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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Quality of Mercy

Maybe I should have gone for the cloister. Oh, for the cell and the silence!

It's that time of year when we have to gear up to fund raise for the school, the church, the convent, the retired nuns, the poor, the homeless. I'm sure we'll be having some flood victims any second.

I don't mind telling you it's out of my 'comfort zone'. Not because I have to run around begging for money, but because somewhere in there, in order to hang onto the money we have or to wrangle more money out of people for worthy causes, sometimes I have to be cute.

I never go straight for cute. I really can't abide the whole 'cute nun' thing. Sometimes cuteness is thrust upon me.

I will confess to you, that being a nun has gotten me off the hook financially more than once. No one likes to take money from a nun. Once, as a nun, one realizes this, it becomes very difficult not to 'work' it. It's not like I'm batting my eyelashes and twirling my hair. I can't get to my hair to twirl it anyhow.

It's ever so slightly more subtle. The officer pulls the nun over for rolling through the stop sign rather than coming to a full stop. The nun is rattled. No one likes to be pulled over. The nun can't really afford to pay a moving violation ticket. The officer doesn't realize the perp is a nun until he is up to her car window. The nun can see he's suddenly rattled.

Rattled nun + rattled cop = off with a warning. If the nun says, "Bless you, officer" at the end, the officer leaves feeling aglow.

The nun wonders whether or not she 'worked it'.

Nuns and clergy solicit help in this way all the time. I'm sure you've been on the receiving end of it. Remember that movie "Lilies of the Field"? That nun quietly manipulates that poor man into building an entire church. If that nun didn't 'work' it, there would be no movie. Or church.

Is that a bad thing? I guess not. I'm not comfortable with it. The question remains how far do we go?

Hi, sister! I absolutely adore your blog and have to tell everyone about it (usually two or three times)! I have a question for you that I feel would be very apt considering your vows. How much is too much to have in the eyes of God? I mean, I'm a middle class American, with all the trimmings that go with; I cannot stand the thought of starving children, homeless people, and other worthy causes worldwide, and although I do give to solicitors in the mail and at church, I can't help but feel that God is still very upset with me, with all of us, for not doing more. Is it okay to be living a comfortable life while people are dying? And yet I don't feel there's much I can do, as those people aren't actually within my direct reach. What do you feel we should be doing? The spiritual and corporal words of mercy spell it out fairly well, but to what practical extent? My husband feels that with a family of 8, we can't do anything drastic and St. Francis-like, which I agree with; however I do feel that something's missing. No one obviously needs so many things as we have, and interestingly, usually all of our belongings only serve to clutter up our lives and take time to clean! Any thoughts? Thank you for your inspiring and hilarious blog- I look forward to it daily! God Bless you! -Martha Mary (seriously).

I can tell you one thing. If you collect something, stop. Once people know you collect something, that's what you'll get as gifts and that's a big help to people shopping for you.

It's not an easy question. No easy answer. Your children have to be fed and educated. You have to stay healthy.

Here's what you're missing, I think, a little. It isn't always about money. You're not talking about finances, really. You're talking about mercy.

Mercy is free. The Corporal Works of Mercy are called the Corporal WORKS of Mercy, not the Corporal Bucks of Mercy. Drag out that list and make it a check list of what you need to do this week. You can leave 'bury the dead' off, unless your cat killed a bird or something. Then again, you could see who is being buried in your parish this week and go help out with the luncheon or sing in the choir or usher or something.

People do need help within your reach.

I'm sure our reader will have lots to say about this.

Don't forget to send in those nun pictures! nunworld@yahoo.com

Meanwhile, the tree man has just finished fixing our window. I have to run out and pay him. Maybe if I bat my eyelashes he'll knock a couple of bucks off his price. Probably not. I'll just look like a blinking bloodhound.


patience said...

Dear Sister, when I first found your weblog I suspected you weren't really a nun, because who knew nuns were so cool? ;-)

I so love your perspective on charity. There is much we can do without handing over money - and in my experience "doing" can often be more valuable than "paying out". When my family donates its time to raising funds for the local hospital, we bring in hundreds more dollars than we could ever have given ourselves, and hopefully we encourage other people to think about the issues involved.

But I think mercy can be even more simple. Smiling at shop assistants. Thanking the bus driver. Holding the door open for a mother laden with children and groceries. Small kindnesses, not overt charity in the sense most people think of it, but you never know the huge impact they might have on someone's life.

Thanks for your wonderful weblog, you bring such wit and wisdom into my day.

Smiley said...

To the questioner. YOu have 8 kids. Lady you are a damn good catholic 8 kids wowee, in todays day and age of abortions on demand by having 8 kids you prove that you trust in the providence of God.
You do have charity Mrs. you have cahrity on each of your kids you have had them. Remember Jesus said whatever you do to the least of my brothers (in your case your children as they are also in the image of Christ) you do unto me. To me that is charity.
What is the point of looking after Africa if you are not looking at home. I am sure you are not extravagant. so quit worrying. be assured of my prayers and hats off to you. rah rah

whimsicalpam said...

