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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Patron Saint of Turpentine

Tomorrow is pew dusting day. Of course, we dust more than pews. We dust everything and vacuum. But first we have to make a pilgrimage to Home Depot. I've mentioned it's not my favorite place.

We have to buy some graffiti remover. Some of the windows on the rectory have been vandalized. Always so disappointing to see some incomprehensible gang symbols, the tags of taggers, the blight of the city. Sister St. Aloysius was nervous that it was there, as though any second we would be caught in the crossfire of some type of war. I explained to her that this is just a game, tagging. The game is to tag the most outrageous places you can. That's why you see graffiti on water towers and overpasses.

So, the rectory. Ridiculous. And a trip to Home Depot. I looked on the Google to find out what product to buy because, God love them, the people at Home Depot will just say anything to answer any question, seemingly so that you will just get away from them so they can go back to driving the fork lift around or sprint off to the break room. I'm still going to have to ask which aisle. I'm guessing the paint section.

I may take aspirin before I go in anticipation of the inevitable.

Sister, I love your blog. A question: A friend of mine was just ordained two days ago. We have always (for the 8 years we've known each other) been on a first-name basis. Should I now address him as Father? I'm pretty sure he doesn't expect me to, but I wonder. It's probably not relevant, but he's 20 years younger than I am.

Oh, for Pete's sake, call him Father. Let him tell you to stop if he wants. Ordination is a very big deal. If people who get a PhD can go around getting called doctor (which I think they deserve), then you can cough up a "Father" for your friend, who is now the representative of Christ on earth and who actually now has actual special powers. Like Superman, only more relevant.

Dear Sister, Do you have a prayer that I can say when I find something that offends me? Today my friend sent me a link on Twitter to a guy whose name is "god". I looked at the account and some of his tweets and quite frankly if he's trying to be funny, I thought he failed on several levels. Anyway, I couldn't think of a way to pray for him in a Christian manner. Suggestions?

Those AA people have a prayer for just this sort of thing:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I think we've landed on the "wisdom to know the difference" part of "accept the things I cannot change." I guess you don't actually need to accept the things you cannot change. You just need to accept the fact that you cannot change them.

Twitter=let it go. The root would of Twitter is Twit. When you Twitter you "tweet". Like a little bird.

I'm not sure why it's so hard to pray for this fellow in a Christian manner. Let's take it step by step.
Step one: pick a saint to for a little heavenly intercession.
In this case, I'll go with St. Paul. He was a pretty arrogant fellow when he was suddenly knocked off his high horse, literally. He did a complete 180. He should understand the situation here very thoroughly.
Step two: compose a little rhyming prayer.
Keep is short. Rhymes help you remember the prayer.

We all know "Holy Tony, come on down, something's lost that must be found." or the prayer to St. Catherine of Alexandria: "Sweet Saint Catherine, send me a husband,
A good one, I pray;
But arn a one better than narn a one.
O Saint Catherine, give me your aid!
Grant that I may never die an old maid!"

Less well known, I'll admit.

That's it. So let's see....

St. Paul please help this clueless clown,
Before the devil brings him down.

Hmmm...maybe not Christian enough.

St. Paul would you please intervene
So I don't punch the desktop screen.

Help the twitters reel it in.

Stop the twits so they don't sin.

It needs work. But you get the idea.

I'd better get to work on my prayer for Home Depot.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Not Good in Theory

Now that you mentioned Karma...I was wondering if it was alright to practice Om meditation because I like the theory behind it and not the religious part about it...I'm Roman Catholic..am I doing something bad?

What are you talking about? The theory behind it is the religious part. Clear your mind. Become one with the universe.

We can't just run off doing things because we like to. Next thing you know, we're all Father Cutie.

We can't have that.

I think I may understand what you mean to say...what I think you mean to say...that meditation is beneficial. It reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, helps you sleep better. It can even improve your memory. I don't think the Catholic church has a problem with that. You clear your mind and you focus on the sound of your own voice repeating a syllable or two. No problem.

It really depends on what your syllable or two might be. "Om", not a good choice for Catholics. That would be like choosing the word, "Oooooooh......phite".

Om is a religious belief.
"The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of continence … is Om. This syllable Om is indeed Brahman. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires. This is the best support; this is the highest support. Whosoever knows this support is adored in the world of Brahma."
~ Katha Upanishad I

Good old Katha Upanishad. Thanks for clearing that up!

Om is a sacred Hindu word for what is knowable and unknowable about God. It is the sound of God, so to speak, and therefore permeates everything, every breath you take. Which brings us back to meditation.

Catholics meditate, too, by the way. We do it in exactly the opposite way. Instead of trying to empty our minds, we try to fill them. So here you go.


