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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Black and White and Red All Over

So everyone and their dog (who is not going to heaven) Rollo, has been emailing me the story of the excommunicated nuns. It's such a sad embarrassing tale of woe, I hardly know where to begin.

I'll begin with, no one gets excommunicated anymore. You would think people would be excommunicated left and right, considering the amazing number of cafeteria Catholics. You don't get to pick and choose what to believe and what not to believe. If you have, you are not in communion with the Church and are ex-communioned by definition. But you are not excommunicated.

Excommunication means you are barred from the sacraments, and although there is a lot of talk about excommunicating people, I really can't remember it happening. There is a list as long as my arm of people that have been threatened with excommunication: stem cell researchers (that takes the list almost to my shoulder) and Madonna. I have a vague recollection of some South American cardinal who got married and flaunted his wife, who was hauled in front of Pope John Paul II and was shortly thereafter dumping his wife and crying on the Vatican steps. Still, he managed to not be excommunicated.

I'm not suggesting anyone is being too harsh with these nuns, the poor things. It's about time someone lowered the excommunication boom on this mess.

These sisters, who are no spring chickens keep in mind (the spokesnun is 82), believe that their Foundress is inhabited by the Blessed Mother. They are careful not to use the word "possessed" and the press has been unfair in it's use of the word "reincarnated". They never said their foundress was Mary reincarnated, but every newspaper that picked up the story sure did.

(Make no mistake, spiritual dumpster divers and cafeteria Catholics, the Catholic Church does not believe in reincarnation. You get the one soul and the one body. Don't be covering it in tattoos.)

So the Virgin Mary, living in the Foundress, tells the nuns what to do. They believe this, so they were excommunicated. Actually, there was one nun who packed her bags and got out of there. I think she's going to join another order. I should invite her to live here. We could use another set of hands with Sister Mary Fiacre.

The Cardinal who had to do the deed is besides himself. He had to excommunicate an 82 year old nun. He had to excommunicate people for the first time in 165 years. (He's not 165 years old himself. His predecessors never had to bar anyone from the sacraments either.)

It had to be done. Unless the nuns end up crying on the Vatican steps with the unmarried Cardinal, they are causing a terrible scandal.

Scandal. There is a word as misunderstood as excommunication. Excommunication doesn't mean you've been thrown out of the Church. You're still in the Church. You are barred from the sacraments. You could wear a uni-bomber hoodie and run out to a parish where no one knows you and receive the sacraments, but you would be piling onto your list of mortal sins. Even your scapular won't save you.

Scandal means that your behaviour is causing other people to sin. If nuns believe in Mary possession and reincarnation and that Mary is inhabiting a woman and telling people what to do, then it must be true. If Madonna (a Catholic girl!) can rag pick for her spiritual needs, so can we.

The cardinal had to stop the car before the wheels could fall off.

Luckily for the excommunicated nuns, someone other than Mary must have given them financial advice because, unlike the 86 year old nuns in Santa Barbara, these nuns own their own home. Ironically, it's that one nun who left who's out on the street.

But still(fully) in the church.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ebony and Ivory

We've had several comments from readers on the last entry here at the blog. It struck me that they all address the first comment from Mrs. G:
Your definition of a miracle is so black and white, so rigid. Oh that's right, your Catholic.

I have pointed out to Mrs. G that she meant to say "you're Catholic." (It's my job.)

I understand that everyone thinks the Catholic Church is very black and white. Why, just look at my get up! I've always felt that nuns are on the front line for the battle for souls, and what am I wearing? Black and White. How symbolic.

But the truth is that the Church is not so black and white. Catholics argue endlessly at every level, right up to the Vatican. Latin or English? Limbo here, or gone? Dogs in heaven? Should I leave Mass with the baby when he gets really noisy? Can I wear a rosary as a necklace? (NO...but you can wear a chaplet as a bracelet...go figure.)

So although we have a lot of rules, following the rules isn't always so clear, even when we are discussing what is a miracle and what isn't, as we did the other day. The miracle rule is instantaneous and unexplained. So a reader asks:
Dear Sister, in February, 2004, I had surgery for endometriosis. I wanted to have another child, but my doctor at the time said if nothing happened in the next 3 months, nothing would without his "help". And if something did happen within those 3 months, the odds were good that the pregnancy would be ectopic. In June of 2005, I asked Mother Teresa to ask Our Lord if I was a good parent, and if so, would he please let me have another baby. In December of 2006, I had a beautiful baby boy a month before my 41st birthday. Is that enough of a miracle to help her cause? I am forever grateful for her intervention.

Poor Mother Teresa. She'll just have to wait.

