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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Sorry for my little absence. Rough week. Food poisoning. Me. Many souls were released from Purgatory, since I had the opportunity to suffer for almost a whole week.

Now I have the opportunity to try and keep the five pounds I lost from returning. I wonder if Weight Watchers has discovered the food poisoning weight loss program.

Of course, I don't have to worry about my 'figure'. But with a lightened load I do have more energy. Do nuns have to think about such things as their figures, their hair-dos, if their shoes match?

Yes, in a way. We are called upon to stay healthy, if at all possible. And we try to have a neat appearance. You know if you run around looking like a maniac, you lack credibility. Have you ever seen a nun with dirty fingernails? I haven't.

In any case, credibility is important.

Dear Sister, my question for you is: how did you know you were called to be a nun? I'd love to hear about your discernment, was it hard? was is easy? Was it difficult to tell your parents? How old were you? I'd love to hear about it. Also, what's the difference between a nun and a concecrated woman?

I've talked about this before:

"People have often asked me how I heard the call. Here's another confession. I didn't. Like dozens and dozens of other girls who entered the convent when I did, I was just a homely girl with no prospects. I could be a spinster or I could have a career of some kind. The convent seemed like a good choice. And like St. Augustine, my calling grew on me."

But your question brought something to mind that I had totally forgotten. Was it difficult to tell my parents? No. Because my vocation meant an all expenses paid one way ticket to heaven for them.

To begin with, it was a different time. I know there have always been parents that didn't want their children to enter the clergy or become nuns. But there weren't that many of them. It was common that is large families one boy and one girl was sent off to serve the Church, way back when.

Parents were exceptionally proud to boast of their daughter the nun. There could be no argument that they had done a fine job in their own vocation, which is to bring their children to Jesus. They could definitely put a check in that box on the to do list. But when I was a girl there was another perk: if you had a child who became a nun or a priest, you went straight to heaven.

I don't know who made that announcement, looking back on it. Was it an actual pronouncement or some kind of Sacred Tradition (like the word that Mary was Assumed into Heaven, which wasn't actual dogma, but was, but wasn't but was, but wasn't, until fairly recently), or was it just another one of those things the nuns made up.

Because they did make things up from time to time. And if it was something they made up, what happened to all the people who thought they had a free ride to the Pearly Gates. Do you suppose God would honor the half baked musings of a fourth grade nun?

I would hope that any Catholic who had done such a fine job of raising a child in the Church that the child grew up and married the Church would be a good enough Catholic to realize that a mortal sin will still send on to Hell. Because otherwise we could have some real parental havoc on our hands.

And a nun is a consecrated woman.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Martha, Mary and Me

Hey! We heard the story of Mary and Martha in the Gospel today! I feel the need to congratulate you. Do you mind giving us your reflections on why this passage from the Bible was so meaningful to you?

Hey! Yourself.

Who says it was meaningful to me? Of course it is, but not moreso because of my name, if that's what you were thinking. I am actually quite partial to the Beatitudes and the "Consider the Lilies" speech if we wanted to put it to the "if you were alone on a desert island and could only have one or two Bible passages..." test.

I have talked about Mary and Martha before, though. I am quite attracted to poor beleaguered Martha. I think anyone could understand that she must have thought she was doing exactly the right thing with a houseful of hungry dinner guests and her sister was doing exactly the wrong thing, lolling around listening to Jesus blab on.

I'm sure she was thinking things like, "Well, I'd like to loll around around and listen to Jesus, too, but these falafels aren't going to fry themselves!"

Turns out, when Jesus is around the falafels do fry themselves.

I do hope they all helped with the dishes.

The story doesn't end there, though, does it? No, it doesn't, because Martha is the first person to actually figure out just who Jesus really is. On top of that, when Martha announces that she believes Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God, she says she has always believed that. That means she knew she was waiting tables for the Messiah and she thought that it was important to give the Messiah a nice dinner.

So apparently, unlike her sister Mary, Martha could listen to Jesus and get dinner on the table and still had the wherewithall to ask Jesus to bring her brother back from the dead.

That's why I like Martha so much. She doesn't always get it right, but when she gets it, she really gets it. I hope I can follow in her footsteps.

