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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus

Sister, if you ever get caught up with our questions (Joke) I have another project for you. I'd like to learn about the saints that are named in some Masses- Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus... maybe you could do them in order and have a book?!

It would be a very, very short book.  I think I can tell you everything I know about all four of them right now, so don't get too comfortable. You'll have to jump up and find something else to do in just a moment.

Linus, Cletus and Clement are the first three Popes after St. Peter, but not necessarily in that order. It could be Cletus, Linus, Clement.  Or maybe even Linus, Clement Cletus...anyhow. They are the first three Popes after St. Peter.  I know I said that already, I'm padding.

There is a Sixtus I who is Pope in the very early church ( he was number 7), but at Mass we are referring to Sixtus II.  I have a hunch about why we name the first three Popes after Peter and then skip about 200 years to St. Sixtus II.

Every single Pope up to and including Sixtus II was a martyr.  St. Clement had an anchor tied around his neck. He was tossed into the sea.  We don't know what happened to Linus, only that he is listed as a martyr.

You have to hand it to all those individuals who didn't say, "No, thanks" to wearing the Papal crown considering that the job always included martyrdom as a retirement plan.

St. Sixtus II was dragged out with six other people and beheaded. When he realized what was going to happen, he made sure he went first, in the hope that maybe the Emperor Valerian would be happy with a headless Pope and stop there.  It didn't work.

That's him on the left saying, "Excuse me, I'd like to go first." Emperor Valerian came to a bad end himself when the Emperor of Persia did Valerian in.

After that the death of St. Sixtus II, the persecution of Christians was officially ended by the Emperor of Rome.  Hallelujah.

I believe that by listing the first three and then jumping to the last martyr Pope, we are honoring all those Popes who suffered for the Faith in between.  Twenty four Popes went straight to Heaven, one after another, after another.

Really makes you pause, doesn't it about all the silly "war on Christmas" type thinking, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Belly Achers

Thank the Dear Lord I get sick once in a while.  I'm perfectly healthy at the moment and I don't get sick very often. Thank the Dear Lord for that, too.  Because sometimes people who don't get sick at all just have a very difficult time understanding the suffering of others.

Although it was no fun at the time, I once had a strangulated hernia.  As a result, I have a keen understanding of acute abdominal pain and so I sympathize with those who suffer from diverticulitis and I have some understanding of labor pains that would otherwise elude me.  I certainly feel the pain of our dear readers:

Dear Sister, I am a celiac Catholic. While I love God, and the Faith, and communing with Him as much as I can, I am often terrified by Communion. My issue is that I am not able to tolerate any gluten. I have done research, looked at documents regarding diet, and read numerous articles. Apparently to be "Copacetic" (?) the wafers must contain .10% (one-tenth of one percent) gluten. While many can handle the low gluten wafers (Made by Benedictine sisters) I get very ill on those as well. I am able to have the wine and celebrate with that. When I tried to commune with the low-g wafer, I became very ill-I am- the one who vomited up the Lord, due to gluten. Since my family already has a tough time understanding the diet, I got a lot of weird looks, and still do... did I need to go to confession as I did? My priest reassured me that he knew it was a medical issue and that he didn't think he needed to exorcise me. (odd sense of humor.) But while I love God, it hurts that I cannot commune totally, and that I got ill on His body. Have you dealt with this or any other dietary issues? 

Poor thing. I'm sorry your family doesn't understand what your body can not tolerate. You would think it would be very clear and apparent, given the results you have from ingesting gluten. In the future, should you ingest gluten, try to get yourself into the back seat of one of their cars, or seated on their brand new couch.  That might help them in their understanding.

Not only have I dealt with this before, I believe someone tried to sue the Church or called the ACLU or something like that about the rule the Church has about what can and cannot be a host for the Body of Christ.  To no avail.

I personally don't have any dietary issues other than making the mistake of eating curry twice in a row. I can eat curry. I can't eat it again after I eat it.  No curry leftovers for me.

But more and more people do have gluten issues and, until someone invents a 'you can now eat gluten' pill, I'm afraid this is your cross to bear. At least you can still partake of the Blood of Christ, which is just as good as the wafer.  Just because the Church got into a habit of only offering a Host and not the Wine, doesn't mean one is more important or better than the other. What if, all these years, people only got the wine and not the bread, except once in a while the Host was included?  We wouldn't be having this conversation.

