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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, July 31, 2009

She means well.

You may have noticed I've been gone for a little bit.

I haven't been anywhere. I've been wrangling Sister Nicholas. That's a Hollywood term. If there are dogs or animals on a movie set, there is a person called an "animal wrangler". I met such a person once. At the time, he was wrangling a pony and a tiger while on the job. He said something about a rhinoceros in his future, but I had drifted away, worrying about the pony.

Sister Nicholas is an enormous help, don't get me wrong. She does things around here that we never even think to do. For example, that white strip of plastic that is on the bottom of the outside of the refrigerator where air flows in...did you know that pops right off? Who knew? We now have things that are clean that I didn't even know existed, like that white piece of plastic.

The whole bottom of a dryer comes off, too, so you can clean around the lint trap. This is a very handy thing to know about because other things end up there. We found a whole pot holder and twenty six dollars, a guitar pick, bobby pins and the neighbor's cat.

No, we didn't find a cat. We found the pony, in there hiding from that tiger.

No, we didn't. But we did find the twenty six dollars, the pot holder, the guitar pick and the bobby pins. No one here even has a guitar. Everyone is afraid to try to play one after hearing the true story of what happened to the Singing Nun. She met a bad end. Poor thing.

Unfortunately, Sister Nicholas decided she could also take the computer apart to clean it. Which is where I've 'been'. We had to wait for the eight grade boys to get home from soccer camp to get us up and running again. They have a word for Sister Nicholas: Old School.

I was trying to explain to them that Sister Nicholas does things that people used to do that no one does anymore: get down on her hands and needs with a scrub brush and scrub the front step, add vinegar to potatoes when they boil so they don't 'turn dark', wax the floor.

Does anyone wax their floors anymore? If they do, can they please explain to me how they stay on their feet without going bottom over teakettle when the phone rings on the other side of the house? P.G. Wodehouse described what happened to me when the phone rang by saying, "the air was full of arms and legs."

The kitten, who loves cleaning and sweeping, is in kitten heaven. He will be so bored with us when her time here is up.

During all of this, I feel compelled to hand her things, find things (like vinegar), give her a hand with things, or stop her from doing things. One can't idly by while someone right there is slaving away, hence the wrangling. I don't know how she got away from me long enough to blow up the computer.

But we did use a little of the twenty six dollars to make a fabulous peace pie.

If you add lemon juice to the peaches, they won't turn brown.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Catching Up a Little

Good morning Sister A question from one of those un-Church-educated children of lapsed Catholics – how exactly do you “offer it up”? Loving your blog!

It's a good thing you asked. You can be offering up your suffering for the future destination of your parents.

We've talked endlessly here on the blog about




So I'll let you catch up on the concept.

Now all you need to do is say a little prayer to let God know if you are offering up your suffering for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, or for the sins of the world or where ever else you may want to send your suffering. Just like putting the check for the electric bill in the Commonwealth Edison envelope and the check for the gas in the Gas Company envelope.

It's not rocket science.

Sister, could you recommend a saint for me to pray to about my daughter's upcoming dental work?

Of course! This is one of those happy occasions where we don't have to extrapolate to find a saint who is sympathetic to the suffering and struggles of the dental impaired. St. Apollonia, the poor thing, had all her teeth knocked out by way of torturing her into giving up her chastity.

Here she is holding a giant pair of pliers, as martyrs are often depicted with the instrument of their torture.

There is some slight discussion about St. Apollonia's actual manner of death. Some feel that her demise really pushes the envelope. Here is what happened: after having all her teeth either knocked out or pulled out, she was given one last chance to 'give in' or be thrown into the fire. They were all standing there right next to the fire, too.

St. Apollonia asked that they not hold her so tight whilst she decided what to do, and when they loosened their grip, she danced off into the flames on her own.

This behavior was not unusual among virgin martyrs. They jumped into oceans and rivers and flames and off of cliffs to remain pure.

Some people call that 'committing suicide'. That would be a mortal sin.

The Catholic Church does not call it suicide. We call it 'extreme vigilance'. Actually, we don't call it that. I've just coined that term this minute, but you get the point.

Even St. Augustine seems to have wrestled with the dilemma:

"But, they say, during the time of persecution certain holy women plunged into the water with the intention of being swept away by the waves and drowned, and thus preserve their threatened chastity. Although they quitted life in this wise, nevertheless they receive high honour as martyrs in the Catholic Church and their feasts are observed with great ceremony. This is a matter on which I dare not pass judgment lightly. For I know not but that the Church was divinely authorized through trustworthy revelations to honour thus the memory of these Christians. It may be that such is the case. May it not be, too, that these acted in such a manner, not through human caprice but on the command of God, not erroneously but through obedience, as we must believe in the case of Samson? When, however, God gives a command and makes it clearly known, who would account obedience there to a crime or condemn such pious devotion and ready service?"

What he is saying here is that the Catholic Church has decided that this is not suicide, so just don't worry yourself about it for another second.

I hope your daughter's teeth have fared better than those of St. Apollonia.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

As It Is In Heaven

Am I at the computer? I must be, because I see letters appearing on the screen. I finally understand what people are talking about when they say they've had an 'out of body' experience, and I don't mean the heavenly ecstasies of the saints.

Sister Nicolas has returned, a human blur of activity. The last time she arrived, I was out of town and it was Sister St. Aloysius who welcomed her to our tiny convent. I actually never really saw them in action together. I can't imagine what went on there. If there was a way to hook up Sister St. Aloysius' nervous energy and Sister Nicolas' actual energy, we could power Los Angeles.

