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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, October 29, 2007

What Would Richard Simmons Do?

Sister St. Aloysius got an unusual greeting card today. It was a picture of a handsome young man in his football uniform. His mother was proudly telling Sister about how well he's doing, his football achievements at Notre Dame High School somewhere out there in America, his lovely girlfriend and every one's plans for the future. Isn't that nice?

I mentioned it was unusual, didn't I? I guess it wasn't. The reason she knew the young man was the unusual part. When he was three, she had made a Halloween costume for his four year old sister, a Dorothy dress (as in, Dorothy Gale, the little girl who got sucked up by a tornado and dropped in Oz with her scraggly little dog). Although his sister did wear the Dorothy dress for Halloween that year, this little boy loved it. After Halloween he wore it all the time. He looked pretty funny. No one made a fuss. His mother didn't see the harm in it. She thought it might seem even more important if she didn't let him wear it.

He grew out of it. The rest is history on a Halloween card. Sister St. Aloysius was very proud of the boy and the Dorothy dress.

We still have a lot to discuss about nun's habits it seems, but in the meantime we must address this question of the day:



I have a question for you, Sister, unrelated to nuns or habits.


What a relief!

It's about sin.


My favorite topic.

I'll try to be brief.

Me, too.

A non-Catholic friend of mine is having a crisis about it. She's got that gluttony is a sin (one of the seven deadly!) and so is homosexuality (acting on it, that is).
So... her question, which I told her I'd ask you, is: what's the difference between going to a fat preacher's home for dinner and going to a gay couple's home for dinner? Obviously, the fat preacher overeats and is thus a glutton.
It just occurred to me about an unmarried couple living in sin. How would that be any different from either of the above?

Thanks for your time, Sister.


Holy Dorothy dress!

So your friend believes her response should be something like:

"I can't come to dinner at your house, Reverend Lardpants, because you are such a big sinner. I can meet you in a neutral place, say, the pancake house. Or we could go for a stroll."


Seriously? This is an issue for someone? How does she know that Reverend Lardpants isn't struggling with a diet? Maybe his pituitary gland blew out. Perhaps he is on some drug that causes him to blow up like a balloon. I knew a guy like that once. He was so fat his eyes swelled shut. It was some drug he was taking.

Alright, let's say Reverend Lardpants eats like a pig. We've all seen him at the church supper, inhaling the pork and beans, flinging chicken bones over his shoulder, beating Japanese men out at hot dog eating contests. Better stay away from him, don't talk to him until he passes muster on The Biggest Loser.

Really?

Jesus had some advice: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

So, tell her to go over to the Reverend's house for dinner, but be sure and take a big pile of rocks, because as far as I can tell, she's going to need them.

Jesus really didn't have a problem hanging around with sinners and felons, you may recall. I can't recall Him saying, "you're a big sinner, I can't come over."

Is she worried about it being a near occasion of sin? I didn't think non-Catholics cared about near occasions of sins. Well, you learn something new every day. Perhaps she is worried she will be compelled to gluttony, homosexuality or run off to Rio with her lover, after dinner. Ole!

We do want to avoid people and places that tempt us to sin. But by her logic, avoiding people because they are sinners, we'd pretty much have to stay home. We might have to lock ourselves in the broom closet to boot. There are big fat people all over the airport and the mall, last time I checked. We couldn't do any ministry on skid row or in prisons. The Salvation Army would have to be very careful where they set up those bell ringers with their red pots.

I might just have to pack my bags and get out of here. You should see the size of my cat.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hot Topic

Kevin - "pax tecum" said...

Sister...? It has been a few days since you've posted...Is everything ok?


The pews are extra dusty from all the smoke. We've had our work cut out for us. Good thing I have my fire fighter habit handy in the closet.

Sister, this nun in plain clothes thing baffles me. Do you guys always wear habits, to grocery stores and baseball games and in your drivers license photos and stuff? As you said, there's no rule against it... but is it frowned upon to wear regular old clothes to these things? Just curious.

I don't have a firefighter habit in the closet.

To answer your question, it depends on what the Sister wears in the first place. Wearing a full habit like this, a Sister would have three or four 'outfits', the everyday, the 'dress blues' and the pew duster. It's all the same looking habit, it's just in various states of perfection. Today's dress blues are tomorrow's everydays and next year's pew dusters.

I do have a sort of 'gardening' outfit with a big hat. No one ever glimpses me in that. Maybe the meter reader.

But if a Sister is wearing more secular clothes to begin with, the sky's the limit.

Okay, not exactly. But think of it this way, if you were a business woman and wore a business suit all the time, you're not going to just suddenly jump out in front of the clients in a bikini or a disco dress and stiletto heels. You're going to wear conservative looking clothes even if you're attending the office picnic. Unless you have a screw loose.

That happens.

We are never not with our clients.

Another reader writes:
Personally, I feel about nuns without habits the same way I do about teachers wearing miniskirts and priests without collars. (And I have to admit that I once flirted with a priest out of uniform; then he had the nerve to tell me as if it were MY fault.)


It was your fault. Just who was doing the flirting?

Here's what I have to say to people who want nuns wearing full habits:

GET OVER IT.

Stop asking people who have chosen the religious life to dress in medieval garb so that you know how to act around them. Behave yourself all the time and you won't have a problem. What nuns wear is their business and the business of their orders. It's all about them. It's not about you.

I wonder how orders decide what color their habits will be.

