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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy Doesn't Happen By Itself

Here's a great way to start the New Year. I got this note from a girl I used to have as a student. See what a great good girl she turned out to be (even though she did not capitalize her name in her signature--I'll be speaking to her about that):

Hello my people,

For those of you who don't know, I work for an organization called Food on Foot. I have volunteered my Sundays for years, helping the homeless and needy in Hollywood, because it's a program that I believe in. I know we all have our personal causes so if this is something you're not into, please ignore this plea...

Right now, we have a chance to win a charity contest on Yahoo. Food on Foot is one of 5 finalists for a $50,000 prize, and the charity that receives the highest number of individual donors (not the total amount donated) will win the prize -- but I need your help before 9PM ON DECEMBER 31ST!

The minimum donation is $10 (credit card only) and must be made on the following web site: http://advision.webevents.yahoo.com/cybergiving2007

Yahoo has agreed to MATCH your donation, so your contribution of $20 will mean $40 for Food on Foot. We only have TWO DAYS to reach our goal, and our biggest competition is a lame charity for a breed of dog I've never heard of -- it's a CLOSE RACE which is why I'm reaching out to you...

Believe me, I hate mass emails as much as you -- but if you need a quick tax write-off before the end of 2007, please donate today and email all of your friends about our great cause. Please help us continue the dream of giving everyone a job opportunity and a chance to be self-sufficient and off government assistance.

How are you by the way? Have a happy and healthy New Year, and thank you for reading this,

(For more information about our programs please visit:http://www.foodonfoot.org)

We managed to put together $10 from the couch change, literally the pocket change and the quarter the Sister Mary Fiacre was sitting on. But it means we donated $20 because of the matching funds! We feel like Bill Gates!

It seems I taught Suzy well about the order of animals and people, from her comments. When last I checked Food on Foot was out in front.

If this idea doesn't float your boat, please think about how you're going to begin this year. The meek shall inherit the earth. Let's make the earth a nice place to inherit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Few Doozies

After all the fuss
about being allowed to have nativity sets wherever you want them, I thought we might visit some of the reasons it's not necessarily a good idea.

I have always been a big believer in just about anything to remind us of Jesus. I never fuss around about sacramentals: 3-d holy cards, St. Joseph real estate kits, glow in the dark rosaries, St. Claire television statues, St. Francis of Assisi bird feeders...whatever. If it works for you to bring you closer to God, go for it.

But then I stumbled across this mess and I am eating my words. (Luckily, I still have some eggnog with which to wash them down.)

For starters, you know I have a problem with the idea of animals in heaven. I don't mean to start up an argument again, but I do think people take their relationships with their pets much too far, far too often, as evidenced here. Chihuahua angels? Somebody needs their head examined while inside a confessional. That is just wrong.

Cat people can be just as bad. Maybe these cats will run over

and eat these birds.

And in as much as Sister Mary Fiacre loves marshmallows, I don't want to send her to heaven early by letting her get a load of this.

You can make these. What fun for the children! Especially when it comes time to eat them! Until then...

...you can keep them from getting stale by stashing them in this thing.

But if you really want to stick it to those people who stopped you from putting up a Nativity set down at the city hall, you can blow this giant inflatable version up on your front lawn. Take that, city council!

I've eaten my words and they were delicious.

People. Keep in mind what sacramentals, which would include the Nativity set, are for. The Nativity set has a particular purpose. I'll let Father Zehnle explain.

Meanwhile, our question of the day, which is a doozy:
Anonymous said...

Sister, is it a sin to pray for God to kill someone? If so, are there exceptions?

Good thing you are anonymous with a question like that. Otherwise I may find myself questioned by the DA from somewhere.

Yes, that would be a sin. I can't think of any exceptions. You can pray that people are protected by God from the person you think should be killed. You can pray for the person to stop doing whatever it is that makes you think they should be killed. You can pray that God alleviates the suffering of someone who you think ought to be dead, maybe, by calling the person home to heaven. Praying that God kills them is just a breath away from killing them yourself, as sin is all about intent.

Wanting to kill someone, even if you want God to do it for you, is almost as bad as actually killing someone....some might make the argument that it is as bad, but I wouldn't say that. But once you actually pray for God to do it, you are trying to kill somebody. You may as well ask a hit man.

Holy cow!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Yes, Virginia, There is a Christmas

Oh dear! I just dropped by to see all the lovely Christmas greetings and found this:

I need help with a question my friend asked me today. If anybody would have an answer, I figured it would be you.....

My friend asked me to show her where in the Bible Jesus tells us what day he was born on and where in the Bible he tells us to celebrate it every year. Ive looked and looked and looked but cant find it anywhere.

I normally use the Jerusalem or Douay Bible, but I even looked in the King James and also used a concordance at the library but I just cant find where it is.

Please help me, Sister, cause Im sure you know the answer. Id really like to show it to her tomorrow, being Christmas and all.

Thank you very much.

Lucky for you, I am a night owl.

The answer may well disappoint you. You can't find it, because it's simply not there. The New Testament says so very little about the birth of Jesus and almost nothing whatsoever about His life before He set off in His sandals at age 30. Probably quietly building kitchen tables for the good people of Nazareth until then. The Stradivariuses of kitchen tables, no doubt.

Jesus doesn't to tell us to celebrate anything whatsoever that I can think....only the Mass. "Do this in remembrance of Me." That's it.

So along with Christmas, out goes Easter. Certainly Halloween has to go. That is only a celebration of people saved by Jesus anyhow. That and embarrassing costumes. So long.