To me, mercy is a thought process...a daily way of life.
Some "work it" for themselves, others "work it" for others. In your case, Sister, it's for the greater good:)...plus think about how uncomfortable that cop would have felt if he actually had to give a nun a ticket!
and I'd knock a couple bucks off for that bloodhound, anyday:)

Monica said...

there are tons of really lonely people out there as well, so a little kindness, chatting with a widow on your street, smile and wave as they drive past, etc. all fall into the 'corporal works of mercy' category as far as I'm concerned. I've had times in my life when I've been really lonely and those little things go a long way getting people through the day.

e-kath said...

I heard THAT sister !! More properly - I heard that, Sister !! : ) !!

'Cute' is so hard to abide! How happy I am to see those words from someone else - especially from someone I so admire. Oh, but, dear me, you have to know you are quite 'cute.' C'm'on, you KNOW you are. : ) !!

I'm happy you chose to respond in this post to the commenter who earlier had said: "Hi, sister! I absolutely adore your blog ... have a question for you...How much is too much to have in the eyes of God... etc."

While our circumstances differ, she raised questions that have crossed and sometimes troubled me, too. So thank you for your answers.

What made a difference for me was your saying: "You're talking about mercy. The Corporal Works of Mercy... Drag out that list and make it a check list of what you need to do this week....People do need help within your reach." Thank you for thatl.

I'd like to add that your advice, "I can tell you one thing. If you collect something, stop," is right on, and is something I have some deep regrets about.

I had collections of a few sorts, most of it relegated to storage over time. Then I lost all of it in a disaster, some of it useful versus just ornamental. Gone. Just like that. Grateful for life preserved, I didn't miss my belongings with the exception of photos. BUT !! - I did regret not getting all those things I didn't need into the hands of those who could have used them, by way of Salvation Army or Goodwill, or such places. THAT was a huge deal, a huge regret for me, being such a poor steward as that.

I love your site.

Someone who wears her St. Dymphna medal all the time said...

Sister, I am in need of advice.
I was somewhat recently (about a year and three months ago) diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2 (that is, with less severe mania) and while drugs and therapy have helped me out a lot I find that I cannot understand how to go on with the rest of my life.
Everyone of us lives with the possibility that our life will fall apart, from unforeseen disease, economic or environmental catstrophe or an accident. Because I know that there is no way to know which of these or whether any of these will affect my life, I do not worry about them unduly and take reasonable precautions. However, I know that my life will fall apart again at least one more time (and probably more) because of the bipolar disorder. It would be extremely unrealistic to expect anything else.
I have already gone through the plunge into depression and the slow crawl back up to normalcy and reliability several times and I am still in my mid-twenties. I never worried about how it would affect my life in the future before being diagnosed as bipolar because I had always been diagnosed as having major (unipolar) depression, an illness that one has good chances of eventually overcoming and much better chances of keeping under reasonable control. Thus, I thought that at some point it would leave my life. I had even had a few years in a row without a major episode of depression and had come to think that it had, indeed, gone from me.
But bipolar disorder never goes away and now that I know that I am stuck with it for the rest of my life (and I am sure that this is the correct diagnosis) I don't know how to carry on. I feel as though I have no hope of a future, that I will be forever mired in work for which I am not suited but which will be the only kind I can get with such a spotty work history. I have been rejected romantically specifically because of this disease more than once, although this does not bother me too much. It just feels as though all the gifts and talents that God has given me are being cancelled out, negated and smothered by this disease. I don't feel that I can ever be of good use to anyone. This is compounded by the fact that many people who would take a heart attack or diabetes seriously and with sympathy and concern recoil with disgust and ill-will from someone suffering from the extremes of mental illness.
It is a great relief to know the nature of my illness but knowing that nature I find I am stuck and no longer know how to put one foot in front of the other, or how to hope.
It is easy to say snap out of it, everyone has stumbling blocks (and they do) but I am genuinely lost, even if it is only my own stupidity and unknowing that are the cause of it. I cannot find my place in God's world, I do not know how to be of use and I'm scared. What should I do to try to figure this out?

Smiley said...

Dear Someone who wears her medal,
will pray for you. Please try not to worry about the future, the more you worry the more you seem to be sinking into depression. I shall pray to God to give you the strength to take it one day at a time ok.

denise said...

Dear Wearing St. Dymphna,

I've struggled with bi-polar since my 20s (I'm now 50). At age 38 (When I finally convinced a doctor that I had a problem), I was called clinically depressed. At 41, chronically depressed. At 48, bipolar type II (I found the correct diagnosis actually liberating).

