot the Messenger

I've been stewing around about this question from a reader several days ago:

I am really interested in your comments about Medjugorje. Do they mean that you don't believe the visions are authentic?

Medjugorje represents a big problem for me. I have been there 3 times, but am still unsure about it. My husband is however totally convinced and loves the place so much. His faith has been totally renewed because of it.

The visionaries I have seen seem genuine people and the faith of the pilgrims is awesome. There is still something not quite right for me though......

Let me explain that the reader is referring to my statement that the Church has suppressed the Medugorje visions when the reader asks if I don't believe the visions are authentic.

I think I don't. The church agrees with me.

Medjugorje is a great example of why, in my opinion, the Church sighs a heavy sigh of dread whenever a new sighting of Mary rears it's head. It's the reason that Catherine LaBourre's confessor tried to ignore her pleas for him to have a medal made. Next thing you know, it's Mary at the chocolate factory, Mary on the turtle belly, Mary in the tree stump. I think there is a woman in Georgia who saw Mary in her dryer. Not in the lint trap, made out of lint, either. If memory serves me Mary was on the dryer door when she opened it.


Relating the facts of Medjugorje has always made my head hurt. There are a bunch of kids of various ages, pre-teen through teen. Mary comes every day with messages. As they grow up some of them don't see Mary anymore, some leave town. This continues for something like 13 years. There are one or two kids left who still talk with Mary every day. I may not have it all straight. Google it on the internets.

Whenever Mary shows up somewhere with something to say the Church assigns someone to go have a look to see if the sighting is authentic, meaning, "is it worthy of belief?" How do they decide? Did Mary say anything that does not jibe with Catholic doctrine or dogma? That's the main criteria.

The church has been studying the Medjugorje sightings all this time. Since the 80's. In my humble opinion, that what has caused the Church to hold off on any pronouncement all this time is how the faithful have reacted to the whole thing, with renewed faith. I've talked to many people who have been there and come back with their eyes aglow.

Hard to argue with eyes aglow. We love your eyes to be aglow. We don't want anything to unglow your eyes. We really really don't. And we love Mary. If your eyes are aglow because of Mary, that's just excellent.

I also have never heard of anything specifically that Mary may have said, during all this time, that is counter to the teachings of the Church.

But in the end the Church simply found it unbelievable that Mary had to spend 13 years talking with teenagers every day to get her point across.

Here's the thing: no one ever has to believe anything that comes to us through personal revelation. Not Fatima, not the mystic marriage of St. Catherine, not the visions of daily life in Purgatory....nothing. Believe It Or Not!

The Church gives a vision Her blessings and after that you're on your own.

The problem comes when the Church doesn't give Her blessing. That causes the whole incident to fall into the category of crystal balls and Ouija boards. Perhaps that is too strongly worded....but I don't think so. Why can't you consult a crystal ball? Because, not only are you putting your faith in Madame Blotsnefad instead of Jesus, you could be talking right to the devil.
The reason the Church bothers to authenticate a personal vision is to make sure everybody is not just falling into the devil's tricky trickery.

So I am very sad to hear that we the faithful have to toss Medjugorje. It seems to me that much good has come from it. I understand the town transformed...in a good way, not in a 'selling glow in the dark rosaries' kind of way. (Although a glow in the dark rosary is great when you have insomnia. I highly recommend picking one up.) I know people have been transformed. I understand the visionaries themselves were transformed. It doesn't seem right to toss out all that good.

But there you have it. It's not Believe It or Not! anymore. It's just Not!

Thank goodness it's Lent and we're of a mind to give things up.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What Can Brown Do For You?

I'm glad to have the opportunity to explain more about sacramentals, which seem to drive many people around the bend. I hope those who have been driven around the bend by sacramentals and the questions about them are offering up their suffering. It IS LENT.

We've had quite the discussion about the Brown Scapular.

One reader wants to know:
I am I to understand that as long as I wear the brown scapular (provided it doesn't fall off), I get to heaven even if I deny the Trinity, the Real Presence and Christ's Redemption by the Cross?

