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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Pain in the Neck

Faithful Catholic writes:
It does my heart good to hear you referring to some of your tasks related to the care of Sr. Mary Fiacre as "a pain in the neck." I care for my two elderly parents, both wheelchair bound and both incontinent. I worry constantly about my attitude about dealing with my "pain in the neck" tasks because I think I shouldn't think of them as such a pain in the neck. I care for them because I love them and because I want to keep the fourth commandment but, I sometimes think I might just be in trouble, not with the letter of the law but, with the spirit of it. Know what I mean? I have this notion in my head that I ought to be rejoicing in the less appealing chores but, I'm not. I feel like I'm cheating when I offer it up. Does this make any sense?

I'm delighted to hear it does your heart good. I've been thinking about bringing it up for some time now. The past year and a half to be exact. I think what stopped me are the gory details of what taking care of Sister Mary Fiacre actually entails, which would be an affront to her dignity.

And mine.

I finally just decided to throw caution to the wind and call a spade a spade. "Pain in the neck" pretty much covers the whole spectrum of chores. I'm very comfortable mentioning that is is indeed a pain in the neck because if it were a barrel of laughs I wouldn't have to offer it up or go searching for the joy in it or any of that. I'd just get up in the morning and say, "Oh Goody! We have some bedding to change for the next hour or so! This is going to be such fun!"

I worry constantly that you are worrying constantly. Your attitude may indeed be a problem. But it might not be. It's a tough nut to crack. Luckily it's nearing Christmas so there are a lot of nutcrackers lying around.

Let's ponder some of the stops along the way of your own private Stations of the Cross.

1. As I said, there would be nothing to offer up if it was jolly in the first place.

2. The joy comes from the suffering.

Wait right here. I need a bigger nutcracker.

Everyone knows that a gift you worked to make or find or buy, especially if we're all aware of all the work you put into it, is the best gift. It's the best gift even if comes out all wonky. It's the best gift because while you were trying to put it all together you were thinking of me.

That's one way to look at it.

Another way is to ponder the words of St. Angeli Merici, who admonished her nuns with this gem, "What you do for these people is more important for you than it is for them." She was talking about their work with the poor. I imagine she was mentioning to them not to get a swell head about all the fine work they were doing, but she ended up saying a real mouthful.

It's more important for you because it brings you humility and compassion that you can't get just going about your business of getting up and having coffee and heading off to work and coming home and watching a little tube and heading off for a good nights' sleep. It will make you stronger and more loving. It will expand the size of your heart the way the Grinch's heart got bigger before he was about to fall off a cliff with all the Christmas toys. It wouldn't do that if it were all easy breezy lemon squeezy.

On top of that, it's the gift that keeps on giving because your work now will expand your compassion to other people who are in the similar positions, which means all old people and the people who care for them, just for starters.

Which is why this is the part of your question I find a little unsettling: I care for them because I love them and because I want to keep the fourth commandment.

Commandment Schammandment, those are people in there! Look, there aren't any old people. You will learn this as you yourself grow old. You will always be about 35. Your body will change, your face will change. You may wonder where you can find the zipper on this 'old suit' you are being forced to wear.

So now, imagine being 35 and having, well, those problems you are dealing with. No fun for you? Imagine what a riot it is for them. They're just a couple of kids!

You don't have to rejoice every time you have to mop up, lift, shuffle, wait, haul, roll, fetch, stand up, sit down, mop up again and listen for odd sounds with radar bat ears. Once in a while is good for starters. Work your way up to most of the time. I'm not sure all of the time is possible.

For those times, offer it up.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Under the Lint Pile

Putting off our Thanksgiving dinner has not gotten us anywhere. We are no more ready for it today than we were last week with the exception of extending our mindful thankful feelings.

What a mess we are in!

We are thankful for the mess. It means we have too much stuff. Do we throw it away or give it away or put it away? I'd like to find a big box and dump it all in there and worry about it next week. Of course, it will stay in there forever, as we will have no more time next week than we do now to pull it all out again and deal with it. I read in a magazine in the doctor's office, while we were there with Sister Mary Fiacre, this helpful advice for when you are expecting guests: put stuff in the washer and the dryer. The guests never look in there. Point taken.

The house is unbelievable dusty and full of cobwebs.

We are thankful we have a house. Moreover, the reason the house is so dusty is because the dryer vent is broken.

We are thankful we have a dryer. The hose has come loose from the back of the dryer and there are holes in it, so every time we run the dryer, which is a lot because we are fond of inviting other people to do their laundry here while they go out and do the important work they have to do instead of standing around at the laundromat, the house fills with steam and lint. The dryer is in the kitchen, so the kitchen is especially linty.

I have tried to fix the dryer situation more than once.

Thankfully, I found this website: Dryer Lint.

