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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Juniper is an Evergreen

There is a bandwagon for you to jump on. Just the other day, on the front page of the Los Angeles Times (I told you I read the paper every day), there was an article about a Saint in the making.

Let's review. To become a saint you have to be dead. You have to be in heaven.

Everyone who is dead and in heaven is a saint.

To be a canonized saint, that is, someone who the Church has proved actually is in heaven, as opposed to your Aunt Tilly, who God only knows where she is, literally, there is a very long process.

There are saints-in-waiting out there who have been waiting for hundreds and hundreds of years because of one little thing.

Okay, it's not a little thing. A miracle.

But the first part of the process doesn't include any miracles. It's long, too, and every bit as intrusive a public examination of your life as running for President would be. First, we comb over every aspect of your life, leaving no stone unturned to make sure you have lived a life of heroic virtue.

This does not mean you've been perfect. Please keep that in mind as you mull over today's saint-in -waiting. But you do have to have lead a very, very virtuous life above the call of duty. No slacker saints, even if they were slackers to begin with.

All your relatives are interviewed. I'll bet a lot of people don't make it out of the gate, right there. "Uncle Elswood? A saint? Did you every eat dinner with him?" All of your friends. You might fare better there. These are people who chose to hang around with you.

Once your heroic virtue has been determined you are declared "Venerable", that is, worthy of our veneration. A good example for the rest of us, regardless of your table manners or what you did or didn't buy someone for Christmas.

But then, in order to reach sainthood, we are going to have to find two occasions where someone prayed for your intercession and a miracle occurred for them. We are talking miracles here, people, not 'I found a parking space!' (as miraculous as that may seem on any given day). It has to be spontaneous ("yesterday I had no toes, and today, my toes are back!") and unexplained.

This is really tricky, because, since you are not a saint yet, who is going to be praying for your intercession in the first place? Your mother? If she is still alive. A couple of well-meaning cousins? Hopefully, all those people for whom you had such kindness and compassion during your days of heroic virtue here on earth.

When you get one that satisfies the Church as an actual miracle (it's nice that you were cured of cancer, but chemo does work a lot of the time) you are declared "Blessed". You need two miracles for the whole magilla.

That's where the hundreds of years can come in.

So it seems that Father Juniper Serra, the founder of the Missions of California (which is why the story was in the LA Times), may have his second miracle. There is this poor lady who has had dozens of brain tumors. She has had dozens of brain surgeries. She is still alive.

That's not a miracle. When you have surgery to remove a brain tumor, even if you have 12 or 14 or 30 such trials, there is an explanation for why you are alive. It's not exactly spontaneous either. Now if she had brain tumors that were there one day and gone the next, we're talking miracle.

The miracle part is that her brain is functioning normally and she is happy and healthy. I think she still has some brain tumors in there, even. Her doctors don't know why she's okay. According to the article, she looks good!

I'm a little dubious about that. She has had so many brain surgeries that they finally weren't able to replace a hunk of her skull, not even with a plate. They put a plate in, but it got infected.
So, no plate, just skin.

Once, while I was having a chef's salad at a diner in Chicago, I looked up to see a man with a large piece of his skull missing. The skin moved over his brain as he chewed.

Now this would be a miracle: if I could ever manage to eat a chef's salad again.

I digress.

So this brain that has been picked at like a Thanksgiving turkey carcass is still going strong and Father Juniper Serra may be canonized.

We'll see.

But just in case the Church decides it's not a miracle at all but some really great surgical techinque, you can get on the bandwagon and pray for the intercession of Father Juniper Serra. He may need a back up miracle.

But find your own parking space.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dreaming Up Sins

School supplies are made of non recyclable materials. Are you aware of that? Pens, three ring binders, page sleeves and separators, plastic, plastic, plastic. Good luck finding a wooden ruler. If you do find one, you've felled a tree.

I do try to watch out for my carbon nun shoe foot print. I'm no Ed Begley, Jr., but we do manage to only throw out one bag of trash per week, while we fill the giant blue recycling can before the week ends. It's still full after the scavengers slide through digging for glass and cans. We don't have much in the way of glass and cans. It's all paper, paper, paper.

I hear newspapers are struggling. You couldn't prove it by me.

I don't think there's anything to be done about the school supplies. I remember my sixth grade teacher always opining about going to school during the Great Depression and how they did one assignment on one side of the paper and the next assignment on the other side. I wish I could have her come and opine again now to our split personality of a society. Urged to recycle our disposable habits.

Oh well, onto one of my favorite topics, the dreamworld.

Hi, sister! Please excuse my English - I'm from Brazil and we speak Portuguese down here. I have a question about sin: We can sin through action, omission, words and thoughts. What about dreams? If, for example, I dream about killing my boss, do I have to go to confession the next day?

Thanks in advance,

Portuguese! What an interesting language! At first you think you are hearing someone speak in Spanish and then you think, "no, that's French..wait...it's some sort of Slavic language..no...Spanish..." Your English is perfectly clear. Very exciting on our end to know we have readers in Brazil!

