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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Clown Corner

Our Sunday was in the 'no good deed goes unpunished' category. One of our parishoners is mentally disabled and he is a clown. I mean an actual clown in a clown suit. He makes balloon animals at the local mall. In the 'a lid for every pot category he also has a girlfriend. Sister St. Aloysius discovered that we were all headed in that general direction and offered to give them a lift. So far so good.

Traffic was unbelievable. There is a point on some Sundays where everyone is going to whatever thing is going on, and on this day, it was people going to meet friends to watch football, baseball, and a whole section of town was blocked off for some sort of charity/illness walk. So all of the big traffic that would have been big traffic in any case, became huge traffic all squeezed on one end of town.

The Lord's Day.

We dropped them off for the clowning and later we went to pick them up again. So we had to do this twice.

Normally, heavy traffic is a not only a good opportunity for suffering, but a good opportunity for at least one of us who doesn't have to concentrate on driving to get in a rosary. But with guests in the car that was not happening.

After successfully snagging them on a corner we drove home. I always think of that little poem, "Home again, home again, jiggetty jig!" Is there more to that poem? There must be. So glad to be back home on an early Sunday evening, for supper, a little prayer and meditation, some herbal tea.....

"My bag!" The lid had forgotten a plastic bag full of I don't know what at the pick up spot. We had to go back so that she could find it. At this point, the drop off and pick up and go back and come back home again of the clown and his friend had taken up pretty much the entire day.

I would rather do my suffering during the week and have Sunday off for a day of rest, but suffering doesn't work that way. Somebody up there likes me, because Monday was a lovely day from start to finish. Welcome to suffering. And welcome to a lovely day.

And then I got a message over at the shop from the mother of a little 5 year girl whose immune system causes the child's hair to fall out. She was looking for a patron saint and I hooked her up with St. Agnes and St. Bernadette. Of course, St. Bernadette has the added advantage of bringing Our Lady of Lourdes with her wherever she goes. And to my surprise, St. Agnes inexplicably had St. Thomas Aquinas on the back.

I can't imagine why. But the mother was pleased because St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of students and surely this child will have some challenges in school.

Then the mother sent me this article.

I am so pleased! Have I joined the scientific community? I'd like to think I have!

Things have been so hunky dory, I'll have to dig up some penance on my own.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gone Limping

Some days are easier than others. Since yesterday, our day of 'rest' wasn't so easy, I've decided to go with a couple of 'No Brainers' here on the answering side of "Ask Sister Mary Martha":

Hello Sister,
Is there a Saint for protection of property (house/car) against vandalism and vindictive neighborhood brats (oops! I mean, "dear little children")? Could also do with one to ask for intercession in coping with the anger of the irritation of vandalized property. Thanks.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! St. Dismas will fill in for both of your needs. First of all, he's the patron saint of thieves and criminals and since he is is a reformed criminal himself, he should be right on the case for being against vandalism, especially that perpetrated by young people. Certainly he doesn't want them to end up the way he did. His earthly life came to a sad end. His heavenly life started with a bang!

St. Dismas is that guy who Jesus forgave while they were being crucified together. You remember the story. There was a third guy, who said something to the effect of, "if you're God or whatever, why don't you stop this mess?" And St. Dismas, who wasn't St. Dismas yet, but "man #2" said, "Shut your soup hatch, you clueless wonder! That's the Messiah you're talking to!"

So Jesus told St. Dismas that He would take Dismas to heaven that day. And since Jesus told Dismas he was going to heaven, we know he is in heaven which makes him a saint.

His name probably wasn't Dismas. We have no idea what his name was. There is a story about how Dismas knew Jesus as a little boy or something, but that's just.....a legend.

In any case, part two of your question is also covered by St. Dismas, since somebody showed us the nature of forgiveness during that whole exchange.