And there's always the Rosary. Always have one handy.

I just saw Father Cutie on the news, by the way. It seems he went off to be an Episcopal priest. That's why we call it "Catholic Lite".

Monday, May 25, 2009

And Thank You to Those Who Serve

Happy Memorial Day! I'm not sure we're supposed to be happy today, remembering those who were lost while defending our country. I know a lot of people are happy for the day off, at least. We're all happy that there are people defending our country.

We put the trash out. Monday is trash day and we roll the big cans to the curb. It was crucial that we not miss the trash pick up because of the spring cleaning. We found the desk top and everything that used to cover it is in the giant blue recycling can. We were the only people on the block to put our cans out. Everyone else knew it was a holiday and there would be no trash pick up.

We debated. But there have been holidays where we did not put the trash out and the trash truck came and there we sat with our garbage piling up for another week. We decided we would rather look like crazy people with our trash sitting out than risk it, so out it went.

Sister St. Aloysius said, "We'll either look crazy, or crazy like a fox."

Speaking of crazy like a fox, here is today's question from a reader:


I'm not going to leave a specific age, but let it be suffice to say that I am still in my parent's house hold. They are Protestant, and I have a desire to be Catholic. Indeed, a deep desire. I pray about it and have started asking the saints for their intersession, and researched the faith. I have yet to find anything against it, and everything for it. However, I sometimes have doubt... I feel like God is leading me. I pray about it and I let my feelings guide me, because I believe that they are coming from God. But can I be sure they are from God? I pray again and again and they never change, but I still worry that I might be being tricked... and also, can you give me any advice for my situation?

I love this type of question, especially on a holiday, when I don't have to tax my brain in the least to formulate an answer.

Of course God wants you to be Catholic. God wants everybody to be Catholic. That's why he sent Jesus to save us and to found the One True Church. Do you know what the word "Catholic" means? It means "universal". God wants everybody in the universe to be Catholic.
Here is the History of Christianity:

Jesus said to St. Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my Church." By "rock" he meant Peter. Peter was the first head of the Church founded by Jesus and there was no other Christian church until the 16th century. One thousand five hundred years went by with every Christian a Catholic.

Then there was a church accidentally founded by a man who was mad at the Catholic Church (Martin Luther, who wasn't trying to found another Church but ended up doing that anyhow) and then another church founded by a man who was mad because the Pope wouldn't let him get a divorce (the Anglican Church in England, which is the Episcopal Church in the United States).

After that, things went south altogether, as other people got mad at those people and founded their own churches because they thought the first guys got some stuff wrong and the next thing you know you've got Calvinists, Baptists, Anabaptists, First Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Puritans, Methodists.

So you can be part of the One True Church founded by Jesus while he was alive on earth, or you can be a part of some church founded by some person who was mad an somebody, somewhere, sometime.

Who is tricking whom, here? I'd like to know. Have you ever asked yourself what the Protestants were protesting?

I'm not sure how you should handle the situation at home in the meantime. Some Protestants (although I've only found one or two, but they're out there) think that Catholics are the devil with horns. I had a cab driver once who said those exact words to me. "My parents told me that Catholics were the devil with horns." I thought that was a fine explanation of the attitude of those handful of people I have encountered that are vehemently anti-Catholic. I hope that's not what you are up against.

I suggest you find a confessor, local priest who can council you. That will take a load off your mind.

Speaking of loads...Crazy like a fox. The trash truck did come today. Hallelujah!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Excedrin Headache #4

Wasn't it just last Friday yesterday? Where does the time go? Our answer to the question of marrying a non-Catholic has elicited quite a great response. Be sure and check all the comments from yesterday's post for some great insights and stories.

One woman explained that her husband only knew enough about religion to fit in a thimble, which is why, I suppose, he wanted to know the answer to this question:
I actually have a saint-matching question for you. We were talking about patron saints and my husband wants to know if there is a patron saint of people who don't believe in saints. I told him I didn't know but I knew someone who could find out if there was one. :-)

Since it's Friday and we are cruising into a three day weekend, let's answer this light hearted, if not bone headed, question.

I think your husband does believe in saints. It's just that he doesn't really know what the word saint actually means, or what he really means is that he doesn't believe in is praying "to" saints.

Poor addled thing.

He might think that saints are people who are perfect and since there are no perfect people, there are no saints. And any actually saint would tell you that they were far from perfect and in fact were mentally tortured at their imperfections. No saints were perfect. They were virtuous on a heroic level, though.

Does he think saints are people here on earth (as in, "that woman is a saint!")? Then he is correct. There are no saints.

