About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lutheran Intervention

Sister, I was hoping you could help me find a saint or two I can pray to for my Lutheran friends that believe that it's not important to have faith in Jesus, you'll end up in Heaven no matter what you believe in. I didn't realize that this is what they believe until today and it made me so sad. So I want to pray for them even more, and I could use some good friends to pray with :)

Well, I think I can help you with more than a patron saint here. Either you misunderstood your Lutheran friends about what they believe, or your Lutheran friends are very, very confused about their own faith.

So for you, and your separated brethren buddies, I'll go out on a limb here and try to explain what Lutherans believe. Good luck to all of us. (You realize that, as Catholics, we don't believe in luck.)

Martin Luther was mad at the Catholic clergy back in the 16th century. He was not wrong. He personally witnessed a lot of debauchery. His anger was personal on two levels: one, he was a Catholic priest himself, so all of that bad behavior reflected on him (ring a bell?), and two, he witnessed said debauchery on a trip to the Vatican. He had been dreaming of this trip his whole life, couldn't wait to go, was so, so excited to finally get there in an era where travel was not easy breezy lemon squeezy and then, BLAM, trip ruined. Like if you went to Kuai and the second you got there all your bags were stolen by the first person you met and no one there gave a fig about your troubles. You wouldn't be recommending Kuai to anyone.

On top of that, there was the indulgences issue. That's the straw that broke the Luther's back.

So basically, Martin Luther decided that since the representatives of Jesus on earth we not to be trusted, it should be every man for himself. There should be no person standing between you and the Word of God and everyone should just interpret the Bible for himself.

I have to stop here and say, that was a really, really stupid idea, because you and I are just not qualified to go digging around in the Bible on our own.

But Martin Luther did not throw out 1500 years of Catholic teaching when he posted his grievances on the church door. He believed that you need to believe in Jesus for Salvation. Even if you go digging around in the Bible on your own, you're not going to get around this fact of faith.

So on count one, you, or your friends are confused. Belief in Jesus is job one for every Christian. That's what it means to be Christian....hence the name CHRISTian.


Even though Lutherans are called Lutherans, it only means they believe in the teachings of Martin Luther who began a Christian sect named after him. Lutherans are still Christians. They are wrong about a lot of things, but they are Christians.

Martin parted company with the Catholic Church in his belief that if you believed in Jesus you would automatically do everything Jesus said to do, which would mean behaving as a Christian at all times. So he preached that belief was all you needed, that good works were not important.

Sort of. Because truly, he believed that the good works were a given once you believe in Jesus.

The world in which we live proves otherwise.

So I have this to say to your friends (I'm quoting myself from previous posts here):

"I go about my merry life 'believing in Jesus" and walking by all the homeless people judging them as winos and stepping over them to get into Target to buy a new set of coffee mugs with chihuahuas on them and go home to watch "The Bachelor" and I'm still going straight to heaven? What a good deal!!!!!"

Meanwhile I have a recommendation for you. Not a patron saint, but the Green Scapular, which is a prayer just for this very problem.

Stealth Catholicism. My favorite kind.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Crazy Time

I cannot imagine the whirlwind emotions the early disciples must have experienced in these heady days after Jesus rose from the dead. There wasn't much time left with Jesus on earth. They must have been filled with excitement and fear, anticipation and doubt. Each moment must have been so precious. So I read with great interest about the days that follow the Resurrection of Christ. And what do I find?

Hocktide. A little known festival that happens in only one place in the entire world, Hungerford, England, on the first Tuesday after Easter. It's a silly pointless festival, as far as I can tell. The men dress up, the women get a kiss, there is a pole and everyone gets an orange. Some people get a nail in their shoe.

The men call themselves "Tutti Men". Know one seems to know why. They carry Tutti Poles, which are wooden staffs with bunches of flowers and a cloved orange on top. The Tutti Men are led by the Orange Man (you know as much as I do), also known as the Orange Scrambler (breakfast anyone?) who carries a hat decorated with feathers. I don't know why he doesn't wear it. Crazy hats seem to be a big part of all kinds of festivals and rituals. The Pope never carries his hat.

Anyhow, he also carries a sack of oranges (another good reason to wear the hat) and he passes out oranges in return for pennies and kisses. They blow a horn at 8am to start this extravaganza. They visit 102 houses and demand a kiss from the lady of the house, who gets an orange for her trouble.

As if this isn't silly enough, after lunch all first time attendees are treated to the "shoeing of the colts" during which they get a nail driven through the sole of one shoe. What fun!