First of all, there is only one doctor involved. You at least would have had to have a second opinion. Another doctor might have given you better odds. What if the next doctor had said, "your (or you're, if you're Mrs. G) chances of conceiving are 50/50." That makes the whole thing seem less miraculous right there.

Anyhow, it could be argued that your doctor was just wrong. We also don't have anything like spontaneous. There is also a perfectly logical explanation. You healed better than your doctor expected.

My father almost didn't survive heart surgery a few years ago because his bone headed doctor had put him on steroids and never taken him back off again...for ten years. His immune system was shot, his blood was as thin as water. When he finally recovered and went in for his check up, his doctor said, "Wow! I never thought I'd see you alive again!"

Having your doctor be wrong doesn't make the cure a miracle.

That's not to say that good old Mother Teresa didn't intercede for you and that your prayers weren't answered. Clearly your prayers were answered. But the whole thing just isn't going to cut it on the miracle front.

Which brings me to this question, which I am so happy to discuss:

Sister, what can you tell us about the rather unusual artwork illustrating this entry? Not the Miracle lemon polish ad, but the guy (Jesus? Lazarus?) on the slab with what appears to be his leg grown back (or about to fall off?). Every time I look at it I see something new..but I'm not sure what I'm seeing!

No, I can't! That picture is the craziest thing I've seen in a while. I can tell you what it's supposed to be. It's the legend of St. Cosmos and St. Damien, twin brothers who were doctors. In what is known as "the miracle of Cosmos and Damien" (uh-oh), they attempted a leg transplant and sewed a black guy's leg onto their patient. The donor was deceased. As far as I can determine the miracle is that the whole thing was painless. The legend doesn't say if the transplant was rejected or what. I guess it all worked out.

So that's Cosmos and Damien there in the picture on your left. They seem to be holding some left over parts. And why is Cosmos (or Damien) poking Damien (or Cosmos) in the head?

I don't know who that other guy stuck in there in sort of black and white could be. Where's Sister Wendy when we need her? Back in the cloister, I suppose. As a nun, I could make up an answer: St. Luke, physician to St. Paul, assisting the surgery making the whole thing more miraculous. Whoever he is, he also seems to be a master of the pan flute.

Then there's that dog. What's up with that? It looks like they tried to transplant the back half of a rat on the dog or a dog's front on the back half of a rat. Maybe they were practicing transplanting things first. Maybe it's just a creepy painting of a dog and the dog belonged to the black guy and jumped up on the table looking for him.

Maybe it's St. Rock's dog come to help St. Luke assist.

Just when you think you've got some handle on the whole transplant circus, the patient seems to sit up in fear of the naked doctor who has entered brandishing the doctor symbol he must have taken off the wall in the reception area. Or maybe he's the next transplant candidate, as he is having an issue with one of his legs, too. We'll never know.

The dog certainly isn't any help.

The miracle of Cosmos and Damien is usually depicted in a much more sober fashion.

There are other miracles associated with the saintly twin doctors. They were finally turned in for being Christians (funny no one seemed to mind their "Dr. Moreau" experiments..but then, being saints, they never charged a fee). You could argue that two of their other three miracles aren't miracles:

1. They were bound and gagged and thrown into the sea to drown, but their bindings miraculously came loose and they crawled to shore.

(or they weren't tied so tight, or being doctors, they knew some of what Houdini knew and held their breath and tensed their muscles to give themselves some wiggle room)

2. They were burned at the stake, but the flames never touched them.

(or somebody didn't know how to burn a person at the stake and set them too far into the pyre)

3. They were flogged, but they weren't flogged because the lashes wouldn't touch them.
(I can't explain that one. That seems like a miracle.)

Then they were beheaded. That always works.

The story of Cosmos and Damien is not so black and white.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Causes of Saints

Today I stepped out into the street
, that is to say, I was about to step out into the street, when my school bag, which was kind of hanging from my shoulder sideways while I was checking my belt for my key chain (you know, the one that all nuns have...that round silver thing with the retractable cord..it's convent issue along with our 'clickers'), dumped it's contents onto the sidewalk. In a tizzy of embarrassment and frustration, I turned around to grab all my stuff and flying papers. That's when I felt the bus whizzzzz by. Had I stepped into the street I would have been a nun joke. What's black and white and red all over? A nun who got hit by a bus.

A miracle!


Which brings me to today's question from a reader:
Sister can you refresh us on the miracles needed to help a saint along? Can't say I need a miracle right now (unless living with teenagers counts) but if I do how does the system work to ask for, receive, and document a miracle?
Another thing, I feel there are Saints that are working for me but then there are others where I don't seem to get any response at all. Do you know what I mean?