Saints are people who lived a life of heroic virtue and landed in heaven. Anyone who is dead and in Heaven is a saint.

Does he not believe in Heaven? Poor thing. A lot of people don't believe in Heaven. Are they in for an surprise!

I suspect that what he is trying to say in his impoverished, inarticulate way is that he doesn't believe in praying to saints. He is correct again! We don't believe in that either.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. Does he believe in prayer at all? Many people don't. But if he does and he asks people to pray for him then he's just being pig headed about the saints.

I can't tell you how many people I've met who are pig headed about the saints. I take some responsibility. We often tell people to, "Pray to St. Anthony" when they've lost something, or "Pray to St. Jude" when life becomes impossible. That confuses people, because we are not saying what we mean.

Nobody goes around saying, "Let me call you on my cellular phone." Few people ask for decaffeinated coffee. We call on our "cells" and we ask for "decaf".

When a Catholic person says "Pray to St. Anthony", it's 'decaf' for "Pray for the intercession of St. Anthony". Intercession means prayer. We are asking St. Anthony to pray for us.

It is no different that if I asked you to pray for me, as we believe that in Heaven, as most people who believe in Heaven at all believe, there are people who lived here on earth who are up there (or over there, wherever Heaven is).

So if I'm willing to ask you to pray for me, why in Heaven's name would I not want to ask someone who has achieved Heavenly perfection to pray for me? That's just....dumb.

There, I've said it.

I can't tell you how many times I've had some separated brethren inform me, nose in the air, that they only pray straight to Jesus. "Well, good for you, " I always say. "I pray to Jesus, too." And then I say, "Do you ask other people to pray for you? Do you say things like, 'keep me in your prayers" And they say, "Oh yes, of course." And then I patiently explain that we do not pray to the saints, we simply ask them to pray for us, too, that they are the Church Triumphant, that they are people who have achieved heavenly perfection and they are right there in Heaven next to the Holy Trinity and their prayers must be perfect (since they have achieved Heavenly perfection) and they must be so very good at praying and why wouldn't you ask them to pray for you, if you're going to ask me, or your cousin, or your mom to pray for you, you may as well ask the people in Heaven to pray for you, too.

At this point, without fail, the person to whom I am speaking curls their upper lip and tilts their head back just a little further and repeats, "Well, I only pray to Jesus."

I'd like to say, "Well, fine. But please keep in mind that while you are praying to Jesus, if you ask me to pray for you, I am going to pray to Jesus, too, and if you ask St. Anthony to pray for you, he is going to pray to Jesus as well. I don't know what you have against St. Anthony. You could have the army of Heaven praying to Jesus for you. WE ARE ALL PRAYING TO JESUS. "

But I never do. I just say, "That's very good."

So to answer his bone headed if not light hearted question about what patron saint would be good for people who do not believe in saints, I'm going to go with St. Paul.

St. Paul certainly did not believe in saints. He did not believe in praying to Jesus, either. Ironically, he created the very first saint. St. Paul was in the crowd that stoned St. Stephen, the very first martyr (and the patron saint of headaches, because he got hit in the head with rocks). Martyrs go straight to Heaven.

Of course, there are quite a number of people who used to be saints and then got, well, dumped off the saint list because they never existed in the first place. He could go with St. Philomena, St. Christopher, St. Expeditus, the Fourteen Holy Helpers.....then he wouldn't have to re-think anything.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Splitting the Atom

Sorry about my absence. We've been spring cleaning.

I know. We were supposed to do that before Easter. It makes for a terrific Lenten sacrifice and all the more enjoyment of the Easter season.

We couldn't find the broom.

I'm joking. We have found the broom and Amelia Earhart. But not the top of the desk. Only parts of it are sticking out. It feels so good to get things cleaned out, and so sad the way things pile right back up again.

Here's an easy question to start our day:
Hello Sister, I really enjoy your blog and especially your quirky way of saint matching. My husband works in an international student's office at a university. (Making sure everything is in order for them to go to school in the USA, etc...) Who would be a good patron saint for him to call on to help with his day to day tasks? Thanks!

A breeze! A snap!

St. Raphael,
the archangel, is the patron saint for young people leaving home for the first time. Done and done!

Not so fast, Sister Mary Martha. Not all questions are so easily answered.

Sister, I am having a bit of a problem. actually it's a big problem: the person that I am probably getting engaged to later this year is Lutheran- and has no plans to convert. Without a shadow of a doubt I know that I want to be with this person for the rest of my life- but I also know that I cannot marry a Lutheran in the eyes of the Catholic church and God. Do you have any advice for someone in this position? This is less a question and more of a cry for help!! :(

Where did you get the idea you can't marry a Lutheran? I won't pretend we would rather you didn't marry a Lutheran.