Which brings me to today's question:

Hello Sister, While you're Saint-matching...which Saint should I ask for help if I'm trying to start a romantic relationship with someone? Thanks!

Too bad you missed out on flinging yourself over to Hungerford today. You'd get a kiss and an orange.

The patron saint for young lovers is the Archangel Raphael. Here is the story: Sarah is a miserable young woman who is plagued by a demon who has killed everyone she has married. Tobit is a blind man who is miserable about being blind. Tobit sends his young son, Tobias, away on a business trip. Tobias meets Sarah.

Love at first sight.

Wait....I left out an important part of the story. God has sent his Archangel, Raphael, to Tobit already. Raphael is with Tobias on the business trip. That's why Raphael is also the patron of young people leaving home for the first time.

So Raphael tells Tobias to confront the demon, which he does, and the demon slinks off forever. Sarah and Tobias live happily ever after. And I do mean ever after. Tobias lived to see his great great great grandchildren. And Tobit lived to see his great great grandchildren, actually see them, because when Tobias and Sarah returned home with Raphael, Raphael took care of the blindness problem, too. Move over St. Lucy.

On another note:
In approaching the end of the school year, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything that I must do. I really need to be able to get things done quickly and not waste time. Is there a patron saint I can pray to for better time management?

Off hand, I'd recommend St. Sebastian, the patron saint of multi-tasking. But I did a little digging and I came up with St. Benedict. Actually, I didn't come up with St. Benedict, someone wrote a whole book on the subject. Actually, there are quite a number of books on St. Benedict and business management. Who knew?

I realize you are asking about time management and not business management. But the reason St. Benedict has become the patron saint of business management is because of the Rule of Benedict, which is a blue print for business management.

And the reason St. Benedict wrote his rule is because the world had just gone to Hell in a handcart. The Roman Empire had fallen and with it the structure of society, like dominoes. With no security, anarchy gave way to disease and foreign invasion. In stepped Benedict and his Rule, allowing his monks not only to endure, but to flourish.

If Benedict could get his monks through the fall of the Roman Empire, I think he can get you through the end of the school year.

And finally:
One last question about novenas. I am currently doing two, at 11:30 a.m. I have been looking online, and I cannot find this anywhere: Do I have to say the novenas at the same time every day? I have a business presentation to give on Friday that might run long, and now I am wondering after Friday am I on day 5 or back at day 1?

Ask St. Benedict.

I'm joking.

It doesn't have to be at the same time every day. That would be a little silly, as though you're prayer would be rejected because you said it at 9:20 instead of 8:30. The whole purpose of a novena is to put you in touch with God for nine straight days focusing on a single petition. It makes a difference (to you, not to God) if you forget all about it. But as long as you get it in there, you're good to go. Saying it at the same time every day simply helps you to stay mindful and remember.

Novena tips.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Divine Confusion

Hi Sister! Because of this reading and Divine Mercy Sunday, I was thinking about the lance that pierced Jesus' side to ensure he was dead. Is it traditionally assumed it pierced his heart, or do we really not know? I imagine that a heart-piercing would make sense with all the images of the rays coming from Jesus' heart in the Image of Divine Mercy, but is that a separate thing?

I can see where you would be confused. It's the water and blood, red and white thing that stirs the two images together. They are two separate things, but they are linked symbolically. Still confused?

I can confuse you even more by telling you that the Holy Lance used by the Roman centurion, Longinus, is still out there somewhere giving someone super powers. Then I'll write my own book about it and Tom Hanks will play Longinus, since he seems to like playing roles that involve huge Bible fiction.

Let's unravel this knot. What we actually know is that Jesus died on the cross pretty quickly. Most crucifixions lasted a day or two and Jesus was gone in a mere three hours. It was about to be the Sabbath and the Jews didn't want the three bodies still hanging, so they asked to get the whole crucifixion of the three poor souls over with. The soldiers came along to break everyone's legs, which would cause the condemned men to suffocate. But when they came to Jesus, He was already dead. So a centurion, who is nameless (but was played by John Wayne....or not...since I don't think we see John Wayne used a spear on Jesus, we only see John Wayne instantly become a believer, declaring, "Truly this was the Son of God"), gives the Body a poke with a spear to make sure He is dead. This incident only appears in the Gospel of John.

You might notice, by the way, that there is a lot of 'making sure Jesus is dead' talk, because it is very important to the story that everyone understands that Jesus was actually dead. Otherwise, He would not have risen from the dead. He would have just been feeling better after His ordeal and returned to His friends very hungry (as He does in today's Gospel). And we wouldn't be capitalizing His pronouns.

