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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Uh Oh...

This is not good.

It turns out the Carmelites have shut down their wonderful website. It was just there last Friday, which was actually Wednesday. Then on Friday, which was really Thursday, it was gone.

You'll be sorry, too, because now I am stuck trying to tell you what they had to say about concentrating. I'll be lucky if I can concentrate long enough to do that. I did what they said, though, and here's how it went for me.

Step One:
Relax and clear your mind.

We know this won't last long. That's the whole problem. Your mind is clear for about two seconds and then "wham!", you start thinking stupid things again.

Step Two:
Quick! While your mind is clear for a second take a look around you. Take in the color, the smell and nothing else. Don't look at things and think, "That's a desk. That's a chair." Just take in the color. In other words, eliminate the label.

The Carmelites suggest that you take a walk in the woods, or somewhere in nature and do this. It calms the mind. It helps eliminate thinking.

Step Three: Practice doing this as often as you can. While doing the dishes, say, or changing diapers. It will really help with changing diapers, I think. You'll hardly notice what's really going on there.

So, out I went to take in nature. I live in the city. I had to run an errand and walk up to the drugstore which is three blocks away. I always walk up the alley, because to walk up the sidewalk on the street is to walk next to an endless stream of tailpipes.

I took in the colors. The grays, the crunching sound, the bright orange of the smashed Del Taco cup, the fading red of the flattened Marlboro hard pack. This is a good thing. A smashed orange Del Taco cup is no longer a cup, or litter, a nuisance or a blight, without it's label as such. It's just orange.

I was doing fine until I got the the Walgreen's. Outside was an old lady trying to enter the store with her walker. She was teetering along taking teeny tiny steps. It was going to take her most of the month to go in and purchase something and leave again. I worried about her the whole time I was there. I got back on track after I got out of there. There are actually hibiscus around the Walgreen's. Some actual nature. Some green and yellow and pink. Just before I re-entered the alley, I saw two homeless men being handcuffed by the police.

That was so sad. When you don't label them as homeless men, or a blight on society, you just see two souls being humiliated with a very uncertain and unpleasant near future.

I'm not very good at reiterating the Carmelites' lesson plan. It was so good. Why didn't they just leave up their archives? Now you're stuck with me.

Please try it anyhow. What it will eventually do for you is help make everything you do a prayer. That's the main value. And it will most certainly get you through a rosary, if not a Rosary.

A reader reminds us:
Distractions happen to everyone. They happen to some people even more than to others. All the brain-training and willpower in the world won't "cure" a person with ADD, for example. I wrote a post last month about distractions and prayer. I wrote it with people with ADD in mind, but I think it is good for everyone. Sister, if you would be so kind as to allow me a link, it's here. http://ginkgo100.blogspot.com/2008/05/addadhd-religion-prayer-for.html

True enough. I caution everyone, however, not to go around pretending you have ADD to wiggle out of trying harder. It isn't fair to the people who actually have ADD and it will land you in Purgatory.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What? Who?

Not only did I wake up yesterday thinking it was Friday, and feeling like it was Friday all day, but I woke up again today thinking it was Friday. I know everyone has had something like this happen to them. You know what else happens to me once in a while? I'll think to myself, "Let's see, I have to be over at Church at 7pm and it takes me twenty minutes to get there, so I'd better, let's see, start getting out the door by...hmmm 7." Then all of the sudden, at about five minutes to seven, I realize the ridiculous mistake I've made. Happily for me odd phenomenon only occurs once every five years or so. It's very hard to explain why I'm late. Because I'm really stupid? Just last week I invited a lady over to watch the NBA playoffs while at the same time arranging for a ride across town for a seminar I had to attend on the same evening. I was thinking about what snacks to serve while figuring out what time I had to get ready to leave. Because I'm crazy? I guess it has been about five years since the last time, so I was due.

I wonder if tomorrow I will think it's Saturday. Maybe I will wake up every day for the rest of my life thinking it's Friday, like a person in a Twilight Zone episode.

At any rate, we pick up where we left off yesterday. Distraction.

What? Is that what we were talking about?

My second Rosary question: Does it count at all if I'm quite distracted through the Rosary? Like if I'm saying the prayers but more concerned with correcting my children's behavior or if I'm pre-occupied with worrying about the many things I fret over. Sometimes I get through with a mystery (many times) and I realize I did almost zero meditating on the mystery and instead I was worrying about how I'm going to pay the electric bill or something. Do I get any credit for these Rosaries or should I just give up those times and try again later?

It's probably just because there aren't any nuns anymore to wallop you upside the head when you drift.

I won't wallop you. Although I'd like to wallop you for thinking about the Rosary in terms of credit. That is such a big can of worms we may have to come back to that. If I can pay attention long enough.

Here's what I do understand about being distracted. We are, all of us, beset by schedules and worries, aches and pains, noises and odors, cats and dogs, birds chirping, squirrel clacking, the needs of others and Jehovah's Witnesses at the door. And God understands this. He did, after all, make the cats, dogs, birds and squirrels, and the Jehovah's Witnesses. God will always listen to you and forgive you no matter what. Do your best, that's all He asks.