But you can.

But should you?

That's where the problem arises. Why? Because you still have to be Catholic around this Lutheran. You still have to go to Mass every Sunday and not 'compromise' by going to his services every other week. You'll need two cars, or a Catholic church within walking distance.

That's doable, right? Sure it is.

It's going to get more complicated, though, when you have kids, because you have to promise to raise the children as Catholics, and so does he. Is he down with that?

Isn't that the expression? "Down" with that? I believe it is. You'll take the minivan to Mass with the kids and he'll walk or drive by himself to his Lutheran Church every Sunday.

That's doable, but little lonely for him.

Here is the official word of the Catholic Church on the subject from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (so you don't have to take my official word on it):

1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

Don't get confused that we are talking about 'cults'. We don't mean people who believe a giant asteroid is coming to take them to a new home in another galaxy. Seriously, don't even think about marrying those people, not because they are in a cult, but because they are crazy. Don't marry a crazy person. It won't work out.

By 'cult's we mean people who are Christian, but not Catholic. Those are all cults.

I'm especially enamored of this sentence:
The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

Yeah, howdy. Everyone just gives up altogether so they don't have to fight about it. Or you end up being a Lutheran because it's easier and they serve cookies all the time.

I remember reading the famous Father Z's answer to this question once. He began with, "I won't sugar coat it..." and then when on and on about how dangerous and impossible it would be.

I won't sugar coat it either, but there is much evidence to the contrary that it's not impossible or even necessarily dangerous when two people love each other and they love Christ.

I hope some of my readers, who are in mixed marriages, will weigh in on the subject.

The men who split the atom were very happy they could do that, and very unhappy with the resulting bomb.

Friday, May 15, 2009

St. Therese Friday

Thank God it's Friday! I thank God it's Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, too. But all day yesterday I thought it was Friday, even though I knew it was Thursday. I almost went for the wrong Sacred Mysteries.

Now it really is Friday and we have some fish to fry. The questions have piled up:

The title of the book pictured for this post is "How to Deal with Annoying People: What to Do When You Can't Avoid Them." When push comes to shove, I am always able to avoid annoying people. My problem is that my friends think it's not very Christian of me to do so. They tell me that avoiding them means I haven't forgiven the annoyance, even if I do. Is it really a sin against charity to avoid annoying people?

There is nothing wrong with avoiding annoying people, per se. For one thing, you might be side stepping a near occasion of sin. Or an actual occasion of sin if you end up popping someone in the snout.

The problem arises with your judgment of whom to avoid and why. If I'm working with the Ladies of the Catholic Charities sorting the socks and that poor smelly man comes in for a sandwich and I sprint to the back and let everyone else deal with him, that is as your friends say, not very Christian. If I'm at a party and the world's biggest bore corners me with a blow by blow description of her bus ride through Nebraska, and I call you over and introduce you and then I run for the beer cooler, that's not very Christian. If I see her coming and know she was just on a sixty day bus ride through Nebraska and she can't wait to tell me every detail and I give her one of those, "I'd love to talk, but see, I'm on my cell phone" waves, that's not so nice.

I have to see her humanity. I have to see God in her. Tall order.

God loves Nebraska.

Your best tactic is to steal yourself and deal with annoying people, to build up your ability to handle being annoyed. Offer it all up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

I have two further thoughts on this matter, thoughts that are in direct opposition to each other.

One: What is everyone so irritated about all the time? When I listen to the things people complain about, being lactose intolerant, or having their car air conditioning break down (both things can be very miserable, I understand), I can't help but think of all the people who have been attacked en masse and marched across great expanses or stuffed onto trains or locked into huts and cells. I hope none of these things ever happens to any of us. But at the rate we're going, if it does, we will be the first to keel over dead during the Baton Death March to whatever is in store for us.

Buck up.

Two: The first hermits were people who just could not maintain their relationship with God while hanging around with other people. They moved onto the desert and when their followers found them there, they moved even further. One moved on top of a tall pole and when that didn't work, he just kept getting a taller pole. These people are all saints.

Ironically, even though they couldn't stand other people, they couldn't stay sane alone. Eventually, these people of like mind formed the first monasteries and convents.

Sister, I am not sure if you have ever discussed 1 John 4:20 before, and if you have please just send me the link to when you did. But if you haven't, can you please help me understand it? I find it very difficult as it seems to me that it should be the complete opposite of what it says. Ie, easier to love God, who has no flaws, than to love people we know whose flaws we know oh too well!