I'd like to know the color to order thing too. I think the teaching sisters in Lincoln wear blue. Some are in gray, why?


I suppose we could have all stuck with black or brown. But then our hats would have had to get ever more elaborate so as to tell us apart. Again, we are talking about medieval garb here. The simplest most inexpensive fabric is going to be brown. We're definitely going to throw in some white for purity and voila, you've got you're basic habit colors.

Then along comes the order that is dedicated to the Blessed Mother. They are going to go with Mary blue, for sure. Why does Mary wear blue? Did Mary wear only blue all her life? She probably never ever wore blue even once. Mary is always depicted in blue because there was a time when to legally adopt someone, you put your cloak around them. The sky is blue.

Hold on, it will all makes sense in a moment.

Mary wears blue, because like the sky, which is blue, that covers us all, Mary has adopted us all.

I'm sure the gray orders just wanted to stay humble in a drab unassuming color.

How do they decide? I don't know. I'm sure they had a meeting and discussed it. Obviously these girls had cake at their meeting.


I'm kidding. Although everyone refers to these cloistered sisters as "The Pink Nuns", they themselves call their habits 'rose colored'.


I call it hot pink. Maybe it's my monitor.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Camouflage

Monica said...

Sister Mary Martha, I do hope you'll keep us posted on the halloween costumes and how you manage without a trip to Joann. I don't watch any daytime drama, so this is my substitute. Please let us know?


There are more fabric stores in the world, but Sister St. Aloysius never goes to them. The main reason is that the others are clear downtown. That is a whole day trip. There is one place, though, on our side of town. It is actually within walking distance.

I drove. Unlike the dreaded JoAnn's parking lot in which you have to drive in off a busy street and if you don't find a space, drive back out onto the busy street to go back in again, at which point someone who just got there will get the space that just opened up, this place has a secret parking lot. Not many people know they can park behind the building.

Everything about this place seems secret. I always wondered why Sister St. Aloysius avoided it. It's hard to describe. Large, dark, sort of dirty, like some old warehouse in which someone thrust an enormous load of stolen sewing supplies and fabric and made a hurried get away. Huge bolts of fabric crammed together and stacked to the ceiling. Spool and spools of cord and trim and ribbon. It's overwhelming.

I wanted to turn around and walk back out, but I was on a mission to find baby rick rack and check out fabric prices. I couldn't ask any one at the counter because there was no one there. There could have been someone there ducking down. I would duck down if I worked there.

The clientele seemed to all be really serious sewers, people that do upholstery for a living, interior decorators, set designers. You can tell because they are all on one side of the store where the really enormous bolts of upholstery fabric and curtain material resides. I slipped into the other side of the store where the bolts of cotton for quilting and aprons and fun little girls dresses resides. No body was over there.

Or so I thought. As I came barreling up to the wall of fabric a small woman with very short salt and pepper gray hair just about jumped out of her skin. I think she thought for a moment that she was about to be assaulted. Or maybe she thought one of the giant bolts of black fabric had come to life and was about to beat her brains in.

But then, seeing it was me and not attack fabric, she settled back into looking at muslin.

I settled into checking the prices. Way too pricey for us. Good thing I really only needed baby rick rack.

And thank goodness it actually says 'baby' on the package or I would still be there.

Every other aisle or so I would once again find myself sharing oxygen with the little gray haired woman. She was wearing a army green sweat shirt and jeans, but she was neat as a pin. That's when it hit me, although she was not someone I had ever met.

The next time I found myself in the same aisle I nodded to her and said quietly, "Sister."

And she nodded her head in my direction and replied, "Sister."

It was the neat as a pin part that gave her away. Wonder if she making all the Halloween costumes in her neighborhood. Maybe she just needs some new curtains.

It has occurred to me that I could put on an army green sweatshirt and jeans and take my neat as a pin self into JoAnn's. There's no law that says I can't.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Day of Rest

Since it's Sunday, a good day to mull things over, I thought I'd clear up a few lingering questions from our question box.

I was quoted by this questioner:

"But we have a higher calling. We constantly have to concern ourselves with the state of your soul..."

hmmmmm. I believe this to be true for myself as well...but I'm not a nun. What do you make of that?


hmmmmmm. I think I must be doing a pretty good job for you to be thinking that way. Congratulations to us both! I have mentioned that the next rung of punishment in Purgatory, the one after clergy and religious, is reserved for parents, and that is indeed because of their calling. Perhaps you'll pass me some water when Our Lady comes around with a bucket.

Sister, another nice post. I've heard that Luther died a good Catholic and received Last Rites, Confession, and reconciled himself to the Church on his death bed. Is this just a Catholic urban legend?

Pace,
La Bibliotecaria Laura


It doesn't even say that on Wikipedia! Certainly an urban myth. Luther was asked on his deathbed if he still believed his own made up teachings, and his last words could have been misconstrued that he was renouncing his heresy. But no such luck. In answer to, "Do you still believe all this stuff you made up?", he did say something like, "Yes, I do, God help me," which makes him sound a little sorry. But that not what he meant at all. He went down swinging, so to speak. I read that on Wikipedia.

I would say that I've never heard of a Catholic urban legend. But...that would be like saying I never heard of St. Christopher....


The teachings of the Magisterium support your gut preference to speak of "praying to" the saints. And they do so with no hedging or apology.