Here's what I don't understand about being distracted. How would you feel if just about every time I talked to you I...

Wait, I have a phone call. "Hello! I'm so sorry about last week's game! I was going to make Boston Cream Pie! Yes, I still have the tape. Why don't you come by on Friday. When is Friday, by the way?"

...every time I wanted to spend some time with you, we would sit down and I would listen to you for a minute of two and then you tell me some things. Go on, tell me all about it...

gosh, how am I going to pay the electric bill. It's just out of this world! And it's only going to get worse, what with gas prices. I suppose I could just only buy a little gas instead of filling up. I just don't know how many places I can walk and still get all my errands done.

What? Your kid eloped with a Jehovah's Witness? Which kid? Yes, I heard you say which kid.

I really didn't. I was thinking that I have to pay that bill by Friday. Is it Friday yet?

I don't think we treat our friends this way. If we do, we won't have them very long. "That Sister Mary Martha," you'd all say, "I don't even bother talking to her anymore. What planet is she on?"

So how come everyone says they have this great relationship with God and love Him so much and can't seem to get through a conversation with Him?

Chew on that.
Yes, we're all distracted. But if we were as distracted as often as we are in prayer, we would never get anything done. There would be no one who could play Beethoven's piano sonatas or even try to learn to play them. There would be no Kevin Garnet, no Michael Jordan. There would be no such thing as a souffle or a skyscraper. There would be no Dog Whisperer.

Fear not! Help is on the way. I'm going to refer you to the experts. You met them yesterday. If you can pay attention long enough go back to their website. They have lessons posted on how to concentrate. We can talk about it tomorrow and I'll tell you my experience following their plan.

I will be able to give the matter my full attention, as I will no longer have to wonder if it's Friday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Go Pro

What day is it? Summer always throws me. I've been thinking all day that it's Friday. In two days I will be correct. Let me put you on to some people who are not confused.

I often get questions about vocations. I really hate to answer questions about vocations. There are two questions that make me particularly uncomfortable, "what order should I join?" and "how do I tell if I have a vocation?"

I just cannot answer those questions for two reasons:

There are thousands of orders doing hundreds of things.

I don't know you from Adam.

At least these days you can be a virtual nun.

I had heard about being a virtual nun a long time ago, but I never paid any convents any virtual visits until just yesterday (and I knew yesterday was Tuesday and still woke up thinking today was Friday). I noticed on my little advertising list that the eighth grade boys had encouraged me to add, there was an ad called "Be a Virtual Nun." That took me to a dandy site written by a nun who explains what her days are like, what her schedule is...I really liked her schedule, which included eating popcorn and reading in the evening. We don't have popcorn here as it does not agree with Sister Mary Fiacre's diverticulitis, and it doesn't seem fair to make her smell popcorn that she can't eat. Anyhow, I found it fascinating.

Today there was a link to another order. So keep your eyes peeled. (Pray to St. Lucy to help you with that.)

I also want to put in a plug for these gals: The Carmelites of Indiana. Although they will not be the Carmelites of Indiana much longer.

OH how I love them! They were the first virtual nuns I heard about so long ago. They are a cloistered order and their numbers were dwindling. I think they went from 16, to 12, to 7 in a couple of years time. I also think they were hoping their website would bring them some fresh faces.

But it didn't. Now they have to move out of their giant convent, which means they have to leave Indiana altogether. It's not so sad as what was going on with those three nun in Santa Barbara. The big giant convent is going to be used as a seminary. It's not like they have no where to go and the house is going to be a Wal-Mart. They are going off to live with a group of Franciscan nuns and continue their Carmelite mission. Hopefully there won't be any turf wars.

I'm kidding about the turf wars. Everyone is wearing brown at least. (That's a gang colors reference...still joking....)

Here's the thing that thrills me about this group. It's called "Pray the News". We do that all the time! Even better, each nun takes a turn writing about what she's been thinking about in regards to the news. They used to each write something on each news article. Then they had just one nun do it per news article per week. Now they don't post new articles very often, so I admit I don't visit them so much anymore.

Except....when I'm really in a pickle and I need prayers. I go straight over to them. I figure that in as much as God hears all our prayers no matter how they are offered, these nuns are like the Michelangelo's of prayer. The Isaak Perlman's of prayer. The Michael Jordan's of prayer. They don't do anything else. Always go with a professional, I say.

So I'm pleased to introduce you to them if I haven't already. I may have already talked about them. Who knows? I don't even know what day it is.

Speaking of professional prayers:
James said...

Okay, back to the Rosary. I have a question or two: So 4 times around the beads is a Rosary with a capital R. Now do I start each new set of mysteries with the Apostles Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary's etc. or do I end the 5th mystery and go right on to the next large bead and start off with an Our Father for the first of the next set of Mysteries? This might be a minor, inconsequential (?) point so forgive my ignorance.