We choose to celebrate Christmas because, as my old friend said, we're so glad Jesus was born. We extend the love God showed us to each other by giving each other gifts. I think of them as birthday gifts, since Jesus did ask us to see Him in each other.

It's not rocket science. If your friend doesn't want to get on the bandwagon, well, more eggnog for you! As long as she's on the bandwagon with Jesus, we'll drink a toast to Jesus for her.

I have a hunch she's not Catholic. Which means she's missed the bandwagon and has hopped into a Yugo, in terms of spiritual
guidance. If she is a Catholic, however, she can skip the tree, the dinner, the gifts, the pretty red flowers, the eggnog, the angels singing, the Nativity set, the Magi, the star, cards, wreaths, lights, candles. She just has show up at Mass, since Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation.

There are quite a few things that Jesus asked us to remember. I barely see anyone remember them.
We are to remember the poor at all times.
We are to love each other.
We are to see Him in each other.
And two more things that I think she might have difficulty finding, not in the teachings of Jesus, but among His supposed followers:
Forgive those who trespass against us.
Love your enemies.




Seriously, has anyone seen that lately? Note the words "love" and "enemy". Who is your enemy? Got some love for them? That blowhard at work? The girl who bullied you in high school? That guy who robbed you at gunpoint? Taliban, anyone?

I'm sure Jesus would be happier if we skipped His birthday altogether if we better remembered the things He wanted us to remember. But we don't.

So today, at least for one day, we can remember it all. We remember it today, because we always remember when we look at a new born baby that anything is possible. Anything.

Celebrating Jesus' birthday helps us remember. If everyone always remembered we'd have a very Merry Everyday.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Remember what Jesus told us to remember. Start with that windbag Uncle Dudley and work your way up the list.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Little Rum, a Little Brandy

We are surprisingly relaxed this season, as well we should be, since Jesus is about to arrive. We somehow got ahead of ourselves. Today we made little pumpkin and cranberry loaves to hand out to anyone who drops by. When does that happen? I am at the ready to turn on the Christmas lights.

So here I am to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I mean that. I hope it's joyous and pious and holy and all of that. But mostly I hope it's merry. Get out and get some eggnog while you have the chance. Spike it if you like. We're not Baptists.

Lent is right around the corner.

And I have time for a few questions:
I really want to believe - in you. But how to you manage to be so hopelessly hip, graphically apropos and theologically correct, all while dealing with your daily life and taking care of Sr. Mary Fiacre? Also, what happened to your post from December 15th, where you "elfed" yourself (which I have gotten over being freaked out about)....

When did I become Santa? I'm not even a saint.

How do I do it? After years and years of classrooms full of (sixty! during the baby boom years!) kids this is a snap a breeze a snap. I have been asked every question in the book. If I didn't know the answer then, I do now. I'm not going to get stumped twice by fourth graders. Here's a lightening bolt for you: if you don't know something, you can look it up. Of course, I"m here to help you with that. But if I need help....

....I have continuing access to young people As a result, I know how to travel the internets, work the google, all that sort of thing. If I get stuck or I manage to erase something or loose it in the computer, I find a seventh grader to come and retrieve it for me.

This site--blogger--makes putting up the blog itself a breeze a snap a breeze. I have learned to type whatever it is I'm looking for in the search bar of the google, no matter how absurd it may sound ("mean looking nun", "shriner on a scooter", "cuddly Santa"), and hit 'images'. Pages and pages of images are at my fingertips. You wouldn't believe the things that have burned my eyeballs when I typed in the most innocuous things. Never type in "old ladies". Really, don't.

Also, I read the newspaper. Except, obviously, I don't read the sports section to find out who won the game. Who did win that Rockets/Nuggets game?

And when all is said and done, as I'm sure many people who have to care for other people who are relatively helpless will tell you, once you get into a routine, it just becomes your routine. We have it down to a science. Sister St. Aloysius' orderly and scientific mind has been a bonus.

After I 'elfed' myself and it scared you, I took it down because I didn't want to scare anybody else. The seventh grade boys loved it, though.

Can a Catholic widow join a convent, if her kids are grown and such. If not as a nun, then as the world's oldest novice, maybe? Don't worry, my husband's safe and I don't have a calling. I just wondered if women still did that, like in Medievel times, when they spent their waning years praying and doing good works.

She sure can!

But only if the convent lets her.

You can't just run out and become a nun. You'd think you could, what with the shortage and all. But no. By the time you're done checking out the convent and the convent is done checking out you, you'll feel like you're on Meet The Press running for president. They can turn you down like some TV insurance company if you are really too old or not very healthy.

I find that ironic, since so many saints, especially those who were religious and clergy, were so stunningly ill all the time. If they let in Bernadette, who was never well a day in her life, they should let in your friend. IMHO. But that doesn't mean they will.

For future reference, as women live longer than men on the average, you might want to leave some microwave dinners in the freezer for DH and start the process now. Add some weight lifting to your daily routine, too.

I'm kidding.

"The poem doesn't say he's fat. Does it?"

I believe it mentions his belly being like a bowlful of jelly. It's implied that he's fat.

I believe I addressed that.

Love your site always insightful and religious teachings with the modern world mixed in. I think i would certainly enjoy conversing with you.
I am a Raptors fan and right now praying for TJ Ford to be healthy.
As mentioned love your site and I will be checking in daily!
Thanks and God Bless!