Yes, they do. But they are still talking about praying to the saint for their intercession. Good for them for not apologizing. I don't apologize, either. But I do have to explain. A lot.

It seems that praying is something that we - the living - do in the here and now, separated from God. But when you are a saint and in the full presence of God, why do you still need to pray? Isn't there a word that implies a more direct method of communicating with the Maker that is available only to those who see Him "face-to-face?"

BTW, you are kicking rear-end in the Blogger’s Choice Awards.


There must be such a word. The Germans certainly must have thought of one. They think up words for everything. (Like schottenfreud, when you take pleasure in the misfortunes of others. Thank goodness there is a word for that now.) We certainly speak of being in harmony with God.

We also speak of praying as 'speaking' to God. Surely, at one with God in heaven, we'll still be on speaking terms with Him. We won't even have to come up with fancy German words for psychological concepts anymore.

And thanks to everyone for their kind words and votes. Sister St. Aloysius has not been able to focus since for the past day or so we've gone back and forth from 4th place, to 5th and up to SECOND PLACE! We never imagined we'd get off of page 17, let alone up to second place. I'm not sure what we might be having for dinner tonight, she's so distracted. Ketchup soup or something, no doubt. She's sewed her fingers together a few times now, I think. I know the voting ends any second. Oh! the suspense!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What's He Got That I Ain't Got
























I guess October really is Ghost month
. We have had a lot of discussion about the souls of the dead.

Meanwhile, we have found another fabric store. Sister St. Aloysius refuses to go there at any time of the year because she says is too crazy in there. I take her advice on all things crazy, especially is thread is involved. I'll brave it, however. The Souls in Purgatory need me.

I'm a new reader and I really, really enjoy your writing. Tonight, however, I do have a question regarding this post. You said to NOT pray for your aunt unless she's been canonized? Why is that? Haven't many saints been prayed to for their intercession BEFORE they were canonized? Surely you've heard of people praying for the intercession of Pope JP II and Mother Theresa since the moment they've died (and I do think with the Church's blessing as well). Help me out on this one. Thanks!

You have brought up an very interesting dilemma, even though you have things a little backwards. Let's walk through it a step at a time:

1. We do not pray to anyone but Jesus...or God...or the Holy Spirit, Who are One but also separate. It's the Sacred Mystery of the Holy Trinity. Sacred Mystery is "Catholic" for "just let it go".

2. We do not pray to any saints or Mary. Even though we often say, "Pray to St. Anthony" or whoever, what we really mean is "Pray for the intercession of St. Anthony". We are asking St. Anthony to pray to Jesus..or God...or the Holy Spirit, Who are One but also separate. It's no different than if I asked you to pray for me.

When I speak to people I always try to make that distinction, so as not to confuse people further. But it's much easier to say "pray to" than "pray for the intercession of". I would prefer just to say "pray to" myself, and that everyone would just GET that that's not exactly what I mean. It makes life easier. Oh, well...one more thing to offer up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

3. We do pray for the dead, because until someone is canonized a saint we don't know where they ended up. Everyone who is in heaven is a saint, but we don't know for a fact if someone is in heaven or not unless they have been canonized. Canonized means we have proof they made it. Everyone else is in doubt and gets the benefit of the doubt of our prayers to hasten their trip to heaven.

Unless they went to hell. No amount of prayers and sacrifice will get them out of there. We give everyone the benefit of the doubt there, too. We never ever say that anyone, not even Hitler, is in hell. At the last second, he could have said, "What was I thinking!?"

So in answer to your question, of course you can pray for the soul of your dead aunt Sally.

We discourage you from praying for the intercession of your Aunt Sally(euphemistically called praying to Aunt Sally), since unless she has been canonized, we don't know that she's in heaven. But you do bring up an interesting question.

Indeed, we can't canonize anyone in the first place unless someone has prayed for their intercession and a miracle has occurred.

Uh-oh.

I would remind you that Pope John Paul II isn't your Aunt Sally. He certainly isn't my Aunt Sally, good old gal that she was. He has one thing, as the Wizard of Oz says, that she hasn't got.

There is another important criteria for sainthood: heroic virtue. Note the word, heroic. Note the word virtue. Not just virtue and not just heroism. Virtue that goes above and beyond the call of duty. My aunt Sally was very virtuous and she may well be in heaven, but she wasn't heroic. My Uncle Frank was heroic. But he was not virtuous. To say the least.

In these cases of heroic virtue we have more than enough reason to believe the person is in heaven. We just want proof. The miracles are to prove the person is in heaven, since the devil will never do anything nice.

So, you may pray for the intercession of your Aunt Sally, but we discourage it. Certainly pray for Aunt Sally.

Of course, some day, if I make it to heaven, I'm sure my Aunt Sally will be there saying, "Why didn't you ask me? I would have prayed for you in a heartbeat!" Then we'll both pray for Uncle Frank. I'm sure Purgatory has sobered him up some.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Welcome to the World



I examine my conscious daily
wondering why I write. I started writing to answer the many questions that are put to me on almost a daily basis in the real world. I can't be going door to door, not is this neighborhood. Plus, that door to door thing goes over like a lead balloon for those Jehovah's Witnesses.

But the blog took on a life of it's own. That could be sinful.

I don't think it is, though. Or at least, I don't think it has been. In part, I wanted people to realize that although I am a nun, I live in the same world you do and I am subject to the same problems, annoyances and temptations. More and more nuns live in the same way that Sister St. Aloysius and Sister Mary Fiacre and I do than go out to work and come home to a convent full of other Sisters.