I really have to ask a question in return. If you deny the Trinity, the Real Presence and Christ's Redemption by the Cross, why on earth would you run around in a scapular all day every day? Clearly, you have no fear of hell in the first place.

But fine, for the sake of argument, let's pretend someone would do that. (We can do that while we're pretending the bones of the Jesus Family have been found and identified.)

Here's how I see it. Keep in mind I am an old nun that taught Catechism to second graders.

1. Our Lady made the Brown Scapular promise in direct reference to people who had devoted their lives to Christ and His Church. The Brown Scapular to which she refers is a part of their habit. So the promise already refers to the faith. She could have phrased it this way, "All you Carmelites will not see the fires of hell."

2. The Pope extended the promise to the rest of us, meaning, the Church Militant...which means, we believe the same thing. He didn't extend the promise to the separated brethren or the Wiccans.

3. As an old nun who taught Catechism, do I believe that you could be a Catholic believer, yet lead a sinful life and still not see the fires of hell because you wore a Brown Scapular? You bet I do! God can do anything He wants, including honoring Mary's hair-brained promises. God likes to cut people some slack whenever the opportunity arises. Perhaps Mary in her Motherly wisdom realizes that you have to look at that thing and shower with that thing and wear your prom dress with that thing every day of your life and that just maybe that will be enough of a reminder for you to dial it back and straighten up and ask for forgiveness. Like when Jimmy Cagney looks at a picture of his sainted mother while he's in the pokey and he's sorry for the sorry life he has led. So touching. These things happen.

Do you have to believe this? No, you don't.

4. Do I think if you wear a Brown Scapular and lead a sinful life and are not sorry ever but just run around saying, "Ha ha, I'm wearing a brown Scapular! Satan will never get me!" that you won't see the fires of hell? Not a chance. Satan already has you. The one time you take it off to shower, you'll slip on the soap and crack your head open. The bus that knocks you out of your shoes will knock you right out of your scapular. The flood waters that wash you away will wash the scapular off your neck. Your evil boyfriend will remove it while you sleep and murder you for your jewels. The paramedic will take it off to give you a shot of adrenaline that doesn't work. The nursing home worker will steal it from you. The atomic blast will vaporize the Scapular one millisecond before it vaporizes you. As you tumble, end over end, down the basement stairs with no one home to hear all the thumping, your scapular will be tossed off and land right before your eyes along with you at the foot of the stairs. As the life drains from you as you lay bleeding from your head wound, you will reach pathetically for your scapular, but the cat will grab it and run out the basement window. At some point, you are going to want to throw it in the wash. When you do, you'll drop dead.

You are not going to get away with it, mark my words.

From another reader:

The point I am trying to make is that when catholics make claims about sacramentals without giving the whole story, non-catholics easily fall into the "Catholics aren't Christian. Catholics are idolators" and a whole bunch of other stuff. I have to frequently explain to non-catholic friends the ideas of sacramentals, praying 'to' saints, and 'worshipping' the Blessed Virgin.

I have to do that all the time too. Offer it up. It's a great opportunity to set the record straight.

From yet another reader, this crackpot idea ( I had to correct some spelling):

Got to love how we try to secure salvation through any means possible, regardless of how puerile or ridiculous it is. How can a piece of cloth guarantee salvation? What are we, Hindu?

Along these same lines of superstitious, pagan left-overs in the Church, the Eastern Orthodox have numerous nifty wearable items and prayers to guarantee just the thing you need! Sure glad the church thought of everything. 100% money back guarantee, just like Folsom Lake Ford. Except this time it'll be too late to go spend your money.

The piece of cloth is a symbol of what we believe. You don't need the symbol to believe it. You can dump all your sacramentals and saint holy cards into the landfill tomorrow. No problem. You can forget about wearing a scapular. You don't have to believe in anything that came to us through private revelations: scapular, the Miraculous Medal, the St. Gertrude prayer...let it all go, no problem.

I may suggest also that you rid yourself of your family album and all those videotapes of the kids when they were little and the keepsake opal ring that belonged to your Grandmother because.... who needs reminders? What are we Hindu?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Alert Level Green

We've had a question from a reader that I am delighted to address because it gives me the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects, the Scapular!

