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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Normally I wouldn't put on my Santa hat just yet, but this year, with the everyone as poor as St. Francis of Assisi, I thought maybe people would need a little extra time to manage the gifty end of the season.

I am on the case!

If you are at a loss for a wonderful, personal, one of a kind, yet wildly inexpensive gift look no further! What better gift than your own personal patron saint? Head over to our little shop and scroll through nearly 80 different saints and items.

Our motto: There really is a patron saint for everything. Nurses, people who make their own birthday cards (St. John of God), mothers of teens (St. Monica), people who are annoyed by they annoying habits of others (St. Therese the Little Flower), crazy people (St. Dympha), fireworks fans (St. Barbara), pirates (St. Vincent de Paul). Really, everything.
Each of our patron saints comes with a holy card that we've made ourselves with the story of the saint. Even non-Catholics love them. I know this because I just made up a custom order of saints on our new stretchy bracelets for a Jewish lady. She was especially insistent that her order include the saint stories. "Of course it does," I told her.

I was very tickled that she now is aware of these stories.

We have coin holders with the Infant of Prague attached. The Infant of Prague is invoked for financial stability. We thought it would be a fine idea to put a little medal on one of those little squeezy coin purses (in a variety of colors) since God helps those who help themselves by hanging on to their loose change.

We have clips and zipper pulls, necklaces and bracelets, keychains and mousepads.

Merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!

Now that I'm done with my own shameless self promotion, let me point your attention to a little corner of my sidebar, which has been sitting over there for months begging for your eye.

A few months ago the author of this book contacted me and sent me a copy of his book. I have had it over there waving at you ever since. This wonderful book would make a great Christmas gift.

It is three stories in one. It is the story of an Italian family, half of whom immigrated to the United States and never looked back and the other half who remained in a tiny town in Italy never to see their long lost relatives again.

It is the story of a saint, how that man became a saint, what it takes to become a saint and how the church sets about the canonization process.

It is the story of one man's personal journey back to the Faith after the tragic death of his brother, for whom no miracles occurred.

Justin Catanoso found the Catholic Church, his giant Italian family and his cousin the saint. He wrote a wonderful interesting, funny, poignant, informative story. Miracles do happen.

It's a book you'll want to read yourself and pass on. I really couldn't put the book down. It's a real page turner. Just go to my sidebar and click on the green box. Some of you were looking for gift ideas for clergy or nuns. Here you go. Don't be stupid, buy two.

Happy Black Friday! Happy Cyber Monday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

No Joy in Mudville

We are up to our veil tops in candy and little bags. Sister Mary Fiacre is in hog heaven disposing of candy pieces that don't look pretty enough down her candy loving gullet. I have to keep reminding Sister St. Aloysius why Sister Mary Fiacre's interest in dinner is directly proportionate to how many pieces of candy missed making the cut. "It isn't the sauerkraut," I keep telling her.

Although, maybe it is.

I don't like making candy. After a while, the smell is just sickening. It's messy. It takes up a lot of space.

I also don't like cutting out felt numbers. I now dream about gooey sickeningly sweet felt numbers and nothing else.

While it would be nice to say I'm offering it all up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, the truth is, I can't because I'm really not suffering. Sister St. Aloysius and Sister Mary Fiacre are sharing hog heaven and seeing them having so much fun lifts the burden of the oozing and burnt stove top and the grooves on my thumb from the scissors.

It's the same reason, I suppose, that many of you can sit through a soccer game or a T Ball game played by little kids who do not even knowing what to hit or which way to run while your kaboose complains to the inner workings of your brain about the hard, hard bleachers.

Life isn't always about you. Your happiness often has little to do with you actually doing things to make yourself happy.

Which brings me to today's question:

Sister, Do you have a patron saint or perhaps just a good saint quote about sharing in someone else's joy? (instead of being sad that you don't have the same joy in your life) I have a friend (no really!) that's struggling with this. Thanks!

I do. Mother Teresa. She's technically not a saint yet. She is Blessed, at this point. And she indeed has some words to share with your friend.

But let's talk about the problem for one moment: the green eyed monster, jealousy.

Jealousy is not just one emotion. It's a big ball of nasty emotion rolled into one thing that we call being jealous. Like one of those awful ice cream cake rolls with some kind of hard pretend ice cream and even harder freezer burned stale tasting cake.

On the inside is anger. Anger that we didn't get what you got. That's no fun and it's a sin.

