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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Servant of God, The Soldier's Wife

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

I appreciate your blog so very much! I love how you always seem to find just the right patron saint for any cause. And so I'm writing to you with my own question: who would you recommend as the patron saint for military spouses? With all the loneliness, the worrying, and the hardships that we are facing, we could use our own saint for intercessions. My friend Maia was thinking of St. Margaret of Scotland (her reasons are stated here, but can you think of a saint whose husband was NOT killed in battle and came home safe and sound instead?
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer this!

I have come up with a couple of saints, but I'm not sure you're going to like them.  You seem to want a happy ending saint and the truth is, not a lot of saints have a happy ending.  That's why they're saints.

The saint that sprang to mind for me was St. Elizabeth of Hungary.  Ever notice how many hospitals are named after her?  There's a reason for that.  She was the daughter of the King of Hungary and was married off to a prince at age 14.


She was deliriously happy with her prince, however and he with her.  They had three children and a great life, although no one else was happy with Elizabeth.  It seems she didn't care much for being well off and pampered.  She constantly gave away everything to the poor and tried to live a simple life.  It even got on her husband's nerves a bit.  The family was really irritated with her at all times.  She was so well known for her generosity, that poor people flocked to the gates of the palace.  The family was not amused.

And then, after only six years of bliss,  her husband went off to the Crusades and well....not a happy ending here.  He never came back.  Elizabeth spent the rest of her life grief stricken over his loss.  But she put all that sad energy to good use, giving away everything she had and taking care of the sick to the point where she had inadvertently opened a hospital.  She died at age 24. She is the patron saint of happy marriages.

But....you wanted a happy ending for the soldier's long suffering wife.  So let's go with a patron saint of hand wringing and fretting that pays off.  St. Monica.  Her husband and son gave her fits, but all her worry and prayer helped her son become one of the greatest saints to walk the earth.  They weren't soldiers, though.

How about St. Helena?  Her son Constantine was a great general, a constant soldier.  He turned the whole known world to Christianity.  St. Helena found the true relics of the cross and if you think she wasn't constantly worried about her son, take note that she took one of the nails that had bound Jesus to the Cross and sewed it into the bridle of Constantine's horse.

She doesn't seem like the best fit for you, though, because although she suffered on her own when she was younger (her husband dumped her for a younger model), she ended up being the Empress of the world and living in the lap of luxury and doing whatever she wanted to do.

So finally, in my search, I did a little reading about soldier's wives and how they cope, spiritually.  I found a group who meets on the army base.  They are women of all denominations and they have a Bible reading support group.  I always grit my teeth a little when a bunch of people get together for "Bible study" on their own, because that is just a recipe for potential disaster.  But here is the conclusion this group came to, an idea to which they cling: their soldier husbands do not belong to them.  They belong to God.

And as such, they cope by understanding their role as servants.  Their husbands are serving.  And the women are serving, too, just in a different way.

To that end, I recommend St. Zita, the ultimate servant.  That's all Zita ever was.  She wasn't the wife of a nobleman soldier or the mother of anyone, let alone a saint.  She was the maid.

She was such a pious good girl that for quite a while, no one liked her.  People are suspect of goodness, sadly. She was beaten and overworked and given every terrible job from the time she clocked in at age 12.  But nothing could shake her calm, nothing could destroy her deep sense of inner peace.  She loved everyone anyway.  Eventually, her relentless goodness won everyone over, as its relentlessness proved its sincerity. Zita was made the head of the whole household.

What was her secret?  She felt that her work  and her place in life was God's will and therefore she was doing what was assigned to her by God.  She did it masterfully,  always tending the needs of others, studying them to anticipate their needs.

And she had a very happy ending.  She died peacefully in her sleep in her old age in her attic room.  Her soul was seen flying out of the house accompanied by angels. Her incorrupt body is still with us. It's in a glass case that someone like her has to polish.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Angels and Demons

Sister, I have a question for you: Do angels and demons, or the devil share any characteristics with God? I ask because we talk about the devil tempting us or about a guardian angel watching over us...So does that mean that they can be in many places at once and see into our hearts and know things we can't know? Thank you and thank you for your great work for the Church!

We all share characteristics with God.  We are made in His image and likeness. I don't believe that notion has gone out any windows.  Angels and devils certainly share characteristics.  God made them, too.  All devils were once angels.