Anyhow, when Jesus is lanced with the spear, water and blood gush out. I've heard a scientific explanation that that was because, during crucifixion, fluids build up in the chest cavity, so it would be perfectly normal for water and blood to gush out. We don't care. We still pay more attention to the symbolism of the water and the blood, the two symbols of our Salvation.

With me so far?

Enter Sister Faustina. Do you remember me talking about 'house nuns'? If you don't, I'll let you take a moment to catch up.

Sister Faustina was a Polish house nun, which means she was not the brightest bulb. (Not because she was Polish.) But miracles occur with the dull and the brilliant alike and one night in 1931 while she was alone in her cell, Sister Faustina saw a vision of Jesus.

"In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord
Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing,
the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening
of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one
red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord;
my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After
a while Jesus said to me, 'paint an image according to the pattern
you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.'"

Some time later, Our Lord again spoke to her:

"The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous;
the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These
two rays issued forth from the depths of My most tender Mercy at
that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the
Cross....Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for
the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him."

So...that's confusing. Because it never says in the New Testament that Jesus was lanced in the heart. It specifically says 'side' and that's where the hole is in all the pictures and that's where St. Thomas from Missouri stuck his fingers. I suppose the lance could have gone in there very deeply and pierced the heart from the side, since the heart is a little to the left. I should think that since John was being very accurate (seriously, read that passage John 19:31 and on), if he meant 'heart', he would have said 'heart'.

(Click on Shroud of Turin image for more on the Shroud)

The point of lancing Jesus in the first place wasn't to kill Him, but to make sure He was dead. So there would be no need to run a lance through His Heart. Shoving a lance into Him and seeing no reaction would do just fine. Like when the doctor pokes you in the toe with a needle to check to see if you are really paralyzed or just faking it for the disability checks.

You don't have to worry about it. In the first place, you don't have to pay any attention whatsoever to Sister Faustina. You never have to believe anything that comes from private revelation, including Lourdes, Fatima, the Miraculous Medal story, etc. It's entirely up to you if you believe those things, but the Church has given them all Her blessing.

Maybe Sister Faustina was so overwhelmed by seeing Jesus that she was a little off on her details. Who knows?

We only care about the symbolism anyhow. I'm content with the beautiful image of Jesus and His Divine Mercy that St. Faustina brought to us. Personally, I'm chalking this one up to "Sacred Mystery" ("Catholic" for "just let it go".)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

So Far to Come

Sister, I just had a conversation with my teenage sons about intercessory prayer. Basically, they are saying, "Why bother? God's will is going to be done for them anyway. You can pray for His will to be done, but then again it will be done, anyway." I say that Jesus wanted us to pray, so we should do it. They point out that Jesus never said we should pray for Sam's Uncle Frank to find a new job. I think they're being kind of heartless and should have more empathy, but they don't see it that way. Anyway, it helps to know people are praying for you. Recently, my daughter was hospitalized, and we got a "spiritual bouquet" from a son's classmates listing all the prayers and Masses everyone prayed. I was very grateful. Of, course, was this just an empty gesture, seeing as God was going to heal her anyway? I just can't believe that, but don't know how to explain it.

I applaud your children in one way. At least they have realized that God is not a vending machine, where a prayer goes in and they get an iced cold Nehi or a pony.

Short of that, the poor things have missed the point of prayer entirely. I would like to say, "Don't be too hard on them, they are young." I will say that, while I box their ears.

I will have a talk with them.

Dear Bob and Jason (names changed because I have no idea what your real names might be but since your mother is a good Catholic woman maybe they are)

Dear Alphonsus and Matthew,
God is sad because you guys are not on speaking terms.

He is always there for you. He wants you to do His Will. He will do anything in the world for you as long as it doesn't hurt you and it is in keeping with His Will. How are you ever going to fathom what that could possibly be if you never talk with Him? Talking to God takes practice. Not because God is difficult to speak with, but because we have such difficulty hearing Him.

As Stevie Wonder says: "Where is my God? That's what my friends ask me. And I say it's taken Him so long, 'cause we've got so far to come." (-from "Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away").

Stevie Wonder gets it. You can get it on I-Tunes for 99 cents.

Prayer is not about God coming over to you, Alphonsus and Matthew. It's about you coming over to God. It's about you talking with God about Uncle Frank's need for a job and your compassion for Uncle Frank's situation and your understanding of God's Will and what you're willing to learn from God and hear from God about that situation. He can't give you blessings and grace and strength if you won't even talk with Him.