I'm thankful I'm physically able to pull the dryer away from the wall, and wiggle it around somehow in the tiny space it occupies, clean out the mess that is always behind and around it and the two feet of lint and get the hose back on there and shove it back against the wall.

I'm thankful I have my cleaning habit and my everyday habit to wear to roll around in the lint.

I'll admit that I'm not thankful that by the time I wiggle the dryer back into it's tiny space the hose has fallen back off again. I've tried tape and those clamp things they sell just for that purpose but the thing you attach the hose to back there is so short the slightest movement knocks the hose back off.

We're thankful that when the house fills with steam we don't have to turn on the heater.

We're thankful that one of our two heaters works.

We're thankful to have blankets since the heater that doesn't work is in the back of the house in the hallway near the bedrooms. I could go the St. Theresa the Little Flower route and sleep with no blanket in the winter and a heavy blanket in the summer. I have considered it. But too many people rely me not having pneumonia to risk it. We had quite a time caring for Sister Mary Fiacre when I broke my toe.

We're thankful to still have Sister Mary Fiacre around. We thought she was going to go on us several times this year. We were mistaken. Twice we thought she was dead only to be reminded that she is a sound sleeper. A very sound sleeper, bless her heart.

That's not to say that taking care of her isn't a pain in the neck. There are things we have to do for her that we'd rather not have to do. I think it's important to mention that, because when people see us joyfully caring for her they think we are somehow immune to what a pain in the neck it is. They imagine that we can handle things they could never handle themselves. Not true. You can do things that are a pain in the neck and be joyful about it too.

Which reminds me of this question! I hope I'm not yammering on too long.

if you read the bible,u will notice that Jesus was sad and prayed alot to be saved from the hour of his murder ...for example,"27"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour." john 12:27

if Jesus was sent to be sacrificed, then do not you think Jesus must have a party in that hour instead of crying and praying to be saved?

I imagine there is some deep theological answer to this found in the pages of St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas. But to me, it isn't rocket science. Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. So even though He knew that He would rise from the dead after the whole ordeal, He wasn't looking forward to the ordeal. His human side said, "Is there some way around this? Let's not and say We did? No? Alright, then."

I don't think throwing a crucifixion party is appropriate. As for the resurrection, we've been having a party every since.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Let's Get Busy

I have my sleeves rolled up.

Speaking of saint-matching and stockings, Sister, whom do you recommend for a young man who likes to be outdoors and active?

My number one choice would be good old St. Sebastian. I have to admit to being a bit of a tomboy myself as a child. I loved my dolls, but I'd chuck them aside to climb trees or fly kites. My kites would go for miles and when they finally went down, the string would stretch halfway across town.

What was I talking about? Oh yes! The boys and I always loved the holy card of St. Sebastian all shot full of arrows tied to a tree. We would haunt the funerals of old parishoners to get a new one. He was right up there with St. Bartholomew, who was even more gruesome with his skin peeled off.

There's also always St. Hubert, who was a hunter and invented the blood hound. But then his name is "Hubert" pronounced "Hew bear" and no one likes to be saddled with that name as a patron saint. Sorry, St. Hubert, but boys don't care for that name. He really looks like a "Hubert", too. I really think St. Sebastian. He really couldn't have been more active and outdoorsy. Here's his story.

Sister, why are some nuns named after men? It always sounds so odd to my ear.

I hope you've gotten over it. We aren't named after men. We are named after saints...who happen to be men. That's why there's no nun named Sister Mary Abe Lincoln or Sister Benjamin Franklin. Would it make you feel better if we only named ourselves after girl saints? Or stuck an 'ette' on the end, and called ourselves Sister Mary Georgette and Sister Mary Sebastianetta? If that doesn't clang on your ear, I don't know what does.

You know, there used to be a lot more nuns. I'm sure we ran out of girl saints very quickly and moved onto the boys. Sort of like when a city has to add a second area code.

Have you done a post on indulgences? I'm particularly interested in plenary ones, for obvious reasons...

Yes, I have, and very recently, you poor lazy thing. Maybe all the tryptophan in the turkey got to you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Whew! Where was I?

Back for jury duty the next afternoon. The day before when we entered the courtroom there was the judge, two defense lawyers, a prosecuting attorney, the bailiff, the court reporter and a woman who explained things to us. On the other side of the court room there was a young man and two other people. We all imagined this might be the defendant.

So the next day we arrived in the afternoon and sat in the jury room until they called us down to the courtroom. This time the young man, the bailiff, the lawyers, the explainer woman were no where to be found. Just the judge seated at the bench and the rest of us all filing in.

"There's good news and bad news, " he said. "The bad news is the there is no trial. The good news is that there is no trial."

So we were off the hook. I guess the first bad news was about us wasting a couple of hours to show up. For some people that was okay news as well, I suspect, as they took a day off from work.