In our attempt to understand the supernatural, which is beyond our understanding, we picture angels and devils as beings like us except the good ones have wings and halos and the bad ones have horns and tails wings.  The unfortunate down side of this characterization is that it makes devils look more powerful than angels.  They are so often giant and red, with massive horns and long fingernails, while angels are sweet faced Swedish looking types.  I think that is by artistic design to remind us, if not scare the devil out of us, about what we're up against.

But always remember who won the battle in the first place.  The angels won.  That should tell us who to back.  That's why I never understood these silly people who want to be Satanists and worship the devil and all that nonsense.  I understand how people make the mistake of following earthly evil, like say, Hitler, because of their misguided notions and fears.  But why would anyone want to follow the thing that lost the battle and the power in the first place in the pursuit of power on earth with the full understanding that after that's over, it all adds up to eternity in Hell?  Because if you are a follower of Satan, you do believe in an afterlife and Hell, or you couldn't believe in Satan in the first place.  So, really, how dumb can you get?

I digress.

What was the question?  Oh, yes!  the characteristics of God.

We don't know what angels and devils actually look like.  When angels appear in the Bible, they look just like us, but they are able to come and go supernaturally.  Tobias travels all over with his friend, Raphael, who happens to be an archangel.  They seem to all appear as young men (who are created in God's likeness). Abraham has some angels over for lunch.

When the devil comes to tempt Jesus in the desert, we really don't get a description of him.  We never see the demons that afflict humans through possession, we just see the ugly results.  The devil in the desert rather seems to be walking around talking to Jesus like a person, but the devil does show Jesus visions of how great it would be if Jesus would give up all the God stuff and follow Satan instead. Jesus, who has a brain in His head, says no.  That certainly would have been a coup for the devil, to have the Second Person in the Holy Trinity on his side.

But the devil is always a loser.

My point is that angels and devils, though we have seen them in rather human form, are not humans.  Angels are not human beings who have died and gone to Heaven and devils are not human beings who have died and gone to Hell.  If an angel "doesn't have his wings", he's just not that kind of angel, despite what SzuSzu's teacher said.  Angels don't even need wings to travel around, as Tobias and Abraham can attest.

As beings that God created, we assume they, too, have some of His characteristics.  What your question actually refers to is their supernatural powers, like bi-location and what geeks call 'shape-shifting', like taking on human form.  I'm not sure if they can 'see into our hearts'.  I wouldn't put it past them.  There are humans who have those powers, like Padre Pio (who could also bi-locate).

Just keep in mind that these gifts, like the gift of life itself, come from God.  The devil shows us that we always have a choice in how to use our gifts.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tread Thou in Them Boldly

Today is the day the Good King Wenceslaus looked out at the snow that was deep and crisp and even.  Actually, it's not today, it's tonight, because the moon was bright (although the frost was cruel).  The Good King spotted a poor man gathering wood for his fire.  He asked his page if the page knew where the poor man lived, and the page knew exactly where the poor man lived.  So Wenceslaus told the page to make up a box of groceries and stuff with a plan to bring it to the poor man so they could sit and watch him eat it all.

Nothing would have happened without the page, really.  The king wouldn't have known where to find the man and even if he could have figured it out, he would have had to get the groceries together himself.  I'll bet the page carried all the stuff once they went out, too, because otherwise, if you think about it, why did he have to go out there with the King?  It wasn't the page's idea he had already told Wenceslaus where to head.

We never hear anything about what happened once they reached the poor man's house. We are more interested in what happened on the way, when the poor page nearly froze to death but was saved by Wenceslaus' hot foot tracks.

Today is the second day of Christmastime, a time of hope and love. May your footsteps also leave a warm path in the world.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Away in a Manger

Merry Christmas!  Love to you all! And to all a great dinner with family, loved ones, needy strangers, all the candy you can eat and while the beautiful Light shines on you.

And snow, if you like that.  And no snow, if you don't.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Three French Hens

Advent is almost over!  Can you believe it?  We're so excited. Our lights are up and ready to light!  We don't have a tree.  We usually do that about a week before Christmas, but...maybe today!  Here is the Wisconsin Advent calender to mark the remaining days.

Back to work!
Dear Sister Mary Martha, I have been recently diagnosed with OCD. Are there any saints you recommend? I know St. Dymphna is the patron saint of mental illness, but I thought it would be nice to know if there were a saint who personally went through that sort of pain. While putting a name to my psychological struggle has helped me some, I need all the help I can get. God bless.