Jesus prayed constantly. He prayed for guidance and direction. He prayed in thanksgiving, He prayed for his disciples and sinners. He prayed for the poor (like Uncle Frank is about to be).

And listen to this and listen good: He prayed when He healed the sick. Now try to bend your mind around this: Jesus, who was God, prayed to God when He healed the sick.

So, you think you know better than Jesus?

That attitude always reminds me of terrible movie versions of Classic literature. I saw a version of "Huck Finn" where Huck Finn just floated around on a raft with Jim while they had escapades. What fun! No mention of Huck Finn's moral dilemma. You might recall that in the book, Huck thinks himself very evil because he is breaking the law by not turning in Jim, who is a run away slave. He decides that if he is going to Hell for his sin, than so be it. He makes a courageous choice to do what he knows in his heart is right, when everyone else in his world tells him he is wrong. But these people who made this film knew better than Mark Twain, one of America's greatest authors, one of the world's greatest writers. I think it was a musical.

Don't make your life into a bad movie version of what it could be.

Sister Mary Martha

I hope this is helpful. In the old days we would have had them kneel on dried peas.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Drip, Drip, Drip

I have been inundated with patron saint requests over at our shop. As patron saint matching is just about my favorite past time, I've had a pleasant inundation. What a wonderful time of year! Easter Season, spring, patron saint matching and the NBA playoffs. In the end, I will have some suffering to offer up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, as I am not a Laker fan, even though I live here, and they are sure to win the whole magilla this year. But yesterday was saw a breathtaking playoff game between Chicago and Boston. I'm rooting for Boston, but I spent a very long time in Chicago during the heyday of Mr. Michael Jordan. The series is tied 1-1, which is great for me, as I don't have to decide yet for whom I am rooting.

Thank goodness things have been so relaxing. Not so for most people, judging from the requests I've been getting. I have had no difficulty whatsoever finding saints for everyone. Some even more easy breezy lemon squeezy than others:

As a high school Junior, I am currently preparing myself the dreaded college admissions process. I know, I know, offer it up for the church suffering. But I was wondering if you could possibly match me and my applications up with some saintly aid for the long and arduous months ahead. (And having some holy help when the admissions officers are reading my applications wouldn't be too horrible, either.) Thanks in advance!

Two saints spring to mind. "Long and arduous, " did you say? You can't get more long and arduous than St. Isidore, the patron saint of the internets. Poor St. Isidore wasn't the brightest bulb. If that wasn't enough, all of his brothers and sisters were saints. Not the "Oh, that guy is such a good man! He's a saint" type saint. They are actually canonized saints. It gets worse: his brother was his teacher.

Saint though he was, St. Isidore's brother was a stern task master with little patience for Isidore's laziness and bumbling, even if St. Isidore was neither lazy nor bumbling. I have to go out on a limb here and say that St. Isidore's brother was pretty rotten to him, saintship notwithstanding.

It doesn't matter, though, because it all worked out. St. Isidore ran away from his brother's scholarly brutality. Hanging around in the meadows he observed water dripping on a rock and reflected on how, eventually, the water would leave its mark on the rock and how very, very long that would take.

I had a piano teacher who used to say to me, "Don't say it's hard. Say it will take longer to learn."

That's the very epiphany that St. Isidore had. He returned home and studied with renewed vigor. He became the most educated man in the entire world. And a saint to boot.

Here's a second saint for you, one who knew how to lock himself in a room and study: St. Jerome. He picked up a little Hebrew in his travels and decided he should take a crack at re-translating the Bible into Latin from the original language instead of from Hebrew to Greek to Latin. His translation is the one we use today, known as the "Vulgate". (Since we are still using his translation, I think he fills the bill for the admissions people who have to read your applications, too.)

At the end of his life, he locked himself in a room in Bethlehem and never left it. His pal, St. Paula, who had a lot of dough, brought him endless books to read and write about and translate.

Both of these saints understand the hard work of study. Or.... that it will take longer to learn some things than others.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Your Name is Thomas

A big day here in the Catholic Church, the Second Sunday of Easter. To begin with, we have everyone's favorite gospel story, "Doubting Thomas".

You remember this story. Everyone else in Jesus' inner circle has seen Him since He's been up and around from the grave. Every except Thomas, who declares, " I won't believe it until I can stick my fingers in His wounds!" Big talk. Thomas must have been from Missouri.

Jesus comes by for a visit and Thomas gets his wish. Chagrined, Thomas says, "My Lord and my God!" And Jesus replies, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." If I were directing this scene in a made for TV movie, I would have Jesus say that line right into the camera.