But we have a higher calling. We constantly have to concern ourselves with the state of your soul. It's our job. Not only do I have to worry about it because it's my job, I have the added bonus of the going to the lowest rungs of Purgatory for my failures. The religious and clergy are destined for the worst punishment there.

Which is just another good reason to continue writing: the more readers I have, the more people I may have praying for me when I end up there. Because, let's face it, I'm going to be spending some quality time in Purgatory.

Today's question from a new reader:

Dear Sister,
Good post and I am really happy to have discovered your blog.
As a protestant I do have one question, why is it so important to keep praying for the deceased? Aren't they either in heaven or not? Does it make any difference whether we pray for them, shouldn't we just leave to God what happens to their souls?
Kind regards and keep up the good work.



I am happy you have discovered my blog, too. Do you know why you are called a Protestant? As a Catholic, I am happy to explain this to you. Here's what happened:

In the early 16th century the Catholic Church was rife with corruption. (Don't worry. We've straightened out the problems and the corrupt clergy that caused the problem are probably still in the lowest rungs of Purgatory...or worse...) The really big problem for a man named Martin Luther was the fact that the Church was selling indulgences.

Indulgences are prayers and penances that the Church as the authority to give to get people out of Purgatory early. They are like Purgatory parole. We don't have a problem with indulgences or the Church's ability to grant them. But selling them? That's bad.

We can all agree on that.

So bad, there was even a commercial jingle to boost sales.

So Father Luther -- a Catholic priest-- had a legitimate beef. He tacked a list of grievances up on the church door about all the things he was mad about. He wasn't trying to quit the Church. That's how you called for a debate back then. He was Protesting.

But the Church got mad and booted him out all together. So he started the Lutheran Church, which is why he was called and you are called a Protestant. He was so mad at the Church and the clergy that he decided to just cut them out of the picture. He decided we didn't need the clergy to understand the New Testament and all the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. He cut out the "middle man". I still can't figure out why the Lutheran Church has Ministers. Why do any Protestant churches have Ministers?

Could Martin Luther have been wrong about not needing a road map through the Bible? Hmmmmm.....

Anyhow, ex-Father Luther was so mad about Purgatory and the indulgences, he decided there was no such place. I wish I could solve all my problems so easily. Car broken? I'll just stay home. Children fighting with each other? What children?

Call me crazy, I follow the Church that was founded by Jesus while he was alive on earth, not the church founded on the teachings of a 16th century priest, or the next group who just wanted to change of couple of things from what Luther thought, like Calvin, and the next group who just wanted to change a couple of things from what Calvin thought until there were literally thousands of factions. I also don't follow the guy who wanted to get divorced but the Church wouldn't let him so he started his own church which is curiously similar to the Catholic church. But that's just me (and a few million other people.)

The Catholic Church believes there is a place where you are made perfect before entering heaven, that chances are, if you drop dead tomorrow, you are not in perfect harmony with God and have to get a few things straightened out, maybe suffer for a few of your sins. That place is Purgatory. Contrary to what you may have heard, there is indeed Scripture to back up the notion. "Praying for the dead" is mentioned.

"It's not in my Bible," you say. No, it probably isn't. It's in the book of Maccabees. Guess who threw the book of Maccabees out of the Bible? His initials are ML.

And, as you say, there is no reason to pray for a person who is in heaven or a person who is in hell. So if the Bible mentions 'praying for the dead', and it does, there must be someplace in between. A place where people need our prayers.

Unless you don't believe in praying for people who are suffering. To each his own, I suppose. As a Catholic, you are not obligated to spend one second praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory on your own. You will be praying for them at Mass. And hopefully, on All Souls Day which is right around the corner over there by Halloween.

You can go ahead and pray for the Souls in Purgatory...or you can pray for your own soul for when you get there. Because...well, I know I'll be there. Let's leave it at that.

I choose to pray only for the souls there now and hope that someone will return the favor and carry on the Tradition while I'm there. Because...I'm going. Even my scapular won't keep me out of there.

Speaking of Separated Brethren.....

Get over to the Blogger's Choice Awards and cast your vote for the top Catholic blogs. Although I love having your votes, right now the Anglicans are on top. We can't have that. The Catholics were out ahead all this time! Vote for me while you're at it...but don't make me into Ralph Nader here. It's a Blogger's Day of Obligation, Church Militant.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Soul Train


Poor Sister St. Aloysius. Between her ban on going to the fabric store during the month of October and the fact that I am banned from going to the fabric store ever again, we are between a rock and a hard place with Halloween bearing down on us once more. Perhaps she needs to first make a costume for me so I could arrive at Jo-Ann's Fabrics incognito.

I am all for collecting old linens and making everyone go as ghosts. The little kids only need a pillow case. The whole point of Halloween is the celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. All those people are ghosts, aren't they?

We don't talk much about "ghosts" in the Catholic church, although we understand that the dead have shown up from time to time. That's because you are not allowed to dabble around in trying to conjure them up yourself lest you inadvertently conjure up Beelzebub or one of his pals.

But since we're celebrating those who have passed on and are, or may be, in Heaven and praying for those who are in Purgatory, why not dress up like them? Get a sheet, cut a couple of holes in it, throw on a hat and go as Aunt Sally. I don't see the harm. As long as you don't assume where Aunt Sally has landed in the afterlife, pray for her intercession (unless she's been canonized), or try to conger her, I think she'd make for a good costume.

Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, what with me being banned for life from the fabric store.

Which brings me to today's question from Tom in Vegas:

In Christianity, as well as in other non-Catholic/ non-Christian religions, there is much talk about the soul. But what part of me is the soul? Is it in the brain? What part of it continues? And how do we know it does?

This is one of those overlooked discussions that doesn't get that much attention, and is accepted by some without adequate understanding.


I don't know what rock you've been under there in "Vegas", Tom, but that area gets quite a bit of attention, especially that last part, "How do we know it continues?" The answer to that is the difference between you and Christopher Hitchens (I hope). If we don't believe the soul continues, we can toss out the Bible and Jesus and the Catholic Church and the Lutherans and the Muslims and the Baptists and the Church of the Latter Day Saints and their magic underpants. We can even toss out the Buddhists. Good-bye everyone!

We really never STOP talking about the fact that the soul goes on after death. Care of the soul, because it is immortal, is practically our whole topic of discussion.

What part of you is your soul? It's all of you. It doesn't just ride around in your head. If it were just your brain, then if you were brain dead on life support your soul would be gone, wouldn't it? Would your soul just be sitting there in your useless skull? I think not.

Your soul is what gives you life and you have life until your soul takes off for parts unknown. You will go to one of three places, but unless you are canonized (which means you definitely went to Heaven), we won't ever know which one until we join you. It seems that God does allow some departed souls to pay a visit occasionally.

For example, many saints have been visited by souls who were suffering in Purgatory.

You aren't dead until your soul is gone from your body. I think even Christopher Hitchens would go along with that. He must have noticed some type of life force in the living and a lack of one in the dead. If you've ever seen a person die, or a dead body, you understand the difference between the soul being present in the body and the soul having taken off for parts unknown (to us).

All of your soul continues. I'm not sure why you think your soul comes apart at all. It's not made of matter, so there's nothing to come apart.

That's why making a ghost costume is so easy! Now if I can just get Sister St. Aloysius on board.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Top of the Heap


Well, here's some news. After we made it onto the front page of the Blogger's Choice Awards we stopped paying attention. So imagine our surprise today to find us in fourth place right behind the top three. I think Sister St. Aloysius is fashioning some sort of yard sign, which will be interesting, since we don't have a front yard. I appreciate her encouragement and good humor as well as her post in my absence.

Shall we celebrate or shall we not and offer it up? I think we should make some brownies and take them down to the Ladies at the Catholic Charity to eat and give out.

We appreciate everyone who voted for us and everyone who still pops over to vote. It's very gratifying.

I've got it! The perfect way to celebrate! Now if I can just find out where to get three hundred and nine candles.
Click her to vote! We can be found in both the Best Religion Blog and the Best Humor Blog!

Gangstas


HBO had a special on about some young women of today deciding whether or not to join the cloister. I saw the listing in the newspaper. I would like to see the program to see if any of them joined, but we don't have HBO.

Nor would I have HBO if it was free. Not only would it be indulgent, I don't have that much time to spend watching television. The news is pretty much it for us. I read the papers, but I prefer the television news because it's the pulse of the news. It's what most people rely on for information, for better or for worse, so watching Wolf Blitzer shout out today's headlines gives me a feel for what people are interested in, which stories they are following, even if the audience is being spoon fed what happened to Miss Britney Spears today. It gives me an idea of what people are thinking about.

Which, oddly, brings me to today's question:

Sister, could you explain the difference between Benedictine, Augustinian & Franciscan monks/nuns? Thanks.

No. I don't have time. It would take me all day. Different orders follow different sets of rules and have different missions and goals. You seem to have the internet. Look it up.

Because now you can go online and be a virtual nun. Many orders have websites that you can visit and the orders set the websites up so you can see what it's like...sort of...to be one of them. I'm not sure you can be a virtual monk. I've never visited those sites to find out. Monasteries are for boys. I'd feel like I was trying to get into to the boy's locker room. OUT OF PLACE.

The interesting question to me is, "Why are there different orders of religious?" And for that answer you have to look at the history of monks. It isn't as though a group of men got together one day and said to each other, "Let's all wear robes and be brothers!" (Although I guess that did happen at one point in time in the deep South.)

What happened was certain saintly individuals found it was impossible to be saintly around other people. Way too much temptation. So an individual would go away and live in a cave, but because he was saintly, other people would follow him and before you can say, "Wow! Let's make home made beer!" you have a make shift monastery. This was going on all over that place.

The thing about leading an austere life is that one austerity leads to another. You give up meat, next you give up that meal. Then that seems indulgent...or you're looking forward too much to the next meal, so you give that up and the next thing you know you're eating a teeny crust of dry bread and feeling guilty that you enjoy it so much.

I don't enjoy Wolf Blizter, so he'll never lead me to HBO. Where was I?

Anyhow, things were getting out of hand on the austerity front until St. Benedict came along. He made up rules for people to follow so that they could live an austere and holy life away from the temptations of the world and not end up wearing barbed wire and eating rocks.

Most orders were founded around a person who makes up the rules. And a lot of those people, the founders of orders, are people who took exception to the way people in an existing order were bending the rules. The Cisterians, the Discalced Carmelites, the Capuchins...all orders who wanted more order.