Thank you very much! A Raptors fan, eh? Good luck with that.

I have extra time, which means extra prayers. My Christmas gift to you all!
Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 21, 2007

You Better Watch Out

So who won the Rockets/Nuggets game that went into double overtime? I managed to get Sister Mary Fiacre to bed and come back for the overtime. When it went into double overtime, it just got too late for me. Remarkable, as I am a night owl. I have always been a night owl. I was asleep at my desk as a child. Getting up at the crack of dawn or before has been a daily sacrifice for me and happy, happy news for the souls in Purgatory.

How about that to have the Boston Celtics flying around in their cheery Christmas greens the day before and to have the Rockets in their Christmas-y road reds last night?

How exceptionally appropriate, as today we're talking about Santa.

But first:

In our local newspaper there was a piece in the religion section by a Protestant about the damned practice of celebrating Christmas and about he never does it because it's so . . . so Papist! People ought to cling to their Protestant roots.

Sheesh! I thought they'd gotten over that ages ago back when the Puritans came over here, banned Christmas celebrations, and discovered that doing so was no fun at all.

(I'm glad I belong to the party Church.)

You and the writer are both a little off base. The Catholic Church was just about last to get on the big Christmas band wagon. We celebrated Christmas as the birth of Christ, but Easter was the big deal, big hats notwithstanding.

The Christmas we know and celebrate came to us through a backlash against the way Christmas was traditionally celebrated. Prior to the Victorian Age, Christmas was a twelve day booze fest. Think St. Patrick's Day in New York for twelve solid days. Servants became masters and masters became servants and masters that didn't become servants were sorry. Treat or trick was the rule of the day....days. Christmas was a problem. The Puritans had really good reasons to banish it.

It was Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" that almost single-handedly turned things around, making a civilized vision of the holiday. The Queen got herself a Christmas tree and Christmas trees became the rage. And that's when the Catholic Church stepped up to the plate to keep Jesus in the Season.

Don't misunderstand. Christmas has been a Holy Day of Obligation since at least the 5th century. But the whole enchilada with a big dinner, a tree, families gathering, presents and stockings and sleigh bells and dreaming of a White Christmas and Bing Crosby...that didn't happen until the Victorian Era when the Christmas season changed from a twelve day binge to a cozy family event.

Which is where Santa Claus comes in! Move over Yao Ming for another large guy in a red suit. Without Santa, Christmas would not be the beautiful holiday for children that it has become.

There was a small holiday for children on St. Nicholas day, Dec 6th. It was celebrated by Germans and Scandinavians and other people who needed a pick me up in the middle of winter. St. Nicholas would bring the good children a treat, left in their shoes or stockings while they slept and the bad children nothing. Or that lump of coal we always hear about. I'm thinking a lump of coal would have been useful (just ask Bob Cratchet), but like getting underwear and socks for Christmas, no fun.

St. Nicholas was a bishop who lived in the 4th century. He was part of the Council of Nicaea from which we received the Nicene Creed. Good work, St. Nick! He was an extremely popular saint. Two stories about his life made him the patron saint of happy surprises for children. One is that he rescued children who had been drowned in a pickle barrel and brought them back to life. The other is that when he found out three young women could not marry because they had no dowrym he lobbed a sack of gold into their windows, anonymously, one each night, to save them from being old maids.

When the little Scandinavian children showed up on Ellis Island talking about
Sinterklaus (Saint Nicholaus), St. Nick had his name changed with everyone else. I imagine he started coming on Christmas because the holidays are so close together anyhow. That and "The Night Before Christmas", where his story unfolds as the jolly old elf with his sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, written in--when else-- the Victorian Era. The poem doesn't say he's fat. Does it? I think it only says he's jolly. Fat people used to be jolly because they were rich people. Now it's the thin people that are rich. The poor people have to eat fattening food with corn syrup added to every single thing.

Which is exactly what happened to Santa. He got fat drinking Coca-Cola. He wasn't fat until he started drinking Coke.

No wait...his belly shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. Maybe he just needed to do some sit-ups.

We started talking about Santa because of our reader who implied that it was terrible to lie to children about Santa, who doesn't exist. He does exist. He lives in heaven and his name is St. Nicholaus. He is available to intercede for you at the drop of a fur trimmed hat.

He doesn't have a factory on the North Pole, an army of elves, flying reindeer, a wife--he certainly doesn't have one special reindeer with a glowing red nose.

But his story holds the essence of Christmas, a special being who spends 100% of his time thinking of someone else's happiness. Who does that remind you of?

I suppose we could live without fantasy. What a sad drab place our minds might become. King Arthur would have noticed the sword stuck in the stone, shrugged his shoulders and walked away. George Bailey would have fallen to his icy watery death, his family left to languish in scandal. Dorothy Gale would never have learned there's no place like home. She would have just been sucked up by a twister and died.

Santa's herculean efforts to bring each child a gift inspires us to do the same. He helps us to take at least one day and make it magically special. If it's a lie, then we have to stop telling children stories that inspire them. Good-bye Charlotte and your web, stay home Beauty and do your hair instead of meeting the Beast. Get your pens out, biographers and writers of text books, you are going to be busy. Oh how the children will LOVE it.