My second Rosary question: Does it count at all if I'm quite distacted through the Rosary? Like if I'm saying the prayers but more concerned with correcting my children's behavior or if I'm pre-occupied with worrying about the many things I fret over. Sometimes I get through with a mystery (many times) and I realize I did almost zero meditating on the mystery and instead I was worrying about how I'm going to pay the electric bill or something. Do I get any credit for these Rosaries or should I just give up those times and try again later?

It really never occurred to me to go zooming through onto the next set of Mysteries like that. I suppose you could. We start over again. Helps clear your mind to contemplate the next set.

I think we have to tackle part two tomorrow. On Saturday, or Thursday...whatever day it turns out to be.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Catholic Science

I think I mentioned once that Sister Mary Fiacre was once in the circus. She was an aerialist when she was very young. Circus arrows led her to the religious life. Yesterday, when I was discussing patron saints it occurred to me that St. Wilgefortis could well be her patron saint. Every circus has a bearded lady, does it not?

Sister St. Aloysius is aggravated by the story of St. Wilgefortis. I can't say as I blame her. I feel the same way about St. Christopher.

To recap, St Wilgefortis was about to be married off to some terrible man that her father wanted her to marry. St. Wilgefortis prayed to get out of it and woke up with a beard, which did the trick. Then her father was so angry he had her crucified.


Sister St. Aloysius just doesn't believe that St. Wilgefortis woke up with a beard. I think sometimes women do wake up with beards, after they turn 5o. But St. Wilgefortis was a young woman, so I have to concede that it's likely that the story of St. Wilgefortis is only a legend.

The Catholic Church concurs and took St. Wilgefortis off the calendar of saints some time ago. In fact, there is a Jesuit priest who thinks he knows how the whole story got started. In Lucca, Italy, there is a crucifix that is wearing a dress. I mean Jesus is dressed in a robe. It is a famous cross over there. It even had, at one time, a silver bottom, for when people kiss the foot of the cross on Good Friday. The point is that, if you want to believe there is a St. Wilgefortis, then this cross could be a girl with silver shoes. A bearded girl with silver shoes. But the theory is that this crucifix became confused with the story of St. Wilgefortis.

Works for me! That is, until I read this scientific theory.

It turns out that people who are anorexic grow beards. More specifically, their poor bodies, trying to figure out what in the world to do to keep them alive, grow a silky downy kind of hair to try to keep them warm, since they have no food to burn to keep them warm.

I'm not making this up. Someone published a paper about it.

Left out of the story of St. Wilgefortis when it is usually told, is that the beard did not actually grow overnight. In fact, St. Wilgefortis was in such a state about her pending nuptials that she stopped eating. She was fasting. She could have been fasting for quite some time, which over time, would have had the same effect as if she were anorexic. So she grew some hair.

St. Wilgefortis rides again! It's not the means of the miracle. It's the timing.

We won't have to switch Sister Mary Fiacre over to St. John Bosco, the other patron saint of circus performers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Matchmaker, Matchmaker....

I always trust the saints to get things straightened out. Of course it started when I was very young and my mother drummed it into my head that she had always prayed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help because she was sure no one would marry her and she hoped for financial stability. That prayer was answered in the form a bread winner she to whom she was married for 60 years.

Of course, St. Anthony never fails to find anything that is lost. Mother Frances Cabrini has indeed kept our machinis running, not just the car, but the washing machine. Someone gave us an old washing machine. I was doing wash the other day and it wouldn't turn on. I was just saying the Mother Frances Cabrini prayer, "Mother Cabrini, put down your linguini, look down from heaven and fix my machini." When Sister St. Aloysius, the genuis, happened by and gave the knob a good twist. I hadn't twisted it far enough.

As that Jesuit teacher of mine said, the miracles are sometimes in the timing. So also goes the answered prayers.

Our reader Anne writes:

Sr Mary Martha, Which saint would you recommend to help me find a good catholic husband? And also, any saints that could help a girl whose moving half way across the world?

And another reader tags along with:
I'm going to add to Anne's request. I need a good Catholic girl for my son. I also need a saint to watch over him as he wants to travel from Nebraska to New Zealand for a semester of study. All that's left for this mom to do is pray and I can use all the help I can get.

Oh, this is so easy breezy lemon squeezy! St. Agnes is the patron saint of man hunting! Although I can never figure out why, really.

St. Agnes was one of many virgin martyr saints with roughly the same story. Girl finds Jesus. Girl vows virginity. Boy wants to marry girl. Girl refuses. Girl is tortured to death. Girl goes straight to heaven.

Not as cheery as a musical, but it does have a happy ending.

In Agnes' case, as with many others, the boy in question was some important boy, and when she turned him down for Jesus, the important boy wanted to humiliate her, so his plan was to march her through the streets in her birthday suit. Her hair miraculously grew and made that plan impossible.

There is another saint, St. Wilgefortis who had a similar set of circumstances, only she miraculously grew a full beard to keep the men at bay. She is not the patron saint of man hunting. She is actually the patron saint of getting rid of men. It could be she was just having the change of life or something, but the miracle is in the timing.

