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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Decider

I'm a little nervous. Sister St. Aloysius will soon be on her way to her summer think tank. Last year we had the help of Sister Nicholas. Lovable as she was, every day was rather like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I'll be needing help, that is certain. And Sister Nicholas was a good cook. She made that pickle soup. I could go for some of that.

We shall see. Meanwhile, Sister St. Aloysius has immersed herself in information about the supercollider, which is supposed to find the "God particle" or some such nonsense. She has explained it to me several times and it gives me a physics haircut (as it zooms right over my head). She even gave me Stephen Hawkings' new book, "An Even Briefer History of Time", which is his own personal version of his other book "A Brief History of Time". This one is "A Brief History of Time" for dummies.

I'm extra dumb. I can't get my brain around that one either. I get the gist of it, barely, and then I get really tired.

Which brings me to today's question from a reader:

Hi Sister, I love your blog; its both informative and witty. I guess my question goes along with this theme of different sects... not quite sure. Anyways, I was wondering how the Catholic church feels about those who aren't IN the Catholic Church. I mean I really don't want to believe that some of my best friends who are Muslim, Jewish, and Methodist have to do "hard time" in the "furnace." I remember something like "baptism by acts" or something where they had a second chance. Do they just do more time in purgatory? Thanks

I don't know. Yes, I do.

Let's iron out a thing or two. No one does 'hard time' in the furnaces of Hell. "Hard Time" indicates that the time you spend in the pokey is really tough and long, but you'll be getting out. Once you end up in Hell, that's that. There is no "hard time", there is only "eternity". I only use quotation marks to be cute.

So the basic premise here is that only Catholics can go to heaven. That's because Jesus said you can only get to heaven through Him and the only True way to Him is through the Catholic church.

But there are loopholes. First of all, we don't know the mind of God. God might feel that your Baptist friend should be in heaven. We also don't know what any Jewish person, Muslim or Methodist may be thinking right before he or she kicks the bucket. They might think, "What was I thinking! I should have been Catholic!" As long as you're still able to think that, God will not turn His back on you.

So the answer to your question is: only Catholics can go to heaven, BUT we imagine God will let in whoever He wants, so we don't get to judge who got in and who didn't or who will or won't get there.

Does that help?

I know. It's as hard to understand as "An Even Briefer History of Time". Maybe that supercollider will work and we'll know the answer.

That was joke. The answer is not in the supercollider.

The other loophole, which I've touched on here, is the Baptism of Desire. That basically means that you really want to be Catholic, but you weren't able to actually be baptized. For example, you were on your way to be baptized when the Martians attacked, and you huddled together with the rest of your neighbors over at the Lutheran Church and then you were all vaporized. Or you were on a desert island or lost at sea or whatever.

There is also what is known as a Baptism of Blood. That means you died the death of a martyr for Christ. All martyrs for Christ go straight to Heaven, do not pass go, do not collect $200 even if they are from some lesser faith. Excuse me. I meant to say, even if they are separated brethren.

Which brings me to one final point in the 'be Catholic and at least you won't have to worry about it' discussion we've just had. Have you heard the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe. One of my favorite saints! Read about him here.

Why would he have done such a heroic thing for a bunch of guys who were just going to go burn in Hell for being the wrong religion? Of course, he would have been trying to administer the faith to them. I just really doubt that he had any takers. He understood that we simply don't decide. We're not the deciders here.

He did it because we must love everyone as Jesus did. What a guy!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2dz st

Wasn't there a movie once called "If This is Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium"? It was somehow linked to the thought that life becomes so hectic that the markers of everyday living become increasingly backwards. For a Catholic it would go something like, "I'm at Mass, so it must be Sunday".

Or not. Because it might be a holy day of obligation, or Saturday evening. It could be somebody's wedding or funeral.

With this in mind, we turn to today's question from a reader:

who is ur patron Sister?

Seriously, we are not texting here, people. Are we so insanely busy we can't be bother to use our pinkies to hit the shift key to capitalize the beginning of a sentence. Can we not take the millisecond to type two more letters for the word "your"? We're not tweeting here. We have an unlimited space in which to express ourselves.