After that the judge gave the most eloquent speech, worthy of the end of a movie or something, about how everyone is very busy and yet WE took the time to do our duty and our justice system would just collapse without people like us. He brought us all very close to the sin of pride. I'm not doing the speech any justice. Perhaps if I had music. Sing the theme song to "Patton" in your head while you tell yourself how you answered the call of duty and you might get the feeling we had when we left.

We had another feeling, though, the nagging one that the young man we saw in the courtroom, who was indeed the defendant, had fought tooth and nail to go to trial and yet had accepted a plea. We don't know what really happened. His lawyers could have been pleading with him to take the plea. They could have been pleading with him to go to trial. He could have been guilty. He could have been innocent.

But now he was going to jail, no matter what. We were discussing this in the elevator on the way down. I say, "we". I hadn't said word one over the day and a half I was there. Watching my "p's" and "q's", I was. Finally, as we got out of the elevator, one woman said, "Oh, well, he must have done something or he wouldn't have been in a courtroom."

Boy, does that frost my cookies when I hear that type of thing. I finally piped up.
"That's what the Dutch said about the Jews, " I said. Everyone heard me. I heard the slight gasp. Point taken.

Happy Thanksgiving! The rest of us are not in jail! There's something to be thankful for, right there!

We haven't had our Thanksgiving dinner yet. We've been too busy. Don't worry. We were thankful. We just didn't have the dinner. We'll have it this week sometime. Sister St. Aloysius has picked out the most marvelous sounding pie. Apple with caramel. She actually laid eyes on such a pie in the freezer section of the store. Thank you, Sara Lee. Another thing for which to give thanks. Anyhow, Sister St. Aloysius decided she could come up with her own version.

I think we'll have our dinner on Saturday after we dust the pews while everyone else is going to Saturday evening Mass. The next question is....what shall we have? When people found out we didn't have time to make a turkey dinner, what with me taking the car to jury duty and getting the church ready for Thanksgiving and no time to go shopping even though we always go on Wednesdays, they brought us dinner (for which we are truly thankful). We've had turkey with all the trimmings for three days now. I'm thinking lasagna. Pot Roast. Beef Stroganoff.

Tomorrow I'll answer some questions. Here's an easy one for starters.

OK, here's a question to mull over. When the priest consecrates the bread and wine, how far (geographically) does that go?

The answer is three feet seven inches,depending on how tall Father is.

More or less.

The priest consecrates all the hosts he is consecrating no matter where they are, but they are pretty much right in front of him.

Maybe four feet, tops.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Jury Room

The woman in charge of the jury room explained to all one hundred of us that if we weren't called into a jury today, we would be done until next year. So we sat in a room all day. Someone got up and turned the TV from the Today Show to a channel I was aware of but had never sat through. I didn't realize there was a judge show channel that shows nothing but judge shows all day.

I found it ironic that this room full of people, not one of whom wanted to be there, would sit still for judge shows all day, but they did, all one hundred of them.

Well, maybe eighty of them. Five were on the internet, a few had books.....I had the paper and read a story about a man in Texas who spends all his spare time gleefully killing wild boars, which, according to the story, have taken over Texas. The wild boars are really smart, travel in a large group, and seem to be always a step ahead of this man who loves to kill them. If you are in Texas and you need some pigs killed, call this man. You don't even have to pay him, he loves it so much. He just wants you to buy the bullets.

I did a sudoku. It's Monday, so it's a really easy one.

I said a rosary. I didn't drag a rosary out. I just used my fingers. Luckily, I have all ten. I've never quite understood the need for chaplets or those little rings when you have a perfectly good set of fingers. If you do, that is. I have two friends who do not. I don't want to upset them by suggesting they use their finger parts to count.

Then I noticed that there were a line of pictures on the wall of people who had proudly served on juries. This is the Los Angeles County Judicial System. On the wall were Jamie Lee Curtis, Harrison Ford and Judge Lance Ito, among others. I didn't know judges had to serve on juries on top of being judges. I would think they would be dumped right away by the lawyers picking their juries, for the sake of winning future points with the judges. I'm sure the judges don't want to serve on the jury, either.

The woman in charge of the jury room had explained that if we didn't get taken in for a trial by around four o'clock, we would be released. At eleven in the morning she said there would only be one trial that day, that the other trial of the day had been dropped. It seems most cases plead out.

So at three thirty, during Oprah (what was she doing on the judge channel?), we were feeling pretty relaxed. I had a Pepsi! I said a prayer for "Mr. Whipple" who has passed on to the great grocery store in the sky. I was so surprised to see that he passed away. I thought he was dead a long time ago. I made that mistake with Leonard Bernstein years ago, too.

But not so fast...At ten to four all hundred of us were herded into a court room for a criminal trial. We were sworn in. God was not mentioned, by the way. Tomorrow we all have to go back to see which of us winds up on the jury. I'm fairly certain that I'll end up like I imagine Judge Lance Ito did, bounced. I saw the judge see me. He tried not to react, but his hairline moved back about an inch. Otherwise, he had a great poker face.