Our next easy answer comes from a few days back when we were discussing our Weight Watchers charm bracelet:

It does seem such a simple concept, and we all KNOW the answer, 'to cut back' and 'use willpower', but as for something to 'DO' when someone suggests it's a matter to simply 'increase exercise' why not think of it as a matter of changing a current 'habit' to incur more physical exertion, such as instead of using the elevator to go up one floor, use the stairway (if appropriate), or instead of settling in to watch TV after dinner, going out for a walk around the block (again, if safe or appropriate), or when planning to attend the out-of-town seminar at the Westin, bring a swimsuit for the lunch break (help keep awake during the afternoon session)? Now, what to pro-actively 'DO' when the fidgets set in while combating an anxiety attack? Which Saint might possibly have an intercessory role in assisting those of us who want to quickly think of something useful or beneficial to do, when experiencing anxiety? Hmm, why not a quiet stroll and a talk with God about this one?

This is also a bit of a two part answer, so bear with me.

Just the other day I stumbled across some sort of "anxiety hot line" type of web pages with tips and information for the anxiety disabled (a disability I am all too familiar with here in the house). There was a hot tip on there! Whenever you feel anxious, go limp.

GO LIMP! What great advice. Relax all your muscles and go limp.

I have to say, I've tried it myself it and it works superbly! I may look a bit odd, slumped at the steering wheel, or hanging on the grocery cart, but I am not anxious!

So....the patron saint for anxiety can be a saint who suffered from anxiety, say, like St. Teresa of Avila, the patron saint for perfectionists who are not perfect.


We can find a saint who knew the wonders of going limp.

I vote for St. Rosalia, who really didn't do anything remarkable (heroic virtue aside) except to go hide in a cave. Then she moved to a new cave. Then the cave caved in on her and no one even knew until years later when some people digging around in there found her bones and she cured their town of a plague. While lying down. While just hanging there.

Going limp helped get me through our crazy Sunday. More on that later.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Punctuality Freakazoid Meeting is Called to Order

"You can never be too rich or too thin." Isn't that the saying? Of course we all know that isn't true. If you're too rich you are not going to heaven, unless you actually can figure out a way to squeeze yourself through the eye of a needle. And the result of some people being too rich is that a lot of people are too thin.

But can you be too punctual? I think not.

I just had to post this response to our discussion the other day about showing up on time.

My nuns ARE punctuality freakazoids! Not long after entering (that's nunspeak for "joining the convent") we invited some of our sisters in neighboring communities to come for dinner. We told them dinner at 6 and so I jumped in the shower at 5:30 with, what imagined to be plenty of time to ready and was horrified at 5:35 to hear the doorbell ring. One lot at 5:35 and the other two were in the door by 5:45!
In my life up until now "dinner at 6" meant "you should arrive by 6:30ish" but this is a whole new world!
And when they say "we'll leave at 8am" what they mean is "we'll be out on the highway by 8 so you need to have your bum seated by 5 minutes to 8"
I entered about 2 and a half years ago and am coming up to taking first vows soon and there are still many, many days when i think "These are a truly weird mob!"

Well, thanks! But those girls are slackers! If we say we're leaving at 8 am, that means you have to be at least gathered for the leaving event at 7:30. Otherwise, the people that are driving you might get nervous that you're not going to make it by 8 and we can't have that. If you are not in the driveway by 7:45, your phone is going to be ringing to find out where you are.

And dinner at 6 means 6:30 or so? On what planet did that take place? Planet We Like Our Food Cold? Planet We Like Part of the Meal Burned and the Other Part All Mushy? Dinner at 6 means the dinner will be served at 6 and you have to arrive in time to great your host with your host gift and still have time to wash your hands.

Although there is a difference between saying "come at around 6" and "dinner is at 6". But not much of a difference.

At any rate, welcome aboard the train to nunworld! Planet Earth thanks you!

Can you be too punctual? Perhaps.

I tend to be the late person. Not so much because I think I am so much more important than others, but rather I have a hard time cutting people off. For example, if I'm talking to someone who is having a hard time, I cannot just say, "Sorry, gotta run." Do you have suggestions for getting out of these situations so you can be on time, without making the person asking for your help feel unimportant?

Punctuality is really just a part of good manners and good manners are all about people's feelings. The whole point of having good manners is simply to make other people feel at ease. If your good manners make other people feel ill at ease, they aren't good manners any more.