For a moment there, my patron was St. Leander, the overly picky slave driver older brother and teacher of St. Isidore. St. Leander drove his brother to become the most educated man on the planet and therefore the patron saint of the internet.

I mostly roll with St. Martha, as I have so much in common with her.

But on any given day I might call upon the intercession of St. Anthony to find things that Sister Mary Fiacre has hidden but doesn't remember, not that she would tell us if she did remember.

At which point I will have to call upon the intercession of St. Theresa the Little Flower, the patron saint of people who are annoyed by the annoying habits of others.

Sister St. Aloysius will leave again soon for her summer brain trust, leaving me to try to remember how to boil water. I will be speaking with St. Lawrence, the patron saint of cooks as he was roasted to death on a grill. We'll think of him on the upcoming July 4th holiday as well.

If things get too pathetic in the kitchen, I'll call upon St. Catherine of Sienna, the patron saint of dieters. She survived only on the Host. (But not for long, she died in her early thirties. Don't try this at home.)

I often discuss strategy with St. John of God, who ran a makeshift hospital all by himself, as we run a make shift nursing home on a wing and a prayer here at the house. We have wheelchair to chair, wheelchair to bed, down to a science.

Lately, we've been having what is known as "June Gloom". Every day starts out gray and cloudy until the marine layer burns off later in the day. I love it. I much prefer day after day of June gloom to what lies ahead: Africa Hot. It always looks like it will actually rain, which is crazy talk after February. But I do love it when it rains. So I consult St. Swithin, the patron saint of rain. He loved the rain, too. He made a big fuss that he be buried in the church yard where the rain would always fall on him, but his sainthood caused him to be moved inside the church. Ironic.

Every time we crawl into our couch on wheels that passes for a car, we say hello to St. Frances Cabrini, the patron saint of avoiding car trouble. "Mother Cabrini, put down your linguine, look down from heaven and fix my machini." A reader passed that prayer onto us. While we're on the road, we may have to call upon Our Lady of LaSalette, the patron saint of road rage.

The list is endless: when I stubbed by toe I turned to St. Bartholomew, who had his skin peeled off. Certainly, he understands pain. We steel ourselves with St. Joseph when we have to brave the Home Depot. St. Bernadine of Sienna (gamblers) is great on Bingo night. Our recent graffiti incident turned our prayers to St. Luke, the patron saint of artists. We figured if he could put paint on, he could help us get it off.

"ur" patron saint must be St. Sebastian, the patron saint of the extremely busy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One Small Step for Man

I think I mentioned the other day that I had an old neighbor, Bud, who did not believe in the moon landing. He was not alone in his insistence that the whole thing had been staged in a Hollywood studio. There are websites out there supporting this view.

Did we land on the moon?

Back during my Chicago days, I was visiting an office building for some fund raising. We know how much I love fundraising. I went to visit a man who was a big deal at Pullman Standard. As far as I know these are people that make cars on trains. I never bothered to learn a single thing about my contact there or the company. My spiel really doesn't change anyhow.

I was sitting in this man's office. He had a picture of the earth taken from space. On his desk, he had a little Apollo landing spaceship model. He had another picture of someone walking on the moon. "Hmph," I thought. "Great pictures. Guess he likes the space program." When suddenly I realized I had his name before: James McDivitt.

He was an Apollo astronaut! The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. An Apollo astronaut! I was thrilled to meet him. I asked him what it was like to walk on the moon. He said, "The moon is really boring. It's gray and brown and that's that. There is really not much to say about it." So I asked him about being an astronaut. He told me a few amusing things about that. For example, he said that every single person who ever went into space threw up at some point.

Who knew?

Did we go to the moon? I think we did. But I can't prove it.

Which brings me to today's question from a reader:

My sister is getting confirmed soon (~2 months time), but she's told me that she doesn't believe in God or anything. My parents want her to get confirmed, so she's just kinda going through the motions.. I don't think anything she's going to be taught in her preparation class is going to help change her mind/educate her about Catholicism, at least if they are still the same as when I did them, as I was literally taught nothing about the Catholic faith (not wishing to insult the lady running it, but I think that's true.. A lot of it was probably also down to my own immaturity though)... :/

Anyway - what can I do? Should she not get confirmed at all? Will the confirmation even be valid if she doesn't believe in God etc? My parents want her to be confirmed so that 'she'll have something to come back to when she's older.'