So, even though I asked you to reiterate your questions, I won't be able to answer them just yet. I'm tired and stupid from watching judge shows all day and reading about the plight of Texas under the scourge of rampant pigs. Feel free to add questions to the list. I can mull them over if I don't have to decide a man's fate.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jury Duty

I am behind the eight ball. I think that even if I was in front of the eight ball I would be mowed down by the eight ball. We are so busy with Thanksgiving just around the corner. Sister St. Aloysius is up to her eyeballs in new pie recipes. She likes to make at least one new thing per holiday. I say, "give it the Fiacre test. Show Sister Mary Fiacre a picture of the new pie and see if you get any response. If she perks up, there's your winner."

I've mentioned before that we are big coupon clippers. There are great recipes around this time of year with accompanying coupons. I know the two of them are putting their head and a half together.

And of course our little saint matching business always picks up around the holidays, as we make a great stocking stuffer.

So if that wasn't enough to keep me hopping, I have jury duty. I have to report bright and early at the court house to put in for my good citizenship medal. If I'm lucky, they'll toss me right on out and I'll be home by noon for lunch and can pop back over to school to mimeograph the songs for our Christmas program.

(Not really. We don't mimeograph anymore. That's good, because I think people enjoyed inhaling the mimeograph ink way too much. On the other hand, the office staff was almost always in a good mood. Then again, try to find something that was supposed to be filed! No wonder they never seemed to care when things went missing.)

I can't picture myself on a jury. I'm not very gung ho about criminal justice. People like that Nancy Grace woman scare me. I'm amazed that a woman named "grace" enjoys the prospect of revenge so very much. I can't believe a woman named "grace" can spend an hour a day gossiping about alleged criminal behavior based on the thin air of the opinion of another guest who enjoys revenge as much as Nancy does.

I also can't picture myself looking at the poor sad saps that have committed crimes (or not)and being the person responsible for jailing the pathetic bird. I would rather pray for them.

I suppose I can do both. I am one of those people who can walk and talk at the same time, although at my age, if I talk too much while I'm walking, I get winded.

So tomorrow I'll be at the court house until someone figures out I might not make a good juror. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Meanwhile, I've been so behind, if I've missed answering anyone's questions, please be so kind as to ask again to remind me. I promise I'll catch up. This is the only question I'm aware that I've missed:

Is this the convent cat?

No, that is Nora, the cat that plays the piano. Teddy has no talent.

Perhaps that isn't fair. He is a good mouser and he is the mayor of our block. He stands outside on the sidewalk at rush hour (morning and evening) and greets everyone going to and coming from work. He's very punctual and conscientious. When he wants back in he knocks on the door. We've never seen him do it, but we hear the knock. I think he somehow slams the screen door into the door jam and it sounds like knocking. It's not talent. But is it polite.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Child Heaven

My fifth birthday is the first birthday I remember. Clearly I had had four other birthdays. In fact, my mother loves to show the famous (in my family) picture of me when I was presented in my high chair with my very first birthday cake. I just leaned over and bit into it. (It's been a rule of thumb for the rest of my life, I suppose.) There are actually three snapshots that tell the tale. The fat baby in her immaculate white baby dress, her eyes wide at the whole cake with one candle set before her. The baby with her whole head in the cake. The baby covered in cake.

I don't remember biting the cake. But I do remember my fifth birthday with it's most wonderful present, my own child sized umbrella. It was white with a red design. I was born in the spring and used it all through the spring showers. I remember receiving it and jumping from rock to rock in the garden with the umbrella open over my head. I was in heaven.

A child's heaven.

Today's question:

Not related to this article, but I have a question about scapulars. My 5 year old daughter is completely unresponsive to our Faith. She wants nothing to do with going to Mass, praying and the CFF classes I teach my kids at home. (note: my other 3 children were not excited about it at this age, but not fighting me either). Someone had mentioned a scapular under the mattress for conversion but she doesn't need conversion, she needs something else altogether. Mind you, we don't give her a choice in any of these matters, but I am hoping to see some love of God expressed in some way from her! Any suggestions?
Another question: I have heard that Pope Benedict XVI is coming to D.C. and I will be trying to get the (most likely impossible to get) tickets to see him. Any saint you can suggest for intercession?

Have you tried hitting her with a ruler? That always worked for us back in the old days.


When my little nephew was three I was so pleased to take him to Mass with the family. I told him that he must sit still and be quiet while we were in church because it was God's house.

He was as good as gold. He sat very quietly for quite a while. And then he said, "I don't think He's home."

You can't shove religion, faith and God down the throat of a tot. I wouldn't worry about it. Look at me! All I cared about when I was five was my little red and white umbrella. I turned out alright.