You have control over your actions, what you choose not to do, what you say and to a large extent what you think (more on that in a moment). The first rule of sin is that it is intentional. You know you are doing something wrong and you go right ahead and do it. Or, you know that you should be doing something but you aren't doing it. For example, loving your neighbor. (That does not include loving his dog, standing on the roof of his doghouse barking himself hoarse.)

But you have no control over your dreams and they are therefore, not sinful.

Let's pause for a moment and address the people who attempt to practice what is called "lucid" dreaming". This is where a person works at being able to control what happens in a dream. For example, if you have a recurring dream that a dragon knocks on your front door and when you don't answer because you know it's a dragon out there, he shoots a massive breath of fire, burning off the entire front of your house. You are racked with guilt as you see the singed cat skittle under what's left of the home, but you run the other way, your steps getting slower and slower as the hot breath of the dragon bears down on you. For one second, the air is suddenly cool as the dragon draws his next breath and then the roar of the fire fills your ears and you wake up! heart still pounding. A lucid dreamer will tell himself over and over again to confront the dragon and at some point will likely be able, when the dream recurs, to shout through the door when the dragon first knocks, "We don't want any!" and watch the dragon walk slowly away.

I've actually done this myself. I haven't done it in a practiced way. But I have had lucid moments during dreams where I suddenly realize, "wait, there are no dragons, therefore this must be a dream." And I turn and I laugh, or I stop running and the whole thing goes away.

Once I was having one of those scary dreams where you are flying but in no way in control and terrified of crashing on your head. Ever have one of those? I suddenly realized I was dreaming, since I can't fly (stupid old TV show notwithstanding), and started flying around like Superman, swooping and zooming. I was having the time of my life!

None of this so called lucidity counts as sin, since you are really not in control of what you are dreaming in the first place or in any way the outcome of the dream.

I suppose it might be possible to try to do something sinful in the dream by practicing lucid dreaming, but again, that would not be the dream's fault, that would be you consciously choosing to try to sin in your sleep. It would be a sin ahead of time.

Then there is the fact that dreams don't necessarily have to do with the actual people involved in them. You may dream about killing your boss, but your boss might represent something else. Maybe you actually feel that you are too controlling, and you want to "let go and let God" and your boss is actually you.

Or your mother.

Or maybe you actually do want to kill your boss. That is a problem for your waking life, not what occurs while you are in dreamland.

Most of the time when most of us say we want to 'kill' somebody, we in no way mean that. We mean we are really, really angry with them. We may even want to give them a good boot to the head. But even in our angriest moment, we are not really homicidal. It's still a sin to harbor anger, or to give someone a boot to the head.

Which brings me to that earlier point on how much we can control our thoughts. It's not a sin to feel angry, or even to feel like giving someone a boot to the head. These are fleeting thoughts over which we have little control. We can train ourselves away from these feelings so that we rarely have them, but you can't help what pops into your head.

What you can control is popping it right back out of there. It would be a good idea, for example, if you are one of those people trying to train themselves into lucid dreaming, that you would use that time to train yourself, using that same technique and energy, to control your waking thoughts and fears. Just my two cents.

One last thought. If you are having a lot of dreams in which you are the perpetrator of untold mayhem, see a shrink. Your brain is trying to tell you something.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Old Maid

Funny, isn't it,
that my last post was about laziness and I haven't answered any questions in almost a week? Was I lazy? I think, maybe, yes. Certainly my attention has been elsewhere with the impending return of Sister St. Aloysius and the exit of Sister Nicholas. I can't find the bottom of the desk. Actually, that isn't correct. I can't find the top of the desk. I don't dare say anything about the state of the desk top because if I do, Sister Nicholas will clean it before I have ended the sentence and I'll never find anything ever again.

School is about to start. We're gearing up the building, the desks, the hallways. We're having meetings and coffee and pastries. We're dotting our i's and crossing our t's.

So on Sunday, after Mass, I did a crossword puzzle, watched a Bette Davis movie called "The Old Maid" and suddenly remembered that someone had asked me this question:

I have a patron saint question for you: I've read of several female saints who wanted to remain single for Christ, but ended up getting married anyway (usually in obedience to their parents.) Are there any saints who had the opposite problem, i.e. they wanted to marry and teach their children to love God, but God never brought them a husband so they had to learn to accept this as His will for them? Thanks!

This a real poser. I have been digging and digging for the answer to this one. The official patron saint for spinsters and old maids is St. Catherine of Alexandria. But she does not fit your criteria. She wanted to remain single.

The problem here is that saints, being saints, don't complain. So we don't really know how many of them longed for a family they never had. They shut up about it. There really could be hundreds of them and we just don't know.

Then I remembered poor little Bernadette! St. Bernadette of Lourdes would have liked to just been a mother and a wife. But she realized that, what with Mary visiting her and all, it just wasn't in the cards for her. There always seems to me to be a great sadness hanging over Bernadette. The healing spring was "not for me." She was terribly sick all of her short life. She longed to see Mary again. She was endlessly harassed and disciplined by her superior in the convent. She died in agony. And she really did want to get married and have a family. At least she did before she was whisked off to the convent, a decision made for her by others that she accepted.

Case closed.