Anyhow, poor Agnes soon felt the wrath of the important boy. She was throw into a brothel where hehad the nerve to pay her a visit and was promptly struck blind. Or killed.

Blind or killed, one of the two.

St. Agnes, being a future saint, returned his sight. Or brought him back to life, whichever thing it was that had happened to him.

Then he had her head chopped off.

Some of these virgin martyrs are tortured for a while, or various methods to do them in fail. The head chopped off always works in the end.

I see no reason for St. Agnes to spend her heavenly days finding husbands for people, but it appears to be her specialty. If you fast all day on the eve of the feast of St. Agnes and then eat an egg before you go to sleep, you will dream of your intended. Unfortunately, you've already missed that important deadline.

You might also consider St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who had an arranged marriage to an important fellow. She was betrothed at age four and married at age fourteen. She was deliriously happy in her marriage and devastated when her husband died on his way to a Crusade. Or was it on his way back? Anyhow, he never made it home. She was only 20 years old. She spent the rest of her life (four more years) and his fortune caring for the poor and sick. That's why so many hospitals are called "St. Elizabeth's Hospital".

And for young people leaving home, the official patron saint is St. Raphael the archangel. Raphael spent a section of the Old Testament traipsing around with young Tobias on his first travels.

And....BONUS...he is also the patron saint of young lovers! He set off with young Tobias. Tobias met the girl of his dreams but the girl's father wouldn't have it. Guess who talked the old man into a happy ending? Raphael. Tobias and his wife live happily ever after. Tobias is one of those old testament figures who lives to be nine hundred and twenty nine years old, or some crazy number of years there abouts.

There are also plenty of saints who traveled very far and could help with the rigors of taking a long trip. I'd go with the North American martyrs. I'm not sure there were people who had a rougher time of it on trips then those poor men. Things were so terrible for them, sometimes they went home to France for a while to recuperate, only to go back again. It's not like they hopped on a plane and had to remember to wiggle their toes on the trans Atlantic flight so they didn't get gas bubbles in their blood streams and all they had to worry about after that was jet lag. They had been chewed on. They had to take a big wooden boat out on the high seas to go back and forth. I'm sure they could look after a modern day traveler with one hand tied behind their backs.

I don't think you ladies can go wrong with saints like these in your and your son's corners!And there is always good old St. Christopher, for those die hard St. Christopher fans.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Charting the Course

We had a couple of questions about finding patron saints for finding some good Catholic boys suitable mates. I have played patron saint match maker while doing custom patron saint match ups more than once and can't wait to tackle this assignment.

But we have to pause one last time to clear up some rosary issues.

So what is the penalty for praying the 'wrong' mysteries on the wrong day? I usually stick with the traditional distribution, but sometimes I'm more in the mood for a different mystery, so I just do the one I want. Will I be docked grace? Points? More time in purgatory?

I can see I have some explaining to do.

Rosary Mysteries Days of the Week 101:

In order to actually say the Rosary, you have to go through the beads four times. Each time through you meditate on a different set of Mysteries. There are four sets of Mysteries now. There used to be three. A few years back the Pope added the Luminous Mysteries, so now we have those plus the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries. Holy Mother Church in her infinite (and we do mean infinite) wisdom realized that what with internet surfing, blog reading, raising a large family, clipping coupons and searching for the cheapest gas, you don't have time to say a Rosary every day. No one, however, has such a hectic life that they can't get through ONE set of Mysteries during the day. Let's call this saying the rosary. Small 'r'.

I'm not sure why the Church (in her infinite wisdom) decided to suggest exactly how to do that. I can guess. There are people who only like one set of Mysteries and would just stick to that all time saying the Joyful Mysteries day in and day out. That would rather defeat the purpose of saying the Rosary.

What is the purpose of saying the Rosary? Let's review: The Rosary is a meditative prayer.

Here's something that really tickles me, by the way. "Guided Meditation" is the new rage here on the Coast (capital "C"). Just the other day I had to ride in a car with someone who had a tape on with a woman's voice who was telling my driver over and over that she was "an organized person" and will organize her things. Nothing could be further from the truth. My feet, resting on empty water bottles, a gift she had to give someone but hadn't yet, and some important paper work her lawyer had given her about her recent car accident, were testifying to the fact that the tape was not working.

The Rosary is guided meditation! We are laughing behind our hands at how advanced we've been since St. Dominic popularized the beads way back when. WAY back when.

The Rosary is a meditation on the Life of Christ as seen through the eyes of His mother. I'm surprised Oprah hasn't noticed.

So to just stick to one or two sets of Mysteries that you like causes you to miss the boat.

Sister St. Aloysius has come up with a chart of the break down and I apologize in advance. She is not a person that needs a tape to tell her she is organized. Sister St. Aloysius is neat as a pin. She is a mathematician. I thought a chart would be right up her alley. Here's the chart. Sorry.

It's all on there, though. I should have known that Sister St. Aloysius would do something....unexpected.