So there in lies your dilemma. "Sorry gotta run" is going to make one person feel bad, while your on time arrival is going to make another person feel good. Staying is going to make one person feel good while making another person anxious.

What to do? There is no cut and dry answer. It depends on what the person asking for help is asking of you? "Where do I file this?" can be dealt with in a "I'll show you that later, I'm expected somewhere just now" manner. "My mother is breathing her last" deserves some hand holding.

Happily for you, there is this great invention called the telephone. A quick "Let me just call this person who is expecting me and then I can stay here with you" will make everyone feel good. Don't just say "I have to make a phone call." And don't act put out or harried.

The only thing better than punctuality is common sense.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mary, Mary, Mary

I'm trying to stock up on saints for the upcoming Christmas rush, such as it is over at the shop. I have always been surprised at which saints are the most popular. I would have guessed that St. Ann would be a hot potato. Not that she never sells, but considering that the shop is on a site chock full of sewers, meaning people who sew, not where the dirty water goes, you'd think I'd never be able to keep enough St. Ann's around.

We love St. Ann, don't we? The patron saint of grandmothers, mothers and seamstresses. The truth is she doesn't even make an appearance in the New Testament. Mary's mother is never mentioned at all. Neither is her father. What we think about St. Ann comes from Sacred Tradition. What we know about St. Ann is this: nothing. Not her name, her husband's name, how many other children she may or may not have had, how the family made money, what her hobbies were, if she was a good cook or not. And if she ever sewed a stitch.

We could assume a woman living in those times would have had to sew something a few times. There is a difference between sewing for necessity and being a 'seamstress'. 'Seamstress' implies special skills. I can sew. (If you stand over me with a club.) Sister St. Aloysius is a seamstress.

So I understand that there may be some confusion about St. Ann and what we know about her. But this takes the cakes.

Hey Sister... awesome blog... I don't really know how to contact you other than by comment, so I'll ask my question(s) here in the hopes that you'll notice and answer it (them): Just how many husbands did Saint Anne have? One? Two? Three? Seven? What? Also, how many Marys did she give birth to? I've heard that, in addition to Jesus' mom, she had Mary Cleophas, Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe, et al... so, what's the story here?

Well, I managed to find a source that actually yammers on about all of this. This is the problem with the internet. Just because it's printed here doesn't make it true or even plausible.

The beginning of this saga is a part of Sacred Tradition, that Ann was barren and then had Mary. The rest is.....I don't know what to call it. An over active imagination.

Mary Cleophas and Mary Salome are identified in the New Testament as women who were at the foot of the Cross. After that you're on your own trying to figure out their exact familial relationship to Jesus. Prepare to have your eyes glaze over. Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia has to say on the subject.

So it appears that the first twisted tale, that makes St. Ann sound a little like some sort of black widow with a string of dead husbands, is a tortured attempt at explaining who these women were.

And after reading the Catholic Encyclopedia's clear as mud explanation, I prefer to chuck the whole thing into the Sacred Mysteries bin.

Sacred Mystery is Catholic for "just let it go."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Step Right UP!

Things have been slow over at the shop. I'm sure it's the economy, even though we have saints to help with that. Of course, you don't need our products to ask for their intercession!

I never spend any time here on the blog hawking our merchandise except for when a saint is up for discussion and I can just direct the reader over to the shop for a description of the life of said holy person. Saves time.

But today's question from a reader is one that tickles me no end, because I dreamed up an item just to address this problem some time ago, and with the holidays upon us (beginning with a giant bag of Halloween candy, or a giant bowl of leftover candy because the trick or treaters were few and far between) it comes in timely fashion:

Sister, what saint should I invoke to help me loose weight and keep up my exercise?


I think I was trying to come up with a patron saint matching when I realized that:

1. There are quite a lot of saints for this problem.


2. It's a big problem that requires lots of help.

Especially around the holidays.

If you are a drug addict or an alcoholic, you can stop taking drugs and drinking alcohol forever, difficult as it may be.

But you have to eat.

So we dreamed up this item. A charm bracelet with five saints worth of heavenly will power (in silver or brass color). And since you don't actually need to purchase our product to have the help, I'll give you a brief rundown on why we chose these five saints.