Or, like St. Dominic, they found the order too restrictive to do the mission they had in mind. For example, St. Dominic was fighting a big heresy that was going around at the time, especially in big cities and he wanted his brothers to still live an austere life as an example, but to be very mobile and active in preaching against the heresy.

Some orders are mendicant, like the Augustinians and the Franciscans. Some are discalced, like the Franciscans and the Carmelites. Althought the discalceds have always confused me, since they almost all wear shoes these days, as far as I can tell. They should call themselves Disdiscalced, perhaps.

It's how they live, how they pray, what they do, that separates them.


And their outfits. Black, brown, gray, scapular, no scapular, hood, no hood, belt, rope, knots, shoes, sandals. Like the Bloods and the Crips, except of course they are not gangstas.

So if you want to know more about any particular order, don't wait for Wolf to shout about them. That won't happen unless they commit a crime. Head for your monitor and keyboard, visit the order's website and give the religious life a whirl. Take your shoes off, wear something brown and visit the Franciscans, get out your black hoodie and pop over to the Benedictines.

It beats sitting in front of Taxicab Confessions.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pot Roast with Carrots and Potatoes

One of my favorite lines from anything is when Mr. Scrooge says to the ghost of Jacob Marley something along the order of, "..for all I know you are just a bit of undigested beef." Mr. Scrooge's whole long night may well have been an undigested bit of beef for all we know. The point is that the ghost, or the beef, did the trick.

Which brings us to today's questions and comments from our readers:

I have a question. I have a friend who has been seriously considering becoming a priest for a long time. He has been influenced in his decision by a number of dreams he's had that seem to be leading him towards the priesthood. Is it possible that these dreams were divinely inspired? or were they just dreams? How can he tell?

He can't tell. We certainly have many examples in the Bible of people who had important messages in their dreams. St. Joseph springs to mind. He paid attention to his dreams enough to get his family out of town when those stupid "wise" men came and spilled the beans to evil King Herod about their mission. Joseph didn't sit around wondering what it all meant. He packed the donkey and the diapers and got out of there.

But...there are two things you should remember about what happens when you dream. I have mentioned the first thing. The dream is almost always about what happened that day. The second is that just about everyone in your dream is you. You become Sybil in your dreams. Some people represent ideas, but most of them are you in disguise. You really have to keep in mind that it's YOUR brain at work--every image, every word, action and thought is you making it all up. Your dreams don't drop from the sky into your head while you sleep. They originate in your head.

The good news about your friend-the-soon-to-be-priest is that his mind is in sync with itself on the whole priesthood thing.

OR

God is talking to him.

Or the pot roast is talking to him.


Thank you for trying to sort out all of these things for us. Would you please talk a little about that other "ball of wax", the recurring dream. I have had some version of the same dream for about 35 years now. You would have thought I'd be over it by now, wouldn't you?

The recurring dream is a situation where your mind has something to tell you and you are just not getting it. Clearly you're not 'over it'.

I used to have a recurring dream that I was standing at the top of an impossibly steep and very long escalator with my arms full, and I had to take that first step without holding the handrail...They stopped when I found myself with 3 children (scared of escaltors) and assorted parcels and someone behind me who was WAITING for me to get on. I turned around and explained my recurring dream, so she laughed and helped me, and I haven't had the dream since.

Along with your fear of escalators and small children. In your dream the escalator was 'impossibly' steep. It isn't anymore.


Many Bibical examples show where God has communicated in our dreams. I used to have a recurring dream one of my children was hurt and needed me, it always ended at the point of whether I could stick with them in the emergency room or not. Then my daughter ripped her foot open in a bicycle accident. I did stay with her in the emergency room, I did hold it together when she needed me. Never had that dream again.

Of course you didn't. Your dream reflected your nagging fear. How's the foot?

I worry a little about people thinking God is communicating with them in their dreams, even though it's a good thing the people in the Bible didn't worry about that. The Church worries about it, too, which is why we are not required to believe the private revelations of anyone. This includes Mary sightings, the promise of the Miraculous Medal and the Scapular and what saints have said about their visits to Hell and people visiting them from Purgatory. The Church only tells us which things are worthy of our veneration. After that, we're on our own.


If you're willing to think that God is talking to you in your dreams, how do you know it's not the devil tricking you? You could end up like those ex-communicated nuns or worse. Whenever I have an interesting dream, I think to myself, "Good job, subconscious mind!"

Then I go have some pot roast.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Dream On



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Last night I had a dream that Hell was thinking about letting people out to run errands. They'd have to come back, but they could pick up their dry cleaning.

I have several hobbies. Patron saint matching, gardening and the world of dreams. I took a course about a hundred years ago in the Old Testament from a Jesuit priest at Loyola. When he was talking about the prophets he said that if you look at what any particular prophet said as relating a dream the prophet had, the whole prophet landscape makes a lot more sense.

He digressed into explaining that when researchers deprived people of sleep, people can go on for days before becoming psychotic, but when they are deprived of dreams, psychosis starts within a day or two. Whoever deprived these people of their sleep and dreams started by depriving cats of their sleep and dreams. I wouldn't want to be around that lab.





















All cats do is sleep.

Anyhow, the whole situation caused me to do buckets of research on dreaming and, as a result, I can tell you exactly why I dreamed that Hell was mulling over letting people go buy some more printer ink and return. Except in the case of a recurring dream (which a whole other ball of wax), a dream is always about what happened to you on the day of the dream. That's because dreaming is your brain's way of defragmenting, like your computer, at night.