Except for this poor gentleman. He would still be having this conversation:

The celiac issue is a huge topic for our family. We really hope and pray one day our dad will convert to Catholicism (mom raised us Catholic). BUT he is afflicted with both severe celiac disease AND alcoholism. Ingesting wheat and/or wine pose difficulties that seem insurmountable for my dad. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Except he isn't having this conversation, as he is not Catholic. One day we hope he has this problem. What a thing to say!

Monday, July 25, 2011

St. Sadie Hawkins

Sister, is there a patron saint for getting a boyfriend?

A saint?  Where have you been?

Let's start with St Agnes.  I'll give you a moment to peruse the material. Some people took exception with all the machinations involved in calling upon her.  They are the same people who refuse to bury St. Joseph in the front yard to sell their houses. To them I say the same thing you should say to the man that got away, "It's your loss."

I can understand how you may have missed this post way back in the archives. Perhaps while you were patiently waiting for me to answer, you read about St. Catherine of Alexandria and the increasing desperate prayers that may be said for her intercession as a Heavenly matchmaker.

I would like to throw in St. Cecilia as a good pick. First of all, St. Cecilia, who is that patron saint of music and musicians, had absolutely not one thing to do with music or musicians. Her patronage of the melodically inclined comes from a line in a poem about her that mentions her singing in Heaven. Or playing the organ?  I'll have to look that up.  In any case, she is often depicted in art, in particularly on holy cards, seated at the organ with the angels as a chorus.

The reason I think she would be a good pick is twofold. Virgin martyrs are on the short list for saints to whom we pray for mates and St. Cecila was a virgin martyr.  But St. Cecilia, virgin that she was, had a boyfriend!  Many of the virgin martyrs ended up being martyrs because they had spurned some potential boyfriend who then had the poor girl arrested out of spite.  Things went south from there, as in the case of St. Lucy.  St. Cecilia, on the other hand, had a lovely young man to whom she was engaged. When she told him she wanted to become a Christian and remain chaste, even if they were married, he said, "Fine with me."

Now that is some excellent boyfriend material.  You and St. Cecilia!  A match made in Heaven!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Answer 60 Years Long

Everyone in Heaven is a saint. Does that mean everyone who goes to purgatory stays there till judgement day, or that they are all saints by the time they make it to Heaven? We pray for people in purgatory to make it to Heaven a little quicker so I presume they're not all necessarily there until judgement day, or are they?

Are you new to our little convent on the internet? Because this is one of those questions the old nuns would have answered with, "It's a Sacred Mystery."  That's Catholic Code for "Just let it go."

There actually is an answer to your question.  There is no actual time in Purgatory. Purgatory is outside of time.  It will end when time ends. So it's rather useless for us to sit around and count the days and hours a person is in Purgatory, although we do pray for them to get out sooner, rather than later and we hope our prayers are answered.

However, there are a number of saints who had souls from Purgatory visit them and talk about time. The conclusion: one hour of Purgatory feels like 60 years on earth. Time doesn't fly when you're not having fun.

I try not to think about it. Not Purgatory, since I am utterly certain I will be spending some time there, unless the world ends before I do, but the whole time factor.  For example, what does 60 years feel like exactly?  How many times have we older folks said, "What? That was last year?  I thought it was about ten years ago!"  Or, "What? that was ten years ago?  I thought it was last year!"  The idea that a soul could come back from Purgatory to tell about it and be able to pinpoint "60 years"....okay.

I see no point in talking about a place outside of time in terms of time.  What happens there will be between you and God (and Mary when she comes to give you a drink of water).

The one thing we do know for certain, is that people do not go there and stay there until Judgement Day.  Once you pay your dues and cleanse your soul completely, you're out and on your way.  We never say a person who is a saint went straight to Heaven (although they may have), even a canonized saint. That's not the criteria for sainthood or canonization.

The confusion seems to me to lie in the difference between a saint (anyone who is in Heaven) and a canonized saint (someone who the Church has declared is definitely in Heaven through proof of miracles).  Your dear Aunt Millie may indeed be a saint in Heaven. Let's hope so.  But we don't know that for sure, so she isn't canonized.