One other thing - can you think of a good patron saint for her? I've suggested loads of names (e.g. Monica, because she prayed for her son's conversion for years, so I reckon she's a dab hand, Mary, because you may as well go straight to the top, and so on and so on..), but she's rejected them all... Thank you sister! :)

Truthfully, she should not get Confirmed at all. But we both know that's not going to happen.

There are a few things you can do, but I think you could talk yourself blue in the face and not convince her of anything. You may as well go argue with Bud Gillman about the moon landing.

Here are things you can do:

Pray a lot. I'd suggest St. Paul, the patron saint of dramatic conversion. Or St. John the Baptist. He certainly shook people up. Or St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Get a green scapular.

Set a good example.

God is there, just like the moon. Confirmation is the point where you confirm your willingness to be a Catholic. So, even if she marches around in a pretty dress or a robe and gets a slap from the Bishop, she isn't going to be confirmed in anything. Sacraments are a two way street. If you go to confession and you're not sorry or you purposely lie or omit sins, your reconciliation does not take place. You haven't reconciled a thing.

The moon is there. You still have to fly over and land on it.

All is not lost. God's not going anywhere. He is going to be there for your sister no matter what. Who knows, maybe the instruction will take! Or maybe, on her way to the altar and the Bishop, she'll have an epiphany! Maybe after it is all over with and she'll realize that she really does want to be a part of this and then 'poof' she will be. Since God has been there waiting the whole time, her Confirmation will just be....retroactive.

As for the Confirmation name, since she doesn't really believe in any of this Bishop-y mumbo jumbo in the first place, I'll wager she's holding out for a cool sounding name, period. She doesn't care that the city of Santa Monica was named for St. Monica because when the Spanish conquistodors first arrived there, the first thing they saw was a rock that was burbling water non-stop and it reminded them of St. Monica, endlessly crying for her son.

I would suggest a very cool saint with a very cool sounding name. How about Maximillian Kolbe? There's a guy who took his Soldier of Christ status very seriously! And her confirmation name could be "Max".

It turns out, by the way, that Mr. McDivitt never actually went to the moon himself. He was the commander on Apollo 9, which orbited the earth and he was in charge of the the Apollo program from the ground. Perhaps that's why he didn't want to talk about the moon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

It Really Isn't Any Fuss

Happy Father's Day all you dads! I always think of Groucho Marx's song on Father's day. Here are the lyrics, sans the tune:

Today, Father, is Father's Day
And we're buying you
a tie,
You say that it was nice of us to bother.

But it really wasn't any fuss,
for according to our mother, you're our Father,
and that's good enough for us.
Yes, that's good enough for us.

Amusing. None of those Marx brothers were particularly good role models, though.

The ultimate role model, of course, was St. Joseph, who also had to take someone's word for it where paternity was concerned. The fact that he did is in no small part the reason for his sainthood.

Some scientists recently came out with more information on what happens to us when we dream. The basic premise of their findings was that dreams allow us to strip the emotion out of our daily drudgery, encounters and problems.

This sounds like a bad thing, but it isn't. It's a very good thing. According to these scientists, the process actually makes us more compassionate towards others by getting rid of some of our own emotional baggage. It's why conventional wisdom has always been to "sleep on it". It's why you often see things more clearly in the morning.

I have been saying this myself for years and years. Dreams are to the brain as de-fragmenting is to your computer at night.

Which brings us back to our Father's Day pal, St. Joseph, whose sainthood was brought to us by a couple of important and enlightening dreams. Let's not forget, however, that St. Joseph had the help of angels in his dreams.

But I can't help but think after a good night of REM sleep, how much easier it must have been for St. Joseph to get with the program. Sure the angel told him everything was okay with his situation with Mary, but hearing that and feeling good about it are two very different things. He still had to deal with the whispers of the nosy neighbors, no doubt. I'm sure he didn't really feel much like packing up the donkey and moving to Egypt in the middle of the night, either, but maybe his dreams helped him handle it all.

And of course, everything is harder to bear when you're tired.

Right, Moms?