The main issue here is that there really is a miracle going on in the first place. We are so eager to call everything a miracle. Found a parking spot! Miracle! Didn't put on fifty pounds over the holidays! Miracle! Married for 6 years and spouse has not been murdered! Alarm clock didn't go off but woke up in time for work anyhow! Power goes off right after a trip to the grocery store but comes back on before the ice cream melts! Miracles!

To be accepted by the church of proof that an extraordinarily holy person has gone to heaven, we have to have something wonderful happen that is instantaneous and unexplainable. That's why cures make for good miracles. If you were riddled with cancer this morning and cancer free this afternoon with nothing but a prayer for the intercession of St. Peregrine at noon, we can talk about a miracle.

This really happened: Dateline Santa Monica, CA. A man is sitting in his house when, out of nowhere, he gets the urge to walk his dog. It is the middle of the afternoon. He never ever walks his dog in the middle of the afternoon, but before we can say 'dogs don't go to heaven', he's out with the dog. While he is away, a workman hits an gas pipe and the house is blown to splinters. Is it a miracle that he was moved to walk his dog? Was it a miracle he wasn't blown to bits?

No. It was great for him. And his dog (who doesn't have to worry yet whether or not the Pearly Gates are closed for him). But it was not a miracle.

Now, if he had left his house BLIND and come back and SEEN that the house was blown to bits, THAT would be a miracle.

The stakes are high.

There is no system to ask for a miracle. You just ask.
"Knock and the door shall be opened." --Jesus
(Just not necessarily the door on which you are knocking.)
You can pray for the intercession of St. Monica (the patron saint of mothers with teens) for your miracle. If it happens you won't need any documentation, as St. Monica is already a canonized saint.

The documentation part happens when a holy person is not yet canonized. You might want to look around for someone who is "Venerable" (no miracles yet, but a good candidate for sainthood) or "Blessed" (pronounced in this case 'Bles-sed", not "blest"...sort of like "defense" and "DEE fense"...we don't call it the department of "DEEfense", that's just for sports....what was I talking about...?). A person who is Bles-sed is a person who already has one miracle under their belt and just needs another one to be canonized.

Mother Teresa is hanging around that way. So is Pope John Paul II. You could get on their bandwagons. People who are in the canonization pipeline have bandwagons for you to join.

Anyhow, then you would get your proof, like a note from your doctor (it will actually take more than one doctor and some eye witnesses) saying that your leg grew back or whatever, then you write to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. They're the investigative team that will fact check whether or not you were missing a leg and whether or not it grew back.

Another thing, I feel there are Saints that are working for me but then there are others where I don't seem to get any response at all. Do you know what I mean?

I don't know what you mean. You mean your prayer doesn't seem to have been answered? Some saints are very reliable (like St. Anthony, he finds EVERYTHING) and others don't seem to help? St. Boniface didn't find you a parking space? Mother Cabrini didn't make your car turn over? St. Augustine didn't cure your hangover. (You should have tried St. Bibiana, the official patron saint for hangovers.She had to drink lead.) Maybe you've been praying for the intercession of St. Raymond Nonnatus. He had his mouth padlocked shut.

Or are you having a Mother Teresa meltdown, where you just don't 'feel it'.

Have faith. It may not have been a miracle but somebody dumped out my bag.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Nun Better

Nuns are better than ever. I truly believe this and for good reason. Two good reasons, truth be told. For one thing, today women who join the convent go because they truly have a calling and for another, the women today who join the convent have a better education going in and have more education after they join.

I can tell you (I have told you) that this was certainly not always the case. I'm not the only girl who slunk off to the convent because I felt I had no other prospects. I wasn't the first and I certainly wasn't the last. Galileo, for example, had two daughters. They were both born out of wedlock and so they could never be married. Off they both went to the convent. One took to the religious life like a duck to water, but the other languished the rest of her life in bitter misery.

Lucky for us she went to a cloister and not in front of a roomful of second graders. Because if she had she might have done something like a nun I knew who shall remain nameless. Sister St. John Doe clocked one of her third graders on the head with a pile of hard flat music books in a fit of un-Christlike pique and the child was out cold. Stunned into silence by what they thought was the death of a classmate, she easily lined up the rest of the students to go outside for recess. They each quietly stepped over their fallen comrade on the way out. You would think his parents would have had something to say about it, but the truth is, in those days, if they had found out that he had made the nun so angry that she gave him a music book pile driver that didn't kill him, they would have finished the job at home.

Times change.