During Lent you have to say two rosaries because you do the regular day's meditation and then you add the Sorrowful Mysteries to each day. Those are little plus signs there at the bottom. They look like "T's" but they are supposed to be plus signs. On Tuesday and Friday you are off the hook for the two rosaries as far as I can make out.

You're best bet, if your only concern is confusion, is to just say the Rosary every day and not the rosary. Then you side step the whole problem.

As for your question, (did you think I forgot? I actually did for a minute there!) there is no penalty of any kind for not saying the right thing on the right day. To begin with, there is no right day or wrong day. The Church is just trying to help you, Sister St. Aloysius' chart notwithstanding. You can skip the Rosary and the rosary all together and no one is going to blink.

That said, you're never going to get a nun to tell you doing things because of your 'mood' is a good habit to nurture.

I'm letting it pass, though, giving you the benefit of the doubt that what you really mean is something like, 'today I feel put upon, so to remind myself that my suffering is paltry, I'm going with the Sorrowful Mysteries because I need a good swift kick in the pants."

That good swift kick is what' s going to keep your Purgatory time at a minimum. That, and all the people who are praying the Rosary for the repose of your soul.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Boston Cream Pie

I know I'm behind on the questions. I have a hangover.

It's not what you think. I'm a Celtics fan. Their 39 point trouncing of the Lakers has made me giddy. Or something. Sister St. Aloysius was going to make a Boston Cream Pie (who knew the operative word would have been cream) which we were planning to eat while watching the game but the day got away from her. Instead we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in honor of Kevin Garnet, who serves the entire team peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during each game because he gets hungry himself. I guess he doesn't want to be selfish and just eat something himself. So he brings in a gazillion loaves of bread and peanut butter and jelly. It has to be a gazillion because those people are all almost seven feet tall.

What a great series. Poor Mr. Bryant.

Anyhow, I have to address a few simple question before tackling some of the others. Thanks for your patience.

One reader has made a simple outline for how to remember which Mystery of the Rosary to say on what day:

I finally got the Mysteries and days straightened out this way. 1) Sunday is Glorious. 2) Wednesday goes with Sunday. 3) Sunday is led and followed by Joyful (Saturday and Monday). 4) Thursday is Luminous (new). 5) That leaves Tuesday and Friday for Sorrowful.

That's fine. Although I hate to throw a wrench in your memory works.

It changes during Lent.

And also during Advent. That's why the chart ends up looking like John Madden had a hand in it. It sort of reminds me of the poem that is supposed to explain which months have how many days:

Thirty days hath September
April, June and November
all the rest have 31....

...which works great until you hit the end of the poem, when it completely falls apart. (Not unlike the Los Angeles Lakers.)

Save February which has 28
Til leap year comes and brings one more...

...or something like that.

More on the rosary:

Anyway, I thinking you should check out the Virtual Rosary. It is a free program and plays background music while you are praying. There aren't any nuns praying along with you but it does keep track of the day's mystery for you. Oh, and you can have it automatically remind you to say your rosary every day! I'd say it's for the poor soul glued to his computer all day. I just like the music. Here's the link: http://www.virtualrosary.org/

I thinking I have it on my desk top.

And this:

Speaking of rosaries, would it be terribly impolite to pray the rosary in a Jewish Community Centre? The have a wonderful gym there - which they say is open to all faiths - and I've found that it takes me about 20 mins. to say the whole thing. 3 rosaries later (one on the treadmill, one on the rowing machine and one on that stupid bike that doesn't go anywhere), and I'll have done a nice hour long workout. Although the gym is open to anyone regardless of religion, it is still a JEWISH community centre, and I don't want people thinking that I am praying for their conversion or something. What is your opinion on the matter? Oh yes, I am praying silently - in my head - does that matter? can you do that?.

I see you're saying a whole rosary, which means you actually go through the beads three times, one for each mystery.

Until leap year comes and brings one more: We have four sets of Mysteries now. Where have you been? It's been five or six years already since the Pope added the Luminious Mysteries or "Mysteries of Light". This is good news for you. You'll be able to burn another couple hundred calories.

There is a temple a half a block from me. The Jewish people all walk over there (they don't drive on the Sabbath) with their rope belts and side curls and big black hats. That is an outward manifestation of their faith.

So is your rosary. I wouldn't worry too much about offending. I should think they, of all people, would understand an outward manifestation of faith. It's even okay to pray for the conversion of their souls, even though they may not like it. Just don't tell them. Unless they ask. Lying is a sin.

Silent prayer better be okay. Otherwise a lot of cloistered nuns and silent monks are coming up really, really short on their prayers.

And finally, on Tim Russert making it to heaven:

I take a little exception to the title of your post, Sister. We all hope for the soul of all the departed, and Mr. Russert is surely no exception. However, to declare that he has "joined the Church Triumphant" is a little premature. I don't think his cause for canonization has even been opened, and surely he hasn't yet been beatified, let alone canonized. We know he's no longer in the Church Militant, but that's really all we can say.