May I propose this idea for the perfect Father's Day gift? In honor of Dad and St. Joseph, let Dad sleep in. Take the kids to Mass without him and let him go to the late Mass. Or send him off to 5 o'clock Mass tomorrow.

Then do all Dad's chores while he snoozes on the couch like Dagwood Bumstead. Speaking of Dagwood, feed Dad a turkey sandwich for lunch. The tryptophan in there will have him out like a light.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Second Coming of Corn Flakes

Remember not too long ago, when I was talking about the history of the Protestant churches and how it all started with Henry the VIII and Martin Luther and went downhill from there? I was admonished by some for being 'too simplistic', a criticism I fully embrace. My excuse? It's only a blog. Each denomination could take up several volumes. As time goes on, new denominations spring up like weeds in a vacant lot and their seeds blow in the wind and plant even more denominations. Today's answer to a question from a reader on a patron saint matching will take us on a whirlwind trip like weed seeds in the wind.

Sister, please give me some advice regarding a suggestion for a saint match up. I am sponsoring a young woman in RCIA, she is a former Seventh Day Adventist and was wondering if there are any saints that were former Adventists? I couldn't locate any, but I'm not as knowledgeable as you regarding these matters. Thank you for any help you can provide. ~Catherine

I don't know of any saints who were converts from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, or saints who specifically converted Seventh Day Adventists. Therefore we are going to have to find your friend a patron saint through extrapolation, and to do that, we're going to have to understand a little bit about being a Seventh Day Adventist.

I'm tired already.

A man named William Miller became obsessed with the Second Coming of Christ. Specifically, just when Christ would return. I believe Mr. Miller was a Baptist, but his obsession caused a new denomination to arise. Millerites were very plentiful in the year 1844. Mr. Miller (through his study of scripture) pinpointed the date of the return of Jesus to be sometime between March 1843 and March 1844. When Jesus failed to return by the end of that year, Mr. Miller's followers recalculated and came up with October 22, 1844.

The fiasco that ensued is known as The Great Disappointment.

An understatement, I'm sure.

The leftover Millerites fell into three (and if anyone's counting, so far, we've had the Baptists and the Millerites and now we'll move onto five denominations arising from this mess) groups who had three different interpretations of what went wrong. One of these groups was the Seventh Day Adventists, who believed that Jesus went somewhere on Oct. 22, 1844, it just wasn't here. I think Jesus entered His Heavenly Throne Room. Something along those lines.

At this point, a former Methodist (demonination #6 in our tale) who had become a Millerite and and then a Seventh Day Adventist, enters the picture. Meet Ellen G. White, a visionary (and by this I mean don't mean 'very forward thinking', although she was that, too....more on that later) started preaching about her visions, which I believe involved watching Jesus go into His Throne Room, but most certainly involved messages as to how the faithful should behave.

And on this count, I have to say, Ellen was a good egg. The basic tenets of her faith are not so different from the Catholic Church. The Holy Trinity, Jesus as Redeemer, the nature of God, really not so different. They do believe that when you die your soul sleeps until the Second Coming. Oops. I'm sure there are quite a few other such...misconceptions.

Although Mrs. White did not found the Seventh Day Adventists, she became the most influential person with that group, the de facto leader of the church. Her books, based on her visions, are the foundations of the church.

I should mention that Mrs. White got hit in the head with a rock at age nine. Her visions began at age 14. Is there a correlation? I wouldn't discount a rock to the head.

And one other thing: Mrs. White was a health nut. I say 'nut' in the kindest of tones. I am a fan of health nuts. She was such a health nut that her believers eventually got into the health care business. She influenced that super health nut, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who invented corn flakes. (Not to be confused with his brother who started the cereal company. He was the one that dumped all the sugar into those boxes.) Dr. Kellogg eventually had a falling out with the Adventists and left the denomination. Happily he did not form yet another religion.


Anyhow, Mrs. White was a vegetarian. A vegetarian in the Midwest in the 1860's. The midwest, where to this day your plate of food will consist of a piece of meat, some version of a potato and something that passes as a vegetable. (For example, if you order a Whopper and fries, the lettuce and tomato on your Whopper are your vegetables. Am I exaggerating? Not even a little.) My hat's off to her on that count.

Now, to answer your question, we have several saints that fit the bill.