I've always felt sorry for Thomas. His name is forever linked with his one weak moment. "Nervous Nelly", "Gloomy Gus", "Doubting Thomas" ( the poster child for the state of Missouri).

The only other person I can think of who has been saddled with that kind of lasting brand is Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth as Booth fled the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

"Your name is mud." Where do you think that phrase came from? Your name is Mudd.

I always thought Dr. Mudd was innocent. His story was that this stranger with a broken leg came to him in the middle of the night. Mudd was a doctor, he did what any decent doctor would do. Everyone else who helped Booth assassinate Lincoln, including an old woman who ran the boarding house where Booth laid his dastardly plans (which she also facilitated) was hanged. Mudd went to prison for life. (He did some great doctoring while in prison, stemming an out break of yellow fever after the prison doctor died from it and was eventually pardoned and released in 1869.)

It turns out that Dr. Mudd was not so innocent, even though he was not a particularly bad man. Dr. Mudd did know John Wilkes Booth. Booth had had another hair brained idea before the war ended. He was going to kidnap Lincoln and take him to the South and hold him for ransom. Dr. Mudd had known about that plot. Booth had wanted to use Dr. Mudd's farm. Then the war ended and Booth got depressed that his version of how the world should work was done for. Lincoln, meanwhile, felt so uncharacteristically fabulous about the whole thing that he stepped out onto the White House balcony and gave a speech about how he was going to further the rights of former slaves.

That put Booth over the edge. But the rest is a bit of an accident. He went over to Ford's Theater to pick up his mail and he happened to overhear that Lincoln would be attending a play that night (instead of going to Good Friday services). Since he already had a group of conspirators in place, Booth launched his plan and the rest is history.

Mudd might have avoided his name being mud if Booth had not broken his leg when he caught it (oh, so ironically) on the flag draping the presidential box as he leapt onto the stage after popping Lincoln.

I realize that to say "popping" to mean shooting someone to death is a bit cavalier. But Booth just had a little derringer. He really did pop Lincoln.

Anyhow, Booth knew where to head with his broken leg. His name was Mudd.

What were we talking about? Oh, yes, St. Thomas. It really isn't fair that Thomas is not really remembered for much of anything except this one lapse. It had to be a lapse. He was, after all, one of the Chosen Twelve. Jesus wasn't crazy. He didn't pick nincompoops. But just try to find a medal like the ones we sell in our shop of St. Thomas the Apostle. What a great patron saint he makes! Who hasn't had a moment of doubt?

It's no accident that Jesus established the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the very same day.

I'm behind on answering questions, here on my blog called, "Ask Sister Mary Martha":

Sister, Your blog is a joy to read and today's post is a perfect example of why. I have a question about praying to guardian angels. I find myself wanting to pray to my children's and husband's guardian angels, to ask them to protect my loved ones and lead them to Jesus and His Church. Is there a prayer for this? Is this 'kosher'? Surely I'm not the first person in the history of Christianity to think of this.

Go for it. Why wouldn't you? It is doctrine in the Catholic Church that everyone has a Guardian Angel. Those angels are sitting around the house with you all, all day and night, all the time. Not talking to them would be like if your mother in law lived with you and you just never ever talked to her. Although I'm sure that happens in some people's homes.

But if you are trying to lead them to the Church, may I suggest the Green Scapular. It's great for a little "stealth Catholicism".

I have two questions, neither of which is overly urgent, but which I have been wondering about. If one has taken a picture of a saint off of the internets and printed it out, is it a sacramental? (I am trying to clean up my office and started worrying about whether two such items could go into the recycling pile) The other questions is, is one allowed to construct one's own novena? I would assume so but have wondered about this off and on.

Anything that we use to remind us of our faith is a sacramental, so yes, the pictures off the internet are sacramentals. Unless you have them blessed, I wouldn't worry too much about recycling them, though. Better that than wadding them into little balls and trying to score two points with your wastecan.

A novena is just a nine day devotion, so again, go for it. I do it all the time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ready for Our Close Up

I'm thinking that the Bible movies come in three basic categories:

1. Some sort of attempt at the actual Bible story. "King of Kings", "The Greatest Story Ever Told" "The Passion of the Christ", "The Ten Commandments", etc.

2. Movies based on some sort of entirely fictional back story of some character from the Bible. "Barabbas", "The Robe", etc.

3. Movies that take place in a Biblical time in which Jesus supposedly lived, with Jesus in them, but not Jesus, just the hand of Jesus or the foot of Jesus or the voice of Jesus. His hand, foot or voice is always accompanied by heavenly music, otherwise we'd never know whose hand or foot or voice it was. I can still hear the music from "Ben Hur" whenever Jesus floats by, giving Charlton Heston some water or trudging up to Calvary.