I have not discussed it before. Oddly enough, I seem to have been discussing it today. It's not rocket science, this one. To begin with, let's not take this passage out of context. John has been going on and on about loving your neighbor and your neighbor being made in God's image. So when we get to John 4:20 we could also state it this way:

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. Yet no one can claim to love God who hates his brother. We cannot love the unseen God when we hate the brother who is in God's image.

No matter how annoying he is.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

All Questions Great and Small

I really thought we were going to get into our annual garden clean-up this week. It is its usually spring time disaster area. Maybe tomorrow. I'm thinking we'll finally find Amelia Earhart.

Remind me to write someday about my thoughts on Amelia Earhart. She is a lesson in taking the bad with the good.

At any rate, we are much closer to finding Amelia and her navigator George this year because--and this is how pathetically bad the garden looks--one of the eighth grade girls has taken it upon herself to try and sort the whole mess out. I think she started out dropping by because she has a crush on one of the eighth grade boys who fixes any computer glitches we have and sticks parts of old computers into our computer so that we have more computer bling.

Yes, I said bling. I'm sure it's not an appropriate word for computer upgrades. It seems to have more to do with teeth and hub cabs.

Anyhow, Sister St. Aloysius gave them some iced tea out on the little deck. Heaven knows why she thought that was a good idea. It's such a mess, you can't sit down. You can't tell which thing is a chair covered in morning glory and which thing is just a pile of morning glory. Pathetic.

So this girl seems to think we don't know the first thing about gardening. The truth is, I am quite a good gardener. I can actually do landscaping and keep things alive in pots for years and years. You just can't tell from my garden. She took pity sake on us and our neglected plants and dug in.

It's funny--funny ironic--that nuns spend all their time telling every one else to "mind your own garden" (which is excellent advice) and nuns really don't to that. We have to spend all our time fussing around about the souls of others. Not that we mind. It's just ironic.

Now this girl has come over several times and actually has the about half the garden squared away. The boy she has a crush on must like her, too, because he has dropped by in her absence to water for us (as though if they don't do it, no one will.....could be true.....).

I thought today I'd do a little blog clean up and get to some lingering questions:

Sister, is it alright to take Communion at a Lutheran Church? And is it really the Body and Blood of Christ?

The Lutherans are already not so happy with me. This isn't going to help.

No and no. Only a priest can transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and since the Lutheran minister is not a priest, Transubstantiation (which is what this miracle is called) does not take place. We don't want any one to get confused, so we ask that you separate yourself from the separated brethren at the 'communion' rail....or line or whatever they do over there.

My question is about having a baby pool. We are being labeled as materialistic for having a baby pool so people can guess on the details of our baby's arrival. We are donating some of the proceeds, using some for items we need, and of course, awarding this winners. I merely thought of it as something fun and way to raise money for baby items and the local pregnancy resource center. But now our cafeteria catholic family members make it out to sound like we're immoral by doing this. Is there some reason to think it is wrong or is there a good response to give our family?

I don't see a problem. Gambling is not a sin in the Catholic Church. If you were a Baptist, there would be a problem.

I will say that I have never heard of someone having a baby pool for themselves. Every baby pool I've ever seen is everybody else putting in their chips for a prize, the end. The baby and the parents get nada. All nada, no bling. Maybe they're just mad because, since the prizes are spread out between you, the charity and them, they feel it's a chintzy pool.

I also detect a glimmer of 'we're more Catholic then them in the first place' here, as you go out of your way to mention they are 'cafeteria' Catholics. Just because someone picks and chooses which laws of the Church they will and will not follow, doesn't mean they are wrong about everything. George Bush wasn't Catholic at all and the whole nation followed him.

I'm sorry everyone has made you feel bad about the baby pool. I think it sounds like fun, too. A good response for your family? "Okay, you don't want to join the pool."

Sister, I'm originally from Chicago. May I vote more than once? Oh and is the log for that Blogger's CHoice awards the sames as my Blogger account?

If you are from Chicago you may, of course, vote more than once. You may also vote again after you are dead.

I think for the Blogger's Choice Awards you have to set up an account or whatever it's called, to log in and vote for people.

Thanks for your vote!


Sister, Is it possible to be Catholic and still believe in karma? Or even be Christian and believe in karma?

It's possible that you could be a Catholic and still believe in karma. Your children, for example, believe in Santa Claus, and they are still Catholic, right?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that what you mean by karma and what karma actually entails are not the same thing at all. Most people think that karma simply means 'what goes around, comes around' in some sort of cosmic justice. You should already have a problem with this because it leaves God out of the picture. But I understand that we'd all like to believe that bad people have bad things happen to them and good people get rewarded. I'd like to believe in Santa Claus, too. The one that lives on the North Pole with his lovely wife and all those industrious elves. He's so sweet. And he has a flying sled!