That's all you might say. His childhood mentor, Sister Mary Lucille, announced just today, at Mr. Russert's funeral, that he was in heaven. Did you get a look at Sister Lucille? I wouldn't cross her.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Batteries Not Included

We are behind the eight ball in every way today, so forgive me for not getting to your questions right away. Things are tough all over, as they say. The eighth grade boys who help me with things internet have encouraged me to add advertising to our little convent in the tubes. Since I can't have a bake sale (even though Sister St. Aloysius would be willing to do all of the baking), I went with it.

I was very concerned that the ads would be inappropriate. There have been a couple that were bad. For example, a book about the life of Jesus and Mary Magdelene as husband and wife that wasn't even the Da Vinci Code. At least the author had the good sense to call it fiction. Still, I found that pretty creepy. There was an excerpt from the book about their eyes meeting and such. Creepy. And a picture of the author looking just so happy with herself. Creepy squared.

There have been a couple that were questionable. A clickable 'accept Jesus' prayer. I can't find any real fault in the prayer, just that it had a distinct 'separated brethen' feel to it.

But I've been very happy with most of the content: rosaries, patron saints, books, the Vatican. All good.

So it was with great curiosity that I clicked on the "Electronic Rosary".

Here's the thing: the rosary is such a simple device. It doesn't really need to be any more simple. Beads on a string. For counting. If you had more fingers you could just use your fingers. If you were one of those people who sat in a cabin in Alaska and became so bored you learned to play the guitar with your feet, you could use your fingers and your toes.

I have trouble imagining that anyone needs an electric rosary to count for them. The people selling the electric rosary mention that it's good for people with arthritis because you just push a button. I can't imagine that's any easier for your arthritis than moving to the next bead. If you have arthritis, you could lay your rosary down on a table and point to the next bead. But I only have a little arthritis, so what do I know?

I can imagine that children might get a bang out of it. It looks like a little space ship. It lights up.

And it talks.

When it talks, what sounds like a whole convent of nuns saying the "Hail Mary". It's like you are praying with a whole convent of nuns.

Enter Sister St. Aloysius.

"You could just turn it on and have that whole convent praying for you! That is just lovely!"

"It's so that you can pray the rosary..."

"Yes, but if you were occupied with something else, you could turn it on and have the nuns pray for you...I don't mean in your place...I mean pray for you, as in 'I'll pray for you', like when people ask us to pray for them."

"It's a recording. The nuns aren't praying."

"But they would if you asked them. And if they knew you were using their voices to pray for you they'd be happy. If sin is about intent, certainly we can imagine that prayer can be as well."

Somehow I can't really go along with the idea that when I intend to pray and don't, it still counts. I am certain that she is correct in assuming that the nuns would be happy to pray for you just about constantly, until their batteries wore out. What do I know? I'm not going to argue.

What I can't seem to find out is how the device changes mysteries over from one set of mysteries (Joyful to Sorrowful to Glorious to Luminous) to the next. It would be just great if electronic rosary kept track of which mystery to say on what day. People have a real problem keeping track of what mystery goes where. I made a chart of it for the fourth graders once on the black board and when I was done it looked like John Madden had been there.

I'm not sure how I feel about the electronic rosary. (Much better than I feel about the Mr. and Mrs. Jesus book, certainly.) But for it's retail price of $34 not including shipping, I'll go back to a pocket full of rocks if need be.

It's tough out there.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert Joins the Church Triumphant

I've often mentioned that we watch CNN to see who needs our prayers. We were shocked to learn that we have to pray for the repose of the soul of NBC's Tim Russert.

Since Mr. Russert worked for NBC, we switched over to listen to Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell wax poetic about Mr. Russert's life. They all mentioned Mr. Russert's deep Catholic faith and his Jesuit education. Everyone agreed that the Mr. Russert's well prepared interviews and his penetrating questions were due to his Jesuit teachers.

I hadn't realized that I had so much in common with Mr. Russert.

My early education came from the gentle Franciscans or I might find myself chained in protest to a nuclear reactor as we speak. I didn't encounter the Jesuits until I was old enough to handle their preparation and penetrating questions. Also, their ranting and attacks, their turning information on it's head to examine it's underbelly and replacing it on the shelf, never to appear quite the same again.

I'm sure my time with the Jesuits has much to do with my thoughts on the War in Heaven and Jesus in space. We don't care for pat "God will make it all okay" answers. We want the whole story.

My very favorite teacher amongst them was a middle aged fellow with a hippie pony tail and sandals. He taught 'Old Testament". He had a scientific explanation for the parting of the Red Sea and the manna from "heaven", but it caused him not a moment's pause as he went on to explain that the means weren't the miracles, that the miracles were in the timing.

God really IS George Burns.

The real irony here is that the Jesuits were founded by St. Ignatius Loyola because he got stuck in a house with only two books to read and a very, very long time to read them. St. Ignatius had been a soldier. He had no intention of giving up glorious battles, but when he got hit in the legs by a cannonball he had to go sit down for a very long time. Happily for us, the castle where he did his recuperating only had two books, "The Golden Legend" which is the lives of the saints, and "The Life of Christ". The rest is history.