Sister, I've got a peculiar question: who declares that a particular saint is the patron saint of such-and-such? I ask because I'm a software engineer, and there is (in the lists I've seen) no patron saint of software engineers. (The closest is St. Isadore of Seville, but he's the patron saint of the Internet, which isn't the same thing.)

I'll have to know more about what a software engineer actually does to find you a patron saint. I only have a vague understanding of the work involved. But I can answer your question about who decides the official patronage of any given saint.

It wouldn't be an easy answer to find, ironically, if it weren't for St. Isidore and I don't mean because we can look the answer up on the internet (which we can!). It's because this information is rarely discussed. But because the Church was looking for a patron saint for the internet Wolf Blizter got to the bottom of the process. I'll let him tell you.

Take it away, Wolf.

And here is why St. Isidore was chosen (copied and pasted from some internet site. I've forgotten what it was or how I found it. The Google, to begin with most certainly.):

The Observation Service for the Internet, who drew it's mission from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, researched the Internet and related technologies to select a patron saint that best reflects the concerns and ideals of computer designers, programmers and users. The saint chosen by the Observation Service for Internet was Saint Isidore. "The saint who wrote the well-known 'Etymologies' (a type of dictionary), gave his work a structure akin to that of the database. He began a system of thought known today as 'flashes;' it is very modern, notwithstanding the fact it was discovered in the sixth century. Saint Isidore accomplished his work with great coherence: it is complete and its features are complementary in themselves.

I'm wondering if this doesn't cover your job as a software engineer, too. But you tell me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Patron Saint of the Lazy

We have mocking birds. I can tell when they are raising some baby mocking birds, because they menace the cats in the neighborhood, including our little Chester. They sit on a chair right next to the cat and squawk endlessly unless I shoo them away. The menacing got especially intense the last couple of days and now we know why. Two babies are learning to fly. They have a higher pitched squawk, a squeak of a squawk, and they always sound as though they are in distress. Perhaps they are. But it hearing them is distressing.

I'm having a difficult time concentrating. I hate to say it, but I hope they grow up and fly away.

I would like to call upon your superior Saint matching skills to tell me if there is a patron saint of the lazy. It's not to pray for my kids (which I don't have), but myself. And maybe also a patron saint of thieves, if there is such a thing, as I'm typing this while (lazily) avoiding work, which is technically stealing time from my employer!

If I was lazy, I would tell you that the patron saint for thieves is the same as the patron saint of laziness, since thieves are lazy people who take what you've earned for yourself.

But that would entail all kinds of judgment. For one thing, who says you've really earned that for yourself? Why does some boob in a movie get paid millions while an astonishingly good third grade teacher or a guy that teaches your kid to drive a car without killing himself and/or other people gets paid in circus peanuts?

And who says being a thief isn't work? There is often a lot of planning involved, hours of house casing, maybe some sort of disguise, a tool kit (stolen from several garages), leg work, maps....Those people in "Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen" seem extremely busy, if one is to judge by the movie trailers.

And how do we know the thief doesn't need whatever you have more than you? Perhaps the thief has been driven to thievery by desperation.

No, I'm not willing to go there and declare that thieves are lazy.

The patron saint of thieves, by the way, is St. Dismas. We don't know his real name, but we absolutely know he is a saint, because Jesus announced it from the cross. St. Dismas was that thief on Calvary. His belief in Jesus prompted Jesus to say, "You will be with me this day in heaven." Everyone who is dead and in heaven is a saint.

Here's another thing about St. Dismas: his timing was excellent, because he died very soon after Jesus went to open the Limbo of the Fathers and let everyone into heaven. If he had died before that, he would have been stuck for a while. I'm not saying he planned it that way, but it was a stroke of good timing on his part.

It's not easy to find a saint for lazy people, because in order to become a saint in the first place you have to have had 'heroic virtue'. It's that 'heroic' part, virtue about and beyond the call of duty, that leads to no lazy saints.

So we have two choices. We could find a saint who sets a great example of being really busy and hardworking, or we could find a saint who had to be poked and prodded into sainthood in the first place.

In the first category, I'd go with St. Catherine of Sienna, who left no stone of sainthood unturned, sleeping only an hour or two a night and surviving only on the Host. She held the Church together with her prolific writing and her faithful tireless teaching and she became one of only three women who were bestowed the honor "Doctor of the Church". I get tired just thinking about her. And she managed to do it all before the age of 33, because after age 33, she was dead.

In the reluctant saint category, I'm going with St. Joseph of Cupertino. There is actually a movie made about his life with that title: The Reluctant Saint.

Although, it's not so much that he was really reluctant to be a saint. He was certainly reluctant to be called a saint.

He was as dumb as rocks. He could barely read. He was sickly. He could hardly put a sentence together,let alone keep up his end of a conversation, so eventually no one wanted to hang around with him, even to be kind to the poor stupid kid. He was a burden to everyone and couldn't hold down a job because he had the attention span of a gnat. His own mother finally couldn't stand to be around him. Boring, stupid, sick all the time, and useless. This is saint material?

His first monastery threw him out because he couldn't even handle a plate without breaking it. He couldn't remember the difference between white bread and brown bread. I told he was dumb as rocks.

He eventually found his way to another monastery and a series of miracles helped him actually become a priest, passing exams that he couldn't even read. From there he became a saint, levitating in ecstasy during prayer and the like. Did I say levitate? He actually flew all around.