St. Charles Borromeo is the patron saint of stomach problems. As you leave your bad eating habits behind, your bouts of heart burn and feeling stuffed will diminish. Meanwhile, St. Charles will keep an eye on your stomach and whatever it's doing.

St. Catherine of Sienna survived only on the Host. We don't recommend that. But how is that for some will power?

St. Martha is the patron saint of cooks. She famously busied herself in the kitchen and missed out sitting around with Jesus. Doh! Yet another reminder to spend less time thinking about food.

St. Lawrence was roasted to death on a spit. His famous last words were, "turn me over, I'm done on this side." That should be enough to put you off of another helping of pot roast and potatoes.

Last but in no way least, to say the least, St. Thomas Aquinas. Famously weight challenged himself, he feels your pain. Some people think it may have been a glandular issue, but we don't believe that anymore than we believe you when you say you have one.

We actually don't have any exercise saints on there. You're good to go with any or all of the Twelve Apostles, who walked all over the known world. You know if you walk just a half an hour a day, you won't gain any more weight.

Unless you eat another piece of cake because you walked off the first one. Doh!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

No Time to Say Hello, Good-bye!

I've always enjoyed that rabbit in the Walt Disney version of "Alice in Wonderland" and his little song about being late, late, for a very important date.

I am an on time freakazoid.

I know this because one of the seventh grade boys told me so. Although, I wouldn't have come up with the term "freakazoid", I do have a 'thing' about being on time.

I'm kind of happy about this word "freadazoid", though, because it explains my uber awareness of punctuality. Nuns are punctual people. It just goes hand in hand with obedience and humility, that you show up on time so that other people don't have to waste their time idly waiting for you.

Now add to that, my mother who raised me was raised by nuns! Imagine how punctual I am!

When I was small, my mother didn't drive and we often had to rely on others to give us a lift, like Amish people.

That was a little joke. There are some sort of Amish people around the area where I grew up and they don't have phones or cars but they are happy to use your phone and have you give them a lift.

And we are happy to oblige.

At any rate, my mother would have us sitting there like little soldiers a full half hour before the ride was due and even then when the ride arrived we had to dash out the door so as not to keep them waiting for a millisecond or give them a moment's pause.

To this day, "on time" to me means at least 15 minutes early.

So you can imagine my reaction to today's question from a reader:

Okay, I have a saint-matching challenge for you! Every Monday night before choir practice we pray as a group (of course!) and we end with asking St. Joseph (our patron) and St. Cecilia to pray for us. Last night, in reaction to all the empty seats at start time, the director asked, "Who's the patron saint of tardy people?" Sister, who is the patron saint of the chronically late...or the perpetually prompt for that matter? Is there someone who could intercede on our behalf and get the alto section to rehearsal on time?

I think I have sucked all the air out of the room.

Are all the altos coming together in one car?


There is a patron saint for promptness but sadly, he didn't exist. Have you heard the story of St. Expeditus? Have I told it? Yes, I have.

So, I'm not so keen on him. St. Handlewithcare. St. Thissideup.

If I were you, I'd go with one of those strict disciplinarian types. You know the kind I mean. The guys who came in to 'clean up the town'. Some friar or priest who took one look at the shabby, lazy state of the local monastery and laid down the law.

St. Benedict. As in "The Rule of St. Benedict". He's your man. His rules are still directing religious life after 15 centuries. He was so strict the other monks tried to poison him.

That's pretty strict.

I might add, however, that it may be more than a simple inability to get out the door on time with these folks. We can't be sure. We can't accuse.


They might just be trying to skip out on the prayer part of choir practice, figuring, "I'll pray on my own in the car on the way there and that way I still have time for dessert after dinner." Although, anyone in their right mind would be saying to themselves, "I'll tell the family I can't be a second late for choir practice and then I can skip out on doing the dishes." That would be the smart move.

Anyhow, you might think about a saint who had an issue with praying. St. Hyacinth is relatively obscure, but she was a pistol for a while there. Hyacinth had her heart set on a beau who chose her younger sister to marry. Poor Hyacinth was so chagrined that she joined the convent, not because she had any calling of any sort, but just to hide her embarrassment. There, she had a fancy room and a really expensive habit made of the finest fabrics. She had people call on her and give her money.