The more you try to shove Jesus at her, the more she'll resist. Jesus will become like going to bed early and eating peas and having to taste one bite of whatever frightening glob your mother is calling dinner tonight instead of just letting you eat macaroni and cheese every day. God's house will be a boring place where you have to be quiet when, as far as you can tell, He's never in there.

Unless all her mother cares about is her umbrella, your daughter will want to be a part of the family and do the things the family is doing. The next thing you know she'll be very excited about her First Holy Communion. What little girl doesn't love to have a new fancy dress? And her own pink rosary? and her own white prayer book?

Christmas is coming. Have you done the "straw in the manger' game with your children?
She might enjoy that one. You get out the empty manger, which is pretty uncomfortable looking, and explain that the baby Jesus will have to sleep there when he arrives. It is up to them to fix up the manger for the Baby Jesus. Every time they do something good they get a straw to put in the manger.

Better yet, if they don't behave, a straw is removed.

They won't want to make the Baby Jesus uncomfortable. Ah, Catholic guilt, instilled from the cradle.

It works a lot better than the ruler. Almost as good as "Santa is watching...."

As for a saint to get you Pope tickets...there are few I would try. St. George is the patron saint of England and therefore the patron saint of getting Stones tickets. With this in mind, the patron saint of Washington DC is our Immaculate Lady.

OR..how about Padre Pio? He could be in more than one place at a time, maybe he could save your seat.

OR..if we go with the idea that a patron saint is someone who has had the same struggle you have, we'd look for someone who was kept out of something in which he wanted take part. Like St. Martin de Porres, who was considered too dumb a bunny to so anything but sweep the floor. He could bi locate also.!

In fact, I think he's your man. Because he could really get people where they wanted to go. Once when he and the brothers were out on a picnic, they realized they had stayed too long and would be late for Vespers. St. Martin had them all hold hands and close their eyes. When he told them to open their eyes they were back at the rectory ready for prayers.

Beam me up, Scottie! Pope Benedict here you come!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Roll Over Beethoven

Nora the cat has more musical ability than fine lute player, Leonardo Da Vinci.

If You Say So....

Usually when we watch CNN to determine our prayer schedule we feel alarmed or sad. Today, although we'll be taking a run at quite a few things on Wolf Blizter's report of the day, we haven't stopped laughing at the latest attempt to wrench even more cryptic nonsense out of Leonardo's famous "Last Supper" painting.

I'm not one of those hand wringers all upset about the "Da Vinci Code". The hand wringers that are all upset about it are upset because the premise of that silly book is that Mary Magdelene and Jesus were married. I'll admit hearing anyone's jaws flap about that causes me to pinch the bridge of my nose with my thumb and forefinger.

But only for a moment because if you ask one question about the silly book, "how do you know Jesus and Mary Magelene were married?", the answer is that Leonardo da Vinci knew all about it and he painted codes into the "Last Supper" so that he could clue people in on this big shocker.

I'm not sure how anyone stays on that train. Senor Da Vinci could just write right across Jesus' forehead, "I am married to Mary Magdelene", for all I care. What does he know? Last time I checked, Leo was not waiting tables at the Last Supper. If anyone needs further proof, next time you see the book in a book store, take stock for just a moment of your surroundings. You will find you are standing in the fiction section.

Today, on the same day there was a UFO conference in Washington with some very serious people, a breathless girl on CNN also told us there is yet another code in the famous "Last Supper". Could it be even more controversial than the "Da Vinci Code?"

I don't see how, seeing that, for the millionth time, Leonardo De Vinci did not actually attend the Last Supper...but okay...let's have it:

This new crackpot has decided that Leonardo put a musical code into the work. If you draw a staff across the painting...actually across the bottom part of the painting...then the bread and people's hands line up and form musical notes.

(I'm not sure why he didn't draw the staff any higher and count people's eyeballs and hairlines as the notes, but he didn't. He picked the bottom part of the painting.)

Then you read the music backwards, as Leonardo liked to write backwards.

Then you play the tune.

"The result is a 40-second "hymn to God" which Mr Pala described as "like a soundtrack that emphasizes the passion of Jesus"."

If part of the Passion of Jesus was listening to a tuneless group of notes, I suppose it does.

We had managed to keep a straight face until they played the tune. There was a music critic on there who actually did manage to keep a straight face the whole time as he explained that Leonardo was a fine lute player and was a hit at parties when he would improvise. The music critic wasn't able to explain why the tune that came out of the painting didn't sound like anything. If Leonardo had run through the streets and asked a number of people to sing one note and then rang back into the house and played each of the notes, it would have probably made a better tune than the bread and hands number. I saw a cat play the piano on YouTube that worked out a lot better.

The aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind had a much better tune going on for themselves.