Children have plenty of time to grow up. They spend most of their childhood in school learning facts. I don't begrudge them a special story that helps make Jesus' birthday as full of love as it is, a story about a special man who embodies the spirit of giving. We tend to do a lot worse for role models.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Two Sizes Too Small

Does anyone know who won the Pistons/Celtics game? It was quite a game and very Christmas-y, what with the Celtics running around in their home greens. I didn't know who to root for, since I am a Pistons fan. But it is so wonderful to see Kevin Garnet, who has been languishing for 12 years in the frozen north and Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, who has spent his career slogging through the rain in Seattle, form the basis of such a great team. We'll see what happens when they have to start playing in the West.

The game went on too long for me to catch the end. We don't want Sister Mary Fiacre falling asleep in her chair so soundly that we can't get her into bed. I think she's a Celtics fan. Hard to tell.

Meanwhile, the Grinch has dropped by:

What does 25 Dec, a gaudy lighted pine tree, giving presents to others (not to Jesus), and lying to kids about a ficticious red-suited man (Rev 21:8) have to do with honoring our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as a mighty King in heaven?

Let's hope you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

Let's take your points one at a time.

Dec 25th.
Here in the Catholic Church we are all about focusing. Jesus had a lot to say to us. He did a lot of things. He gave us examples of what to think, how to think about things, and how to behave. He talked about children, wives, husbands, sin, faith, taxes, work, strength, courage, wine, farming and dinner plans. While we don't have any problem with big blanket concepts like "God is Love", it doesn't really help us out much on a day to day basis.

So we've made a map, so to speak, of the life Jesus led and the things He did and said so we can focus our own lives more completely with the life of Christ day by day. You don't have to follow the map if you don't want to. You can wander off and find that great out of the way Jesus Bed and Breakfast. It's all good.

We picked Dec 25th because it is the day, literally, when the light starts coming back to the world. The days are shorter and shorter before Dec. 25th, and from Dec. 25th they grow longer and longer. We took the old pagan holiday that celebrated that same thing and attached Jesus to it. Bingo! The pagans got it.

I have to say, I'm kind of surprised that you don't get it. Those pagans thought the sun revolved around the earth and didn't know to wash their hands before performing surgery. They got it. The Light has come back.

Even Jesus spoke in parables. Parables are symbolic language. Speaking of symbols:
The gaudy lighted pine tree.
Pine (tree) is the operative word here. Evergreen. Always living. (Ring any bells yet?) Never dies. This is another symbol that used to be a pagan thing. We attached Jesus to it. They got it. They thought that cats were from the devil and could suck the oxygen out of your lungs and kill you while you slept, but they got the pine tree thing.

The lights, like the candles in church, are symbols of Christ (the Light of the World). Really cheery ones at that. It doesn't have to be gaudy. We have no control over individual taste. We wish we did.

Giving presents to people who are not Jesus.

Boy, this one shocks me. "Whatsoever you do the least of my brothers, this you do unto me." For one thing.

But here is where it all comes together, the lights and the tree that have reminded us to focus our attention on Dec. 25th. We are focusing on the fact that the Mighty King of Heaven was born in the lowliest of places. Ever ask yourself why?

A historical nugget: Shepherds were the lowliest of the low. Everyone would have understood, back then, that if shepherds were around, we were talking about the poorest and the dumbest.

They were the first people called to see Jesus. That is a message from God.

They brought gifts.

We are to see Jesus in each other and to love each other as He loved us. We give each other gifts on His Birthday.

It's not rocket science.

The Mighty King of Heaven was born in a dumpy dirty place with dirty stupid people as His first visitors. It's very important news. Very happy news. It's a birthday party.

Years ago I had a friend who said to me, "I've figured out why people get depressed when other people forget their birthdays."

"Do tell," I said.

"It's because when people forget your birthday it's like they're saying I don't care that you were born. Remembering someone's birthday is like saying, 'I'm glad you were born.'

We are remembering Jesus' birthday and saying, "We're glad You were born." And we're celebrating the way He asked us to celebrate Him, by seeing Him in each other.

And while there is some fiction to Santa, Santa is not fiction. Santa just had his named changed at Ellis Island like a lot of other people. Let's talk about him tomorrow.

I want to find out those game results.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mea Culpa

Oh, look, I found the computer. Amazing, since I can't find the sofa, the floor or Teddy. We have our Christmas box out, Sister St. Aloysius is counting the sheep (as opposed to counting sheep, something we never have to do around here).

I love going through the Christmas box. I have an old Santa that belonged to my mother. She doesn't know I have it. I'm sure she doesn't mind. I have bubble lights. I mentioned to someone once that I love those things and people have gifted me with them ever since. Delightful. Word gets out.

Getting ready for the big day. Lots to do in the church. Arranging the poinsettias and whatnot. Extra polishing.

It's the kind of work I've always loved because not only am I a Christmas fanatic from a long line of Christmas fanatics, but these happy chores allow for a lot of soul searching. A great pastime.

Here's what's on my mind: I've noticed that once in a while, here in blogland, I seem to rub people the wrong way. And while it's not my intention to be rude, apparently I am just that.

I apologize.

I doubt I'll stop being rude, however. Not because I want to run around being rude, but since I'm not trying to be rude, I never realize that I have been impolite or caustic or venomous. Sometimes the news is bad. I'm not helping anybody by sugarcoating someone's half baked idea that is sure to be a one way ticket to hell with "let's agree to disagree". I'm a nun. I don't have time to horse around with your soul telling you things that will make you feel better. I've had you since you were in the second grade and I've watched you on the play ground since you were five. I have taken away your gum, mopped up your up chuck, made you clap erasers together for an hour after school, sent you home to change into more appropriate attire, made you stand in the corner ...