First, St. Paul, the patron saint of converts, knocked off his horse by Jesus Himself.

Second, St. Stephen, the first martyr, who well understands what it's like to get hit in the head with a rock.

Third, St. Martin de Porres, a great patron saint for those who adhere to holistic medicine and herbal treatments and that sort of thing. He was very much a believer in that stuff himself.

I'm also a fan of St. John of God, who ran all around not knowing what to believe for a very long time, until Jesus had a chat with him. He founded a hospital, too!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Holy Harry Potter

Sometimes I am really not up to the task here on the old blog. Sometimes it's because people ask questions that would be irresponsible for me to answer.

Hello Sister Is there a saint for women in abusive marriages and what are your thoughts as to whether they should stay or leave?

I've talked why I can't just answer this is some Dr. Laura, blanket type statement.

The patrons saint of bad marriages is St. Rita. She had a hum dinger. Her husband was so rotten the mob bumped him off.

And no one should stay in a place where they are abused. What constitutes abuse is a whole other kettle of fish. I would go out on a limb here and say that if a person feels they are being abused, they are correct. Everyone deserves respect and children must always be protected.

Then there are questions that are so large in scope that I never feel I can adequately explain.

I am not sure where to put this, so I am going to try here. Can you please explain holy water to me? I know why it is used in baptism and in the church fonts, but why do Catholics bless objects with it? I would like to be able to properly defend the church and its use to people who say we use it like magic. Thanks.

My hat's off to you to try and explain this one to the separated brethren. And I really don't take my hat off, you know. Deep breath.

You might try this tactic. Rather than go into a whole long, falling on deaf ears explanation of sacramentals and blessed objects, maybe you should just explain the difference between God's grace and magic. I think they might actually understand that. Especially if they are of the 'if you read Harry Potter you'll go to Hell" stripe.

And the difference is really, really simple. There is no such thing as magic and there is such a thing as God's grace. No one can wave a wand and say abracadabra and change a toad to a ruben sandwich. But holy water can wash away sins.

It's not the water. It's God's grace.

Unfortunately, this is a very half baked explanation. The separated brethren don't seem to differentiate between mortal and venial sins. Holy water only washes away venial sins.

The separated brethren also seem to confuse 'magic' with devil worship, which is why Harry Potter scares them. It seems to scare some Catholics as well. I say, since there is no such thing as magic or Harry Potter, you might just as well fear Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. There are witches over there, too.

There are people who use incantations and 'prayers' to call upon the power of Satan. A powerful tool to keep them at bay: holy water.

I have a headache. I'll offer it up to the Poor Souls in Purgatory. The separated brethren aren't 'into' that either.

In order to understand why we bless objects with holy water, one has to first understand all about holy water, which is a giant topic reaching far back into the Old Testament and on into the Fulfillment of the New Testament and all the rituals of all of that time, from cleansing oneself to enter the Temple, to Jesus Himself being baptized, to Jesus using mud to heal blindness.

Mud. That would be water, blessed by Jesus, and dirt with water blessed by Jesus on it.

Holy water 101:

Water cleanses.
Water sustains life.

God cleanses.
God sustains life.

Holy water cleanses and sustains the life of the soul, as it is blessed with the Grace of God.

So we cleanse and bless objects that help us to sustain the lives of our souls by calling on the Grace of God.

Hey! My headache's better!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Pigs are Smarter than Horses

I am always amazed at the wacky notions people have. Yesterday I met a woman who was talking about how much she loves her dog and in the same breath talked about how disgusting dogs are, smelly and all the garbage they chew on, and how she can't bear to have so much as one dog hair floating around the house, and then back to her desire to rescue two more dogs, one with no front leg and one who is blind. She wasn't able to do it because the new owner can't have stairs. No stairs for the blind or three legged dogs.

Fate steps in.

There is no dearth of crazy notions. My mother's old neighbor is one of those people who insisted that there was no moon landing and the whole event had been staged.

I have been entertained lately by those who try to disinfect themselves and everything around them all the time, a recipe for a weak immune system and really, really strong bacteria.

But this takes the cake:

"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." Sister Mary Martha I've been thinking about the above line from Monday's blog and I have to ask: didn't Christianity come about because Jesus was "mad at" the Jewish leaders of his day?