The only person I have ever heard of as being sentenced to Purgatory until Judgement Day was Pontius Pilate.  I was taught that by the old nuns in grade school.  But they made that up, poor things.  According to them, he went to Purgatory (as opposed to Hell) because he was sorry for his sin.

To which I would have to interject, "That sin."  He may have had a list the length of the 
Amazon of other horrific sins for which he felt no remorse whatsoever and therefore went to Hell.  He certainly didn't believe Jesus was his Lord and Savior.

But I believed the "Pontius Pilate in Purgatory" story for quite some time.

The truth is the Church never says anyone is in Heaven, Hell or Purgatory for sure except for canonized saints.  We have a lot of thoughts on the matter of non matter.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Holy Moses!

Sister- Are there any known-for-sure saints from before the time of Christ?

Yes. Everybody.

Well, not everybody. But certainly Abraham and Isaac, Elijah and Noah, Ruth and that guy who married her and his mom.

Before Jesus died on the cross for our sins, the gates of Heaven were closed.  So all the good people that died before Calvary went to what we call "the Limbo of the Fathers".  That must have been a pretty cheery and interesting place. Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon! What a crew!

Then, when Jesus was dead for three days...a day and a half, really...where was He? Opening the Gates of Heaven and the Gates of the Limbo of the Fathers. I figure He had to have opened the Gates of Heaven first or there would have been a bottleneck. Maybe St. Michael the Archangel did it for Him. Since Michael is an angel and not a person, he would have already been living in Heaven with Gabriel, whenever Gabriel was there and not here delivering news and messages.

We mention this incident when we say the "Apostle's Creed".  That's what we mean in that part where we say, "He descended into Hell."  Technically, we should say, "He descended into the Limbo of the Fathers."  I guess they thought that was too wordy.

Everyone who is dead and in Heaven is a saint, and certainly people like Moses and Abraham and David and Noah and his wife are there.  

St. Joseph died before Jesus died on the Cross, too. And so did St. John the Baptist. They had a short stay in the Limbo of the Fathers. I guess they aren't really 'before the time of Christ', but they died before the Gates of Heaven were open.

I suppose what you actually want to know is, why aren't these people called "saints" and why aren't they canonized?  That's because we didn't start canonizing people until much later in the history of the Church. St. Peter and the Apostles were never canonized. We've only been doing that since the tenth century. Before that saints were named saints by popular demand, and while this seems lovely, too many cookamonga stories were circulating about too many people, some of whom never even existed. So the Church tightened the rules about sainthood and demanded proof. That's why the first thing we do with anyone who is considered for sainthood is dig them up. 

I'm not sure why we don't bother to call them saints. Habit, I think. Like Mary. Once in a while we call her St. Mary, but not so much, really.  She's just Mary. Like Moses.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Virgin Martyrs Leap Into Heaven

Since it's a quiet, breezy summer around here, I've been slowly chipping away at our long queue of questions. Thanks for your patience if you've asked one!  I do feel a little like I'm keeping you on the phone listening to sad music.

Yesterday I had to call the DWP, the Department of Water and Power, about our electricity.  Happily, I wasn't on hold all that long, but the "on hold" music they play is eight sad notes (I could count them) played over and over again on some type of electric (what else?) keyboard.  Having that stuck in my head, still today, is a good opportunity to release souls from Purgatory.  I think that might be the music that is played in Purgatory, in fact. 

In any case, today's question is a follow up from a post a little while back.  

How can suicide be a mortal sin when you cannot be mentally well (in your right mind) when you take your own life?

And how is flinging yourself into flames or the ocean or whatever a protection of your moral purity or chastity? If a woman is raped -- what these saints purportedly were facing was forced sexual acts -- she does not become "impure." She has been violated and has in no way sinned of her own volition.

I imagine you're not very old.  The world is not quite so black and white. Let's start with your first statement that you cannot be in your right mind, ever, if you take your own life.

Yes, you can.  Try old age for a while, and get back to me. Despair does not equal insanity. Despair is also a mortal sin, yet it is a very sane response to some very desperate situations. Some people are in unbearable physical pain.

I would agree with you that possibly the majority of people who take their own lives are not in their right minds. But there are perfectly sane people who think they can just cash it in whenever they want to.