It just doesn't work that way. If you think it does, I'm not sure on which planet you are currently residing. Bad people do bad things and skip along their merry way all the time, while good people toil and suffer and get Alzheimer's.

What karma actually means:
Karma is a belief that reincarnated souls work out their ego spirituality to be one with god consciousness--"nirvana." There is no Heaven or Hell.

You can't believe this and be Catholic, now can you.

Patron saint question: In this current economy, it seems like we could use some intercession in helping the unemployed. There is such a saint, Cajetan. Why is he the patron of job seekers, though? I didn't see anything in his bio to explain that. Do you know how that came about?

Yes, good luck with that. By the way, as a Catholic we don't believe in luck either.

Here's my best guess. St. Cajetan worked with the poor and the hopelessly ill (he also founded an order and fought the good fight to bring the Church back together he witnessed the same mess Martin Luther witnessed). He founded a bank (which eventually became the Bank of Naples) so that poor people could have a place to borrow money. Otherwise they would be at the mercy of loan sharks and those payday advance people.

So this is one of those patron saint by extrapolation deals. What did the poor people need to pay back their loans? Jobs.

I am of a mind to ask for the intercession of Pope John Paul II, who is most surely in heaven. There's a guy who found a great job that he loved and kept it for a very, very long time. Longer than anyone else in history with who held the same job.

We have more great questions to answer. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tough Luck

Sister, my question is how does humility, as practiced by St. Joseph, measure up against "tough love"? In particular, I am trying to get through to a relative who continually twists situations around to make herself look innocent of any wrong doing while making me look the guilty party. My husband says you just have to let some things go, but I've had enough after 50 years and I don't think it is good for her to keep up this behavior either.

I'm so confused. What's the tough love part? Telling her off and never speaking to her again?

What terrible things is she making you look guilty of doing? Robbing the liquor store? Forgetting to put the salad forks on the table?

Maybe if you'd spoken to her 15 years ago, or 25 years ago, or 40 years ago or 49 years ago you could have gotten through to her.

But I'd say that after 50 years, absolutely nothing you say or do is going to cause any sort of epiphany here. She's keeping up this behavior whether it is good for her or not.

And you're not the boss of her.

I do have a patron saint for you. St. Maximillian Kolbe. Talk about suffering when you aren't guilty of anything! He didn't do anything wrong either, but he managed to die a horrible death just the same, by stepping in and taking someone else's place on death row. That guy wasn't guilty either.

St. Max didn't sit around whining about who done him wrong. He administered to the suffering around him.

If that's a bit too steep a climb, maybe you could just turn to St. Therese the Little Flower, the patron saint for people who are annoyed by the annoying habits of others.

I think you're going to have to do more than 'let some things go'. I'm assuming your husband means that you just have to overlook her behaviors. I think you're also going to have to let go of your anger and, like St. Therese, offer it up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Suffering Succotash

Happy Mother's Day!

I know it's over.

I hope after Mother's Day, if you are a mother, you are still happy. Mother's Day should last an entire week. It should be Mother's Week. That way, everyone would actually appreciate all that mom does every day instead of pretend they do, on a Sunday no less. Brunch and flowers really doesn't quite cut it, in my estimation. A family should take over all, and I do mean all, of mother's duties for one whole week, while mother writes poetry and makes collages, takes hot baths and long walks, comes and goes as she pleases and only gets kisses from clean faces and hands. Then you can talk about how great Mom is.

Just my opinion.

But now that I've missed the whole thing (easily done, with just the one day to think about it), here is today's question from a reader:

Is it possible to be too Catholic? Not like going to Mass too much, or praying too much, but by requiring that all you do and take joy in MUST be related to The Church and the afterlife in some way.

Lots of talk about suffering and mortification. What's your take on this? Is this a symptom of a depressive person, or a hallmark of a future saint?

Is it okay to skip through the tulips eating cupcakes and just praise God that life is just so beautiful? Or does that make me a flipant sinner (unless, of course, they are tulips planted by Carmelites and the cupcakes are assorted to look like a big rosary...and it's a feast day). Am I alone in this confusion?

I'm frustrated.
Wouldn't Jesus want us to spread joy and ease other's pain instead of constantly fixating on our own suffering? I hope this makes sense.

This is quite a complex question, so let's break it down into it's parts.

Is it possible to be too Catholic?

Yes. It's only yes if you find yourself forcing yourself to think about the afterlife every second and pretend to be joyful about it. The deeper your understanding of being Catholic, the less you have to force yourself to do anything.