Oh, sigh.

Yes, that's just what happened. Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and God promised to send a savior. Then He forgot all about that. That must be why it took so long.

Then one day God decided He'd like a Son, just, you know, 'cause', and since He can do anything, that happened. God's Son, Jesus, grew up and got mad at the Jewish leaders of His day for not paying enough attention to Him and started His Own religion based on Himself.

I'm not sure which is more upsetting, this notion, or that it was prefaced with "I've been thinking..."

Since Jesus' coming and mission on earth was talked about endlessly in the Old Testament, and the New Testament constantly references those predictions and prophecies so we'd all know who to look for when the day came, I'm not sure how you get that this all happened because Jesus was mad at anyone. Did the prophets say, "the Rose from root of Jesse, from tender branch will spring and get really mad at the Jewish leaders of His day and start a new religion"?

No, they didn't.

St. Peter and St. Paul did have a tiff about whether or not Gentiles even got to be a part of the 'new religion', so it would seem that no one was mad at any Jewish leaders or any Jews at all for that matter or it would have been the other way around, wouldn't it? They would have been arguing over whether or not those aggravating Jews could join up.

They would have had to found a new religion and thrown themselves out of it for being Jewish.

Jesus' trip to earth was not about being mad at anyone. It was about Fulfillment. Jesus did get a little miffed at some Jewish leaders, but all he did was admonish them every once in a while. They were plenty mad at Him. But He loved everybody.

Meanwhile virtually all of the offshoots of the Catholic Church were indeed founded because someone was mad. I was talking to a former preacher of some such denomination. He had been one of those traveling tent preachers. His sect started because they were mad at the sect they were in. It was something about how the communion got served or how the wine was passed or some niggling detail and they split off and added another word to their name. (They left the New Tree of the Spirit and became the New Branch of the Old Tree of the Spirit, or something along those lines.) One week while he was preaching in Florida the locals burned his tent down because he was preaching to black people. This was in the 1960's. He left preaching forever and became a vacuum cleaner salesman. He was very good at it, as he was good at selling people on something.

He had the skill set.

Go ahead and disinfect yourself if you must, insist that aliens killed Kennedy, argue whether horses are smarter than pigs until the cows come home. But know that Jesus showed up to let your soul into Heaven.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Thank God It's Saturday

Vacations and weekends. Aren't those things supposed to be a time when people get to relax a little more. The opposite thing happens. Having any time off from work or the day to day drudgery means that we try to cram in the 'fun' (exhausting) or run all the errands we can't get in during the week because of the day to day drudgery work schedule.

I decided to tackle this question today, since we have all weekend to work on it.

I've got the "tortured by my imperfections" part down pretty good.
It's the "life of heroic virtue" part that gives me trouble. Between sheer cowardice (go look for trouble? me?), a tendency toward bone-idleness (can I do that tomorrow), and frankly not facing many challenges in daily life, I feel totally inadequate to the challenge most of the time. I have a small icon of St. Maximilian Kolbe above my desk, and feel intimidated every time I look at him. Even St. Therese had chronic illness to contend with. I have a mortgage, a wife who loves me but who stopped going to church/confession/anything sacramental years ago, and two lapsed daughters. Most of my troubles in the life area are of my own making. Tiny, tiny, tiny little crosses, really. And an easy-to-manage problem with diabetes. I worry that having led "a life of somewhat mediocre virtue" isn't going to cut it.

I'm no slacker in my Catholicism, really, but I'm wondering what I've missed, and what I can do about it. All ideas not involving physical self-flagellation welcome.

I remember a priest in the local ghetto saying to me once that he resented the idea we seem to have in this country that anyone can be anything. The people who have this idea point to people who have someone managed to get from the ghetto to Yale or some other such symbol of success. The priest said, "Those people were extraordinary. Not every person is extraordinary."

I suppose the operative word here would be 'aspire'. In this country, any person can aspire to be anything, unless you are a woman who aspires to be a Catholic priest. Other than that, you are good to go.

I'm not sure you can be a woman baseball umpire either, now that I think about it. But I digress.

We can't all be saints either. Actually, I take that back. We can indeed all be saints. Not all of us can be canonized saints.