I dreamed about Hell's loophole because of all the reading I did yesterday on everyone's questions and comments about Baptism. Just like I think it is pretty clear that once you are in Hell you stay there, even if you need to have your tires rotated, I thought I was pretty clear about Baptism, which is a thing you'll need to stay out of Hell in the first place (unless you are under age seven, the only Baptism loophole of which I am aware.)

I've never told anyone this, but when my daughter (just turned 4 yesterday) was a newborn, she used to wake up crying and it would take a long time to get her back to sleep. Every night.

One night, perhaps because of sleep deprivation, I became afraid that something was seriously wrong with her and that we might lose her (this turned out to be incorrect, but with a crying baby in my arms in the middle of the night and I have to be at work alert in the morning, it didn't seem so unreasonable).

So I dipped my fingers in the Holy Water font next to the door and made the sign of the cross on her forehead and said "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

Eventually, she learned how to sleep through the night and in due course, she was baptized in Church by a deacon who was a friend of ours.

Did I actually baptize her? Did I do something wrong?


It's so nice that you have a Holy Water font next to the door! What's on it? If ever I became a collector of something, I think it would be Holy Water fonts. We have a Mary one on the front door and a Guardian Angel on the back door. What was the question?

Yes, you did baptize her, because it was your intention to baptize her, you have a right to baptize her (you knew her mother wanted her baptized, too), you did it with water, you said the right words, you used her head (very important if the head is accessible), and you believed, before your sleep deprivation actually caused psychosis, that she might be in danger.

The mistake you made was not telling anyone. What should have happened is that you should have told the priest who baptized her at the ceremony that you already baptized her and he would have then performed the rest of the rite, minus the part you already did. Everyone's happy and then there's cake.

I'm sure you had cake anyhow.

Which brings up this comment:

My sister is a neo-natal nurse practitioner who works in a Catholic hospital. She says they are very careful about baptizing sick babies (without the presence of the parents) because if the baby gets better, the family can't have another baptism and most families want that ceremony.

You're sister is wrong. The family can still have the ceremony. I think the problem is that the nurses maybe don't want to scare the parents about how sick the baby is and if they baptized the baby, they'd have to tell the parents so that when the time comes the parents have a proper baptism that leaves out the first part that was already done.

Here's what I don't get about the neo natal nurses. If I'm a neo-natal nurse and a baby is sick and should be baptized, why don't I tell the parents and call the priest? Because if the baby is so sick that I think there is no time for the priest to make it across town, I better baptize that baby.

I guess it's a good thing I'm not a neo-natal nurse, running around scaring people and baptizing babies. I would have to show up at every baptism ceremony of every baby I baptized in the hospital and bring the cake, just to make up for scaring them so badly.

I've never baptized anyone, by the way, even in my dreams. Lay baptism is truly only for emergencies. You can't baptize even a very sick baby without parental consent, or adults without their own consent. You can't baptize an insane person who says he wants to be baptized if he told you while he was sane that he didn't want to be baptized, unless he gets sane again and still wants to be baptized and even then, YOU can't do it. You'll have to call the priest. You can't baptize anyone unless he is about to kick the bucket in the first place.

Here is my recurring dream, the recurring dream of a nun: something I had fixed is rotting. What do you suppose that means? It's not rocket science.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

There, But By the Grace of God.....


We have a lot to discuss from our readers from our last post, but I'm afraid I have to pause momentarily to make sure everyone understands that every time you read an article about three nuns living in a house together it doesn't mean it's Sister Mary Fiacre, Sister St. Aloysius and I.

So when you read that the Santa Barbara nuns get to stay in Santa Barbara and continue their work there (although the house in which they now reside is still being sold by the Archdiocese), it's not us. We're are in no danger of losing our house to anything but termites. (Or a good stiff wind.)

And although I've had my Andy of Mayberry moments with Sister St. Aloysius, when I say I'd go to the mat for her, please don't confuse us with these three nuns:

A CONVENT in southern Italy is being shut down after a quarrel among its last three remaining nuns ended in blows.

Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista, reportedly upset about their mother superior's authoritarian ways, scratched her in the face and threw her to the ground at Santa Clara convent near Bari in an incident in July that was kept quiet until now.

Archbishop Giovanni Battista Pichierri tried to reconcile the nuns but finally decided in late August that they had "clearly lost their religious vocation'' and asked the Vatican for permission to close the convent.

Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista moved to another convent, but Sister Liliana barricaded herself inside, refusing to leave, the reports said.

She suspected Bishop Battista Pichierri of planning to cede the convent to another community.

Liliana had been at the convent since its founding in 1963.



You know, it could be that Sister Liliana had it coming.

I'm joking.

But if you ever read the real story of St. Bernadette of Lourdes and what went on between her and her Mother Superior, you wouldn't be surprised to hear that Bernadette at least stuck her foot out to trip her dear superior...just once.

I'm still joking.

A lot of the other nuns around St. Bernadette might have cheered and brought popcorn.

Ha. Ha.

Joking aside, St. Bernadette was the first thing that sprang to my mind when I heard the story this afternoon on the radio. I've always loved the movie, "Song of Bernadette", but I didn't realize that the end of the movie is high fiction for years to come. In the film, Bernadette has a nemesis nun there in the convent, who doesn't believe that Bernadette saw the Blessed Mother and she picks on Bernadette mercilessly.