Nuns also used to make things up. Sometimes it was much easier to catch on that Sister had some odd beliefs. I think the nuns who told us that anyone who raises their hand to strike a nun or a priest would have their arms freeze in the arm forever might have been using that old chestnut as a preventative measure. Certainly we figured out that it wasn't true, just like we managed to figure out there is no Santa Claus because one guy could never fly around all night and hit every single house or fit all those toys in his sled or get into my house which was locked up like Fort Knox at night and had no chimney. Certainly there would have been a couple of people walking around with their arms frozen in the air forever. Such was not the case.

But some things were much harder to realize. Right here we had the discussion about whether or not animals go to heaven, for example, and I mentioned that while the Church has no official comment on the matter, every nun who ever taught me said that since animals have no immortal souls they cannot go to heaven. Made sense to me. Not one of them ever mentioned that that might be their own personal (albeit shared) opinion. I have learned to fact check nuns.

Which brings me to today's question from a reader:
Speaking of the Church Militant, Sister. My parish bulletin is listing activities at a "Center for Spiritual Development Center" that is run by a group of nuns (this group is a bit out there on the "ecumenical fringe"). Their lead announcement is about "Zen Meditation."

Should one speak out about this? What is the right way to combat a watering down of our Catholic faith? It seems speaking out gets one labeled and then shuffled off to a corner with the other "conservatives." How does one defend the faith WITHIN the Church?

I wouldn't worry too much about it. You don't even know what they're going to say about 'Zen Meditation'. Perhaps they're going to talk about what the difference is between this popular form of mediation (which involves emptying the mind), and Catholic mediation (which involves filling the mind with thoughts of Jesus). That would be a very helpful seminar.

Speaking of filling your mind with thoughts of Jesus, He was out there on the "ecumenical fringe", back in the day, you may recall.

You better find out about what is actually going on before you try to 'combat' anything, unless you want to go around acting like one of those crazy nuns.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Church Militant

I can't let September 17th pass without mention of our patron saint of the day, Hildegard von Bingen. Actually, she is our patron Blessed of the day, because she's not a saint yet. She won't be a saint until she has another miracle under her belt and that won't happen unless someone stands up and sings about her, which would be appropriate because she wrote a lot of music.

She lived in the middle ages at a time when no one listened to woman much at all, except when their mothers screamed at them to watch out for the mongrel hoardes that may ravage their village and to stay out of the bog. Hildegard was consulted by bishops, popes and kings.

Very remarkable considering she was home schooled, so to speak, by a woman who walled herself up in the back of a church. Such a person is called an anchoress. Unless the person is a man. Then the person is called an anchor. These people lived lives of austerity walled into a small room next to a church. They had only a small window through with to communicate with the outside world. That means someone had to pass food in and some pretty distasteful things out through that window.

Now, let's face it, if you or I were stuck with that daily duty we wouldn't think of the person as an anchor anymore. We'd think of them more like a millstone.

But someone must have stepped up to the plate for these folks and done this tiresome job. I find that someone is almost always ready to step up and help out holy people and the clergy. (Note to self: step up when needed.)

Hildegard was taught by the anchoress, Jutta. Good old Jutta was very beautiful but not such a hot teacher, because poor Hildegard was always very embarassed by her own lack of writing skills. (Luckily, our home schoolers today have internet tools and networking and home schooling kits so their children don't all end up only able to embroider with no other skills, even the boys. Today's home schooled children also know that Adam and Eve didn't ride around on dinosaurs...the Catholic ones, anyhow.) That's why it took Hildegard quite some time to write about her amazing visions and mystical experiences. Lucky for her there where people who stepped up and acted as secretaries for her or we'd never know that at some point God went right into her brain and explained THE MEANING OF LIFE.

Or something to that effect.

We're also lucky that Jutta, unlike most anchoresses, had a door. That's how Hildegard got in to be educated and out to tell the tale. Because, really, who would want to hang around talking through that window? Heaven knows what dripped on that sill. I hope the food passers were also good scrubbers.

I'm glad to be able to mention Blessed Hildegard von Bingen, especially after having had this comment from a reader in regard to the Santa Barbara nuns who are being evicted from their convent.

How about we let the superior of this order do her job and we continue to pray for ALL religious trusting Our Lord to do what's best eh?

Okay. Let's.

But let's also live up to our name: The Church Militant. That would include anyone who is alive on earth.

Let's remember that no one would become a saint without the call of the Church Militant. Lets' remember that Hildegard wouldn't have written anything down if people had bugged her about it and helped her with it and that anchors and anchoresses would have starved to death in their own filth without us.

And that sometimes everyone needs help, including bishops, popes and kings. (And Mother Superiors.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Come to the Stable in Santa Barbara

I wish I could show you a picture of Mr. Anthony Dal Bello. He's the gentleman in charge of the committee to help the Santa Barbara nuns. I happened to catch him on the local news here in Los Angeles and he happened to be standing inside the convent in front of a picture of the founder of the Santa Barbara nuns order. I think it was her picture. It was a nun in a full habit.