Here's the question:
Do you think that if a faithful Catholic (or perhaps more than one) is praying persistently for a non-Catholic who is earnestly Christian and truth-seeking, that conversion to Catholicism is inevitable?

Also, do you consider non-Catholics who are faithful followers of Christ to be part of the true church?

Let me explain about what a scapular is and then come back to the question.

A scapular is that part of the habit of a nun, or the robes of a priest that is rather like a big cloth sandwich board. The head goes through a hole in the middle and the cloth hangs all the way down the front and the back. If you are lucky enough to be in an order that includes a scapular, you can hide all kinds of things under there, tucked into your belt: laser pointers, keys, a cotton hankie....I knew an old nun who kept an 18" ruler there as though she were one of the Musketeers.

The Church Militant (that's you) gets to wear another kind of scapular. It's two little rectangles of cloth on two strings. One rectangle goes in the front and the other goes in the back...like a necklace that hangs both back and front. Most people are familiar with the Brown Scapular, which I believe is the Original Scapular.

Here's what happened. The Carmelites wear a brown scapular (and hide their keys and hankies there). There was a time in the Church when the Carmelites were being suppressed. That means the Church wanted the Carmelites to calm down about something, and they were being told to go behave themselves. (A modern example of that is Medjugore, where the Church has finally said, "Enough already! Why would Our Blessed Mother have to come every day for years on end to make her point? Please don't talk about it anymore.") I don't know what the Carmelites were on about at the time, but there you have it.

Our Blessed Mother appeared to a Carmelite named Simon Stock (now SAINT Simon Stock) and told him that whoever wore the brown scapular, (meaning a CARMELITE) would not see the fires of hell. The Pope was so enamoured of this plan that he extended the privilege to the entire church, which is why you have your little brown scapular.

Don't get carried away. You will not see the fires of hell provided that you are actually wearing it at the time of your death. The hand of God may reach down in the form of a bus that hits you, knocking you out of your shoes and your scapular, or in the form of a clueless paramedic saying, "What's this?" and tossing it out the back of the ambulance.

Also, just because you won't see the fires of hell doesn't mean you won't do time in Purgatory. The good news is that part of the Pope's pronouncement states that scapular wearers will get out of Purgatory of the first Saturday after their death.

So: Don't leave home without it. And..........Shoot for a Friday passing.

There are many other types of Scapulars, though, and they come in different colors, like our national Terror Alert System, only useful.

Which brings me at last to answer the question (remember that?). There is a specific scapular to call people back to the church. It is the Green Scapular. It's also used for sick people.

Here's what you do. You have the person wear the Green Scapular when they are sick or away from the church (another type of illness!) and say the prayer that's on there and they get better and/0r are called back to the Church. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

But here's the best part: if they won't wear the the Green Scapular you just slip it into their purse, or slide it onto their nightstand and YOU say the prayer on there and they are STILL called back to the Church.

It's like stealth Catholicism!

As for the second part of your question....you can't be part of the TRUE Church if you are not part of the True Church. That's rather like asking, "Can I be from South America if I am from North America?" No, you can't be.

We love the South Americans and so does Jesus, but they are not from North America, unless you stick a Green Scapular in their purse.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

We were worried about Sister Mary Fiacre on Sunday because she was in the room while we watched that "tomb of Jesus" thing on the Discovery Channel. We never know how much gets through to her and we feared that the constant and cavalier mention of 'the Jesus family', Jesus and His wife, Mary's bones and Jesus and His son might cause her heart to stop.

We needn't have worried. Even in her quasi twilight state she could have seen through the shenanigans.

I think my heart stopped during it, though, and didn't start up again until I was snapped back to reality by Ted Koppel's hair, which never ceases to amaze me, in the discussion that followed.

It wasn't the silly docudrama that caused my shock. Not the misinformation about Mary, Mara, Miriam and James, not to mention Jesus' son. Not the recreations of the life of Christ or that wacky statistician...don't get Sister St. Aloysius, the math whiz, going on that unless you want to practice some Lenten suffering statistician style, which is to say, you might enjoy having pins in your eyes a little more than listening to her prove her point.