For example, say you take joy in knitting a hat. Do you have to sit there and knit and think of Jesus the whole time you knit your hat? It would be nice. Jesus would appreciate it.

But you can just knit your hat and take joy it in. Somewhere in there, maybe, you might want to realize that the reason you take joy in it at all is that you have two good hands and a brain that functions together to make all those knots by using sticks and you can see what you're doing and you are a sane person whose house is not on fire and who actually lives in a house and has a roof over your head. If you didn't have those things, the knitting would be an exercise in frustration and misery as your brain told your hands to stab you in the eye with your sticks instead of making measured knots and your hair caught on fire. You may have some awareness of this and think, "Thanks, God, for this knitting."

It's not rocket science.

Lots of talk about suffering and mortification. Is this a symptom of a depressive person, or a hallmark of a future saint?

Yes. There is actually a mental illness that some people have that causes them to feel overwhelming guilt and constantly inflict pain on themselves.

And yes, there are saints who I'd rather not talk about what exactly they did to themselves, lest you are having a snack while you're reading.

Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, I can't tell the difference between some saints and the mentally ill in this respect. I let the Holy Father sort that out.

But for everyday, day in day out harmony with Jesus, I have this advice.

Is it okay to skip through the tulips eating cupcakes and just praise God that life is just so beautiful? Or does that make me a flippant sinner?

Yes. It makes you a flippant sinner.

No. It doesn't.

This is why it really pays to be Catholic. We have the map. You can look on the church calendar and see which days are set aside to focus on joy, or suffering. You can say the rosary and use the Joyful Mysteries or the Sorrowful ones, accordingly. (You''l be pleased to know that we are having a joyful period at the moment.)

And you can suffer and be joyful at the same time. Get your brain around that.

St. Bernadette did.

And it's not just suffering and joy, we have Ordinary days and days of preparation. We offer things to think about every day, ways to focus your mind.

And we have cupcakes! Because unlike the Pentagon, we have to have bake sales to stay afloat.

Wouldn't Jesus want us to spread joy and ease other's pain instead of constantly fixating on our own suffering?

You've missed the point of suffering. The whole idea is to not fixate on your own suffering, but to offer your suffering toward the suffering of others. You can choose who you would like your suffering to benefit, which includes people suffering on this earth and those Poor Souls in Purgatory. Offering your own suffering is one way to ease the suffering of others.

What exactly do you mean by 'spread joy'? That sounds nice. Is it a Hallmark card? A dinner party?

Because I think what you are actually talking about when you say 'spread joy and ease other's pain' is maybe something like what Mother Teresa did. She spread the joy of the Word of God and she eased the suffering of others.

But I don't think her work was a barrel of laughs. I don't think there were many tulips or cupcakes involved, except maybe ones she never saw, the ones other people sold to send her money.

I hope this helps with the confusion.

Since we're all about spreading the joy (according to our map) we found you a knitted cupcake.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Playoffs Come Home to Roost

Oh my goodness! We're in a contest and we didn't even know! We love a good contest, especially during playoff season. Move over Lebron. Vote for us here!

Vocational Therapy

Since I literally wear my Catholic faith
on my sleeve, people often ask me about religious vocations. You'd think I'd know something about that, given that I have one and that everyone around me has one and I live within a larger community whose members all have one.

I always feel clueless.

To begin with, I didn't become a nun because I had some great mystical calling. Well, I guess I actually did do that, eventually. But I certainly didn't start out that way. I simply didn't know what else to do with myself. In my day, your choices were "married" or "nun". Girls simply did not run around doing things on their own. One or two did, but there are only so many jobs at the library.

And who knows what is in someone else's heart? One of the best nuns I ever met, who inspired everyone around her and lit the flame of vocations for many other people by her example, only lasted about five years after she took her 'final' vows. She's a happily married mother of five now.

So when people ask me about vocations, I'm tempted to stick my fingers in my ears and hum, or remember that I have something on the stove, or that my meter has expired and run away. What's black and white, black and white, black and white? A nun running from someone who has asked about vocations.

My answer, for the most part is twofold:

One: read about some orders and then go for a visit and see what you think. You know, you can be a 'virtual nun' by visiting some of the orders' websites. For some people, this is enough to wipe the mystical smile of joy right off their faces. Or put it on there.

Two: What makes you think that just because you think you should be a Carmelite or a Benedictine that they want you? They might tell you to take a hike. They don't take just anyone who strolls in feeling all close to Jesus you know.