One of our dear readers jumped on and did my job for me by suggesting St.Alphonsus Ligori. Perfection.  As she points out, St. Alphonsus was saddled with "scupulosity", a form of OCD.  He agonized over the smallest things, fueled no doubt by "Catholic guilt".

I'm not sure if our reader knew how very perfect St. Alphonsus is for you, although her fast answer causes me to suspect she does.  It seems that Alphonsus was able to work around his own struggle because his contribution to theology was his teaching that we should not be too rigid.

He opposed sterile legalism and strict rigorism. According to Alphonsus, those were paths closed to the Gospel because "such rigor has never been taught nor practiced by the Church". His system of moral theology is noted for its prudence, avoiding both laxism and excessive rigor.  This coming from a man who also was schooled in the arts. He was a musician and painted, wrote poetry and books.

With all of that going on, OCD and all, he became a Doctor of the Church.  There are only 33 of those, so he is one special person.  As are you, my dear!

Sister, is there a patron saint for nerve damage? My best friend suffers from dystonia and she is having a very bad flare up. I have neuropathy caused by autoimmune disease and am having a flare up too. Both of us are in our early 40s and when we feel well, crochet, knit, and sew for charity. We are praying a Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes because I always pray to her or to St. Bernadette for everything. Thank you! Laura (and Mary)

I think you are on the right track with Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette.

But I poked around a bit and came up with St. Gemma, as well.  She died in 1903, so we know a lot of details about her life, complete with actual photographs and the like.  Now, she didn't have the same afflictions as you and your friend, but she was horribly afflicted just the same.  At age 19 she became very sick, was in horrible pain, had to wear a painful back brace, all her hair fell out and she was on her death bed. She was 19 years old.

She was visited by (then) Blessed Gabriel Possenti, who is now St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (because of his devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows) and he facilitated her over night cure.  He was canonized in 1920, so I think Gemma might have been one of his saint clinching miracles.

After her miraculous cure Gemma was blessed with a new affliction: the stigmata.

Let me just point out that the Church, upon hearing about a person with the stigmata, doesn't react by saying, "Oh boy!  Another stigmata person!  A holy miracle that will bring more people to God!"  The reaction is more along the lines of, "Oh dear. Not again.  If this person is faking it, (or crazy) it will drive more people away from God."  As a result, Gemma's stigmata caused her suffering in more ways than one.

In any case, her life is well documented and I invite you to read up. 

I should think if you turn to St. Gemma, St. Gabriel might be along for the ride.  A two-fer, as they say.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And then what?

Hello! I'm a recent follower of your blog, and I have a question for you. I'm feeling very dissatisfied with my present life, but there should be no reason for this. I'm recently married, young (24), have a good job and finished school. To make a long story short, I had a very traumatic childhood which caused me to lose my faith in God and everyone around me, but I am slowly finding my place again. Despite all this, I feel like there is something more that I'm not getting, and its bringing me much unhappiness. Is there a Saint that could help me out?

Merry Christmas!

Did you know that your brain isn't even fully formed until you're 23 years old? I figure it takes at least another two years to get all those new brain cells and synapses up to speed.  I always think of this when I hear about people who want to try children as adults.  There's a reason they can't vote or drive, isn't there?

I digress.

Glad to hear you're on your way up.  That should count for something.  I have a hunch that the thing you are not getting is outside yourself.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think it's very smart to put your own oxygen mask on first before you assist someone else, because if you flap all around trying to help someone else without any oxygen of your own, you will soon be unable to help anyone do anything but remember to use their legs when lifting your carcass off the plane.

But it sounds like you've made great strides in this direction.  It could be that you're not feeling fulfilled because you're not doing anything really fulfilling.  Oh sure, you're married and have your whole life ahead of you.  For some people, that is extremely fulfilling.  For some people, praying all day in a cell works.

Perhaps it is because of your traumatic childhood, for you, there is a piece missing.  And of course! we have a patron saint for that.

I've actually told his story many times here on the blog, as he is one of my favorite saints.  St. John of God was one of those people who drifted through life doing whatever made him a few dollars and got him through the day.  He was a soldier for a while.  He sold holy cards and pamphlets for a while, not because he was doing good, but because they were salable.  He eventually had a nervous breakdown.

Let's hope you can avoid this step in the process.

While he was in a mental health facility (which would have been absolutely nothing like a place called that in our time), God paid him a call.  God pointed out that John was just living for himself and floating around lost.  He asked John to live for Him, and gave John the name "John of God".