So...there's hope for you, there at your desk.

Monday, August 17, 2009

As Old as Methuselah

We've had quite a lot of patron saint matching requests. I'm working on it! Meanwhile some questions to catch up:
Sister, Why did people in the Old Testament live so long? I understand that we don't have to look at things from a highly literal, Fundamentalist perspective, but it still baffles me why they would inflate the ages like that.

I've heard a couple of different explanations. As far as I can tell, the Catholic church doesn't worry about it one way or the other. It might even be along the lines of a "Sacred Mystery"*, although it's not really a 'sacred' mystery. A "Bible Mystery", perhaps.

This is my personal take on the matter. At first the world was a perfect place. There weren't any diseases to spread around because Adam and Eve didn't have anything to pass on or spread. Virus? What virus? If Adam who lived, according to the Bible, for 900 years managed not to get eaten by a lion, he's home free. He doesn't have a ton of stress. The environment is clean as a whistle. Food is plentiful and he's not competing with other tribes or people for food and shelter. He doesn't have to concern himself with sewage and waste.

If Adam who lived, according to the Bible, for 900 years managed not to get eaten by a lion, he's home free

You might also take note that people have shorter and shorter life spans every generation as life on this earth becomes harder and harder to live. As the Old Testament goes on, people are only living for 600 years, and 400 years and 300 years and on down.

Or...they were vampires and someone finally stuck stakes in their hearts.

I'm joking.

I really don't think much about it. I don't think much about vampires, either.

Can you tell me how to pronounce Dymphna?

Interesting. I never really thought about how to pronounce it. I've always pronounced it "Dimf' -nah", but maybe I've been saying it wrong all this time. I am notorious for mispronouncing the names of flora. I have a habit of looking at words I am unfamiliar with and just taking them in. I know what the word is and what it means but I've never bothered to say it. When I am finally called upon to use the word I say what I think it looked like and I'm wrong a lot. Maybe it's supposed to be "Dime-f- nah". And who even knows where the accent goes. It must go on the first syllable, don't you think, with that "nah" on the end there. Who would put the accent there? Heathens, maybe.

I would like to suggest St. Helen (Constantine's Mother and finder of the Cross) she is obscure; in that we don't hear much about her and yet a good saint for the stay at home mom - maybe??

Well, I have to respectfully disagree. First, I don't think she is obscure at all. She is, after all, the finder of the Cross (among other things she found). And she isn't much of a stay at home anything. She was quite the traveler.

She was the wife of the Emperor. He dumped her for the new model, as so often is the case even now. But when he died her son Constantine became the Emperor, tossed out his step mother, and restored Helena to her rightful place in the world, now "Mother of the Emperor".

So I would put her as the patron saint for people who come out on top of a hideous divorce, women who are dumped for the new model and the like.

At this point, Helena is no spring chicken. But she embarks on a world tour, mostly to the Holy Land, where her dreams (actual REM sleep dreams, not her old ambitions) lead her to find the True Cross. I think she also found the pillar on which Jesus was scourged and the crown of thorns and whatnot. Nails...

So she is also the official patron saint of archeologists.

I recently had a customer at the shop who requested a custom order of St. Nicholas for her home school. I think he would be a lovely patron saint for the stay at home mom. You have to like children a lot to hang around with them 24/7.

You know who else might be lovely? St. Elizabeth Seton! She had to drag her kids everywhere with her all over the Europe and everything. I believe her daughters became part of her order. Let's look into her a bit.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pay Attention This Time

We have lots of new readers these days! Welcome to our little convent of three and sometimes four and then three again. Some new folks have asked how to leave a question. Just ask in the comments section. Be sure and check back there too, because sometimes other readers beat me to the answer. And save me a lot of time!

I was really surprised today to find a new question on an entry from long ago, particularly since the entry was all about this subject:

Hi Sister, I'm searching to find the Matrix Medal. Do you know where I can buy them? I absolutely love the literature on this amazing sacramental and my family is need of much spiritual help right now. My brother has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and is scheduled in Houston, TX to have the surgery on the 27th. My mom found this sacramental and feels like he truly needs to have it in his possession.

I can tell you where to get the medal.

But...did you read at all what I wrote about this subject? This time, don't plug up your ears and hum.

Let's start with that.

But you don't have to take my word for it. You can have a look at this visionary in her stigmata gown. She's posted it online.

Remember Padre Pio? He always wore gloves. St. Rita had to be locked in a room all by herself from her stigmata wound.

Let me digress a moment and explain that when you actually have the stigmata, they are not symbolic wounds. They are actual wounds. Big bleeding holes. They hurt, they bleed and they make you very, very sick. Imagine if you took a big old railroad tie and pounded it through your hand or your foot, or both hands or both feet and then pulled it back out and walked around like that and the wounds never closed up. That's how ill you'd feel with the stigmata. The reason St. Rita had to be locked away in a room all by herself was because her stigmata wound festered and smelled so terrible, no one could stand to be around her. (Until she died, then her room smelled of roses. I think I read somewhere that it still does and they don't even use a Glade plug in or anything.)