On the outside is want and longing, bitterness and greed, self pity and sadness. What a nasty freezer burned stale cake that is! No wonder she is struggling. I'd have trouble choking all that down, too.

So first she needs to take a good look at what it is she is trying to swallow. She might want to just dump that in the trash while the hostess isn't looking.

Except, there is no hostess. She has served herself this stale and tasteless 'treat'. Time to put down that fork and push herself away from the table. Put a napkin over that mess and step away.

Blessed Mother Teresa. It turns out she was almost never happy. She felt abandoned by God. But she just kept going because she knew she was doing the right thing. And because life isn't about making yourself happy. It's about bringing comfort and peace to others.

Comfort and peace lives there, in the happiness of others, not rolled up in what they have and we don't have.

Here's my perpetual answer for everyone who asks "why me?"

"Why not you?"

Here are the comforting words of Mother Teresa, the perpetually abandoned nun who worked with lepers and mind bogglingly sick and poor people. She did not originate these thoughts, but this is her version of them.

1. The version found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


We're very excited. Advent is just around the corner. We'll spend all that time having too much fun, and then we'll have even more fun during Christmas time. Sister St. Aloysius saw something in a magazine about making little advent calendar bags and since her successful Halloween candy making binge she has been scouring the internet for Christmas candy recipes to put in the little bags.

I sense a meltdown coming on. Pardon the pun. But I think her plan involves making a set of these bags for whoever wants a set. Each bag has a number on it for the calendar day and candy inside. That's a lot of bags, a lot of days, a lot of numbers and a load of candy. I picture myself cutting out felt numbers until I have freed everyone from Purgatory with my suffering. Whoever thought that felt was a fun and easy thing to work with? I'd like to meet that person and cover her in felt bags with numbers on them and ride her out of town on a rail, which shall henceforth be known as "bag and felting". Less cruel than tar, but certainly right to the point.

I digress.

I thought I should get this messy question out of the way before the festive season begins.

Question: As a Catholic in a state of grace (no mortal sin on my soul), and having received five out of seven of the sacraments - can I assume I will go to Heaven someday after a "stint" in Purgatory? If so, how does the "final judgment" enter into this? What does the final judgment mean - when Jesus will "come again to judge the living and the dead"? Surely the people who died already have gone to either Hell, Purgatory or Heaven by now. I don't really understand. I also don't understand what it means about Jesus "spewing out of His mouth" those who are lukewarm - what if they don't have any mortal sins on their souls, but aren't exactly zealous Christians? Does that "spewing" mean He is condemning them to Hell? Thank you for your time - Penelope Purgatory
I don't know.

Yes, I do. I'm just not sure I have a firm grasp on the concepts because I try never to think about the Last Judgment. I hope I just get reunited with my body and get to shuffle off to Heaven. We all have our dreams.

Here is my understanding: If you drop dead right now, your body stays here and rots. Your soul heads off to Heaven, or Purgatory, if you've managed to lead some sort of decent life. If you haven't, your soul will go to Hell forever. Terrible news for you. That happens because when you die, you have a personal judgment.

The Last Judgement is a general judgment. During the Last Judgment, Jesus comes back and you are reunited with your body. I know, it rotted away to nothing, but it's back. It's in great shape. Even if you never liked your chin, you'll love it now. Cellulite? What cellulite?

Why do you get your body back? You don't really need it in heaven.

You get it back so that you can feel even more bliss.

If you've gone to Hell, you'll get it back so you can feel even more suffering. If you're missing any parts now, you'll get them back, too, so you can have two legs to burn in Hell forever instead of one. Rohm Emanuel with have his finger back, for example.

So that will be a big party for some people and some terrible news for others. During all of that, Jesus will judge the nations. That's because sins have a way of hanging around and being repeated by generation after generation. Is America the best country in the world? We'll see. In my opinion, just like Lucy, we have some s'plainin' to do.

Here's how New Advent explains what will happen and what it's all about. Prepare ye the way for your eye to glaze over:

The Roman Catechism thus explains why, besides the particular judgment of each individual, a general one should also be passed on the assembled world: "The first reason is founded on the circumstances that most augment the rewards or aggravate the punishments of the dead. Those who depart this life sometimes leave behind them children who imitate the conduct of their parents, descendants, followers; and others who adhere to and advocate the example, the language, the conduct of those on whom they depend, and whose example they follow; and as the good or bad influence or example, affecting as it does the conduct of many, is to terminate only with this world; justice demands that, in order to form a proper estimate of the good or bad actions of all, a general judgment should take place. . . . Finally, it was important to prove, that in prosperity and adversity, which are sometimes the promiscuous lot of the good and of the bad, everything is ordered by an all-wise, all-just, and all-ruling Providence: it was therefore necessary not only that rewards and punishments should await us in the next life but that they should be awarded by a public and general judgment."