But it could have been a picture of Mr. Anthony Dal Bello in a habit. No wonder he has such an affinity for the nuns. I wonder if he noticed the stunning resemblance.

I can't show you Mr. Dal Bello's picture but I can pass on the information of how to help the nuns and I will urge you to do so in any way you can. The nuns either need a new residence in the area or they need a Bill Gates type to buy the house and give it to them. Stranger things have happened.

We need to call on St. Mother Frances Cabrini, the champion of nuns who got people to do things that needed doing (and fixing your car and finding parking spots). Mother Cabrini hitched a ride one day with a rich woman. Making small talk, she told the woman about a dream she had and pointed to a nearby hillside where Mother Cabrini longed to build a hospital. No wait, it was an orphanage. Hold on....maybe a school...the hospital on a hill dream is from the movie, "Come to the Stable." Anyhow, it turned out that the rich woman with the fancy car owned the hill and gave it to Mother Cabrini. Mother Cabrini built something good there.

You recall the other day when I brought all of this up. My main intention was to explain how nuns come to be where they are, doing what they do. I should have just made it your homework to go watch "Come to the Stable". That would have saved me some time. For one thing, Loretta Young makes the very best nun ever, and Celeste Holm reminds be of Sister St. Aloysius with a French accent. But mainly because it is a fairly accurate description of now nuns operate. Faith, then action, then faith again, on and on and on.

It's faith time for the nuns and action time for everyone else.

We've had a lot of discussion about scandal and fairness. We can talk about that until the cows come home. The nuns' cows are already home. They have until December to GET OUT. It's time for us to drop everything focus on helping their mission.

So here is the link and the information:
Anthony Dal Bello at bello510@verizon.net

Your homework is to at least pay a visit or write to the nuns at the convent, 215 N. Nopal St., Santa Barbara, CA 93103.

I won't be able to check your work. Please remember to use complete sentences.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Good-bye Sisters! Don't Let the Door Hit You......

Before I could get it together to write about this phenomenon, my readers were already asking about it. Three nuns live in a house together, an old one, a crotchety one who still works and a younger nun who cooks for everyone. It's not a new sitcom. It's pretty much how a lot of nuns live these days. It's how I live. But the story is not mine.

Unlike the Cavemen in the commercial, who ended up getting their own television show, nuns toil in the background trying to figure out where they can do the most good. Once they figure that out, they have to get support in their mission from their Mother House and from the Archdiocese. Nuns can't just run off willy nilly doing what ever good they feel like doing. They have to have it approved.

But once they have it approved they are pretty much on their own to complete the mission. No up armored humvees will come their way. At first they'll be lucky to pull off a bake sale. Even Mother Teresa had to trudge off to India on her own dime, gather up the sick people off the street and find some housing for them and for herself.

They beg, they plead, they work. They are unstoppable. They found schools, hospitals, orphanages, hospice care and old folks homes. They don't care a fig about what they have or don't have for themselves, except that maybe it's good if the car runs so they can get there to help people faster. It's all about the mission.

They do this because they are nuns. They are married to Jesus and this is what Jesus wants them to do.

I should include myself when I say 'they'. (I'm married to Jesus the Demanding Spouse. What a slave driver. No wonder Mother Teresa was so mad when He stopped talking to her all those years. They managed to work things out.) But today I am really talking about what happened to them. The three nuns who live in a house, the old one, the one still at work and the young cook.

Before you read the story I should tell you that if you haven't had your coffee yet, or said your prayers or you have a headache, you might want to read this when you have your faculties lined up better. I was blindsided by it the other morning and have not yet recovered.

Here's the story. I'll wait for you to catch up.

I haven't collected by own thoughts except for these: Nuns have their hearts broken all the time.
As Mother Teresa discovered, it's one of the chief ways we share in the suffering of Jesus. For example, my mother was raised by nuns in an orphanage. One day the archdiocese sent a letter to the nuns there and told them their services were no longer required. The children went to state facilities and the nuns went off to work elsewhere. Good-bye, Sisters. Don't trip over your hearts on the way out the door!

So we know the three nuns will soldier on. They won't have a sitcom when they move to LA. They will find a new mission and a new house. Meanwhile, they're starring in a horror film.

I'll let you have at it for a bit and then we'll discuss.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tell Me Something Good

I have some really big fish to fry here on the blog, so I want to attend to a couple of small matters before my next big tome. I have a lot of thinking to do about that upcoming tome and I need to sweep out my brain, which is still stuck to my skull from last week's first half week of school. At this point, I'm pleased to announce, all of the children survived and found their way back home from school again(eventually). Some of them now know their own last names. After tomorrow there will be a certain first grader who will be able to tie his shoes. I'll be seeing to that personally.