And do dinner for 15 at a moments notice.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To Hell in a Handcart

I try to stay current. I suppose one of these days I'll have to break down and read some Harry Potter books, just so I can keep up with the discussion. I don't really mind, I just have so much reading to catch up on that I hate to take the time reading something that doesn't interest me. Maybe after I actually start reading it, it will interest me.

I'm not holding my breath. I have never been able to read any of those books about the hobbits. I have tried.

But in order to address the concerns of those in my actual instructional care, I think I'm going to have to hold my nose and read that "Twilight" junk, just so I know exactly how to combat the madness. I mentioned "Twilight" other day, just in passing. I thought the youth should be steered away from that silliness because it is all about teenage sex. My readers have informed me otherwise with responses that went more or less like this:

A slight disagreement about Twilight, sister. While I agree Twilight is worth being avoided, it's not an issue with teenage sex--after all the main character and her vampire beau don't ever become intimate until after they've been married. The issue I think Christians should take with the novels is that the main character is so readily willing to risk her own soul to be with the vampire. (That said, the clearly fantastical part of this series is that Edward, the vampire beau, is so stubbornly unwilling to risk his girlfriend's soul by letting her become a vampire or by sleeping with her. Teenage boys are rarely that concerned with their girlfriends' souls. Usually they're concerned with other parts of their girlfriends.)

It's still about romance, isn't it? And isn't romance, in novels, all about sexual tension? And then on top of that the guy is a vampire, which is an evil thing that lives forever by drinking the blood of others. Unless he stays out too late and the sun turns him to dust.

At least he has a curfew.

At least he can't loll around on the beach.


There is just no "upside" to reading "Twilight" that I can see. It really isn't just a fun fantasy book, as I imagine Harry Potter to be. It's a creepy temptation. A teen tittlation.

And if that isn't enough for you, check this out.

Have you ever heard of such a stupid thing? No, you haven't.

I am not one to run around with my hair on fire, crying out that the youth of today are going to hell in a handcart. They may be doing just that, but that is the nature of youth of every generation.
Each generation has it's own handcart, is all. We still have to get them out of it.

Biting each other to show affection. Indeed.

It's a tricky situation, though. The other hallmark of youth, besides finding a handcart in which to travel, is that if you tell them not to get in the handcart, it makes them really, really want to get in it.

That's why I think I'm going to have to read it. Ugh. Because the other thing they like to do, is be critical of whatever everyone else likes. They love nothing more than to think something is "stupid". I think I can light that fuse. Once you poke a hole in the story, they descend on it like vultures, tearing it apart. And once they think it's stupid, we've won.

Maybe I'll have them write an essay about what married life would actually be like with the vampire, once they never see each other because she has a day job.

For now, until the next handcart comes along.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fish Out of Water

As a nun, I often find myself in uncomfortable situations. Everything from suggestive billboards to a backyard party where double entendre "jokes" are flying fast and loose. (Please forgive that double entendre joke.) I am, of course, a major wet blanket, just by standing there in my nun garb.

Which, by the way, has always been my main argument for those who insist nuns and clergy should always be in 'uniform'. Trust me, people behave much differently when we are in "uniform". They behave, in fact, the way they should behave all the time. The argument goes that we should always be 'identifiable', like a police officer, easily spotted and found.

And that's lovely. But it isn't the full reality. The real truth is, for the most part, the reason people want a nun or a priest in a nun or a priest costume is so they behave properly around the nun or the priest.

I digress.

I often find myself in the middle of situations where I'm not entirely sure how I should behave. I am in uniform and I can't just fade into the background. On top of that, I've noticed that people are looking at me to see how I am reacting, when, in fact, I'm not actually reacting, but trying to figure out how to react.

Last week, I was invited to the baptism of man I have known for many years. For quite a number of those years he was a roaring drunk. He finally found Jesus, sobered up and this was his big day. He wasn't becoming a Catholic, unfortunately, but we're happy for him that he's found Jesus somewhere and that he's finally sober.