Speaking of glaze, I'm not looking forward to cleaning the stove again, either. Purgatory will be empty soon.

As for the spewing...I think we have to take the New Testament to mean what it says. That's why the Catholic church has all sorts of fun and interesting ways to keep you worked up about God. Advent wreaths and nativity scenes, lenten candles and Easter baskets, martyrs and shrines, rosaries and missals. It's like a continual pep rally. That's exactly why we're making advent calendar candy bags. The sugar rush should help your excitement level some, too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's Alive

I am here working with Frankenstein.

Although, that is one of those inaccuracies with which we all live. Frankenstein is not the monster. Frankenstein is the doctor. But when we say "Frankenstein" we don't mean "doctor".

I haven't been away. Our computer here at home slowly, ever so slowly, kicked the bucket. But since so many parts of it were still working, the eighth grade boys kept trying to keep it going, replacing things with salvaged parts and downloading things and streamlining things.

So here I am with this pieced together machine. I just want to mention that things weren't going very well until I prayed for the intercession of Mother Frances Cabrini. It suddenly dawned on me that the St. Cabrini car prayer, which works marvelously on cars (at least to get them to start long enough to not block traffic when they die in the middle of the road), might work on any machine. "Mother Cabrini, put down your linguini, look down from heaven and fix my machini."

And here we are. Will wonders never cease?

One summer a few years ago, I realized that although I've seen all the great monster stories in some movie form over the years, I had never actually read the original works of fiction. So I spent the summer reading them all. I started with Dracula. Is it even called that? Then I read Frankenstein. From there I plowed through Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde and for the finale, The Invisible Man. The only one I didn't much care for was the Invisible Man. He's just such an unpleasant fellow from the word "go" and he just gets crankier and crankier as the story progresses. Someone needs to introduce him to the concept of offering it up. He would have done alright with his unusual potion had he been able to do that.

Dracula, although an interesting story told in the form of diaries and letters, is overly long. I don't believe any movie has ever done it justice, however. It is ultimately a love story, in which the two lovers must overcome this terrible evil (Count Dracula and his mesmerizing charms). It is their love that gives them the strength to overcome. Their love and a big wooden stake.

I really enjoyed the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, the best, I think. For one thing, it is to the point. Dr. Jekyl, unlike the rest of these jokers, has good intentions. He's simply trying to separate man's evil nature from man's good nature, so one could attempt then to eradicate evil. Unfortunately for him, evil is like heroin and he can't stop indulging himself until at last his evil side wins. Too bad he didn't meet the folks from Dracula.

And too bad no one introduced him to the concept of Original Sin. That would have saved him so much time. You would think an educated man like him would have heard of it.

Of everyone, both Dr. Frankenstein and his monster are the most normal. Perhaps normal is not the word we want to use. Dr. Frankenstein builds his man because he realizes he can. There is no other motivation. I used to feel that way when disciplining an entire room full of second graders who were just a little noisy. I knew all I had to do was say two words and give them a look, or slap my ruler on the desk to have absolute silence. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to do that, but I did it because I could.

Who knows what monsters I created?

Frankenstein builds his man on the floor of his apartment, not in any fancy lab with things going zizzle and pop. When he sews on the last piece, the man he has built opens his eyes and looks at Frankenstein. It is only then that Frankenstein realizes what a bad idea this was.


He runs into his bedroom and locks the door and hides. He stays in there for a while, kicking himself for not realizing what a horrible stupid thing it was to build a man out of old body parts and what would he do with the guy after he did build him and how does he get rid of the thing and such. Frankenstein finally just runs away from the problem. He packs his bags and skedaddles.

The Monster, poor thing, spends the rest of the book looking for someplace where he is accepted. He's a smarty pants and learns to speak from hanging around outside the window of a family he would like to join. He really would have been a nice fellow if someone had just loved him. All manner of Hades breaks loose after he formulates a plan to force Dr. Frankenstein to build him a companion. Everything goes downhill fast after that. I believe at one point the monster rips the head off of Dr. Frankenstein's new bride to get the doctor to take him seriously.

Dr. Frankenstein does build his monster a girlfriend, but that is a total disaster, too. The girl doesn't like the monster either, to put it mildly. I can't remember what becomes of her. She probably has a reality show on FOX, trying to become Paris Hilton's new friend.