...I was never a nose on the chalkboard nun....I never made anyone kneel on dried peas, either, although I admit I thought that was a doozey!...

given you my hanky when you forgot your chapel veil, raised money for pagan babies by catching you taking the Lord's name in vein, made you write a hundred times, "I will not be late for school." I also made sure you knew your times tables. That's no fun either. All in a day's work.

I don't blink for one minute about making you feel guilty, guilty, guilty. Guilt is a good thing. It means you have feelings about your wrong doing. That is excellent! If you didn't, you'd be the world's worse sinner or a sociopath. It wouldn't be good for you either way.

Life is tough. A nun's life is even tougher. I have a mission to get my soul into heaven and I have an even higher calling to drag your's with me. I will drag it kicking and screaming if I have to, just the way I had to drag you kicking and screaming off that kid on the playground that drove you to clock him one. I hope you'll forgive me when I don't mince words.

I know you will. Because if you don't, I'll make you feel guilty, guilty, guilty.

I'm kidding. I know you will.

I started this blog because the door to door thing...how is that working out for the Jehovah's Witnesses? I admire their pluck, though. They really don't give up. I think they would slip through the mail slot to talk with me if they could.

Perhaps part of the reason Christmas is my favorite time of year is because it's the one time I can kind of let up on everybody, since the Baby Jesus is here to take care of things, at least until the decorations come down and the snow turns black.

Light a candle for me. I'll light ten for you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bah Humbug

We are in a whirlwind of housecleaning for Christmas. We've been very busy with the shop. Sister St. Aloysius is pouring over cookie recipes. I am untangling the lights. We still have to move furniture around for the arrival of the tree and find the tree stand. At school we're working on our Christmas pageant.

It's not really a pageant. It's a concert. Grades five and up are singing in harmony, which is my job.

It has occurred to me that if Sister Mary Fiacre was with it, the three of us could go caroling as a trio. Oh well. It would probably flummox the neighbors anyhow. They would think I was with the Taliban or something.

It's all so cheery.

Too bad I have to address these bummer questions. Not that you shouldn't ask. The answers are just no fun.

Sister, what are your thoughts on the renewal of the Latin mass?

This question has been floating in our question box for sometime and I apologize for letting it hang. I'm certain you won't care much for my answer.

I just don't care about the Latin Mass. I would hope that if the Mass changes back to Latin across the boards, that you'll all go out and learn Latin again so you can understand it.

Calm down. I know you understand the Mass no matter what language it's in. But the point of having the Mass in Latin in the first place was to have it in a language that everyone speaks. It didn't start out that way. But that's what happened. Everyone used to understand the Latin used in the Mass. It wasn't just 'pretty' and 'traditional' it was understandable. The reason the Vatican made the change is that the Church realized that hardly anyone was speaking Latin anymore, except for a few moldy perennial students.

Here's my story in support of the Latin Mass (which you Latin Massaphiles should love): During the Holocaust, in the camps, a group of Jews gathered in the latrines for a high holy day. It was the only place where no one would pay any attention to what they were doing. The gathering included Jews from all over Europe, but they held their service in their common language, which everyone understood. I'm not sure what that language is called...not Yiddish...it didn't matter that they couldn't speak to each other and be understood. They were speaking to God and they all understood the words they were saying to Him.

You get my point. The story really doesn't work if the people gathered don't all understand that common language, see?

The other arguments I keep hearing..."it's so beautiful!" "it's so traditional!" just don't cut it for me. Sorry. If you love the Latin Mass and want to drive to the next town every Sunday, go for it.

I'm happy to have the Mass in the language of the crowd so that any new comer off the streets can listen to what is happening. If it changes back, I'm okay with it. I'd prefer that if did not, unless everyone takes up Latin again. Since no one can even remember phone numbers anymore because there is a phone book in your cell phone, I'm not holding my breath for people reviving Latin.

Does the Church have a teaching regarding whether Protestants go to purgatory? Does a martyred Protestant go straight to heaven? What ARE the rules about Protestants and salvation, anyway?? I mean, practically every faithful Protestant these days (not all of them, I realize) believes in and practices artificial birth control - a mortal sin. So do they all go to hell because of it?

Any light you can shed would be appreciated!

Boy. This one is a really big bummer. Sadly, yes, the answer would be hell for all involved. That is the official Church stance. To say otherwise would be to say the the Church is not the One True Church, but the One of Any Church That Makes You Comfortable.

But the Church doesn't actually say that all those people are going to Hell for certain, because we don't know their hearts for certain. They could repent at the last second. God could be merciful. We hear that He tends to be so inclined.

So the answer is yes, but not really really. Yes, but with loopholes, so to speak.

We also never ever say that anyone is in Hell for certain. Not even Hitler. We give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

After all, Jesus said, "My Kingdom has many rooms."

It's just that those people will have the rooms next to the ice machine and the elevator.

Kidding. Just kidding. But not about the Hell part. Sorry.

Not very Christmas-y.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Oh, no, you didn't!
Christian Student Scientist said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

I feel strange correcting a nun on the most popular story in the Bible, but then again I'm not sure you are a nun. Anyways, Mary was engaged (betrothed) to Joseph, not married before receiving news of conception. However stronger engagement rules were those days, it was still not a marriage...

It gets worse:
I do wonder how you explain Mary's words "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"? To me that's pretty clear indication of where things are between Mary and Joseph.

Oh it is, is it? We're Catholics here. We don't go digging around in the Bible deciding what it means for ourselves.