So Sister St. Aloysius and I went to the baptism. I have to wonder what kind of sinful thoughts we caused just arriving, as this was a Baptist church and in my experience with Baptists, I've found quite a few who think, "Catholic=Devil". And we're in habits to boot. If there were any among that congregation who equated Catholics with the devil, then two devils had just arrived in their devil uniforms full of ribbons and medals.

Everyone behaved themselves. As usual.

The whole ceremony was very pleasant. There were three people being baptised that day. These people had a sort of little swimming pool into which the baptisee had to wade to meet the awaiting preacher. There were three little steps going down into the pool. Then the preacher would put a hanky over their faces and dunk them backwards.

But when my friend stepped on the little stair, he slipped. The air was full of arms and legs and down he went with a sploosh. The crowd gasped. I'm sure we all thought for a second there that he had cracked his head on the steps. But he was fine. Wet, but fine.

He had just baptized himself, sort of. And...it was really comical. Really, really comical. The combination of being a fish out of water there myself, the outrageous pratfall into the drink, the gasp of the crowd proved, to be too much for me. I tried not to chuckle, smirk, smile, grin or grimace while trying not to grin. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Sister St. Aloysius squeezing her face together so as not to laugh.

Laugh! Oh, please no! Don't laugh! Not here! Not now! Not two fully uniformed devils laughing at a Baptist baptism!

We are nuns, after all. If nothing else, we are disciplined. We both chuckled. As quietly as possible.

At the reception afterward my friend bounced over to me. "Sister!" he said. "Thanks for coming! I bet you laughed when I fell into that pool!"


Sister (and other commenters); this is off topic, but I have another question. It should be easy for you. The good news is, I finally got enough courage to take myself to Mass. The bad news is, it was a church 3 hrs from my home. I was travelling. The Question: What is a non-Catholic supposed to do at the Sign of Peace? They shook hands and said "may the Peace of Jesus be with you". Was I supposed to participate? (I did, and there was no lightning...) This was the first Mass I have attended. I remained kneeling for the Eucharist. I hope that was ok. An anonymous commenter told me about going up to receive a blessing but I wasn't ready to do that.

Well, whatever you do, don't laugh.

The rule of thumb, for both of us, is "when in Rome..." You only have to refrain from the sacraments and the only sacrament at the Mass is the Eucharist. You can sit, stand, kneel, pray, sing, shake hands, and go up for the blessing.

Or you can sit quietly through the whole thing and do nothing at all.

When my mother was a little girl, the nuns told her that she was not allowed to go the churches of other demoninations at all.

When I was a little girls the nuns told us that we could go to the churches and even the services of other denominations, but we were not allowed to pray in there because God "wasn't there". I was very confused by this, because they also taught us that God is everywhere. I had to imagine that God was indeed "there" but he was holding His Ears and humming in there.

We've all come a long way in a short time.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Line in the Harry Potter Sand

We feel so blessed that we are not a part of the sweltering heat wave. If you are part of the sweltering heat wave, we feel sorry for you.

Offer it up.

We actually are having to wear jackets around here in Southern California in July. Boo Hoo.

And yesterday we had an earthquake. It was very enjoyable. Some earthquakes are not enjoyable. Some are jolting. Some are shaking. This one was what we call a 'roller'. For a moment, you think it's 'you', as if you are suddenly a bit dizzy. You look around to see if anything is moving and maybe you see the curtains swaying just a little. Then it's as though you are at sea on a calm day.

Some people, who live right in this house, didn't even feel it.

Everyone is still worried about the witches:

Dear Sister,Due to a recent discussion among some good Catholics I know the whole witch/magic thing has been on my mind lately and I'M SO CONFUSED!!!! I feel like everyone has their own adamant opinion of where the line should be drawn with reading that kind of stuff and I can't figure out where the line should ACTUALLY be drawn. Like is Harry Potter okay? What about Twilight? I feel like you have the Bible on one end of the spectrum and the satanic bible on the other and somewhere in between a line has to be drawn but I don't know where! Oh and if witches aren't real then why is this stuff a problem at all? HELP!Clare

I actually think I can clear this up for you! You have to draw your own line. That's the simple answer. But it's not a shot in the dark.

Let's walk you through it.