I'm sorry to sound to cynical. It smells fishy. I'm not alone.

As I've said, the Church has not approved this apparition.

Every time Mary appears to someone, she brings something new. A new devotion and a prayer, a revelation, a medal, a healing spring.

So here comes this lady with a new devotion and a prayer and some healing water (that you can buy in the gift shop of her chapel), a medal and some revelations and hey, you don't believe me yet? How about some stigmata? That always works.

I know I must sound like that nun in "The Song of Bernadette" who was jealous of the fact that Bernadette was just a dumb bunny little girl who couldn't remember her catechism and here was this nun who had devoted her life to Christ and who does Mary visit?

Maybe someday I'll find myself carrying Christina Gallagher around in my arms the way that woman ended up carrying Bernadette (but only in the movie; in real life that woman never stopped hating Bernadette it would seem).

I somehow doubt it.

I can tell you where to get the medal. I don't want to upset your mother, who has so much to deal with at present.

You can get one for $2 here:
St. Andrew's Bookstore

I feel terrible telling you that. I don't want to be part of spreading this 'devotion'.

We'll be praying for you all and so will all my readers, because that's what they do. Here in our little convent of three, we'll be turning to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

At least, it's still the same Mary.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bank On It

Sister, May you include the holy souls in your daily offering in the morning? Just add, "I offer all my sufferings today for the salvation of souls?"

I don't always remember to offer it up in the moment. I'd hate for my sufferings and sacrifices to be wasted.

Of course you can do that. I just seems to be a little, oh I don't know, "cheat-y".

I find that people often seem to have some sort of idea that a prayer or a sacrifice is like a coin in some Catholic piggy bank that is going to sit on the shelf filling up until you die and then you are going to take the piggy bank to Heaven and smash it open.

Prayers and sacrifices really should be an 'in the moment' kind of thing. That's the whole point.

Let's pretend for a moment that this stuff is money. Let's say you have a lot of money and you really love me.

Wouldn't that be wonderful!

I digress.

But you don't really talk to me all that often or pay much attention to me. In fact, I really have no idea how you feel about me.

You, on the other hand, have scrupulously squirreled away money for me so I can have some of your fortune when you no longer need it. Every month you add a little dough, slowly amassing a lovely chunk of change for me.

Of course, I know nothing of this and I wonder why you don't care much for me. I'm wrong. But I don't know I'm wrong. I go through life thinking, "Oh well, Aunt Sally has bigger fish to fry, I suppose."

Then you drop dead and the lawyer tells me I'm rich.

Well, that's great. But I missed out on having a great relationship with you, understanding how you feel about things and enjoying your company. I spent all these years feeling neglected. I'm actually estranged from you, this person who really did care for me. Just not enough to give me the time of day on any given day.

God doesn't want you to bring him a piggy bank. He wants to hang out with you. "You can have all my suffering today, do with it what You will," doesn't really add up to much when you're sitting in traffic swearing at people, or losing your patience with the kids. It really adds up to quite a lot when you manage to offer up the smoke coming out of your ears as it curls over your head.

It means that right in that moment, you've turned to God. He's always with you. Now you are with Him.

It's okay that you can't remember all the time. Offering up all your suffering first thing in the morning is at least a step in the right direction, unless you are one of those people who can't remember what happened this morning by late afternoon. Then, if you remember once in a while, you'll remember more and more often.

Try some post it notes. "Got Suffering?"

Sister, I have a patron saint matching question. I am a stay at home mom of three wonderful kids. I was wondering if you could help me find a patron saint who doesn't get many prayers. Saint Anne, Saint Monica, the Blessed Mother are always so busy and I would like to spend some time with someone who is not as well known and might like some company. Thank you so much!

Are you simply looking for an obscure saint, or one that has something to do with your travails?

I don't think saints care about being too busy. I don't think saints care about being 'neglected'. They are in heaven, for pity's sake.

If you are just looking for obscure, I suggest you go here. You'll find that almost every day there is some obscure saint that not even the Catholic Church seems to know much about.

Click on any date and have a look. You'll see a lot of people you've never heard about, ever. Then, pick a saint.

Although....there are saints who seem obscure and are not, really. St. Swithin, for example, is very obscure here in the states and not at all obscure in Great Britain. He is a big favorite of mine.

There also those "Marlene Dietrich" saints. They vant to be alone. St. Charbel springs to mind.

Then there is St. Rosalia, who actually asked not to be obscure anymore and still is a little obscure. Do you know her story? I thought not. St. Rosalia ran away to live in a cave. She was so obscure in real life that no one ever knew that the cave caved in on her.

Anyhow, that calendar of saints will be a big help to you. You can find a new obscure saint every single day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tossing and Turning

Sister, is there a patron saint of people who have trouble falling asleep at night?

There is a patron saint for sleep disorders. That would be St. Dymphna, the patron saint of crazy people, and by extrapolation all sorts of problems and disorders, including sleepwalking and therefore, sleep problems.

I don't think St. Dymphna is the girl for you.

I think we have to figure out why you are not falling asleep. Whatever is it, I'm sure there is a patron saint for it.