Think of what the rest of history would have been if the two books had been "Martha Stewart's 'Good Things'" and "Battlefield Earth". I realize those two books hadn't been written yet, but you get my point.

We owe a lot to that family's choice of reading material. That and the fact that they did not adhere to Benjamin Franklin's adage, "Fish and guests stink after three days."

We're sure St. Ignatius will welcome Mr. Russert into heaven before too long. We're also sure that he'll be making a stop in Purgatory. He was Irish. The nuns always told us that St. Patrick comes to Purgatory every Saturday and lets 10 souls out. Or was it 30? At any rate, I remember always thinking it would be good, in that case, to shoot for a Friday passing.

Let's pray that Mr. Russert finds the line for the St. Patrick bus to heaven.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Theology in Space

Sister St. Aloysius hasn't been the same since she her return. Very quiet. Almostmopey. We had a period of readjustment, as Sister Nicholas was still here, moving around like a human dust bunny. I had chalked it up to that. I had to readjust when I got back. I'm sure no one even noticed, as all the air molecules were taken up by the sound waves emanating from Sister Nicholas.

I'm not one to go around asking people what's bothering them. The answers are generally beyond my abilities to respond anyhow. Especially Sister St. Aloysius, who is a genius, a deep thinker and not very articulate when she's worked up. Perhaps she's actually very articulate and I just don't understand a word of what she's trying to tell me.

With tense shoulders and clenched teeth I finally broached the subject.

"What's eating you?" I said, sweetly.

Why didn't I remind myself about some of the other theological discussions we have had? I still haven't gotten over the war in heaven.

She explained that while she was working at the think tank she was going over the odds that there is life on other planets.

"There is intelligent life on other planets," she finished. "Mathematically, there has to be."

"Not a problem!," I gushed. Indeed, Vatican insiders have been talking about this recently. "God created the universe and he loves everybody and everything in it! Nothing to worry about there!"

"What about Adam?" she posited.

"What about him?"

"Is there an alien Adam? Did each planet have it's own Eden? Perhaps one of the intelligent life forms never ate the equivalent apple and thus never fell from grace. Maybe that's why they can fly all around the universe and be so peaceful. What if they did fall from grace? How long was it between the fall of their Adam and the birth of Jesus? Are they still waiting? Maybe they have to come here to find Jesus! Maybe they are coming here to tell us about Jesus because, by the way we behave, they think we don't know! It's too much to think about!"

Well, I have to agree there. I am now left with yet another possibility, that the aliens from space had their own fall and their own Jesus (of course He would be the same Jesus) and that while we have the mosquito bite pale Jesus paintings they have this one.

Which would also mean that Jesus died for their sins on their planet? Maybe they make the sign of the ....whatever instrument of death they used. (For example there is a movie where the aliens from space die if they touch water. You only find this out at the end of the movie. Never mind that they have been running around in corn fields at night throughout the film. Last time I checked, DEW was made out of water. Someone needs to have a talk with that screenwriter. I only saw the film because our buddy, Mel Gibson, was in it. I won't be fooled again. I digress.)

Of course the Vatican thinkers who stirred up this can of worms never said word one about any of this.

I do think some good can come from this. If people think they have a difficult time now sitting at Mass and in traffic with their fellow Christians and finding love in their hearts when said Christians want to hold hands too much and honk at them all the time, think of what a stretch it's going to be to love them when they look like this.

It has to expand one's ability to embrace all God's creatures with love and compassion.

Heaven will look like the bar scene from Star Wars. (Yes, I've seen the first three. One has to stay current. Not that current, though, because I didn't see the more recent installments.) At least if the Polka Kings are wrong and in heaven there IS some beer.

Hell will look like it always has.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Digesting the Truth

Whatever I said about my garden last year and what a disaster it was has been eclipsed by this year's gardening holocaust. We no longer have a garden. We have a very small vacant lot. Plants that I've managed to keep going for years? Thanks for asking. Dead sticks. Nothing but morning glory and three foot tall weeds. The morning glory pulled down the back trellis, which is our only privacy on the back wall. Cracked it in half and pulled it down. Hello, world! St. Francis fell over and broke his bird feeding bowl.

And yet.....

...buried under the morning glory, having not been watered at all, receiving no light of any kind, two little double begonias have leaves, two dwarf citrus trees have leaves. After spending 12 hours pulling weeds over a three day period, the calla lilies are poking through. Even after all of this neglect, I have been forgiven.

Ring a bell?


My mother asked me the other day what happens to the Real Presence once we consume the Host. Once we receive God, doesn't He abide in us permanently? Why, then, do we need frequent reception of Communion? I told her that it's for our sakes that we are encouraged to receive frequently because we are constantly turning away from Him with sin. She kept pressing me about what exactly happens to the Presence. I didn't have a satisfactory answer for her, but I'm guessing you would! Thanks, Sister!