If you are dead and in heaven, you are a saint. The Church recognizes certain individuals, once they are dead, as being in heaven through the process of canonization. And the first thing you need to get the attention of the Church to be a canonized saint is that you have to have heroic virtue.

You have to have been extraordinary. So dear reader, you can let it go. That's not to say that you have the chance of a snowball in a blast furnace of ever becoming a canonized saint. You could make it. YOu never know.

Certainly, your safe, fearful, lazy life style is getting you nowhere on the road to a statue with a halo and a prayer card in the back of the church (or a medal in my shop!).

But don't beat yourself up for being normal.

Do beat yourself up for a lack of effort. "D" for effort, for you mister.

There are so many things you could be doing (on the weekend and your vacation time) it makes my head spin. You could visit the sick, head over to an old folks home, deliver meals on wheels, drive someone who can't drive, volunteer at a homeless shelter, gather and drop off clothes to the Catholic Charities, read to some children, rock sick babies, mow someone's lawn, wash someone's car, buy someone groceries, pay for somebody's lunch while they're not looking, mop the Church floor, make a cake for the bake sale, walk somebody's dog.

But you don't have to do that all tomorrow. It's like exercise. If you weigh 300 lbs. and you try to run a marathon, it's not going to end well. We have to get some of that fat off your soul.

So, pick one thing. Go over to old Mrs. Sanchez, who can barely walk and offer to sweep her driveway or whatever she needs over there. Something alone those lines. Go to the old folks home and sit in the day room and chat with a few people. That type of thing. And do that once a week.

Just one thing. Do just one thing.

And, as they say, one thing will lead to another. We already have made a to-do list. It is called the Corporal Works of Mercy. You can skip Bury the Dead. I don't think you're allowed to do that legally, unless that's your job.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Clearing the Calendar

Talk about falling down on the job! I have been remiss in answering many questions. I'll catch up, I promise.

Let's start with these two, left over from our discussion about the patron saint for people who don't believe in saints. I had mentioned that St. Christopher and St. Philomena, among others, have been dropped from the list of saints due to the fact that they didn't exist in the first place, a memo that St. Expeditus failed to deliver to a few readers:

There is no St. Christopher?!

No, there isn't. Ironically, there is a Santa Claus.

Most people only know the tail end of the St. Christopher story, which is lovely. That's the part where St. Christopher has a job as a human ferry, carrying travelers across a river on his back. It seems St. Christopher was a large fellow.

So one day, while on the job, a small child asks to be carried across the river and as Christopher hauls the boy across on his shoulders, the child gets heavier and heavier with each step, until Christopher fears they will both drown. Crawling up to the far bank and gasping, Christopher says to the child, "What is your deal, kid?"

And the child serenely replies, "I am the Christ Child and I carry the weight of the world on My shoulders."


We love that story! But that's really only the third part of the actual story, which is a very silly "Three Billy Goats Gruff" type of "Three Little Pigs" type of thing.

First, Christopher is a soldier and he wants to serve the most powerful king only. So he joins the Devil's Army. Apparently the Devil had a recruitment table set up on the high school campus or something.

But then, while serving in the Devil's Army one day during a battle, Christopher sees the Devil bow down to the Cross of Christ. So Christopher wants to join that army.

This time he has more trouble finding the recruitment table. Some old hermit tells Christopher that he should just sit by this river and carry people across and that will be enough to serve Jesus.

Paul Harvey has passed away, so I will have to say, "....and now you know the REST of the story..."

Clearly, none of this ever happened and since there is absolutely no evidence that St. Christopher is anything but a story, he was dropped from the calendar of saints. It seems we miss him too much, because he is still a best seller at any Catholic store, dangling from rear view mirrors and key chains.

I have replaced him with Our Lady of LaSalette, the patroness of road rage, and St. Frances Cabrini, the patron saint of keeping your car from breaking down.

As a metaphor, I'd say St. Christopher still cuts it as a great story. The story of the Three Little Pigs has a great message, too.

If St. Philomena never existed, than whose intercession were St. Jean-Marie Vianney and Ven. Pauline-Marie Jaricot praying for?

Them, and a gazllion other people. St. Philomena has always had a huge cult following. That's how she became a saint. I'm sure other virgin martyrs picked up the slack.