1. There are no witches, warlocks, werewolves, vampires, magic spells, potions or wizards.

There are, however, people who attempt to be these things. That doesn't mean they actually are these things, or that they have any magical, mystical powers.

2. Evil exists. The devil exists. The devil is trying to win your soul.

Now, if you were the devil how would you go about that? If I were the devil, I would work with people who think they are witches and I would work on you to believe that they had some power over you.

The mind is the most powerful thing in this equation. It's easier to believe that the reason you never finish anything is because you are an Aries with Gemini rising, than to believe the truth, that you are a little lazy or scattered or unable to concentrate. The next thing you know, you're checking your chart to see what to do next. Thanks, Omar!

The question is, how seriously do you take this stuff? I think I can safely read Harry Potter. (I haven't, but only because I'm just not interested. I like to read about Abraham Lincoln.) I can do that because I fully understand that it is fully fiction and I can sit back an enjoy the fantasy world because it is just that: fantasy.

As I have mentioned before, "The Wizard of Oz" is all about witches, too, but I don't hear anyone sqawking about that delightful fantasy. Fairy tales are full of magic and sorcery and witches, too. Is anyone talking about banning the Brothers Grimm. Let me answer that: no.

Perhaps the Jehovah's Witnesses, on second thought.

If you want to dress up like Harry Potter or the Wicked Witch of the West for Hallloween, great! Have fun!

But if your interest in Harry Potter causes you to study the black arts, or talk about it as though it were real, or question the Pope, then stay away from this stuff.

The Catholic Church actually wishes everyone would stay away from this stuff, but not because it is, oh, so dangerous. The Catholic Church has to take care of everybody, and everybody can't handle it. Mother Church can't take the chance on telling everyone to have at Harry Potter and then have some poor soul decide he is a wizard and run around in a pointy hat until he finds himself in Hell.

The Catholic Church will always warn you never to open the door to the devil. Isn't that the moral of the story of "Dracula"? Never open the door to a vampire. Evil=the devil.

I can't tell you whether or not to read such things. I can understand why some people are so adamantly against them. People are weak. We must guard the weak.

As long as you understand that witches and the like are not real at all, then they are no problem at all. The giant that lived at the top of the beanstalk is no threat to you and neither is Harry Potter.

Point #3: Do stay away from the "Twilight" series. It's not about vampires. It's about teenage sex. Thanks, devil!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ninja St. Patrick

For those of you who have been dying to know, it was Apple Pie. But not just apple pie.

Our neighborhood, and the rest of the city, gathers on the beach to watch fireworks. We can't have fireworks anywhere else because the ashes would burn the city to the ground. One of our acquaintances recently dropped a cigarette ash out of her car window and had to pay a $5oo fine and do a day of community service, which involved "beach clean up". She drove around in a dune buggy from bathroom to bathroom while the city workers who were in charge of her flung cigarette butts onto the beach. Ironic.

But I digress.

Our little cook out turned into a "loaves and fishes" extravaganza of friends and strangers, none of whom came empty handed.

The star of the night was Sister St. Aloysius, in her element at the grill, the stove, the sink, the buffet table. She was a black and white blur with a red, white and blue tie. Someone stuck a sparkler is Sister Mary Fiacre's fist. Very festive.

And it wasn't just apple pie. It was sour cream apple pie. I can't describe to you how delicious that is. There must be a sin in there someplace.

Now back to reality, with this sad question:

On a side, but related, note, have you ever heard anyone say one of the following:

1) Catholic saints are based on Pagan goddesses (and gods)

2) St. Patrick killed hundreds of people in Ireland.

I'm fairly sure both are quite false (in that (1) saints are/were real people whereas gods/goddesses are based on... myth/natural phenomena I suppose and that (2) Ireland had almost no martyrs during conversion except Patrick's wagon driver, but that was for political reasons, I think). At first I thought these statements were just silly, but I've heard at least three different people (who I'm fairy sure have never met) say them at different times. All three, strangely, identifid themselves as Pagans. I find that troubling. I do pray about it, but such misinformation seems, I guess, overwhelming to me. Do you have any advice, either for my own peace of mind or for what I can say to my friends about it?