My "up" condition is about "doin' okay". Yes, I still have sudden, fast dives into depression.

Episodes are neither predictable or inevitable. Live as though the last drop is behind you. "I was", "but", "what if", and "if only" will destroy you faster than reality. Your fear is making you suffer the consequences without being in the pit.

Pretend you won't fall. Pretend you're happy even when you aren't.

Or try to pretend.

It makes a difference for me, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Years ago I told a girlfriend I was seening a Psyc for depression. "Oh no, not another crazy. I can't cope". And she was gone.

15 years later and I'm happily married, to someone else. The key for me, as trite as it sounds, was really, "Let go and let God". It wasnt easy even when it was working. I was lonely and didn't expect relief but found relief anyway.

God Bless

TheIntrepidPie said...

To Someone who wears her St. Dymphna medal all the time...

I, too, was recently diagnosed bipolar type 2 and am having a very hard time coping with the grandeur of this illness. Instead of romantic relationships, I have lost countless jobs due to being bipolar and I too am only in my twenties. This illness has caused great rifts between my family and friends and sometimes leaves me feeling less than human – a footnote on the last page of God’s Great Plan.

When one is going through a tough time, onlookers often try to provide you with advice that is so much easier said than done. It’s amazing how many times I’ve heard “look on the bright side and things will work out.” Both you and I know that that is hardly ever the case.

I wish I could offer you some kind of solution to your problem, as my heart truly goes out to you, and all people who are forced to deal with mental illness. But it’s hard to help when I am just as long as you are. My only hope is that you find some solace in the fact that there is someone out there who is honestly feeling the same way you do, and, although our physical distance may be great, myself and many others like me are only a mouse click away.

Trust in the Lord – He seems to know what He’s doing.


Anonymous said...

Oh Honey, we all have our crosses to bear and yours is a big one. I too will pray for you. I have been driven to the point of suicide by the effects of my own medical problems. I realized that since I believe in God and His Workers (Angels, Saints, etc.) I have to also believe in the devil and his demons. The demons are working over time to drive you down. They want you to believe you don't belong to God but you do.
The fact you wrote this confirms His Angels are with you. I have suffered indignities I don't want to remember, but when I look back now I see He suffered with me. He never left me and He will never leave you. Some of us don't fit well in the "normal" world but every child of God's belongs in His world. That means you. Just keep working forward, He has a path chosen just for you. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

To the previous commenter who started out "Oh Honey..."

Thank you for your words. I'm not bipolar but your advice, your words, helped me tonight for other reasons. I, too, don't fit well in the "normal" world and it was so refreshing and renewing to be reminded that I (each of us) belongs in God's world.

To all of you living with bipolar circumstances, my heart, too, goes out to you, and I join you in your prayers for relief.

I will be watching this post for a while for everyone's ideas because one of my sisters and her family suffer greatly with her bipolar disorder and disabling depression.

All of you who have ideas - please speak up.

Anonymous said...

I'm another gal who's been to the brink of suicide by losing hope. Two things kept me here. The thought that I might end up in Hell for killing myself--really--this was foremost in my mind. (I'd have checkout out if I thought Heaven was in my future--even if I'd given it a 50/50 chance--absolutely and for sure that would have been my last day.) The other is the thought of what it would do to my husband/son. Even though I'd lost hope, and was questioning Faith, Love won out. Jesus was right. In the end there are only Faith, Hope and Charity. Once they're gone, so are we. And the strongest of these is Love, because it can rekindle the other two.

I've found that choosing to focus on others keeps me from realizing what misery I'm in(medical not danger) and keeps me from worrying about what might happen to make me even more miserable. If my focus is right, my life goes along ok. If you're clinical, then of course, you must take your meds too, but focus determines a lot about how we see our lives and their impact on the lives of others.

Anonymous said...

To "Someone who wears her St. Dymphna medal":
I was recently hurtled into the dark depths of mental illness myself. As of now there is no definite diagnosis (possibly bipolar, but I have issues with crippling anxiety to the point of physical illness) and I am trying different medications to find the correct cocktail. June was a really bad month - I had gone through times in June that I thought God had left me to suffer - that's how badly I felt. Then trying a different medication I spent a month of recovery in July. In August, I went on a weekend retreat to a Cistercian monastery. It was very healing. I was at such peace there. I was renewed. I realized that it was my own faith that had faltered. Sometimes we just need to refresh our faith in order to remain hopeful.

One thing that I have found extremely helpful was meeting with a spiritual director. You can search for one near you by going to http://www.sdiworld.org/

I also have found that praying the rosary daily gives me great comfort. Mary is a wonderful source of motherly love and comfort.

I hope you know that you are not alone, even though you might feel like it. We're all in this together. I wish there was something more that I could say to offer support.

Take care...