Maybe they should have gone for the eyeballs and hairlines. Maybe they should have played the tune forward.

The music critic tried to explain it anyway as "Gregorian Chant".

Gregorian chant sounds like the jitterbug music next to the backward bread notes.

The whole story kind of trailed off at that point, because even if such a silly notion is true, which it so obviously wasn't, it still wouldn't tell us anything, like that Jesus actually went back to heaven on a UFO or something. All it tells us is that Leonardo should stick to painting and inventing and leave the music to the monks.

We have time for a question:

Sister, I have a question that is off subject. You have mentioned your scapular before, and I have also noticed others in the blog world mention their personal scapulars. I looked them up on Catholic Online, but I managed to get myself even more confused. Could you perhaps explain these to me (or us)?

I love talking about the scapular and I have more than once.I

Let me know if you have more questions.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shotgun Wedding

Where I have been?

It's not all dusting pews around here. We've been really busy since our saint matching sideline is picking up for the holidays. We've even had customers from Australia and the United Kingdom, which means a trip to the post office.

Unlike everyone else in the world, I like the post office. I find that things get where they are going practically every time I send something out. Things I'm waiting for in the mail arrive for me. Most things get where they are going very quickly. Most of the post office employees are friendly and not surly. They even have a machine there that is usually not broken, so I don't even have to trouble an overworked postal employee and tempt them into being surly, I can just weigh and pay with the machine.

On top of all that, it's a good stretch of the legs for me to walk there. It takes a little longer, but I don't waste gas or pollute the air (something I take very seriously since my father is responsible for global warming), I burn a few calories, keep the old joints oiled and I have a chance to clear my head and think about things.

I have to be careful not to get too lost in thought because about half the walk is along a really busy thoroughfare, down a winding road with a teeny little sidewalk along side. One slight mistake by any driver in the oncoming traffic and I'm a nun pancake. It's a great time to assess my sins and ask forgiveness in case in the next second I am flattened. The final leg of the journey is across a large parking lot that is still too small and cramped for the shopping mecca it services. I cut across a parking lot full of frustrated drivers.

Let me tell you, I take special care when I walk behind anyone who is in their car with the motor running. A lot of these people are old. How do I know if they can tell the gas from the brake? I don't. I am wearing my scapular, but I'm hoping for a peaceful passing. I'd prefer not to be dragged to death through the post office parking lot under the chasis of a Lexus driven by a woman who's line of sight is under the arc of the steering wheel because of her osteoporisis.

That or a martyr's death. We also hope for that. Martyrs go straight to heaven. I don't deserve that trip otherwise. Where are the Iroquois when you need them?

I digress.

So I was lost in thought on the home stretch of the parking lot, dodging old people who shouldn't be driving left and right, when I nearly ran into a van myself. It was parked. It was one of those PT Cruisers. They are very popular out here. And it was decked out for a wedding.

But not because the bride and groom were nearby. It was decked out because it was advertising a business. Marriage to Go.

This could be my big chance to die a martyr's death. If I hang around and explain to them what a bad idea this is, since none of their clients will be married in the Church, and a fight ensues and I'm killed, run over by the decked out PT Cruiser, that might actually count. You have to go defending the faith to qualify. I'm certainly not going to gain martyrdom if one of the postal employees goes you know what and kills me while I'm mailing a saint bracelet to Australia. I just don't think that would count. And I'm not sure it would not count as martyrdom if, while I was waiting for the Marriage to Go driver, one of the old Lexus drivers mowed me down.

Marriage to Go. For when you want to get married in a hurry. That can't be good.

I pressed on.

When little Bernadette did as she was told and asked our Blessed Mother who she might be and Our Blessed Mother told her, "I am the Immaculate Conception," Bernadette had no idea what Our Lady could have possibly meant. Bernadette didn't want to make a mistake, so she repeated the words over and over all the way home so she wouldn't get them wrong. She knew she wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. The nuns at school had pointed that out to her.

So that's what I did. Marriage to Go, marriage to go, I chanted to myself. I wanted to use the Google and find them. I can't fuss too very much. It turns out their intentions are good. Weddings are so expensive and they provide a nice wedding for a fee most people could afford. Too bad it might be some New Agey beach affair. Or some event run by the Separated Brethren. At least it's not what I had imagined: a quick phone call and some guy who can string the words "I now pronounce you man and wife" together shows up at the door with a marriage license and stands around leering after he says, "you may kiss the bride".

Still, I might have to shoot them an email and explain what we really mean by marriage in the Church. Maybe I can ride shotgun on their next trip.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Few Cobwebs

Just a few last thoughts on Purgatory.

If I understood my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary by deMontfort two years ago, any good graces or indulgences I get are immediately taken by Mary to dispense where she knows God knows it is best. Correct me if I'm wrong. But, I'm all over that, because I love to share and I'd like to share a space in Heaven some day.