No. It was one little sentence by that Irish priest that they always trot out on the History Channel. They trotted him out for the Jesus tomb docucomedy for one brief and horrible statement. He said that if they could prove, for the sake of argument, that they actual did find the bones of Jesus, it would not shake his faith. Not even a little bit.

I have to wonder in what faith he is involved.

Jesus is in heaven, bones and all. Jesus took His bones with Him to heaven. (You'll have to wait for the Second Coming to do a DNA test. ) That's dogma in the Catholic church, Father Irishman! Are you just following in the 'I believe in Jesus because he was a nice guy" wing of the We're Not Really the Catholic Church? (Notice...I purposely did not capitalize the 'he' referring to Jesus as we are required because Jesus was divine. If He was only a nice guy, there would be no need.)

I'm not sure how anyone could argue that finding the bones of Jesus (which don't exist because they are in heaven inside His body) wouldn't change a thing. It would indeed change everything.

It would mean that the Gospels have at least one series of really big fat lies, starting with the burial of Jesus on through every statement made thereafter. That's no small potatoes.

The pretend theologian from the documentary argued that Jesus may well have risen from the dead, but appeared just as a spirit, so it's all okay. Surely, as a theologian he is aware of Catholic dogma and at the very least the little incident with St. Thomas.

You remember this one: Everyone has seen Jesus up and around except Thomas who declares "I won't believe it until I can stick my fingers in His wounds." At which point Jesus shows up and tells Thomas to go for it.

Bones are included in that story.

We know Jesus was a little different after His resurrection. The disciples didn't always recognize Him right off. He could walk through walls, but He could also knock on the door. You need bones, by the way, to knock on the door. Think about it.

That difference, where He could eat, but He didn't have to eat, is why we say Our Lord had a glorified body and why we believe that we will have one just like it when we are reunited with our bodies in heaven at the end of time.

If Jesus bones were here, then Houston, we have a problem.

But they're not here. They're in heaven.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

St. Zinc

We thank everyone for the get well wishes. So far Sister Mary Fiacre and I have avoided the miserable cold and Sister St. Aloysius is on the upswing. I would like to think that our Blessed Mother has smiled upon us, but I think the real miracle is in that fizzy stuff, "Airborn." There must be zinc in it. That, or someone has substituted Lourdes water in the Arrowhead jug.

Years ago I discovered, all on my own, that taking zinc kept away cold viruses as efficiently as the blood on the door jambs of the Chosen People kept away the plague of the first born in Moses' time.

No one believed me. I had to listen to people yammer about echinacea and golden root and vitamin C. I kept telling everyone that if you took zinc at the first sign of a cold, you wouldn't get the cold. And if you somehow managed to get the cold, it would be a quick easy cold.

No one paid attention.

No one pays attention when I tell them that if they use only cotton hankies to blow their noses after their echinacea and golden root and vitamin C fails them....as it always does...their noses will never get sore from blowing, even after the 439th time they've blown. That's because no matter how much lotion you put in a Kleenex, you are still blowing your nose in chunks of wood. Of course it's going to get sore.

"But Sister, having those used hankies around! The germs! Everyone will get the cold!"

Take zinc.

Now it turns out13 years later, it has been scientifically proven that zinc surrounds a virus and starves it to death. Guess what has been scientifically proven to do nothing?

You believe what I have to tell you about missing Mass on Sunday, eating meat on Friday, and wearing a hat in church. Why would I give you a bum steer on zinc?

I doesn't hurt to light a candle to St. Blaise, either. I think of St. Blaise as the patron saint of colds and flu because he is the patron saint of throat problems. We have to extrapolate because we don't have an officially named patron saint of colds and flu, although we have many saints for plagues. Not specifically named plagues. Any plague will do. Any saint who survived a plague, like St. Roch, gets "plague" tacked on to his or her patronage, I've noticed.

After that you have to go through symptom by symptom. St. Bernadette for aches and pains, St. Stephen, the first martyr (he was stoned to death) for headaches, etc.

Just don't forget about St. Zinc and St. Cotton Hankie.