Look, Mary was not an unwed mother. We're not having it, so you may as well throw in the towel.

In the first place, as many other readers have pointed out, marriage today and marriage back then are very different. The Mary family didn't rent out the Holiday Inn, pay the organist and spend a year's salary on a ring. They didn't even stand around and exchange "I Do's". The families got together and declared the couple a couple. Then there might be a party.

The party served two functions: to let everyone know the couple was married, since they didn't have the parish paper to announce things or cans tied to their cars or embossed cards, and to mingle the families, which was the main purpose of the marriage itself. Do you think they really cared all that much about who loved who? They didn't have time for that. They had to bake bread from scratch. They couldn't even go to the store for the ingredients. They had to make the ingredients from scratch. Love came later.

Here's what Matthew has to say: "[18] Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
[19] Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily."

Notice: Joseph HER HUSBAND.

End of story. Matthew, the writer of the gospel said that, not me. Unless you'd like to argue with Matthew, I think that's a pretty clear indication of where things were between Mary and Joseph.

Here's how I explain the words of Mary to the Archangel Gabriel: that's not what she said. What she said was, "for I know not man." We've all had to suffer through the giggles of explaining to people what the Bible means by the word "know".

My question is, why would you want to make such a fuss to prove that Mary was an unwed mother? What's the deal there?

Go stand in the corner.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Yes and No

You'd be amazed at the people who argue with me. You would think my get up would make them think twice about whether or not I know what I'm talking about.

On the other hand...I am wrong once in a while. But at least I'm not making it up as I go along.

There are the simple everyday type of arguments, like the other day when I asked Sister St. Aloysius where she stored the Christmas lights when she put them away last year. She maintains that I put them away. I didn't. She took them down and that's the last I saw of them. Ever. This from the woman who couldn't tell the difference between the worm farm and the bee hive nee compost bin. I have to stop and think about these types of things because there is no doubt that Sister St. Aloysius is smarter than I. She has the Mensa certificate proving that fact.

Then there are the arguments I get sucked into, like the Ladies of the Parish who insist that I cast the deciding vote on whatever they are deciding, though I've just strolled by the door and got yanked into the meeting. I've told them until I'm blue in the face that they should not serve ham sandwiches at the Friday card clatches, even though we can eat meat on Friday now, it would be a good example for them to serve finger food or macaroni and cheese. They suspect, I think, that I am trying to get them to make macaroni and cheese so I can have some.

They are correct. I love macaroni and cheese to the point where I should eat meat on Fridays because I so prefer the macaroni and cheese. It would also set a good example.

This question from a reader jarred my memory of one of the most frustrating arguments I've ever had....
Anonymous said...

If Christmas is December 25th, how could Mary have conceived (immaculately or otherwise) in early December? Shouldn't this day be in March?

....over and over and over again. The last time was with a lady who teaches RCIA classes, and she walked away shaking her head as though poor old sister had finally lost it.

We don't celebrate the conception of Jesus at all. We do have the feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel came to tell Mary that she was going to conceive Jesus. That IS in March, by the by.

The Immaculate Conception refers to the fact that Mary had two parents just like the rest of us with no divine intervention in her conception save this: she did not have the stain of Original Sin on her soul when she was conceived like the rest of us.

It might help if you think of it as a time line leading to what we call the Virgin Birth, also known as Christmas Day.

Joachim and Anne are married.____________________They have a baby the same way everyone else does except the baby has not Original Sin on her soul (Immaculate Conception).__________The baby plays with her dolls___________lives at the Temple________________gets out of the Temple______________gets married to Joseph______________Gabriel comes_________________trip to Bethlehem_____________________Virgin Birth.

Note there are quite a few years between these events.

While we're on the subject, it's unlikely that Jesus was born in December. The shepherds were in the fields with their flocks. That's a springtime thing. Also, it would be silly to hold a census in the dead of winter.

The church picked December for two reasons. Be careful to remember this because if you get into an argument with somebody about Christmas originally being a pagan feast day type of thing and the Church grabbing it for themselves and you are arguing that the Church never did that you are going to be on the paying side of dinner for two.

The first reason really was to grab the pagan holiday for themselves. That way, when they changed it over to Christmas nobody would be mad. No body likes to lose a holiday. That's why we have all these holidays now days on Mondays, to grab the whole weekend. What was I talking about? Oh yes...the Church grabbed up the Winter Solstice and all it's trimmings and then switched it all into Christmas.

A brilliant move. The second reason: We celebrate the birth of Christ, the Light of the World, right when the days are the very shortest and then start growing long again. The Church just does not miss a trick to be symbolic. The Church Fathers are as smart as Sister St. Aloysius.

How do we know this, by the way, about the Immaculate Conception? Who told us? Mary herself did. That's how she introduced herself to Bernadette at Lourdes. When Bernadette asked the lady her name, Mary's response was "I am the Immaculate Conception." That's pretty straight forward.

That's not to say that's how we found out that Mary is the Immaculate Conception. We knew all along, since Gabriel mentioned that she was 'full of grace'. She couldn't be full of grace and have Original Sin. St. John the Baptist wasn't around to baptize anyone just yet. The Church, smarter than Sister St. Aloysius, has always maintained that Mary was free from sin.

So it's all pretty easy to understand except for one thing: God had to make Mary free from Original sin ahead of time. But Mary had free will. She could have said 'no thank you' to the whole thing and just danced away, free from Original sin to boot. But God knew she would say yes. But she could have said no. God could have bet a dinner on it. But she could have said no.