Fear of the dark? St. Giles. I really can't quite determine why that happened to St. Giles. He was a hermit. But he was also a miracle worker and many people sought him out. He hid farther and farther in the forest and so deprived himself that God sent him a deer for milk. That's her in the picture there. One day the king and his hunters tried to shoot that deer, but they missed and hit Giles leaving him forever crippled. In the picture there, it's just his hand with an arrow or something sticking out of it. I think he got hit in the leg.

After that, the king and Giles became great friends and more and more people found Giles until he had a whole monastery going and so many sick people came that a hospital sprang up.

I don't know where the fear of the night comes in there. Maybe since he was so deep in the woods.

I digress.

Maybe you have some kind of physical pain that's keeping you awake. My mother is having this chronic neck pain that is wrecking her sleep. For neck pain, we look to St. Blaise. If the pain is in your leg, you can look to St. Giles.

Be specific!

The most common cause of insomnia is worry. There are two heavy hitters in the worry department: the patron saints against doubt, St. Joseph and St. Thomas, forever known as "Doubting Thomas", poor guy.

There are even specific saints for what you may be worried about. Losing your hair? St. Cosmos and Damian, the patron saints of hairdressers. Worried about money? The Infant of Prague. Rotten husband? St. Rita Unruly teens? St. Monica.

Be specific!

And when you figure it all out and are sleeping peacefully, you can call on the patron saint of sweet dreams, St. Raphael. Or, if you finally fall asleep only to be plagued by nightmares, that's St. Raphael, too. Either way, he'll help you.

Just yesterday we were talking about the myriad of saints and how much that is to think about and why we love our saints so much. I think somewhere in there a reader mentioned that even Catholics can choose to ignore the saints if they wish.

Absolutely true! Jesus has a few choice words about worry:

"But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obscure Heroes of Everyone

Yesterday's belated list
of patron saints for summer travel elicited this response from a reader:

Whew! You Catholics have to remember all these saints? Maybe it's easier being a protestant and simply praying to God through Jesus. That isn't meant to be argumentative; it's just the first thought that came to my mind. These entries you do about the saints are fascinating, and I love reading them.

Read on, my dear!

Although I am always baffled as to why anyone wouldn't want to remember the lives of the saints. I would find it similarly baffling if one were to say, "United States History? Why should I have to bother about all of that just because I happen to live here?"

Before the Protestants were a glimmer in the eye of Martin Luther or King Henry the VIII (the original Founding Fathers of the Protestant movement), the entire history of Christianity was also the history of the Catholic Church.

Saint history is Christian history.

Pay no attention to the twelve apostles (all saints once Judas was replaced) or anything they wrote or said. St. Paul? Who needs him! Throw out the back half of the New Testament, written by the saints. Pay no attention to how Christianity spread through years of persecution. Forget how these people made entire populations take note of their faith and zeal.

Oh, I know, you're not really talking about just remembering them, you're talking about praying to them.

And ....for the forty millioneth time.....we don't pray to saints. We ask saints to pray to Jesus with us and for us.

For example, what if while I'm on the job, the principal asks me to have a talk with Mr. Otherteacher to find out why he's been acting so strangely. So I have a little talk with Mr. Otherteacher and he tells me what's been bothering him in strictest confidence. He vows to do better and not let his problems effect his work so much. He thanks me for helping him.

Then the principle asks me how things went with Mr. Otherteacher. I explain he's been having some issues unrelated to work, but that he's okay now and we can all move on. But the principle won't leave it alone. She insists on knowing what was up with Mr. Otherteacher and when I refuse to give up the dope on him, she starts to make my life a living nightmare.

Now I may come to you and ask you to pray for me. I most likely would do that. I'll be talking straight to Jesus. You'll be talking straight to Jesus on my behalf.

But you know who else I'm going to ask to pray for me? St. John Nepomucene. He will understand my problem in spades. Spades!

He was the confessor to the king and queen. The king did not trust the queen and thought she was having an affair or some such thing. I don't think she was doing anything bad as it turned out. But the king would not leave St. John alone and insisted St. John tell the king what his wife had said in the confessional. Of course, St. John refused. He was burned and then tied to a wheel and dumped in the river.

I think St. John Nepomucene has my number.

And I want to know about people like St. John. I want to know that there have always been people throughout history who will do the right thing no matter what, who are capable of heroic virtue and great deeds.

Abe Lincoln. St. Paul.

Elizabeth Jackson. St. John Nepomucene.

Elizabeth Jackson? Who?

She was the mother of Andrew Jackson:
"At thirteen years of age he and his older brother, Robert, joined a group of patriots commanded by Colonel William Richardson Davie and participated in the Battle of Hanging Rock against the British. The Americans almost won the battle, but they captured a supply of British rum, got drunk, and fled the scene in panic when the British started firing back at them. Later the two boys were captured and Andrew was slashed on the head and wrist because he refused to clean a British officer's boots. The two boys were imprisoned in Camden where they were starved, robbed, and abused. They contracted smallpox. Their mother, Elizabeth, managed to win their freedom as part of an exchange of prisoners that was arranged between the British and Americans. Thirteen British soldiers were exchanged for the two Jackson boys and five of their neighbors. But Elizabeth found her sons near death from smallpox. She procured two horses and placed the dying older brother on one and rode the other herself while Andrew, barefoot and without a jacket, walked the forty miles to their home in the Waxhaws. When she arrived home, the older son had expired and Andrew seemed close to death. Fortunately the nursing skills of his mother brought him around. When he had recovered Elizabeth traveled one hundred and sixty miles to Charleston to nurse American prisoners of war held on prison ships in the harbor. A short time later Elizabeth contracted cholera and died. At the age of fourteen Andrew Jackson was an orphan, a victim and hero of the war for independence."