Honestly, no one has ever asked me that before. It's surprising to me, now that I think about it, as it is a really logical question, unlike the grass whistle question.

I never thought about it. We are taught from the cradle to be just so tickled pick that we are actually receiving Jesus and not some sad little symbolic remembrance of a private party Jesus had two thousand years ago. Isn't that enough? Why worry about anything after that?

It turns out your mother has reason to ponder this. As I never thought about it, I had no answer. Usually when I don't know an answer, I love to make an educated guess. Then I go find out the answer and see if I was right. On EWTN there are two priests who answer questions over the internet and I like to play along, as though it's a game show. My own private Jeopardy. I like to test my educated guesses that way.

Whew! was I off on this one!

would have said that after you take the Real Presence into your stomach, you keep the Real Presence in your heart. (Not your literal heart, the organ, even though the Real Presence has gone into your literal stomach, the organ.) Anyhow, it sounds nice, doesn't it?

Of course then I'm stuck on part two of your mother's question: why go back?

And I would have said: Because you can.

Or: Booster shot.

At any rate, I decided not to take a chance on this one and flummox you or your mother any further with flowery Jesus talk, so I went to ask a priest. I figured the priest, who brings us the Real Presence each Mass as surely as Walter Cronkite delivered the news, would have the definitive answer.

Father said that the Jesus only stays as long as it takes for your stomach acid to digest the bread and wine (which isn't really bread anymore, but it is as far as your stomach is concerned) and then He leaves.

I wasn't pleased with that answer, I can tell you, because I did not like the idea of stomach acid being involved with how long the Lord stays with me. I wanted to ask Father if that was his own opinion, something he had surmised on his own, or what, but I didn't have the nerve. He didn't seem to have any doubt about this, though, so I figured it must be in the Catechism of the Catholic Church some place.

And sure enough, here it is: 1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.

Which means that when the species (the bread and wine) cease to exist (on account of your stomach acid), Jesus leaves.

Who knew? The Catholic Church, Sister, you old fool. The Church has an answer for everything. Unless it's a Sacred Mystery. If it's a Sacred Mystery you can just let it go. Sacred Mystery=Catholic for "just let it go".

I think I'll go make a grass whistle.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Doing a Humble

I think we are back to normal. Sister St. Aloysius is back at her post. Sister Nicholas went wherever she went. I suppose we'll get a postcard. My understanding is that she moves around a lot because, frankly, no one can stand to have her around for too very long without losing their minds.

One afternoon it occurred to me that there had not been one moment of silence from her since that day had begun just before 5 am. When she wasn't talking, she was making some other sort of sound: hooting, blowing, humming, singing, talking to herself, talking to me, talking to Sister Mary Fiacre, talking to God, talking to Jesus, talking to Teddy, talking to Mary, hooting, blowing, humming...

I looked up at the clock and wondered if there would be five minutes of no sound.


There wasn't.

I think Purgatory should be about empty now. Plenty of room for Bo Diddley.
Have you ever thought about "Sr. Mary Martha's guide to the Saints" Children's Edition? I confess I sometime check your store description on a saint before I check "Lives of the Saints".
Do you have any suggestions on Humility? How to grow it in our own soul?

I've been thinking about doing a series of pamphlets, but I'm exercising my humility. Or my laziness. I'm not sure which.

There are a lot of people who don't believe that humility is a virtue at all, so bless you for wanting a little. There are people who don't believe you should be a door mat.

I suppose you shouldn't be a doormat. But I think you should maybe practice doormatness. Let me explain, as one doormat to another.

The idea that we shouldn't be a doormat comes from the notion that it's a very bad thing to let people walk all over you. This implies that other people boss you around against your will and you let them. They tell you what to do and you do it, whether you want to or not. You are afraid to say no.

And that would be bad. What if they are telling you to sin, for example? Very bad.


What if your job is to be a doormat? An actual doormat is a necessity if you want to keep your kitchen floor and your rug clean. It's useful. Thank goodness there is such a thing as a doormat that will do nothing but lie in front of the door so that people can wipe their feet. Hooray for doormats. Pure devotion.

You can choose to be that mat at the door without being a doormat.

Have I lost you?

Okay. I'll be more practical. How to grow humility in your soul 101:

1. Shut up. Seriously (and ironically coming from a blogger), no one needs to know what you think most of the time. There are times when it is very important that your voice be heard, but frankly, those times are very and far between. Want to practice some humility? Stop talking for a day. Or a week.

2. Forget about what you deserve. You don't deserve anything.

3. Understand that you deserve everything. Including cancer and not ever finding a parking space ever again.

4. Think about making other people comfortable.

5. Forget about your own comfort.

6. Get enough sleep or you'll be too cranky to keep practicing.

7. If you haven't memorized the Corporal Works of Mercy, do it now. I'll wait.

8. Try making up a song to help you memorize them.

I should stop making a list now. It's too much to remember. Maybe try one thing each day and focus on that. OH! one more!

9. Be grateful. Count your blessings.

And remember that you don't deserve any of them.

That should get you started.