Don't worry about it. It's a "Sacred Mystery". That's Catholic for "let it go."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Civil War

Sigh. The War about the War on Christmas rages on.

Regarding the "War on Christmas"...I do as I please at work. I suppose that if someone does not like the nativity on my desk (at a public school), God will take care of me. Children comment on it, and I share the "Christmas story--the birth of Baby Jesus." Kids love it. God protects me.

A clerk at a craft store recently wished me "happy holidays." I graciously said, "thank you" then added, "I would prefer you wish me Merry Christmas." He then smiled (as if for being given permission) and said, "Merry Christmas!!" I replied with "Merry Christmas! And, God bless you!"

Then a girl collecting for the homeless wished me a "happy holiday" and I responded like I did to the clerk.

My point being, we make it what we want it to be. I DO think it is important for us to point out the reason for the season to everyone we come in contact with. Sadly, we are not surrounded by believers, so anything I can do to share God's love, I do. Let them do to me what they will. Hey, maybe I need that Joan of Arc medal.

When I think of what Saints went through on a daily basis, how can I be a 'fraidy cat?

Peace be with you!

You may want to come down off your high horse long enough to read this post by my lovely friend, Father Zehnle (who is from my home town and might have actually spotted by father throwing empty chocolate malt cups down the sewer on his way home from Zims, thus causing global warming).

Joan of Arc is still available.

Meanwhile, we have bigger fish to fry and lots of questions to answer.

I hear in mass every week how we must be reconciled to each other. I believe this but without sharing any details, how far can this be realistically be taken? Since it is Christmastime, the pressure to do so has again reared its ugly head and truthfully, I really, really don't want to have anything to do with the people in question. Is that a sin? Am I lying when I pray that I forgive those who trespass against me? I feel I do forgive, but I still want them to stay away. Sound advice is needed.

Realistically it can be taken really far. It has to be for the world to reconcile. Jesus took it to Calvary. The early Christians took it to supper for the lions. One of the North American martyrs...I forget which one...could not stand the Native Americans he was sent to save. He despised everything about them and could not tolerate the way they smelled. After being tortured by his captors he was sent home to Rome to recuperate. He insisted on going back to his mission when he got better. Since he was one of the North American martyrs, you know how his story ended.

In light of all of that, Christmas dinner with that big blow hard Uncle Ray doesn't seem so bad.

But I realize that some things that family members to to each other are hard to forgive. Let's take a worst case scenario. Uncle Ray gave your dog to Michael Vick. You have pulled Uncle Ray's name in the family gift exchange.

Give him a spiritual bouquet. Remember those? You make a card listing the prayers you've said for him, drawing a flower on the card for each one. That should make everyone feel better.

No one said forgiveness was easy. And sometimes it really is better to stay away from certain people for the sake of your own soul and theirs.

Step one is to rid yourself of the need for pay back.
That's the first big step toward forgiveness. Then pray for the person. You may have to do that all through dinner.

Am I lying when I pray that I forgive those who trespass against me?
If you don't want to see them forgiven, yes, you are. Otherwise sometimes it's the best we can muster.

Always try to muster better.
You can't expect world peace while you can't have dinner with Uncle Ray at the table. What are you going to do if the two of you are in heaven together? Still going to be holding that grudge. God has forgiven Uncle Ray and there you'll be with your arms folded in the corner. That's not going to work.

We have more questions in the in pile. We'll be back tomorrow!

Saturday, December 08, 2007


What are you doing here? You should be at Mass! Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of Obligation. Also, you can't double up and go to Saturday Mass for your Sunday Mass and also call it your Holy Day of Obligation Mass.

Maybe you can. But you shouldn't.

I think I have been tagged before and never dealt with it. But since today is a Holy Day of Obligation and a wonderful feast day I decided to try it. I've been tagged by Sr. Betsy over at the Daily Thoughts of Mother Seton. I have to tell eight things about myself. I imagine the idea is to mine some things you might not suspect, so here we go:

1. I take shorthand. I always become the secretary of everything. I wasn't taking shorthand when I was the secretary of the Boy Saviour Club in when I was in the second grade, though.

It is also why I remember so much stuff. I find I remember things that I write down, and since I can write everything down verbatim, very quickly, it all sticks in my brain.

2. I have a secret desire to be a court reporter. Is that what they are called? The ones that sit through every trial with that machine that takes everything down verbatim in some sort of code? I'm not interested in sitting around in court everyday listening to all the sad news about crimes and criminals and victims. I just want to learn to work one of those machines.

3. I can ride a horse. I actually had a horse of my own when I was young. She was a palomino quarter horse. I never owned a saddle for the horse, which made me a better rider, I think.

4. I can tap dance. Yes. My mother gave me dance lessons until I was 12. Recently, a young woman showed me a new time step--new to me, that is--and I have mastered it. Sister St. Aloysius can't stop laughing. The debut of the new time step was one of the St. Nicholas day surprises.

5. I don't believe I've ever mentioned it before, but I also play the piano. I also don't think I've mentioned that my main job at school is to be the 'music nun'. I have a knack for getting very young children singing in harmony. Would that they would do everything else in harmony.

6. I can't draw anything. I have a theory that the Impressionist painters weren't all that innovative. They just couldn't draw any better. I think I insulted a painter who works in watercolors once when I told her my theory.