Still, through it all she was actually a woman of faith, and one day when her confessor actually got a load of the room she had set up for herself, he mentioned to her that perhaps she ought to dial it back a bit.

Hyacinth saw the light and dialed back to minus zero. She got rid of everything, wore an old habit and no shoes. She fasted and prayed and performed such mortifications of the flesh that her first miracle was that she was still alive.

She might be a good one for you.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Seward's Folly

When I first landed here in Los Angeles I was entrusted with a small group of 4th graders from a Catholic Charitable organization who had the bright idea of giving these children a little bit of money and allowing them to go on a little Christmas shopping trip. The idea here, I think, was to have them budget the money and experience picking out and paying for items at a check out counter, something that they would have not experienced otherwise. Not losing the money in the first place was an issue.

With all I had on my plate that day, from making sure no one lost their moolah, to helping them do the math in picking out small gift items, to what to buy for whom and what some person I had never met might like as a gift, to a couple of meltdowns about not having the money for what someone would really like to have (like a giant video game system), to not losing anybody or anything anybody had purchased and getting them all over to the free gift wrap table, the last thing I thought about suddenly became the biggest most frightening event of the day.

We were in a big indoor shopping mall. You know the kind, with four stories of shop after shop and a couple of department stores on either end. There are four parking lots at this place, one on each side. We arrived in a flurry of excitement and we left exhausted but happy in a hot dog stupor from the food court. There we stood, the six of us, five children (one for each seat belt) and little old me.

Where did we park the car? I had no clue. I wasn't even sure in which lot I had parked. East? West? What row? What level?

I had that sinking feeling I had had as a girl when I came to feed some horses we owned one day and the gate was open and the horses were gone. Gone. There was no way to tell which way they had gone in the endless countryside. The only way I could even think to find them would have been if I knew someone with a helicopter.

Even a helicopter would not have helped in the mall parking lot. It was all indoors.

Left to my own devices, I would have just started at the bottom and trudged to the top of each section until I found the car, but this was not going to fly with this crowd. I would have lost a kid, or some of the gifts or my sanity.

I'm good in a crisis, though, I'll give myself that. I've seen maintenance people driving around in golf carts in those lots. If I could just flag one of those down, I was sure he could just drive us all through the place until we found the car.

I stuck my head around the corner of the first level of parking to see if I could find such a person and...there was the car. Just like that.

Anti-climactic, I know, but....I have never ever not known where I parked ever again in my life. I take stock of everything about where that car is, including the first things I see as I enter from the parking lot, so in the end I can retrace my steps.

Sometimes, I can give St. Anthony a break.

But if you can't:

Which tried and true saint helps out with failing memory, specifically finding one's wagon in a parking lot? (Dear St. Anthony has been a steadying friend over many years for help with items that just require an occasion for more prayer.) Probably, it would be the Saint of gadgets like those car-key triggered alarms that start barking on activation, the 'Clap-on, Clap-off' Saint.

I would still go with St. Anthony on this one. Everyone is aware that we always ask for "Holy Tony" to "come around" when "something's lost that must be found". But no one ever really thinks about why.

St. Anthony was one of those people with a photographic memory, which is why he was such an amazing extemporaneous speaker. He could remember everything he ever read, so he could talk about anything at length.

I believe that before television endowed us all with a ten minute attention span, this was not an unusual gift. When the Union took Atlanta during the Civil War, the Northerners gathered outside the house of Secretary of State William Henry Seward and he stepped out and graced them with a three hour speech, a speech that the newspapers say was one of his all time best. The Lincoln-Douglas debates lasted for over three hours each as well, with tens of thousands of people in attendance who actually listened and hooted and booed and cheered through the entire thing. They didn't have the even questions screened and scrubbed or have Tom Brokaw to keep things moving.

At any rate, St. Anthony's gift of memory is the reason he can remember where your car is parked. Who ever said St. Anthony only finds small items?

I did not pray for the intercession of St. Anthony the day the horses got loose. I actually had the wherewith all to track them like Sacagawea and found them two pastures over. But I'm sure St. Anthony would have been a fine helicopter.