So here are the two things I have to get out of the way: More on heaven. Readers questions about confession.

More on heaven.

This has really been sticking with me. Friday was the Ladies of the Parish Card Party. It's one of those monthly events that has everyone arguing about what to serve, what type of table decoration will hold the table mints, who's in charge and on and on, every month. Then everyone plays cards and has a great time.

Well, almost everyone. (I myself have a good time watching them have a good time as long as I know they've settled on who will put up the chairs and tables when they are done. I'll have an even better time if I know that person knows how to stack the tables and chairs properly so that an hour later we don't hear a horrible crash when they all slide to the floor.)Sometimes there is resentment about who did what, who didn't do much, who feels slighted and who feels put upon.

And in this regard my two topics meld. I have to hear confessions. Not Confessions. Don't get your socks rolled up. Only a priest can hear Confessions. (And only men are priests. There are no men within a mile of the Ladies Card Party, unless you count our janitor, Mr. Schlaganhoff. He's cowering somewhere waiting for the tables to crash.)

No, I hear the confessions of who did or did not do what they were supposed to do, why someone feels slighted and who got put upon. Last year one of the women told me she was so tried of how put upon she was feeling that she was going to change parishes. Not only was she doing most of the heavy lifting for the Card Party, she was always left holding the empty box and the bill for the donuts for "Breakfast with Father" every other Saturday.

I generally just take it all in, because during a confession (small 'c'), people just want to vent. I can listen to people vent all day. I'll confess. I get a bang out of it. It's almost always funny to listen to people go on about their tribulations, the petty ones. It helps them get it off of their chests and it helps me think about my own stupid gripes and just drop them. It's a win/win.

But at the point where someone's going to change parishes because they have just had it with the people around them or the music that's playing or the organ being too loud (that's a real big one in our parish...it's a real big organ) I just have to say, "What do you think heaven will be like? Are you hoping none of these people get in? "

Seriously, people, who do you think you're going to be sitting next to in heaven? If right now you sit on the other side of the pew or go in the other door so you don't have to look Mrs. Blarney in the eye, you're going to have a big problem when she's seated at your right hand in heaven, eating the donuts you paid for. Perhaps the two of you will have to arm wrestle it out over a few hundred years in Purgatory. Or however long it takes. It does make me worry about another War in Heaven.

Oh well.

Readers questions about Confession:
I was a nervous wreck going into confession. Seriously - drenched with sweat, light-headed, my mind went blank. I'm not sure why, because I had desired to have this sacrament for so long but was unable until my marriage was convalidated. Father was very gentle, just wonderful (bless him!!) and gave me absolution for all the confessed sins and those forgotten.

I still feel heavy in a way though.. because in my nervousness I didn't really cover some things I wanted to have totally forgiven. Is it ok to go over those things next week? I have read that any unconfessed mortal sin makes the absolution invalid. Did I do that? Not even sure.....but I want to do this right.

Everything is totally forgiven as of Father's absolution. It's only when you leave things out on purpose that you have a problem. Not only do you not get absolution for the sins you left out, you've committed yet another sin by leaving them out on purpose. May as well march right back in there. Or over there, depending what type of Confession you have.
But you can go over the old list again if it makes you feel better. Part of the purpose of Confession is to make you feel better. I say "Go for it!"


no way can I remember 50-odd years of sins. Impossible. How to even begin. The task is so onerous I fear I won't be able to even start. And what priest will want to listen to a multi-page list of sins?

When one does this at so advanced an age, is it not sufficient to list what I consider my largest faults/sins & just say "I'm sorry," in general, for everything wrong I've done all my life? Does one really have to remember & confess to every single thing? I'm not even talking about things like murder or grand theft auto (ha) but simply being rude, insincere, lying, the myriad things most people do every day without even thinking much about it? No one can remember every little thing after a lifetime like this.

No, they can't, unless their name is "Mr. Memory". Go for the big stuff and the reoccurring character flaws. There's a difference between having told some lies and being a liar. There's a difference between being mad at someone and holding a grudge. Just ask Mrs. Blarney, who has noticed that you never sit next to her. Like me, if you're old, you're an old sinner. Be sorry for everything, told, unremembered, oblivious to....

Gotta go. Untied shoe laces beckon.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

School Days

My brain is stuck to my skull. School started on Wednesday. Children are lost, have forgotten their lunch, are dressed inappropriately, can't remember their names. Thanks to our cracker jack staff we've lived to tell the tale and so have the children. I think. I guess I should call their homes and make sure.