And after that, upon his release into the world, John became a tireless help to God.  He took over an abandoned building and made it into a hospital, all by himself.  He begged for bedding, beds and bed pans. He personally cared for the sick there.  And when the place caught on fire, he personally carried everyone out and then went back in to get the precious begged for mattresses.

Find your passion.  Don't worry that the job is too big, or you're not up to the task. Just make sure you have your oxygen mask firmly in place.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas-y Christmas Carols

Wow!  What happened?  It's nearly Christmas!  The little kids are about ready to jump out of their skins.  A great time to put on some Christmas music!

Dear Sister: Could you please explain the origin of some more obscure carols. Good St. Wenseslaus, I Saw Three Ships, Holly and Ivy, Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella...they all seem religious but they are a far cry from the nativity scene and Silent Night. They are lovely though. Thanks.

 Not a far cry, really at all. Silent Night was a little ditty a priest dashed off one afternoon for his guitar mass in the evening.  It's not his fault, nor was it his plane, that it became the most beloved Christmas Carol of all time, sung by every one from Bing Crosby to Jon Bon Jovi, whoever that is.

"Good King Wenseslaus" (written by a Brit in 1853) isn't Christmas-y enough for you?  Really?  The feast of Stephen is during that time of year when we think of the poor Baby Jesus and we help the poor.  It actually takes place during Christmas Time, which doesn't start until Christmas day.  It is the second day of Christmas, Dec.26th.  (St. Stephen is the first martyr, who was stoned to death, and therefore the patron saint of headaches.)  Off the Good King goes, into the snowy night, knowing that there is a poor man out there who needs his help. A Christmas miracle occurs, heating his footsteps so that his hapless page doesn't get frostbite or die of hypothermia.  The page follows his King and trusts in him as we follow ours.

Not rocket science.  The story may not be true, but the Good King is real. He was St. Wenceslaus, the Duke of Bohemia.

"I Saw Three Ships" is perfectly Christmas-y.  It mentions Christmas day over and over and over.  It's a British song that was written in the 17th century and some people think that it is inspired by the three ships that brought the relics of the Three Kings to the Cologne Cathedral int the 12th century. (Which are most surely not there actual relics, since there is no indication how many of them there .  The number three originates for the number of actors it took to portray them in the early Passion plays.)  That being said, it actually makes no sense whatsoever.  The ships come sailing into Bethlehem, which is not possible, as Bethlehem is no where near the Dead Sea, the closest body of water.  Crazy.
And one would right away imagine that the three ships represent the three wise men, but no, Jesus and Mary are on the ships. No mention of Joseph.  Why do they need three ships for two people, and why didn't they bring Joseph?  Am I missing something here?

And it sounds like a drinking song. 

"The Holly and the Ivy" is all about Jesus and Mary and all the symbolism of what the holly and the ivy represent are explained, point blank, in the song.  It's all the song is about.  It's origins are very old, as it was a folk song about boys and girls that somehow, at some time, morphed itself into a Christmas song.  That's the best I can do.  But it is certainly not a far cry from the Nativity Scene, as it is all about Jesus and Mary as found symbolically in holly and ivy, which have been used as Christmas decorations for centuries.

And of all of these songs, "Bring a Torch" is only about the Nativity Scene.  We like to imagine what it would be like if we were there in Bethlehem when Jesus was born and this song imagines just that, only in French.  It's a very old carol, from 1553, but the music was originally dance music for nobility. Even today, little French children dress up as shepherds and angels and sing the song around the manger scene.  Sound familiar?

I'm just glad you didn't bring up that sad depressing song about the Holy Innocents. Once that thing gets stuck in my head, I can't get it out.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Behave Yourself

I hope you all always read the comments section.  Our readers are knowledgeable and helpful, compassionate and stern.  And they have great ideas!

I was just at Heaven Help Us. Are there no more "be Good" coasters? And could you make a "Be Good" medallion in glass?

And, related to this blog, maybe a "Just Let It Go" or "Offer It UP" medallion would be good.

To back up a bit, one of our best selling items was some little coasters we made that said "Behave Yourself" on them.  We also made mouse pads with that image and one that said "Offer it up!"

They were rather hard to make and we always had to wait on supplies and ruin materials.  Instead of offering all that up, we threw up our hands. 