If that doesn't float your boat, may I suggest St. Boniface, the patron saint of parking spaces. If he finds you a space in the first place, he will surely remember where that space is.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Let the Games Begin!

Uh oh.

It's October.

You know what that means.

I keep telling Sister St. Aloysius that she should just float over to the Catholic Charities and ask the ladies for all their old white sheets and then just make up a bunch of ghost costumes in different sizes.

I think it would be charming if we had a whole neighborhood full of ghosts running around in all sizes. Why, the children could easily accessorize from their own closet and be 'cowboy ghost' or 'construction worker ghost' or 'football player ghost'. "Guitar hero ghost", the list is endless.

No one likes my idea.

I have already made my first trip to the fabric store. Since I haven't returned in a couple of years, the help there has all turned over and no one remembers me from my last debacle. I can also, by the way, go to the bank without fear of arrest because my bank opened another branch even closer to our house.

Funny, after all of this time, the exact same thing happened in the parking lot. I think that one day I might find myself driving endlessly in and out of the fabric store parking lot and eventually realize I have died and gone to Purgatory. I picked Thursday to go over there because the Santa Ana's had finally stopped blowing on Tuesday and I thought if I had to drive through the parking lot for the rest of my life I could at least have the windows down and have a cool breeze.

It was cool on Tuesday. It was cool on Wednesday. But on Thursday, the Santa Ana winds blew back in like a giant city-wide hot flash.

For those of you who have never experienced what is known as a "hot flash", as we older women have, it is as though the temperature of the entire earth has just inexplicably shot up to 107 degrees. It really doesn't feel like it's just you. It actually feels like something has gone horribly wrong with the world thermostat.

Throw in an actual hot day and you have a human inferno. Spontaneous combustion, anyone?

Another opportunity for suffering!

News flash: yes, old nuns have hot flashes. Oh, how we love the chance to help the Poor Souls in Purgatory and oh how we identify with their suffering! If only for a few minutes at a time.

Several times a day.

And all night.

On the first pass through the parking lot, there actually was an open space, but it was blocked by a Lexus parked all catty whompuss. You've seen that phenomena. The owner doesn't want the car to get scratched and so parks all crooked, taking up two spaces. Very selfish.

I guess I shouldn't judge. Perhaps the owner actually just can't park. At all.

On the second pass through the parking lot, I thought I was getting a nice spot because an giant SUV was pulling out, only to find the person driving that behemoth was actually trying to squeeze into a compact space.

In her defense, all the spaces in the fabric store lot are compact.

There were people who 'made up' a parking spot, adding themselves to a row, or parking behind the dumpster or along side the dumpster. It's Crazyland at the fabric store every day in October.

On the fifty first pass I got a spot next to a very shabby looking car. I am always amazed that the very worst looking cars are always the ones who have one of those steering wheel locks on the steering wheel. If I was going to steel a car out of that lot, I would definitely be going for the catty whompuss Lexus, because there are only three reasons to steal a car:

1. A joy ride. Who would want to take a joy ride in some beat up jalopy with no air conditioning and the person's belongings piled in the back seat on a blazing hot day? Definitely go for the Lexus.

2. As a get away car for impulse crime. Again, the heap could just stop dead in the street after you've driven two feet. You need a car that going to get you outta there. Lexus.

3. Because you are a car thief. You patron saint is St. Dismas and you'll go for the Lexus.

It turns out that the dumpy little vehicle was someone's home, as the inhabitant was at home at the time, fast asleep. Somebody needs to tell him to go park in the swimming suit store parking lot during the month of October instead of the fabric store parking lot right before Halloween. Poor thing.

It's not going to be me. I'm not waking up some poor man asleep in the blazing heat with all of his belongings in the car and a steering wheel lock on the steering wheel of his beat up old crate.

If I was St. Martin de Cabellros or St. Francis of Assisi I would have traded cars with him right there on the spot.

Have I fallen short of what the Lord asks of us?

I should have at least left him a card with our neighborhood address on it. I know how the neighbors so love having people living in cars parked on the our street. Is it fair to give others an opportunity to suffer?