Which brings me to today's question from a reader:

A young (30-something) friend of mine teaches in a Catholic School - middle school aged children. She teaches religion, among other subjects.

On a recent retreat, she admitted that, while she calls herself a Catholic, she doesn't believe in The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Pope's infallability, celibacy for priests, male-only priesthood, Purgatory, Saints, offering sacrifices... the list goes on and on. She feels if "it isn't written in the Bible, it isn't from God." Can you tell she went to a non-Catholic Bible college?

My eyes must have been bugging out of my head - because she took offense at my reaction.

SO - in this day of poor catechesis - what's a person to do? Beg her not to fill children's heads with inaccuracies? Talk to her principal? Ask her why she thinks she's a Catholic? I am praying for her, and her students - and ask that others do so as well.

Let's tackle the last part first. What's a person to do?

All of the above. She can believe anything she wants, including that aliens have landed and that she is in danger of becoming a giant peapod, but she better be teaching what the Church teaches, so asking her not to fill children's heads with her own made up cafeteria of faith is a good move. So is talking to the principal. I'm not sure asking her why she thinks she's a Catholic is appropriate, but I'd sure like to know the answer to that one.

I'd also like to know how she comes up with the idea that the Blessed Virgin Mary is not in the bible. I'm pretty sure she's mentioned. I'm guessing this teacher is one of those folks who doesn't believe in praying for the intercession of the Blessed Mother. And guess what? That's not a problem. She can skip that altogether as a Catholic. She can skip the intercession of the saints as well. We don't mind. (Even if it means a few less Christmas orders this year.)

But as long as she's at it, I hope she's at least consistent in her beliefs and doesn't ask anyone else to pray for her either. Why bother? It's all between you and Jesus, right? I don't mind. The situation will free up some of our time.

What she can't do is tell people not to believe in intercessory prayer. That would be bad. I have a feeling she actually does believe in intercessory prayer. She does if she's ever asked someone to remember her in their prayers. Perhaps she has a grudge against the saints. Many people do. They make us feel so inadequate, what with getting their fingers chewed off by the Iroquois and being roasted to death on a grill and being shot full of arrows and saying only, "I forgot to duck!" Wait...that was Ronald Reagan.......St. Lawrence had the Reaganesque comment when he was being roasted, "Turn me over, I'm done on this side!" I think he also said something about dinner being ready soon.

Purgatory IS in the Bible. It's just in a part of the Bible that the Protestants threw out. She might want to make sure she has a Catholic Bible. Maccabees 12:46: "Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin." Please explain what this means if there is no Purgatory. Dead people in heaven don't have to be freed from sin. Dead people in hell aren't getting freed from anything. The Catholic church just gave that place a name. A purging place...hmmm a purgatorium.....Purgemart...PurgeyWorld...PurgeInn...

I think they came up with a pretty good name for it.

A more interesting question is: how did Maccabees get thrown out of the Protestant Bible? Martin Luther was mad because the Church was selling indulgences. He was right about that being very bad. The Church at the time actually had a jingle to go with their sales pitch ("As soon as the coin into the coffer rings, another soul into Heaven springs." I hope it had a cathcy tune), that's how bad it was. But then Martin Luther went and just took things out of the Bible he didn't want to be in there. He was mad about indulgences so he took out the reference to Purgatory. Way to go, Martin. Problem solved. Let's all try this tactic at tax time next year. What W-2's?

I'd like to find out what she thinks Jesus meant by, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23). Maybe I only dreamed that was in the Bible. Maybe I read it somewhere else. "Travels with Jesus and His Pals" "Chicken Soup for the Confessional" "All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten...or from Jesus", perhaps.

Here's more on Confession.
And other stuff.

The only area worth discussing on her list (her list so far) is the celibacy thing, since we actually do have some married priests in the Church as we speak.

Oh well. Won't she be surprised if she finds herself in Purgatory with the Blessed Mother bringing her water, while one of her uncatechised students seated next to her mentions that they both would have been better off going to confession once in a while.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Still Sweating

Here near the coast,
it doesn't get so hot as other places in Southern California. Just about the time you wish for air conditioned comfort, the air is cool again. But the last two summers have been brutal. (Because my father threw his milk shake cup down the sewer every day in the summertime for countless years, at least until Mr. Zim died, causing global warming.) We've had to pack Sister Mary Fiacre and Teddy in ice.

Teddy is a big fatso and very hairy and really filthy. When we iced him down he made a brown puddle. He didn't complain, though. Sister Mary Fiacre is....not small. She is sleeping more. I suppose that's a good thing. Unless she's dreaming she's in Purgatory and the Virgin Mary is bringing her ice. (Mary is in charge of Purgatory. She actually sends the angels for the ice.)