But a glass "Behave Yourself" pendant?  Hallelujah! Yes!  And thanks so much for the great idea!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Flirting with Lucy

I always seem to be a day late in giving you a Catholic "heads up".  I missed St. Nicholas day last week, not in real life, but here on the blog.  Here at the convent, I was able to surprise Sister St. Aloysius with a "Ten Commandments" pen.  There is a little panel in the pen and every time you click the ball point in and out, a couple of Commandments appear in the the little window there.  I'd like to go pass them out at that court house that had to have the Ten Commandments removed from the lawn, or wherever they were.

Mind you, I don't have a problem with the Ten Commandments not being in front of the court house.  It's not against the law to take the Lord's name in vein, covet your neighbor's wife or not worship God.

I digress.

Yesterday, I missed the opportunity to remind you about the feast of St. Lucy, which is a big deal in many parts of the world and very Christmas-y, as it involves candles.  My bad, in particularly in light of today's question from a reader:

I'm a young Catholic woman currently in college, and I'm certainly not immune to my school's hook-up culture. In fact, some days almost all I think about is sex and men (and by men I mean man-candy and not man-dignified-human-being). Also, while I'm still a virgin, I've done some things I'm not proud of. Any words of advice on how to keep sane and curb sexual frustration so I can actually focus on what's important in my life? As someone who must take a vow of chastity, I assume you're an Olympic champion at this. Thank you!

Remember that movie, "The Graduate"?  Remember how the famous line from that film is the one word of advice someone gives the graduate?

"I have one word of advice.  Plastic."

I have two words of advice for you. Hair shirt.

Seriously, why do you think people wore hair shirts?  Here's why. They are painful. Pain is distracting.

Okay.  I know you're not going to wear a hair shirt.  But you are going to have to, as you say, focus.

St. Lucy was a lovely young girl who was engaged.  But she lived during a time when the whole idea of Christianity was very new.  The idea that anyone would want to stay chaste based on the teachings of a hobo who was executed was difficult to comprehend.  So her boyfriend didn't really mind too much when she was thrown into prison. He figured she would come to her senses.

I would have thought that, too, if I were him.

But she knew what was really important.

It seems to me that that is the element you're missing here.  What's really important.


...it's not that important to you.  Clearly, it has some importance, as you bothered to ask.  I think you have to examine your priorities.

So, St. Lucy, it is, for you.  She certainly had her priorities straight.  She lost her eyes and her life. In that order.  We're not entirely sure what went on with her eyes.  Either they were gouged out to get her to change her mind or, in one version of her story, her boyfriend had always admired her eyes so she pulled them out herself, to show him she meant business.

You can see that no matter what did or did not happen, she was quite determined.

Her situation certainly makes your situation look like a walk in the park (a park where there are no boys or half price drinks on lady's night).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Patron Saint Round Up

We have some urgent requests!!!!!!!!

I thought I would overuse punctuation to punctuate the urgency.

Sister--HELP--who is the patron saint of finals week and midterms? Thanks ever so much.

I'd have to go with St. Thomas Aquinas, who was called "the Dumb Ox" when he was in school.  It might not have been because he wasn't smart.  It might have been because he was weight endowed and didn't talk much.  But he wasn't known as the best student due to his unfortunate nickname.

He's perfect for you because he ended up being the smartest guy in the room, as they say, one of our most cherished and heeded theologians.  When Aquinas finally did start talking, he really had something to say and everyone is still listening.

Who to ask for help when you're pulling out all of your hair because of a disobedient teenager??

Oh, duh.  There actually is a designated saint for mothers of teens.  Snap.  Eye roll.  Tongue to teeth noise. Stand on on foot and throw the hip to the side.

St. Monica had the most unruly son ever.  Her son, Augustine, made a point out of doing whatever he liked.  Booze, women...you name it.  He even prayed that there would be no reason to interrupt his lifestyle, like having to think about the fires of Hell.

Monica never gave up.  She prayed and lectured and finger wagged relentlessly and her nagging paid off. Her son became, like St. Thomas Aquinas, not only a saint, but a Doctor of the Church and one of the most shining examples the Church has ever had.

I'm told that when the Spanish Conquistadors arrived on the West Coast, they found a rock that was burbling water endlessly and it reminded them of Monica, endlessly crying for her son.  They named the place Santa Monica, as a result.

In the meantime, while you're pulling your hair out, you might want to ask for the intercession of St. Wilgefortis.

Hello Sister,
I was wondering if you could tell me who is the patron saint to save failing marriages and/or of wives who have been cheated on? I don't believe in divorce but I need a whole lot of help to heal the hurt.
Thank you for your time.