Or the earth would blow up.

One of those two things, definitely.

Is a Saint the ‘patron saint’ of something because it is assumed from aspects of their life that they hold a special interest in it? Going by the fact that St Gomer is the patron saint of woodcutters and lumberjacks because “on his way out of town on one occasion he accidentally knocked down someone's tree” could mean that if I were to become a Saint (okay, I know I’m getting wild now – but go with me to make this question work) because I work in a law firm I could be the patron saint of lawyers, or people who work for law firms – but really, the last thing I like to think about on the weekend, let alone in Heaven, are law firms! (Hmm, maybe that could be a good starting point as to why I will never be a Saint!) What if St Gomer isn’t in the least bit interested in woodcutters and lumberjacks despite that one incident? Many thanks!

It's just too bad for you and for St. Gomer. I'm sure St. Blaise isn't all that interested in knitting, either. I'm sure the wool comb with which he was tortured is one of the last things he would like to think about, too.

But as you astutely point out, he is the saint here.

Truthfully, this is what interests me about my patron saint matching job. The whole idea of the patron saint is that we are looking for someone who understands our concerns. Personally, I believe that qualifies St. Gomer to be the patron saint of tree lovers, as he must have felt bad about destroying the trees and had to deal with the wrath of the tree lovers for that destruction. If he never gave a fig for a fig tree before, he was forced to pay attention to the whole tree situation.

And being a saint, he's already going to be sympathetic to the plight of any one with a plight.

St. Blaise is another kettle of fish. I'm okay with his being the patron saint of throat issues. He had an actual concern there. He worked a miracle in the throat department. It may have been a fluke that it happened to be a throat issue. But it's not going to cause him to say, "I have no further interest in throats."

But the wool comb thing. Poor St. Blaise. I'm sure he really would like to forget about that ordeal.

On the other hand, there in Heaven where there is no pain and even the memory of pain is pleasant, why should he care? He must be pleased to pray for the intercession of the people who are using the wool comb for it's actual intention, to comb wool.

I do think we might find a better patron saint for wool gatherers and knitters. Maybe St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors, who has an appreciation for making a lot of knots. In a row. Until they become a sweater.

Or look at the example of St. Jude. He is the patron saint of impossible causes, not because he overcame the impossible himself, but because he wasn't busy there is heaven, thus giving him time to tackle the impossible in the hereafter.

Should you become a saint (and you will be a saint once you find yourself in Heaven) you can be the patron saint of people who have to deal with lawyers on a daily basis. You will be sympathetic to their plight with deep understanding.

You will feel no pain, a miracle in itself.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Yikes! Where have I been? Right here, trying to adjust to life without Sister St. Aloysius, who is off at her think tank as of last Monday. It already seems as though she has been gone for decades. Our replacement helper has not yet arrived and so the parish ladies that also work at the Catholic Charities are pitching in. Just after I finish adjusting to them, I will have to re adjust to whoever shows up to help next.

Sister St. Aloysius and I, although she is very....tightly wound....are a well oiled machine, particularly when it comes to the care and feeding of Sister Mary Fiacre. Her problem solving abilities have come in very handy. For example, she came up with the bread bag pivoter, in use several times each day.

Here's how it works! To get Sister Mary Fiacre, say, out of bed, we haul her to her feet. We have strategically placed the wheelchair at a slight angle by the bed and then we have to swing her around to land, PLOP! on her pile of pillows there in the chair. The problem was that while at some point she was able to shuffle her feet around for a step or two to turn around to sit in the chair, her feet now remain glued to the floor. So when we pivot her, she could snap an ankle.

What a mess that would be!

I had no idea what to do. We can't hold her in place while one of us picks her feet up for her. We can't simply leave her in one spot all day and night.

Sister St. Aloysius came up with the plan to put a bread bag (sans bread) under one foot and pivot her around on that. It works like a charm! The bread bag goes everywhere with us. Any plastic bag will do.

Paper or plastic? Plastic, please.

Try explaining this oddity to the new folks. "Bread bag!?!"

"Yes, it's right there by her shoes."

"Put it where?"

"Under her pivot foot. Let's see, we're going to swing her to the left, so put it on the left side."


"You'll have to actually pick her foot up like you're shoeing a horse and put the bag down and put her foot back down on top of it."


Everyone has been impressed with the results.

All of this has been compounded by the kitten.

I didn't mention this way back when because I didn't want to ruin everyone's Christmas, but our wonderful old cat, Teddy, expired in the middle of December. He suddenly got really thin and moved outside. We moved him back in, but he just wasted away. Poor old thing. We really missed him.

So back in April a neighbor found a little abandoned kitten. He was so little his ears were still round. He wasn't weaned. We had to give him a little bottle every two hours or so and set him on on a heating pad.

As a result, he is the dog of cats. With us every second, very involved and curious about every single thing we do. So now everything we do involves one extra step. Move the kitten out of the way. Ready to put Sister Mary Fiacre in the wheel chair? Move the kitten who is standing in there playing with the tassles on the pillow. Putting the laundry in the dryer? Remove the kitten several times while loading and double check before you shut the door. Trying to write a blog? Find someone to play with the kitten for an hour or so because it is not lost on him that you are playing with a mouse.

Of course, the kitten loves the bread bag. Happily, Sister Mary Fiacre is very amused by his attention to her feet. I guess she doesn't have much feeling there anymore.

At any rate, I haven't had a moment to visit with you. And I have a pile of questions to answer. I'll try to get to as many as I can before I have to readjust to the new new help.