From the lecture "Ordinary Heroes: Founders of Our Republic" by Robert Remini

Aren't you happy to know about her?

The good news about finding out which saint you might need is that it's really not rocket science to find our who's who. Get a load of this: Patron Saints INDEX

Come on! How can you go wrong? It's alphabetized for your convenience! It has made me consider changing my motto from "Life is Tough, Nuns are Tougher" to "There really IS a patron saint for EVERYTHING" with an asterisk link to this list.

So have at it! It's never a bad thing to know more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Saints on Vacation

My family and I are taking a long road trip next week. I will have my son (almost 10) wear the brown scapular he got as a gift for his First Holy Communion. I was going to buy some for my husband and I, but I am wondering about our two little girls. One just turned 7 and one is 5 and a half. I'm inclined to get some for them, or is that overboard because they're so little and haven't made First Penance or First Holy Communion yet?

Don't you have your son wear the Brown Scapular when he's not on a road trip? I think you might be a little confused about the Brown Scapular. It's not a 'good luck charm' to protect him from outside harm. It's a promise from Mary about what will happen to his soul if outside harm does him in.

That said, he should be wearing it all the time. So should you and your husband. And even though your seven year old hasn't made her First Reconciliation (that's what we call it now...I have trouble keeping up, too) or her First Communion, she has reached what we call the "Age of Reason", which means she is now responsible for her sins.

The five year old doesn't need a scapular because she is not responsible for her sins and will go straight to heaven if she falls off her Grand Canyon donkey or crashes her Disneyland Teacup.

The idea that you think maybe she should have one and the fact that your son is only wearing one to travel is what leads me to believe you are confused about the scapular.

I think what you really might want is a St. Christopher medal. He's the saint that protects travelers. I don't put much stock in St. Christopher, myself. His story is obviously just that, a story. It has a "Three Little Pigs" quality to it. Many of my readers disagree.

I recommend St. Joseph for travel, or St. Raphael, the patron saint of young people leaving home for the first time, or St. Michael the Archangel.

Don't forget, while obsessing about their safety, that your children, as well as you and your husband, are fully equipped at all times with your very own Guardian Angel.

And while you're on the road you might also want to call on St. Frances Cabrini, the patron saint against car trouble. Are you flying? That's St. Therese the Little Flower, ironically because she never went anywhere in her whole life.

There are also patron saints for the various activities you may be enjoying. Horseback riding (St. Joan of Arc), swimming (St.John Nepomucene, who was tied to a wheel and thrown into the river), going to amusement parks (St. Barbara, patron saint of fireworks), sight seeing in America (the North American Martyrs), traveling Europe (St. Thomas Aquinas, who walked everywhere over there).

My goodness, I should have written this entry at the beginning of the summer, not as it's coming to a close! At least we can have St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of students and pencil makers as a bridge from summer to school year.

I have a question for you -- according to the RC church, what happened to the souls of all of the people who died in the years BC? This question is really bugging me.

Put your mind to rest! This is an easy one! Everyone who died before Jesus came to save them went to what we call "The Limbo of the Fathers". Then when Jesus died, He went and opened the gates there and everyone went to Heaven. The people who were headed for Hell never even went to the Limbo of the Fathers. They went straight to Hell.

Anyhow, that's what Jesus was up to on Holy Saturday, in between His death and resurrection. That must have been quite a party!

Friday, August 07, 2009

My Cup Turneth Over

I'm not sure I'll ever catch up to the many questions I have awaiting an answer. Please do me a favor. If I've skipped your question and you are dying for an answer, please ask again and I'll do my best to meet your needs. Otherwise I'll be going back through the comments section to dig out the unanswered.

Today I have an old question and a newer question paired together because...well, you'll see:

Speaking of patron saints, we are trying to sell our house and, while I don't want to bury a statue, I thought I would look on line for a prayer to St Joseph for selling a house. The ones I found all refer to St Joseph being a carpenter and teaching his son the trade and that's why the real estate thing. I seem to recall reading that later translations make Joseph a stone cutter, not a carpenter but I guess that could still work. Anyway, one of the "prayers" tells St Joseph he will be "left in the dark and suffer as Jesus suffered" until the house is sold!! This is a prayer??? OMG! Any other ideas? :-)

I don't think you mean to say "OMG". I'm sure what you mean by this abbreviation is "over my grave" (as in "over my dead body"). We have a problem with some widely accepted abbreviations, although we do chalk them up to widely accepted cluelessness and not some type of 'war' on Christmas, Christians or values that we may not share.

But about St. Joseph...you are correct that modern historians think that St. Joseph's trade was actually that of a stonecutter and not a carpenter working with wood and building kitchen tables for people. In my St. Joseph holy cards that I collected as a child (holy cards are the baseball cards of Catholic children, anyway they used to be), St. Joseph was alway showing Jesus how to build a kitchen table.