Ah well, let's hope my "new computer" fares better.

We have questions to answer!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Blessed are the Weapons Experts

This question from a reader has had me stewing in my own juice for days. I have had it on the back burner since before Halloween and now that the stove is finally clean again and the candy fog and election frenzy has passed, I'm ready to tackle it.

Brace yourself. Ironically, some people will be angry at my response.

Here's my question: in an email exchange with my uncle, he brought up the idea that the Church can not support a "just war" and follow a pacifist Jesus. I know that we are supposed to live nonviolent lives. But I wonder, is Jesus a pacifist?

The easy answer: Yes, of course Jesus was a pacifist. What about the myriad things Jesus said about love, healing, turning the other cheek, meek people inheriting the earth, loving one's ENEMIES ( not tolerating, loving as God loves them), telling Peter to put down his sword, changing "Thou Shalt Not Kill" to include "thou shalt not harbor anger", don't people understand?

The Church, by the way, does support a Just War. I'll let you go read up on that. Use the Google. It's in the internet tubes.

I just want to talk about Jesus the pacifist. Every time this topic comes up, somebody will drag
out the Gospel of John and wave it in our faces. During His last week, Jesus got really upset about the money changers at the temple. What was that about?

The Romans made everyone they conquered use Roman currency. The Jewish people had to use their own currency at the Temple according to Jewish law. Here you have people showing up at the Temple from miles around to make an animal sacrifice of some type (a dove, or whatever). They are carrying Roman currency because they have to do that according to Roman law. They can't drag the animals they are going to sacrifice with them from whence they came.

So the Jews show up at the Temple, change their currency, purchase a dove or whatever and head in to the Temple.

What was Jesus so mad about? First of all, the moneychangers were right on the Temple steps. They didn't even have the good taste to go down the block. On top of that, the money changers were charging a fee. Like an ATM. Think about an big old ATM in the back of the church and you'll get an idea of how Jesus was feeling. I have heard that there are ATM's at the back of some churches. Who are people kidding with that?

So in two of the Gospels, Jesus throws a fit and flips over the tables and tells everyone to get out.

But in the Gospel of John that I have waved in my face (by people who apparently love to think of Jesus with an AK 47 and won't hear otherwise), Jesus actually makes himself a whip and drives the money changers out.

"And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables." (John 2:14-15)

So Jesus has a weapon. We can't pretend He didn't have a weapon.

You might notice, however, that the Gospel doesn't say he beat anyone. He drove them out. He probably never even hit anyone with the whip.

Jesus' whip did not fly through the air and kill anyone. It didn't drop out of the sky and take out a family having dinner. It merely drove out the money changers. They lived to tell the tale. They probably came back and set up their tables as soon as Jesus left. They are there as we speak, collecting ATM fees.

Are we really going to sit here and pretend that one incident trumps every thing else Jesus did and said about how He would like us to behave toward each other. Please.

Read the Sermon on the Mount. Read it over and over and over again. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Not enough evidence? There were people that walked the earth with Jesus. Most of them were eventually hauled off and killed. No one rose up as a mighty army and tried to stop that from happening. Not Peter, not Paul, not St. Iganitius. They followed the path of Jesus, who stopped His disciples from fighting for His life. The legency continued. St. Agnes and St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Stephen and St. Sebastian, young people and old people torn to shreds by lions, hanged upside down, burned as human torches, beheaded, drowned, beaten and tortured.

No one ever fought. No one. Why? They were followers of Jesus. Jesus asked that His followers turn the other cheek and pray for their enemies, so they did. Then they were torn to shreds by lions and made into human torches.

Were they all just stupid and naive? Poor things.

It seems people can't deal with the idea that peace and love are powerful. Strange, since at the basis of all the great faiths is the idea that love is more powerful than hate. Good is more powerful than evil.

Don't believe me. Here's what the Pope had to say about Jesus and the money changers:

The power Jesus demonstrated was the power of love, which heals and reconciles, Pope Benedict XVI said. "He did not come as one who destroys; he did not come with the revolutionary's sword. He came with the gift of healing," the pope said March 16 as he celebrated Mass on Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square.

You might want to wave that statement at your uncle, since he seems to believe that the church does not want Jesus to seem as though He is a pacifist. I beg to differ.

Here is today's nun.
Sr. Mary Cabrini (Brown Josephite) from West Wallsend, NSW

Jumpin' Jehosephite!