Last night on the weather report 'they' said the weather would break today from the triple digit heat. I believe it did a little. Not that I can tell. I think I'm permanently hot, like an old oven with a broken temperature knob. Stuck on high, so to speak. Maybe I'll end up like today's saint of the day, St. Charbel. St. Charbel, dead since 1890-something, is still sweating. He was a monk who lived in the desert. I think he may have been permanently over-heated.

St. Charbel was the son of a mule driver. He took up the hermit life as a monk, and like his hooded brothers before him, tried to get away from people as much as he could, which is the whole point of being a hermit monk. As is often the case, however, people sought him out all the time. Hermit monks have to keep moving further away from people to stay hermits. We all have our crosses to bear.

Things really didn't get interesting for St. Charbel until after he died. His body started to secrete sweat and blood, for one thing. And he performed surgery on a partially paralyzed woman during her sleep. This isn't some ancient rumor, by the way. This was in 1993. The woman had a dream that a hooded monk, later identified in a saint line up as St. Charbel, made a small incision in two places and she woke up from her dream fully recovered from her paralysis. The best part: She had two small incision marks on her body like the ones in the dream.

I often wonder what heaven is like for saints like St. Charbel. I think about things like that when we get stuck in traffic because a Dodger game just ended or the Hollywood Bowl is having Tom Jones sing and 30,000 people, a drop in the bucket compared to the population of heaven, are all trying to get in front of each other to go home. It's amazing to see over 30,000 people at once. Next time you're stuck in traffic and want to swear at them all, please remember that you'll be next to them all in heaven, too. Still want to go?

Maybe that's the reason St. Charbel is still sweating.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My Big Convent in Heaven.

You can well imagine how discombobulated people become at the mere sight of a nun. They often manage to sputter out some kind of question or two about what it's like to be a nun.

People often sputter out inappropriate questions when they are surprised. They ask stupid things. For example, I once witnessed a lady at the grocery store grilling a young woman right there in the pickle aisle about the young woman's two children who were crammed into the shopping cart. The lady was amazed that the young woman had two children so close in age, a boy and a girl.

"They look like they could be the same age!" she exclaimed, as if it were any of her business in the first place.

"They're twins," the young woman replied, lifelessly. Sometimes, if you narrow your eyes and speak with no inflection, people buzz off.

"Oh!," the lady said, clearly relieved that there was some explanation that soothed her mind about this baby factory and her cart full of babies. "Are they identical?"

The most tedious questions I must field on a continuing basis have to do with the fact that I am married to Jesus. There are earnest questions. "Do you where a wedding ring?" "Why are you called a 'bride of Christ?" And then there are the slimy, insinuating questions. "If Jesus is married to all nuns, doesn't that make him a polygamist?" "Aren't you jealous?"

In answer, I narrow my eyes and intone, "Do you think you're going to heaven?"

"Yes," they say, "or at least I hope so!" (Unless they are born again Christians. Some of them have told me they are already penciled in for a spot in heaven.)

"Just you wait, then, " I say with a wry smile. I pop my eyes back to normal and clomp away. Nun shoes are fabulous for clomping away. The clatter of the giant wooden rosary hanging from my belt underscores everything nicely as well, I must say.

Which brings me to today's comment from a reader during our discussion for pets in heaven:

My concern when I get to heaven isn't about any pet - it's about my husbands. My late one and my current one - geesh. I hope they don't fight over me!

You can relax, dear reader. They won't be fighting over you, because all three of you will be married to Jesus once you are in heaven.

Are you polygamists?


Hah! (I'll confess that later.)

There are no marriages in heaven
except everyone's mystical marriage with Jesus. You'll be yourself but you won't be 'boys' or 'girls' anymore, exactly, so it's all okay. You'll be happy to see your loved ones who have made it there and you will see them, but you'll all be busy together loving Jesus. You'll be able to do all this without having to worry about missing an anniversary or sending a check for your nephew's graduation and then having to stew because he not only didn't bother to send you a hand written thank-you note, he didn't even email that he got it.

I digress.

When people ask me how I can stand to be a nun, to give up the things I've given up, I think about heaven. I won't have cable TV there either, I won't have a human husband or children that are mine, just like now. I won't be drinking Gin Ricky's or eating pate, all of a sudden. I'll have my own body in heaven, but I won't eat because I won't have to. I'll still be a girl but it won't matter.

And don't think for one minute that I don't know what everyone's really talking about when they mention "what I've given up". I know. I won't be doing that in heaven, either.

And neither will you.

So what I really mean when I narrow my eyes and flatly say, "Just you wait...." is...

"....because being in heaven is just like being a nun."

Clomp, clomp, clomp.