I like all Bible movies for the hats. The main characters never seem to have any kind of elaborate hat on, but everybody else, especially the Bible villains and the henchmen extras have on one crazy hat after another. Except for Yul Brynner as the Pharaoh. You'd think he'd want to wear a hat. I'm sure he has some sort of Pharaoh hat on at least once in the film.

Secondly, the casting. I have a few big favorites:

1. Edward G. Robinson as that wrench-in-the-works guy who whips everyone into building a golden idol frenzy while Charlton Heston's Moses is up on the mountain turning gray getting his hands on the Ten Commandments.

2. John Wayne as the Centurion who announces with that John Wayne cadence of his (since John Wayne only ever plays John Wayne), "Truly this was the SonofGOD."

3. My all time favorite, in "The Greatest Story Ever Told", when the apostles hear that the stone has been rolled away from the tomb of Jesus and go running over there to see what happened, there on the slab, as an angel, is none other than Pat Boone.

"April Love".

But as I said, I truly admire the writers who come up with the further story of Barabbas and what happened to John Wayne after he turns into Richard Burton and wins "The Robe". (At least he becomes a more distinguished actor.) I have always had a feeling of wishing I had thought of that.

I was mulling this over the other day when I realized that the Church has been no slouch in this department having included into our Sacred tradition the back story of the Virgin Mary, the circumstances of her birth, childhood and marriage to St. Joseph and also the back story of some of what was going on with Joseph in the first place.

We also have the after story of Mary in her old age and death, her Assumption into heaven, her little house and her flying house.

Which made me also realize that we have quite a few greatly embellished stories of our saints. St. Christopher springs to mind.

So, as with everything else, the Catholic Church has paved the way once again, even for the Golden Days of Hollywood.

And we already have the hats.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Madness

Although nothing could take anything away from the glorious day that is Easter, I did have a small disappointment.

I had set our colossally old VCR to tape "King of Kings". What I didn't realize was the there is "King of Kings" and there is "The King of Kings".

I taped "The King of Kings". Oops.

"The King of Kings" is a silent movie from 1927.

"King of Kings" is one of those Bible movie blockbusters, with a Nordic Jesus of some type. I always enjoy the casting of these things. In an epic Bible blockbuster we get to look forward to the likes of Ernest Borgnine as St. Peter and that type of thing. In "King of Kings", Rip Torn plays Judas.

(Disclaimer: as far as I can tell, Ernest Borgnine has never played St. Peter. He has appeared in an epic Bible movie at least twice, though.)

Isn't Charles Laughton running around as Pontius Pilate somewhere? I think he is. Since I missed "King of Kings", I'll have to wait until next year. I'll offer up my suffering to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

"The King of Kings" has not one person anyone has ever heard of, except the director, who is Cecil B. Demille. Although, you may actually know the actor who played Jesus, not for his role of Jesus, but for his role as Mr. Gower, who nearly poisons someone in "It's a Wonderful Life."

I fell asleep.

But not before some of the most entertaining flights of Biblical fancy I've seen in quite some time. In "The King of Kings", Mr. DeMille has Jesus running around doing things that Jesus did, but not in any particular order, saying things that Jesus actually said, but not under the circumstances during which He said them and adding detail that is entirely made up.

The movie opens with the wicked Mary Magdelene in a scanty outfit, playing with a leopard. She is part of some sort of court and the darling of all. She's miffed because her boyfriend, Judas (yes, THAT Judas) hasn't been around. The fat ugly old man who has a crush on her informs her that Judas hasn't been around because he's hanging around with this new prophet.

Mary heads off in her fancy chariot to see what all the fuss is about. It's VERY fancy. The horses are wearing hats.

Meanwhile, we see St. Mark as a 12 year old. (St. Mark, as in the Gospel According to Mark.) He is showing off his new walking ability, since Jesus cured his lameness.


St. Mark is approached by another child who begs St. Mark to take him to Jesus. The child may be a girl. We really can't tell. (Here's the picture of St. Mark and the blind child. You tell me.) The child is blind. The child plays the part of being a blind child by running around with his (or her) eyes closed and his (or her) arms out. If we had been watching this film in Inglewood, the whole crowd would have been shouting, "Open your eyes! You'll be able to see where you're going!"

Then in one fell swoop, Mary Magdelene arrives, the blind child finds the Blessed Mother, Mary M. finds Judas, Mary takes the blind girl/boy to Jesus where he/she finally opens his/her eyes and then Jesus heals Mary Magdelene.