You're half right. You can designate your indulgences for someone you think might be in Purgatory, like your poor Uncle Dave (for all those times no one knew where he was). Then, if Uncle Dave has moved on from Purgatory, or he had managed to keep his scapular on, or he had just walked through a Jubilee Door when he dropped dead, the indulgences go into the great Treasury of indulgences. Mary is in charge of all that. She must have a really pretty box in which to keep them all.

I'm glad it's up to her to sort it out. I certainly couldn't.

You stated that the souls in Purgatory are burning. If that's so, then what is Hell, aren't they burning as well. Is the difference only that you get to leave one and the other you don't?

We don't really know what goes on. We do. But we don't. We know it's unpleasant because you are separated from God right when you're on the home stretch. You're suffering, but you are ecstatically happy because you are going to heaven. You're not going to fail and get dumped down the Purgatory coal chute into Hell.

We also know it's unpleasant because the whole point of being there is temporal punishment for sins. We think it's on fire because souls from Purgatory have shown up to talk to various saints and when the souls paid those visits they mentioned that they were on fire.

Now, you don't have to believe anything anyone says about souls coming out of Purgatory. You don't have to accept that souls are talking to them and begging for prayers and telling various saints that they are burning and on fire and miserable and the like. You don't have to believe that certain saints went on tours of Purgatory (and Hell)and got a bird's eye view. These things fall under the category of 'private revelations'. You can completely ignore any and all private revelations, it's totally up to you. You can toss out Mary sightings, Jesus visits, visions of heaven, angels who leave their calling cards. You don't have to believe a word little Bernadette said about Lourdes, or the children of Fatima.

The Church lets you know which things are worthy of your belief if you choose to believe them. After that, you can dump it all.

I wouldn't advise it. We have some valuable information from those visits, like the "one hour in Purgatory = 60 years" on earth rule.

Although, there is no time in Purgatory because Purgatory is outside of time. But don't worry about it. It's a 'Sacred Mystery'.

Catholic for 'let it go.'

I have seen references in a lot of works to spiritual directors. I have read a lot of Aquinas and other doctors of the church and I want build my faith more and work on my areas of imperfection. I love the idea of having a spiritual director to guide me along the right path. How does one go about obtaining one? My priest is such a busy man. I am wondering if you have any advice or if this was just a silly medieval tradition that is no longer continued and I should just stick to the couple minutes in confession.

It's not a silly medieval tradition. But good luck finding someone. Your best bet is to at least ask your priest about it. He might be happy to help. He might surprise you and become your spiritual director. After all, most people think it's a silly medieval tradition, so the post is not exactly in demand. Other than every President yammering with Billy Graham, you never really hear about anyone being spiritually directed. But they're out there.

I tried that for you. It's a list of crack pots and lunatics.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Who Gets the Candy

I think my head is clear today. Maybe. I'm surprised my last post made a lick of sense. For one thing, I've always had trouble explaining the Jubilee Door even when my head isn't swimming with bite size Snickers.

I did remember why we decided to keep the candy. There were several reasons. For one thing, no one wants it. Everybody else is already trying to give away their left over candy. The Ladies of Charity, the nurses at the hospital, the kid next door, all already have a giant bowls of candy that people who were thinking faster gave them. "Here! Take this candy!" We hear it on the breeze.

Besides, Sister Mary Fiacre loves it. If Sister St. Aloysius and I can keep our mitts off it, Sister St. Fiacre will be rolling in candy for some time to come. I have indulged enough.

This being All Soul's Day, we have the perfect question for the day, a follow up from my ramblings yesterday.

Here's a question for you, Sister: Can I (or anyone else) offer an indulgence that they gained for someone ELSE's benefit? Can I offer it for a friend or relative near death? Or for a soul in Purgatory? I believe one can offer their Indulgences to Jesus or Mary for them to use as they wish (such as for reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart) rather than one's own benefit but can WE also decide or at least ASK that our Indulgences be applied to someone else?

Yes, they can and I'll confess to you that I see no point in racking up indulgences for yourself in the first place. Unlike the Halloween candy, everybody will gladly accept your kind gift of time off of their Purgatory sentence. I feel selfish gaining indulgences for myself, the same way I do when I eat what is now Sister Mary Fiacre's candy stash.

....that's a drug term, isn't it? Why do I know things I don't want to know about?

Where were we?

Keeping indulgences to yourself is all the more selfish when you understand that you can't give them away to other people or even dying people. You can only keep them for yourself or give them to the Souls in Purgatory. How could you keep them to yourself, knowing this? Those people are on fire.

By the way, you can only gain one plenary indulgence per day. You could spend just about all your time keeping yourself out of Purgatory and still be too selfish to become a saint. Ironic.

It's All Soul's Day. Get busy.