And finally, speaking of saints:

I've got the "tortured by my imperfections" part down pretty good. It's the "life of heroic virtue" part that gives me trouble. Between sheer cowardice (go look for trouble? me?), a tendency toward bone-idleness (can I do that tomorrow), and frankly not facing many challenges in daily life, I feel totally inadequate to the challenge most of the time. I have a small ikon of St. Maximilian Kolbe above my desk, and feel intimidated every time I look at him. Even St. Therese had chronic illness to contend with. I have a mortgage, a wife who loves me but who stopped going to church/confession/anything sacramental years ago, and two lapsed daughters. Most of my troubles in the life area are of my own making. Tiny, tiny, tiny little crosses, really. And an easy-to-manage problem with diabetes. I worry that having led "a life of somewhat mediocre virtue" isn't going to cut it. I'm no slacker in my Catholicism, really, but I'm wondering what I've missed, and what I can do about it. All ideas not involving physical self-flagellation welcome.

We'll be back tomorrow to wade into this one!

Monday, June 01, 2009

And the horse she rode in on

Since it's Monday, I've decided to tackle a particularly difficult question.

Sister, I have a question. One of my confirmation students chose St. Anne...who is the patron saint of equestrians! Why, oh why, would the mother of Mary be patron saint of people who ride horses?

I hope it's not too late for her to switch to St. Sebastian or St. Paul or St. George or St. Martin de Caballeros (crack our your Spanish I folks!) or St. Ignatius Loyola or St. Joan of Arc or somebody up there who actually had something to do with one horse, any horse, at any time.

I have looked high and low for an answer and I cannot find one sentence anywhere that contains the word "horse" where St. Anne is concerned, save to to say that she is that patron saint of equestrians.

Often saints are patron saints of something by some sort of extrapolation. St. Sebastian, for example, is the patron saint of pin makers because he was shot full of arrows. I'll admit it's a stretch, but pin makers need a patron saint. They'd be better off with Anne, since she was a seamstress. We should swap out Anne for Sebastian, since Sebastian was a soldier and probably was around a lot of horses all the time. I'm certain he has horses or equestrians on his official list. He has a long list.

I digress.

The truth is, we don't even know what St. Anne's name really was, or if she ever sewed a stitch or ever even touched a horse in her life. St. Anne is not mentioned at all in the revealed Word of God known as the New Testament.

Everything we think about St. Anne is found in the Gospel of St. James, which is not the revealed Word of God at all. It was, in fact, officially tossed out of consideration of any kind in the 4th century at the Council of Nicaea. (think Nicene Creed)

Here is what we actually know about St. Anne: Mary had a mother who had a name.

Here is what we don't know about St. Anne: anything.

I believe I've talked about this before. But there is more to the story. The legend continues that Lazarus (back from the dead) and his two sisters and Mary Magdelene rowed to France (like Charles Bronson at the end of The Great Escape). It seems they had the remains of St. Anne with them. The remains were put in a nice crypt and everything was just fine until barbarians came along. So the bishop there took the remains and buried them so thoroughly that no one could ever find them for years and years, try as they might.

Charlamange decided to make a real effort to fine them but failed, until a blind, deaf and dumb boy suddenly showed them the way. It is quite a dramatic story, the boy being so agitated with his staff and everyone following him and having to dig and find one door and dig some more and find another, until they found a long bured door with a beautiful crypt that says, "Here lies the body of St. Anne the mother of the Virgin Mary." Or something to that effect.

She's not there anymore, because in true Catholic fashion, she has been sent, in pieces, to quite a number of places. Several places, I believe, claim to have her head, and they are not even on the same continent.

I imagine Charlamange road in on a horse. There's your horse.

Or....at some point in time, as forgotten as the location of that crypt, St. Anne performed a miracle that involved a horse or horsemen or women.

Or...and I have a terrible feeling this is what actually happened: Lady Godiva rode her horse through St. Anne's Square.


Not good.

Seriously, St. Martin de Caballeros didn't make the top of the list for your Confirmation student? He's always on a horse. Hence the name. He is also known as St. Martin de Tours. Did no one point her towards Joan of Arc? I pretty sure she rode a bit.