Now, that's par for the course in the convent. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And helps us to embrace humility and obedience. It's a good thing.

In real life, Bernadette's superior was so brutal that she shocked everyone who witnessed what was going on, especially the novices who were new to the process anyhow. St. Bernadette always told them to calm down. She could handle it.

It didn't kill her, either. It made her unbelievably strong and humble and obedient.

So in the movie the nemesis nun is always accusing Bernadette of playing sick to get attention. Bernadette was very sick her whole life. The nemesis nun catches Bernadette limping and accuses her of doing it for attention once again when everyone discovers that Bernadette, who is trying NOT to limp, has an ulcerated leg bone, or some such horrifically painful thing that would have had a normal person screaming in agony. The nemesis nun has a complete epiphany. She confesses that she has in fact been jealous of Bernadette. The nemesis nun has slaved her whole life to be good and perfect and obedient and humble and here comes this dumb bunny of a girl who barely knows her Catechism and gets a private visit from the Virgin Mary. Actually, quite a number of private visits! The former nemesis nun spends the rest of Bernadette's life carrying her around and slaving for her and the like.

That's the highly fictitious part. The epiphany and the carrying. In real life Bernadette's superior was completely disgusted with her, never had a good word to say about her, never went anywhere near her when Bernadette was ill. Bernadette was so ill for so long that she finally did resort to screaming. Her superior stayed away. She never attended Bernadette's funeral and asked that Bernadette not be mentioned around her anymore.

Still, no one scratched her eyes out or threw her to the floor.

Poor Sister Lilliana. She was just doing her job.

Now, if you read some nuns have been attacked by bees, smothered in Morning Glories, arrested at a fabric store or a bank, drowned in sewage, or forever lost inside a Home Depot, you might be reading about us.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Britney Spears Needs a Pope



While watching CNN today
to see what we need to be praying for, we were shocked to find out we knew lots of things about Miss Britney Spears. I was amazed to find that I didn't need any background on the story to understand what the perfectly coiffed newswomen were reporting. I can't remember the phone number for the neighboring parish office, but I know lots things about this Miss Spears, things that I do not need to know. Ever.

But today we learned that Miss Spears behavior (see our last entry for the definition of 'scandal') has cost her custody of her two children. (I'm surprised I don't know the cell phone numbers of her two toddlers.) All the young pretty women who talk on the news channel seem to think this is a very good thing.

I can't judge. None of us like the idea of a child ripped from his mother, even for his own good. We would rather his mother would come to her senses and turn into Betty Crocker. Or Aunt Jemimah. She certainly looks nurturing. At least we know they can both cook.

If Miss Spears is concerned that losing her children is a bad thing, I have two words for her: Edgardo Mortara. If only the Pope would step in.

Little Edgardo was a young Jewish lad who became deathly ill. He was one of seven children living happily with his Jewish family. But fortunately for him when he became very ill, the Catholic maid became alarmed that he may die and go straight to hell and baptized him in the kitchen sink.

(She should have known he wouldn't go to hell. He was under age seven, the age of reason. He would have gone to Limbo. It was still open back then. The under-Catechised have always been with us.)

Actually, I'm not sure where she baptized him. My mother always wanted to baptize my unbaptized cousin in his kitchen sink and the image just stuck with me. You can't just go around baptizing babies in the sink, no matter how much you might want to do it. You can't baptize a baby against the will of ...or behind the backs of...his parents. Normally, only a priest would baptize anybody.

But if some unbaptized person of any age is about to kick the bucket without having been baptized you can leap to the rescue and baptize them. The only hitch is you can't do it without water. You can't grab the dishwashing liquid from under the sink or the cooking oil or anything like that. As long as you have water you don't even need the person's head. You can pour the water on whatever part of them you can get near.

Don't worry if you end up in this scenario: you come across a car in a ditch. The mangled wreckage envelopes a dying unbaptized person. If only you had a bottle of Arrowhead you could pour it on the person on whatever part of the person you can see, even though you can no longer tell what it is. You could even use that Dasani stuff that's made from, well, not Lake Arrowhead. But you have no water. At the point where the person is about to die, but wishes you had the water to baptize them with, they are baptized. That's called a baptism of desire.

If the person has not been baptized, but crashed his car into a tree rather than renounce Jesus, he has had a baptism of blood, generally know as 'martyrdom'. You don't need to lift a finger.

You can only baptize an unbaptized person with water without any one's permission if it is an emergency.

Edgardo's maid felt it was an emergency.

At that time, in Italy in 1846 or so, it was illegal for a Jewish family to raise a Christian child. Edgardo's maid had made him a Christian and the police came and took him away. He was six years old.

The Pope, Pope Pius IX never heard the end of it. Every head of every state called to complain. But Pope Pius IX was one of the most stubborn Popes we've ever had. His nickname was "Pio NoNo". Edgardo stayed at the Vatican a lot of the time and the Pope had a good time playing with him. They became great pals. Edgardo's parents came to visit him many times and begged and pleaded to take him home but he didn't want to go home with them.


How do we know? Edgardo testified at the canonization hearings of Pope Pius IX. Edgardo said he was happy to see the folks but miraculously never wanted to go home with them.

Edgardo became a priest. Britney Spears should be so fortunate.

Too bad the Pope isn't getting hold of the kids. They are going to their father, who according to the pretty young women who read the news, is not the type to lead them toward the priesthood. Or baptize them in the sink or anywhere else. We'll be praying.