Which brings me to today's question:

Sister, I am very intrigued by the religious life, and as a married woman and mother, I sometimes feel as if I missed my calling to join a religious order. I didn't revert back to Catholicism (from a life of darkness) until after I had a child and was married...in that order. Now that I feel so close to Christ, it is as if I had my path chosen for me and even though I absolutely love my husband and my child, I sometimes yearn for the ability to join in a community of religious sisters. I am wondering if there is something out there for me, a lay person, to join that would give the same sense of community and consecration to Christ, given that I am married and have a child.

La, la, la, la tra, la, la la.....oh..what?

I don't know you. It's irresponsible for me to guess what's what. But, I'm going out on a limb here to suggest that this is what has happened: For whatever reason, you did everything backwards. It should go "Catholic", "Married", "Child". And for you it was exactly the opposite order.

And now, having discovered at last how very fabulous it is to be Catholic you feel like you want to devote all your time to your new found passion. Which is admirable. But not necessarily a calling.

Or, it could just be a simple case of "the grass is always greener."

Some people would suggest that since you are already married and have a child, that you don't have a calling. I won't suggest that. Look at St. Rita. She really wanted to be a nun her whole life. She had to wait until her husband and children died and by then the convent didn't want her. She had to have heavenly intervention, and even then the nuns in her convent tested her every second. She got the last laugh, so to speak, by getting the stigmata and becoming a saint.

So, for all I know, you're the next St. Rita.

But maybe you're more like a lay version of St. Therese the Little Flower.

St. Therese the Little Flower: wanted to me a missionary but was too sickly for the rigors of travel and missionary work.
You: want to be a nun but you're married and have a child.
St. Therese the Little Flower: devoted the life she did have to Jesus, performing every task as though it was for Jesus, Personally.
You: could do the same.

As the Wizard of Oz says, "What have they got that you haven't got?"

The nun behind the curtain says, "A support group." Pitch in with the Third Order, join the Ladies of the Catholic Charity (how I love them!), start a rosary night with friends.

No Third Order or Ladies of Charity group near you? Then you're just going to have to go it alone. Many saints have done the same. St. John of God got out of the loony bin and gathered up all the sick people and beg and borrowed mattresses and bed pans and food and medicine and cared for them on his own.

You don't have to start your own hospital, but you can volunteer to read to children, help the poor, visit people in the old folks home, take meals to people who are stuck at home, or just sort the socks at the thrift store. There is no dirth of opportunity to help those in need. We have a name for all of this in the Catholic Church: the Spiritual and Corporal works of mercy. There are seven of each. If you only did one per day, it would take you two weeks. Then you have to start over.

I hope this helps. I have something on the stove.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Future Honey Tongues

It has been two whole years since we had bees take over our worm farm while I was away in the Midwest.

Next, as far as I could tell, they took over the compost bin. Except they really hadn't. They had never been in the worm farm, they were only in the compost bin.

And then, just as suddenly as they arrived, they left. I had wished I had noticed their departure, because if I had only noticed, I would have had quite a nice stash of fresh honey. As it happened, by the time I noticed they were gone, the honey comb had started to turn itself to compost.

What a shame.

But God has smiled on us today. Out of the blue, the bees have returned, as though they had some sort of time share in the compost bin. They are summering in our driveway. They are having cocktails by the ocean.

Isn't that surprising? Why did they skip a year? How did they find the same compost bin in the same driveway two years later? They have to be different bees. Bees don't live for two years. Are they the descendants of the other set of bees who passed the lore of the compost bin of the nuns onto to their future generations?

I don't know the first thing about bees, but I'm half tempted to borrow a bee keeper suit from someone and see what's what in there.

Meanwhile we are peacefully co-existing. No one has buzzed into the car, or chased anyone, or bumbled into the house so far. The worms are thriving along side.

Sister St. Aloysius is not entirely happy about the bees, as she was chased by them once. But I have to admit that I'm very pleased they came back. I felt a little insulted when they left as suddenly has they had come. Now I feel like the charming hostess of a popular bee bed and breakfast.

I could call it St. Gobnait's Inn. Maybe that's not a good name. Who can pronounce it? St. Gobnait is a 5th century Irish saint who is the patron saint of bees. St. Ambrose is also the patron saint of bees. Both of the patron saints of bees for dubious reasons. St. Ambrose was known as the honey tongued preacher. That's it for an Ambrose+bee connection. St. Gobnait had her named changed to Abigail and also Deborah. The Hebrew meaning of "Deborah" is "bee". In a which came first, the chicken or the egg, type dilemma, one of the miracles attributed to Saint ( meaing that she was dead at the time) Gobnait aka Abigail, aka Deborah, was that she protected a parish by unleashing a swarm of bees.

Maybe St. Gobnait has unleashed a swarm of bees into our compost bin and that's how they got here. It's as good an explanation as any.