But the spirit of your question is certainly vaild, as there was a time when the Church blanketly stated that suicide was a mortal sin, period. In fact, people who committed suicide were not allowed to have a funeral Mass. Their bodies were not allowed in the church.  As if a suicide isn't hard enough on a family.  That has changed, precisely because the Church understands that the person may not have been in their right mind, or may have realized their sin and asked for forgiveness even as they kicked the stool out from under them.

And there was time in history, in fact up until recently,  when even the law would question if a woman "brought it on herself" if she was raped. That really hasn't gone away entirely yet. Take the case of that nasty old French man in that hotel in New York. Now we're hearing that the victim was a liar and a drug runner or some such thing. She may be that and more. But she also still could have been raped by the nasty old French man and deserves her day in court, which may never come because of her 'criminal' past.

You are talking about a time when women were covered head to toe.  A time where a young woman's purity was treasured in a way that we no longer seem to understand.  

These women valued their vow of chastity above their very lives.  They believed God agreed with them in this endeavor, since the vow was made to God. On top of that, the society in which they lived did believe that if they were raped they would be impure. We don't think that way today, but people did think that way back then. Not all so long ago, really.

Have you ever heard of The Magdelene Sisters?  This was a convent (in Ireland, now the subject of much scrutiny, but also here in the US) that took in wayward girls and put them to good honest work in the convent laundry, which was a commercial enterprise. And while that sounds like a good idea, and often did work out well for the girls, what was considered "wayward" included rape victims and girls who were flirting with boys.  I personally know a girl who was sent to the Magdelenes because she accepted a boy's invitation to a movie. The boy went on with his life with no interruption or reprimand. She spent three years doing laundry. Not in 400AD.  Not in 1620AD.  This was going on into the 1950's.

Times change. They don't always change for the better.  But 'the good old days' aren't always so hot.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

As Reliable as the Weatherman

I am going to be entering university in the fall as a meteorology student. Could you please tell me who the patron saint of meteorology and weather is? Also, because some meteorologists work at news stations, do you know who the patron saint of news is? 
Thank you,
A loyal reader of your blog

Goodness! A loyal reader! How lovely.

There are several weather saints. St. Swithin, for rain, springs to mind. For rain, as in Pro rain. St. Swithin loved rain. He loved the sound of rain on the roof.

But for you and your meteorology interests, I have to recommend St. Scholastica.  She was the beloved twin sister of St. Benedict. St. Benedict is such a big deal saint, having pretty much invented the Monastic Rule. His sister was a nun. They were both major smarty-pantses.

She had a group of nuns, and he had the largest monastery in the world. Every so often the twins would get together in a house just outside St. Benedict's monastery (because she couldn't go in) and spend hours in prayer and discussion.  On one such occasion, as the hour grew late, St. Benedict said he'd better get going. She was having a fabulous time discussing things with him and begged him to stay longer. He refused.

St. Scholastica bowed her head for a moment and a giant wild storm suddenly rose up.  St. Benedict said to her, "What did you do!?"  And she replied, "I asked you to stay and you wouldn't listen, so I asked God if you could stay and He did listen.  Try to leave now."  I'm sure she also smirked and chuckled, because, who wouldn't after that?

St. Benedict was forced to stay overnight. Three days later he saw the soul of his sister rise to Heaven in the form of a white dove.

There's a weather related saint for you!

The three official patron saints of journalists are St. Francis de Sales, St. Maximillian Kolbe, and St. Paul. St. Francis de Sales was very learned, a Doctor of the Church and spread the Gospel as thoroughly as he could.  St. Maximillian Kolbe actually was a journalist, of a sort, because he realized the the newly popular radio could be used for the good of the Church. I believe he had a radio show.  And St. Paul, well, who spread more news than him? Even now, he's still at it.  So I'd go with St. Max or St. Paul for your news station.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Medieval Mass

Dear Sister,
I'm something of a student of medieval history, and there's one church-related thing that's been driving me nuts. You know how rich people used to pay for chapels to be built so priests could say Masses for their souls after they died? I knew people endowed these chapels for decades at a time, but I didn't know some of the high-rollers actually paid for a thousand years' worth of Masses, or even for Masses to be said "in perpetuity"--as in, forever! What they weren't banking on was the Reformation, and the abolition of monasteries, and church reforms, and all the rest of it coming before their thousand years were up. So...what happened to these guys? Are masses still being said for them?