One last question, which I am thrilled to answer because it is a big pet peeve of mine:

" no kid has ever been poisoned by Halloween candy, "

Are you sure? Were all those scare stories about poison, pins & needles in the apples, etc., a hoax? Or are you saying that luckily no child has yet died?

That is exactly the case. It is a hoax. No child has even been poisoned. The rare instances of a 'needle in the apple' have happened maybe 8 times since NINETEEN FIFTY NINE. Almost all of those cases were 'the big brother trying to scare the little brother'. No one hands out apples anymore, if they know what's good for them anyhow. People are so gullible and scaredy-catty these days. We didn't even have seat belts in cars when I was a little girl. Not that that is a good thing.....

But this Halloween poisoning nonsense has got to stop so the kids can get back out there and trick or treat and not leave me with a giant bowl of candy that I can't give away, even to the Souls in Purgatory.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Soul Candy


We've had some candy.

We should have just given it away. But we had a piece or two, or three or four. We had a total of four treat or treaters. Treat or treating is slowly fading. The truth is no kid has ever been poisoned by Halloween candy, let alone Halloween candy given out by nuns.

The terrorists win again. Or maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses won.

So from my candy stupor, I will try to answer this question:

Reading this post sparked another question about Jubilee and the Holy Door I entered during the last Jubilee year (can't recall the specific year--not because of hard livin' but rather because I have 3 young children). Was it 2000?

Anyway, I was in a state of Grace, entered the Door, attended Mass, and then exited the same Holy Door (at the Shrine of St. Francis in San Francisco, CA).

But that was seven years ago, and well, I fall in and out of Grace.

Have I lost my Jubilee Indulgence because of this? Or, as long as I die in having made a good confession (and I don't manage to mess that up before I kick the bucket) am I still worthy of this promise?

Thank you for reading this.

You seem to be all confused about indulgences. Did you dress as Martin Luther for Halloween?

Let's understand what an indulgence is all about.

Indulgences 101
(Having nothing to do with eating too much candy or any other luxury)

Jesus gave His church the power to bind and loose sins. "Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them." Jesus had that odd grammar. Anyhow, it sounds great but it's really not that simple for the priest who has to bind and loose. Not only does he have to forgive you on Jesus' behalf, he has to punish you for Jesus. Sins must have punishment attached. If you don't get that stain of sin off your soul here on earth while you're alive, you'll have to do it after you die, in Purgatory.

The Church has to decide, on behalf of Jesus, how to help you out.

An indulgence removes part of the punishment you have coming. I think of it as Purgatory parole, but some people take exception to that analogy. I think it's perfect. A parolee is paroled because he has fully reconciled his crime and his place in society.

A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment. woo hooo! Your sentence has been commuted! High fives to you and Scooter Libby.

Here's where the excess candy is going to slow me down...the Jubilee Door. It's history goes back to at least the 14th century and has it's roots in early Jewish customs.
The door is walled up and then the Pope knocks it down with three taps of his silver hammer. (The wall has already been loosened up pretty well so that the taps will knock a hole in it. It's all symbolic, you know.) Perhaps the same silver hammer they hit him in the head with when he dies. I'm not sure about that. I think they stopped hitting him in the head after he dies. I read all about that and forgot everything I read. What was I talking about?

The idea is to have a sort of party year every 25 years (give or take depending on what's going on, for example, there was on in 1925, but there was also one in 1933 to commemorate the death of Jesus), go through the party door, be jubilant, come out full of grace. You can't, as you mentioned, just stroll in. You have to prepare with confession and basilica visits and Mass and a charitable work or two.

And you used to have to actually go to Rome or the Holy Land and walk through the door. The Jubilee year of which you speak was a special year because you could practically have a Jubilee drive through window in your backyard to participate. The Pope bent over backwards to get you to walk through the door. He would have opened a Starbucks outside if he thought it would help. It was a big deal. I remember we had Jubilee Door wall hangings for the doorways in your house so you could get the spirit. (Not the Spirit. For that, you'd have to go to confession, attend Mass, go to the basilica, do charitable works).

Good for you to have taken him up on his offer.

Too bad it didn't last.

We didn't expect it to last, really.

I went through the door myself and still managed to eat a bucket of Halloween candy while thinking of the starving children in Africa.

Here's the thing about your plenary indulgence: it was for all the sins you committed before you went through the Jubilee Door. So it isn't "cancelled out".

But it isn't retroactive, either. You and I have racked up some new sins for which we will have to answer. That's why we have the Sacraments, especially confession. Otherwise we could just have a giant Jubilee door and never go to Mass again. The Sacraments help give us grace to not need so many indulgences.

The Door will open again in a few years. Meanwhile, there are other things you can do to get a new plenary indulgence. Here's a giant list: A Giant Bag of Bite Size Snickers Bars from Holy Mother Church better known as Ways to Gain a Plenary Indulgence.