You know, if you squint at that movie poster, you'll see the words "little blind girl". I really thought it was a boy. She certainly kept Sister St. Aloysius and I guessing.

Judas is upset because Jesus won't charge a fee for healings.

Then I fell asleep. Too many chocolate eggs. I think I saw Lazarus rise from the dead. In this film, he probably went on to open a popular hamburger stand. His sister, Martha, after all, was a pretty good cook.

I suppose a relatively crazy story is as good a reason to enjoy a Biblical epic as the eye popping casting choices. And the hats. There is always an wide array of crazy hats. Did people really wear all these hats? I suppose they may have. Hats did used to be much, much more popular. When I was a child, one of the most exciting things about Easter was finding an Easter bonnet. We must have looked like the extras in a Biblical epic.

I'm not just whistling Dixie here, although it certainly must seem so. The whole thing has me thinking a lot about what we believe and where we get those ideas. Let's talk some more about that tomorrow.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Give Us Anthony Quinn!

Happy Easter!

Of course we all know that this is the very happiest day of the Church year. Jesus died for our sins but rose again to show us life everlasting. What could be better?



The other reason I enjoy Easter so much.

I do love the Easter lilies. I love all the new converts who join us on Easter. Very exciting. Spring. A new start. Much more compelling than any lame old New Year's Resolution in the dead of winter. After all our hard work during Lent, we should have a better appreciation of all that makes life wonderful.

Don't think I'm not paying close attention to all of that.


The other reason I enjoy Easter so much. Bible movies.

Oh, how I love them. Right now I have Sister Mary Fiacre parked in front of "Barabbas", starring Anthony Quinn in the title role. I appreciate people who take a story, in this case the story from the New Testament when Pilate wants to wiggle out of dealing with what to do with Jesus. Pilate decides to let the crowd chose who to set free, since it's a holiday and someone gets to go free. To his chagrin, the crowd chooses Barabbas, a thief.

That's all we know for sure. Anything else we say about Barabbas, his life or whatever happened to him, or even how serious his crime may have been (for all we know he swiped a loaf of bread for his starving family...or his starving self), is one hundred per cent fictional. At best, scholarly.

For example, we might be able to determine the type of crime he committed based on his sentence. But then, sentences were much more harsh for far less crime, back in the day.

Or now...

I get a charge out of the idea that somebody wrote a story about what might have gone on with Barabbas. How enterprising! First stop "Barabbas", next stop, "Wicked".

The movie, unfortunately, only deals with the tortured Barabbas and his guilt complex over having been saved from death. He remains a non believer up until the bitter end. He finally kills the evil Jack Palance (when is Jack Palance ever not evil?) while working as a gladiator. That doesn't even make him happen.

Anthony Quinn finally wants to be a Christian, gets it all wrong, gets a good talking to by St. Peter himself and dies a martyr's death on a cross.


And yet...Except for wondering how the director hornswaggled all of those ten thousand extras to get painted yellow (for the scenes in the sulfur mines) or sit around cheering in the hot sun for hours waiting for Jack Palance to get his, the movie is not that compelling to me.

I would have liked to have heard more about what landed old Barabbas in jail. One theory is that he was actually a terrorist. At least from the Romans' perspective. He was trying to overthrow the Roman rule in Judea. Barabbas was a big hero to the crowd, which was why they were happy to holler for his release. Like that man that threw his shoe at Mr. Bush. Lots of people hollered for his release, too.

My favorite Barabbas theory is that the crowd wasn't yelling for him at all. They were yelling for Jesus. The Jesus who always talked about "the Father". To yell for him they would have had to holler "Yeshu abbas!"

Pilate just heard them wrong. For example, I saw the crowd of people at this year's Superbowl ball game booing Mr. Bruce Springsteen. I wondered aloud how such an unpopular performer would have landed the much coveted Superbowl halftime show. I was informed that the crowd was not booing the band, but yelling "Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce".

That's not how it sounded at all. Maybe if everyone had rolled their "r's".

For our Easter celebration and relaxation tonight we will be on to "King of Kings". It's been quite some time since I've seen that, but as I recall Jesus is portrayed in that film as one of those people mosquitoes love to bite. The red haired, blue eyed Jesus of the old holy cards.

I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Mopping up Lent

I might not get to talk with you again until Easter. I'll try. But you realize that we are terrifically busy this week changing the altar and dusting the pews. Sister St. Aloysius is doing very well with her arm. She doesn't even have to wear her cast very much.