And chairs. Or sometimes Mary was serving lunch to Jesus at the kitchen table that Joseph made (because why would they go to Ikea when they had St. Joseph right there?) while St. Joseph worked in the background.

I always imagined that the people in Jesus' neighborhood all sat at tables made by St. Joseph and played Chinese checkers in the evening. Chinese checkers was my favorite game. Sitting here today I can't even remember how you play Chinese checkers. I wonder if it still exists. Surely, it's called something else by now.

What were we talking about? Oh yes, St. Joseph and real estate sales. I've talked about this at length before. I know that there is some type of prayer that comes with the kit, although I've never actually opened one of the kits to read the prayer.

But why do we have to have a prayer written for us? Let's just have a chat with St. Joseph mano on mano.

Dear St. Joseph, Could you please ask Jesus to help us sell our house? You of all people should know how difficult when you have to move from one house to another. We need to sell our house to be able to afford the new house. You had to pick up and move without doing that in a time when you couldn't even go to an ATM. OMG! ("oh, my golly!) Will you please talk to Jesus about sending us the grace to get through these coming days and months of anxiety and upheaval. We know that moving is high on the list of things that cause anxiety, right up there with death and public speaking. Thank you very much!

That said, I'm not above burying a statue of St. Joseph for the reasons I've stated. Which brings me to my next question:
I overheard somebody say that when you lose something you should turn a cup upside down and pray to St Anthony. Ofcourse I have heard of praying to St Anthony for lost things, but I never heard of turning a cup upside down. I asked her what the significance of the cup was, but she did not know. Do you have any idea what it means? Have you ever heard of this custom? I am just curious. I know you are busy, but if you happen to know please let me know. I can't figure it out.

I searched the internet, saint books and polled very old people. I know lots and lots of very old people. No one has heard of the cup thing. That's not to say that there is no such thing as the cup thing. It could be a custom from some particular place.

We may forget why we do the things we do when we perform any type of ritual. Why put a bay leaf under the pillow? Or do anything with your socks? We can only guess.

I haven't a clue the significance of a cup where St. Anthony is concerned except to say that these rituals that go beyond saying a prayer to burying things and turning things upside down and sticking something under something are all about making you mindful in your intentions and prayers. While some people really get their bloomers in a bunch about these practices because they appear to have devolved into superstition, I don't have a problem with most of it unless the person performing the ritual believes that all he has to do is bury a statue, sleep on a bay leaf, wear a little piece of felt all time, etc. That is the definition of superstition.

I have one thought on the cup. What if, back in the day when you didn't go to Target for a new set of dishes every ten minutes, you just had your one cup from which you drink or even eat? (Back in the day, the average woman only had three dresses to wear; one for everyday, one to put on clean, and the Sunday dress. That's why underwear was invented.) When you turn that cup over, you are going to have to pray and search until that item is found, or go thirsty. That would make you very mindful, don't you think?

Happily, St. Anthony works fast, I have found.

Monday, August 03, 2009

On the Fly

Sister, I found your blog through the Faith and Family blog. Wonderful! Everyone needs to look at life with all its frustrations, joys, complexitites, etc with a bit of straight forward truth and humor. Thank you! I do have a question for you - a saint to ask to intercede for my 15 year old son who struggles with many learning disabilities, a basic "don't care about much" attitude, and who won't even ask for help when he so desperately needs it. He is a good kid - but has no clue (he hasn't seen how God can help him yet) about Christ is so important to him. Suggestion?

Isn't that nice? I don't mean about your son. What a trial.

I would suggest a trio of saints for him. He is fifteen after all. He's probably not even awake half the time, and when he is awake, he isn't thinking about Jesus. Maybe he actually needs four saints, now that I think about it.

I'm going with St. Thomas Aquinas, brilliant man that he was, known as the "dumb ox" while a school boy. He was known as rather a fatso as an adult, besides his brilliance, so the "ox" part of his moniker must have been somewhat accurate even back then. Anyhow the big dumb ox landed the title of "Doctor of the Church".

I also always like St. Isidore, now patron saint of the internet, for the lazy student.

And for people who flap all around looking for heaven knows what all their lives, my buddy, St. John of God.

Lastly, for the concentration needed for the concentration for that which he should be concentrating, St. Maria Goretti. Enough said about that.

Inquiring minds want to know:Is there a Patron Saint of Bingo? If not, have you any suggestions?I do wish we could find a better way to raise money than by gambling.

Is Bingo really gambling? I always thought of it as a church fundraiser where you get to get together which a bunch of people and play a board game and maybe win a prize.

I suppose sin is in the intent. If you are throwing down a lot of loot to sit there with four dozen Bingo cards and a bunch of inky stampers in the hope of "getting baby some new shoes", then you are gambling.

In which case you need St. Bernadine, the patron saint of gamblers. The poor man. He really didn't have anything to do with actual gambling.

I realize that I have many questions that have been awaiting anwers much longer than these two very recent additions, but I never know what Sister Nicholas is going to get into next, and I'm on the fly here.