Sometimes what people think is so giantly crazy that there is no answer, at least, not a simple answer. Of course, the simple answer would be, "No, dear, that's crazy. It fact, you have things quite backwards. There are no gods and goddesses, but there have been plenty of very real saints."

Since we don't know where these people got their misinformation, we're going to have to make an educated guess.

There are indeed plenty of things about the Catholic Church that were originally pagan practises that the Church, in Her wisdom, turned to good use. Didn't we just talk about St. Boniface and the Christmas tree the other day? It's sad to me when these instances are used as some sort of "proof" of an evil plot.
It would have gone something like this:

The Christian missionary shows up in your pagan town and notices that you all are wearing holly branches in your hair for the winter solstice. The missionary wants to bring you to understand that there are no gods and goddesses and tell you about Jesus, so you can have everlasting life.

Some evil plot.

He could beat you with sticks and take your holly hats away (which is what the nuns would have done), but instead, he tells you about the love of Jesus and says, "Your holly hats remind me of Jesus. The green leaves stay green all the time, ju;st as His Love is always with you, while the berries appear bright red as did the blood He shed for you."

When you become a Christian too, you're still going to be wearing your holly hat, only now it's because it reminds you of Jesus.

The end.

So that's one way they could have have gotten confused.

Another way is the fact that other ancient cultures had virgin birth stories and many modern pagans believe that this is what happened with the Jesus 'story'. That would make Jesus and his apostles people who are based on a myth.

But even if we go along with that idea, within a few years of the Christian movement (pretending it was based on a myth that began in 1 AD), we are going to find a seemingly endless number of real people who did indeed live and sometimes die for Christ. We have their letters and their bones and hairbrushes (St. Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Therese the Little Flower). We have people who knew them that are still alive (St. Padre Pio). We have police reports and jail terms (Maria Goretti). We have the impeccable record keeping of the Nazis (St. Maxmillian Kolbe).

The problem you are facing, dear reader, is that once people have these half baked notions, it is just about impossible to convince them otherwise. Ever meet someone who thinks the moon landing was faked and that it was all done in a studio in Hollywood? Good luck convincing them otherwise.

I believe that's what you're up against here.

But. I'll try.

Here's what I would say (after taking a big deep breath and counting to ten):

"What makes you think that?"

You'll get, I think, one of those two answers that the Church co-opted pagan practises or that the Jesus story is a myth.

Neither of those things have anything to do with the very real endless list of saints.

I would then have to ask which saints they believe to be based on pagan myths and such and I would name a few. St. Augustine, author of "Confessions"? St. Thomas Aquinas, world reknown philosopher? St. Dominic, St. Francis of Assisi, founders of religious orders?

And then I would not mince any words in saying, "Your blanket statement, which I hope is not an actual belief, is absurd. " I would stop short of saying, "If you'd stop dancing around in the woods and read some actual history, particularly European history, you'll find that a lot of that history was formed by very real people, some of whom are called saints."

As for St. Patrick. Sigh.

I'm guessing the same thing has happened. This is the sad excuse for logic and proof: St. Patrick is said to have driven all the snakes out of Ireland, which is a myth, but like all myths is based on a 'truism' or symbolism. In this case, many believe that the snakes symbolise the pagans, or paganism, being driven out of Ireland and somehow that has translated to these poor birds that he killed them all.

With what, I'd like to know? Did he have an army? Or did he act alone? I don't ever remember hearing one word about '"St. Patrick's Army", so he must have acted alone. Was St. Patrick like some sort of ninja killing machine like in the movies where 40 people attack one man and he ends up standing in a pile of bodies with his shirt torn a little?

Usually, when you ask one of these people to back up their wild tales with anything concrete, they can't. Offer to wait for the email with a link to the 'evidence'. If nothing else, that should be entertaining. I'd love to watch the St. Patrick ninja movie.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Holy Joe

While we decide on whether to have S'Mores or Apple Pie at our Fourth of July cook out, I'll let our archives answer this easy breezy lemon squeezy question.

Who is the patron saint of both selling your house and finding a new one?

Thank goodness for St. Joseph.