Isn't that amazing? Remember the days when, if you broke your arm in three places and the bone was sticking through the skin, you'd be wearing a big heavy clunky cast for at least six weeks while your skin underneath it sort of rotted off? Oh! the opportunity for suffering!

She still suffers. The plate in her arm hurts all the time, poor thing. The doctor told her the other day that her x-ray is the kind one only sees in med school. It certainly is the kind of thing I would like to never see because I am not in med school. Now a picture of it is on the refrigerator with a Immaculate Conception magnet. They don't make a St. Drogo magnet. He would be the patron saint of broken bones.

I digress.

As usual.

The whole broken arm thing is going to slow us down quite a bit, even though her range of motion is improving. The altar is completely stripped for Good Friday and at our parish we put up a large cross. Then before Easter Sunday the large cross gets the "He is Risen" sign tacked onto it and the lilies have to be arranged. All the purple things go. Everything turns white. And we have to find everything. You never know when some well meaning parishioner will come in and put things away in an effort to be helpful and then we can never find it again. Our "He is Risen" sign, for example, is only a year old because the old one was sucked into the vortex of well meaning parishioners.

Happily for us, we know to pray to St. Therese the Little Flower, the patron saint for people who are annoyed by the annoying habits of others.

Somewhere in there, we're going to do a batch of brownies. This time they'll be in something Easter-y.

But keep the questions coming. I do love to visit and check on the ongoing discussions. I'm sure there are some questions I have missed

Monday, April 06, 2009

Got Guilt?

I didn't want to spoil your Palm Sunday with my thoughts on Palm Sunday, so I've waited until it ended. Palm Sunday is a relatively happy day, as Jesus rides into town on a donkey, and for a minute there, everyone actually appreciates Him. By Thursday, everyone turns on Him and the rest is history. To say the least.

I love Palm Sunday, because I love Catholic guilt.

I love guilt, period. I know in these touchy feely goody good times we aren't supposed to run around feeling guilty. It isn't "healthy".

I think it is very healthy. If you do something wrong, you should feel bad about it. The worse the thing is that you did, the worse you should feel.

I don't really mind if you run around feeling guilty most of the time. You've probably done enough things or failed to do enough things to merit the guilt. Some people might call it a 'guilt complex'. I call it a "sense of responsibility".

And it's a useful teaching tool.

What does this have to do with Palm Sunday?

Don't you always feel just a little queasy on Palm Sunday? Here we all are, welcoming Jesus to town with our own personal palm fronds that we'll take home and braid and keep all year. And all the while we know that in just a couple of days we will be at our worst, an angry mob calling for blood.

It's an odd feeling. Pre-Guilt. Guilt before the fact.

How Catholic can you get?

Now it's Holy Week. We have a very difficult, guilt filled week ahead. Let's not get too wrapped up finding things to put in our plastic eggs just yet. It's time to stay awake with Jesus.

You should feel very guilty if you fall asleep

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ruin Everything

I have a question about an online game called runescape.  It mixes a church that is supposed to be Catholic with magic and superstition. Is it okay for Catholics to play? Thanks.

Stop playing it right now. Not because it's not okay for Catholics to play, but because it's Lent and that would be an excellent thing to give up.

Should Catholics play it at all?    As Catholics we don't believe in magic and superstition, although everyone who is not Catholic thinks we do. Miracles and saints, Transubstantiation, incense, Gregorian chant, monks in robes, candles.  It certainly can all seem very Dungeons and Dragonsesque. We are very confusing to the separated brethren, formerly known as the 'lesser faiths'.

The argument is that all of that magic and superstition in the game may confuse you or tempt you to believe some of it.  Anything that may tempt you to sin is called a 'near occasion of sin', which means you could slip and sin any second.  It's like a banana peel on the sin sidewalk.  It's like a Chute in the game "Chutes and Ladders".  You could be one yodel away from an avalanche.

One must also be aware, however, that it's okay to yodel.  This is the old "Harry Potter" argument all over again. And believe you me, I have had some doozie arguments about Harry.

The game itself is not a sin.  It's too bad it is an uneducated game that includes the Catholic Church.  Just because something is a crying shame doesn't necessarily make it a sin.  Is it one of those interactive things where there are lots of other people playing with whom you communicate? The game might be a good opportunity to set people straight.  Start your own blog and call it "Runevangelize".

By the way, when I read your question I asked a few people who play online games what they knew about the game and no one had ever heard of "Run Escape".  Someone finally figured out that you must be asking about "Rune Scape".

Run Escape might be a much better name.