7. My father, who is the sweetest most likable man on earth, became a fiend behind the wheel of a car. I have inherited that gene. Luckily, I have Our Lady of LaSalette to curtail road rage. You may recall that Our Lady of LaSalette was weeping because the cab drivers in France were swearing too much.

8. I have no idea who to tag or how to tag them. Consider yourselves tagged if you are reading this.

And get to Mass!

Friday, December 07, 2007

May the Dear Boy Saviour Bless Our Behaviour

You know I love St. Nicholas Day! I've been busy all day springing surprises. Here are some from our mailbox:
(Referring to our last post on the War on Christmas)
I can see the humor in this post, but also please remember that some of us work in an environment where we are not allowed to display any signs of a Christian Christmas -- trees are OK, creches are a big no-no. I work at a large university and displaying a creches or other Christian symbol would be hugely frowned on and could be grounds for disciplinary action. So for some people, the "war on Christmas" is very real and goes beyond a mere happy holiday vs merry Christmas debate.

I would say the war on Christmas would be very real if, when you put out the little Nativity set on your desk, someone set your desk on fire or hauled you in front of a firing squad while the students stood around cowering.

I'm assuming a Menorah would also be frowned upon. Did I miss the war on Hanukkah?

There's a really big difference between being deferential in a multi-cultural, multi- faith environment and a very real war. Unfortunately we don't have to look very far to find the real deal.

Put up a little tree on your desk in that case with a sly smile, knowing that to some it is an old pagan symbol, but for us it is a symbol of everlasting life.
A slam dunk against this nasty war on Christmas.

Sister, I have what is probably a very dumb question, but I really want to know: is there any specific devotion to Baby Jesus? I mean, we all love Baby Jesus, I know that, but with Christmas coming I've really been meditating on the Christ Child and I've come to realize that I REALLY love Baby Jesus! It humbles me immensely to realize that when God chose to come to earth and become a man he came as a helpless baby! And not a helpless child born to wealth and riches, but to a poor family who couldn't even get a room in an Inn and had to give birth in a stable! Again, I know we all know this, but it's just hit me in a profound way recently. Anyway, other than the Infant of Prague, I don't really know of anyone really praying to Baby Jesus. Is it ever done? Sorry if this is a stupid question, but I really am curious. Thank you for your always eye-opening answers!

Gosh! You must have been a poor public school kid. We go HOG WILD for the Baby Jesus all the time. Christmas is just the tip of the iceberg! One of our dear readers has already tipped you off to the Holy Child of Atocha. You've at least seen the Infant of Prague. Then there's the Holy Infant of Good Health...which looks suspiciously like the Infant of Prague.

When I was a child in grade school we had a club called the "Boy Saviour Club". We had little buttons and everything and we learned "Robert's Rules" to run the club. I was the secretary, I think. I know I had some position. We were in the second grade saying, "I second the motion!", etc. Just another reason Catholic school is so very wonderful. Take note, homeschoolers. It's pretty tough to go through Robert's Rules with 5 children ages 2 months to 12 years. The baby will never second the motion and nothing will pass.

The motto of the Boy Saviour Club was "May the Dear Boy Saviour Bless My Behaviour". I have told countless people about the club. It seems as though my second grade class was the only chapter of the club ever in existence. I could never find the buttons for my second grade class when I began teaching.

It I had second graders today, I could purchase a button maker and go to town.

I happen to be a fan of the Dragnet episode where the Baby Jesus is missing from the manger and Friday and the dull guy....what was his name?...are on the case. The priest is wringing his hands and everyone is up in arms about who would do such a terrible thing as to steal the Baby Jesus right out of the manger. The detectives are quite judgmental. Hitting a dead end, the detectives are standing around with the depressed priest when a little Spanish boy shows up with the Baby Jesus in his wagon. He took the Baby Jesus because he had asked the Baby Jesus for a wagon for Christmas and, when he got the wagon, he took the Baby Jesus out for a ride in it.

Sargent Friday and his pal arrest the boy, take him away in handcuffs and deport him back to Mexico.

No, they don't. Lou Dobbs isn't in that episode, so the boy is safe. Everyone is misty eyed. The end.

Dear Sister,

For the love of our Lord, would you please speak to us about the "Golden Compass" and the terrible things the author has said about nuns. Specifically in the book there is a woman who gave up being a nun because she realized God was a hoax and she wanted to have sex and study science instead!

This is just terrible!! The movie opens this weekend and I'm afraid good parents do not know how pernicious this story is and poor little innocent souls will be hurt!

I'm sorry. I just can't. I really don't know a thing about it, except there are two billboards near our house. I noticed Nicole Kidman is in the film. I never gave it another thought as I don't have $10 to spend on Nicole Kidman.

The debate will have to rage on without me. William Donahoe is certainly on the case.

I've never been one to worry to much about fantasy books and films, though, I will admit that. I can't think that I've ever met an atheist or an agnostic who said, "Sister, I was a devout Catholic until I read 'The Wizard of Oz', and it got me to thinking how great it would be if I could become a sorcerer of some type and how easy life would be. When none of my spells worked, I realized there is no God and I joined the circus and wasted my life."

Or anything remotely like that.

Everyone will have to decide for themselves if this movie is a near occasion of sin. You seem to be much more knowledgeable than I about the whole thing, so carry on doing the Lord's work.

As for "the terrible things the author has said about nuns. Specifically in the book there is a woman who gave up being a nun because she realized God was a hoax and she wanted to have sex and study science instead!" I think I know her. She teaches at the college.