Don't worry about them. We pray for everyone in the Church (in Purgatory and on earth) at every Mass, everywhere.  Surely, these folks knew that, as the Mass hasn't fundamentally changed, ever.

What I'm not sure about is the motivation of these people in the first place. There is no church named "Marvin of East Chelsea" or "The Little Chapel of Vivian".  The only chapel I can think of that has a non saint name is the Elvis Chapel in Vegas. I'm not even sure it's actually called the Elvis Chapel. But I think it is.  In any case, many of them were certainly simply moved to use their massive amounts of dough for the public good, by helping to build beautiful and inspiring churches or chapels.  Yes, they may have hoped that everyone would remember them, but that's what cornerstones and commemorative plaques are for.

Your study has indicated that they paid for Masses.  Okay.  Let's not dodge that idea. There was a reason for a thing called the Reformation.  But even at it's worst, a donation for Masses is still a donation for the Church.  I'm sure there were people who thought they could buy their way into Heaven. They must have thought they were good enough to at least make it to Purgatory, at which point, the Church Militant (us) would pray them out.  And guess what, we do try.  All the time and at every Mass. 

If they are actually in Heaven, they no longer need our prayers. Ditto for Hell. I'm certain in that case, our prayers (paid for or not) default to another poor soul.

Let's just hope, in the interest of love and compassion, that it all worked out. That while they were alive, the prayers said at Mass helped them to become holy enough to make it, eventually at least, to Heaven.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

In Need of Repair

This year we had no fireworks. I heard two stories about why. The first story was that whatever municipal entity pays for the fireworks over the bay didn't want to pay for it this year. Understandable on the face of it, but considering the legions of people the fireworks bring to the area, hard to believe the local businesses didn't step up. The other explanation I heard was that we are in a drought and to blow off the fireworks, they have to have a lot of water on hand in case something goes awry.  We had Noah's Ark type rain this year and the fireworks are set off on a boat in the bay.  So all they would need to have water would be some buckets.

But because there were no fireworks, everyone and their dog, Rollo, took it upon themselves to light up their own backyards.  Our neighbors on the other side of the alley had a party, complete with non stop screaming and music, that went on all day and into the night.

At one point, whatever they were setting off over there was being tossed out of the compound in which they live and into our yards, frightening cats, dogs, bunnies in hutches and old nuns. Sister St. Aloysius was convinced that the next cherry bomb could touch off a brush fire or blow a hole in our already porous roof.  She convinced me to call the police.  

I called the non-emergency number. They never answered, but the party finally shut down just after midnight. If there had been fireworks over the bay, I'm sure there would have been a lot less crime, what with everyone preoccupied "oooing" and much less need to try a homemade 4th of July show. Meanwhile, we offered up our suffering to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.  The roof is fine. Which brings us to today's question from a reader.

Could you please tell me you is the patron saint of broken homes in need of repair?

Thank you!

I hope you mean the house is in need of repair and not the people inside that make it a home. Of course, that would be our dear step father in Heaven, St. Joseph. He is the patron saint of all things building related.

There has been much arguing in recent years, that St. Joseph was not a carpenter, but a stone mason. To which I say, "Whatever."  Clearly he was building something. If all the holy cards showing him carving table legs while Mary made lunch for Jesus are wrong, who cares?  If he was out building houses and walls, Mary still had to make lunch for the Holy Family while Joseph worked.

I would also recommend Blessed Brother Andre of Montreal, although his claim to saintly fame is that he prayed for the intercession of St. Joseph so faithfully that the Oratory of St. Joseph was built.  Seeing the Oratory in real life gives you the feeling that you've arrived at the top of the beanstalk and found the Giant's house. At one point, the Oratory building project had run out of money, with only the dome roof to go. Brother Andre suggested that they put the statue of St. Joseph out there with no roof and if he (St. Joseph) felt the need for a roof, he would have one built. So the roof went right on there.

St. Joseph didn't want to stand around in the rain.

P.S. Even if you meant the other kind of repair, St. Joseph had a lot to reconcile to make his house a home. So, either way....