There are two that spring to mind.  The first is St. Helen, whose husband dumped her for the new model.  He was the Emperor and when he died, his son took over the world and turned it all Christian and made his mother the Empress.  Actually, it was because of St. Helen that her son, St. Constantine, was converted, so we owe her a lot.  As if that wasn't enough of an achievement, she also found the True Relics of the Cross.

And St. Rita, who really only wanted to become a nun, but was married to the most miserable man, so miserable that the mob bumped him off.  She eventually was able to enter the convent, where she received the Stigmata.  Not the whole thing, just the Crown of Thorns.  Actually, not the whole Crown of Thorns...just one thorn.  The wound festered and caused her to have to stay alone in her cell because of the putrid smell. But ever after her death, the room has smelled of roses.

We'll keep you in our prayers.  You might also consider the patronage of St. Maria Goretti, who was able to forgive the unforgivable.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just Do Something

I'm a convert (2003) and I never understood the concept of "offering it up" until I read your blog post on the topic ( which I found a year or so ago--I read through your archive, too). Cradle Catholics were frustrated with me for not "just doing it".  Only after I read your blog did I realize that the "it" isn't the suffering, but the right to gripe about it.  Since you were so good at helping me understand the concept, I'm hoping you'll be able to willing to help me understand how to offer back to God the suffering of Jesus and the body/blood/soul/divinity of the Divine Chaplet.  They aren't mine to offer and why does God want the suffering back?  What's He supposed to to with it?  I've googled the question and it only comes up with with ever more incessant reasons to "offer it up", not what to actually do.

I'm afraid you've misunderstood me to some extent. We offer the suffering as well!

"Just Do It" shouldn't just be the Nike slogan.

Wait.  Is it the Nike slogan?  It's somebody's slogan, isn't it?

Anyhow, your cradle Catholic friends are giving you excellent advice.  We don't have to understand everything, every second.  Of course, the deeper our understanding the better, but sometimes our actions can lead us to understanding.

Poor dumb little Bernadette didn't know what in the world the lady was talking about when she answered, when asked her name, "I am the Immaculate Conception."  She may just as well have said, "I am Santa Claus, Ho! Ho! Ho!"  It would have made as much sense to Bernadette.  It didn't impact her devotion even a little bit.

So, let's try this again. We do offer up our suffering and our prayers.  Prayers are easy to understand. They are an offering.  We pray for the souls of the departed, offer our prayers for them.  You've got that, right?  We'll get back to the Divine Chaplet in a moment.

Meanwhile: suffering.  I think of it the way mothers think about their children.  If you could trade your suffering for theirs, you would.

So, you stub your toe, and you say to God, "God, I'd like to trade this suffering for my poor Aunt Minnie there in Purgatory. I'll suffer for her for a moment. It's the least I can do."  Although, I don't think you should pick and choose. For all you know, Aunt Minnie has made it onto Heaven. Or she never made it to Purgatory.  Uh-oh.  I recommend just praying for the souls in Purgatory.

My point with offering your suffering gladly was simply to point out that a gift given grudgingly is not a very good gift.  If you're complaining, you're keeping the suffering for yourself, aren't you?  I think so.

I hope the Divine Chaplet won't flummox you too much.  Start with this thought paramount in your brain: here in the Catholic Church, we are One with Christ.  He is the Bridegroom, She is the Bride. We are united.

So, God demanded the ultimate sacrifice from Jesus and Jesus offered that sacrifice.  And since we're one with Jesus, we get to offer that sacrifice right along with Him. The Eucharist makes the same offering.

I don't know what God wants to do with it.  It seemed very important to Him, though, as He went through a lot of trouble to make it happen.  Here's something else Cradle Catholics understand. God didn't make us capable of understanding everything about Him. Some things remain what we call a "Sacred Mystery".

Cradle Catholics understand that "Sacred Mystery" is "Catholic" for "Just Let It Go."

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Of Mice and Advent

Advent is not all fun and games.  Although it's not Lent, we are supposed to prepare ourselves for Jesus' arrival, which, considering the shape in which many of us find ourselves, could take some work.  Hence the timeliness of today's question:

Sister, I am new to all this, but I love your blog. Can you explain exactly what you mean by 'offering it up'? Are there certain prayers that you use?

I assume you are not being sarcastic- but not totally sure...

I volunteer with a lot of nuns, and am amazed by their toughness, warmth an energy!

I am SO not being sarcastic.

First, let's revisit what we mean by "offering it up".  You're not a cradle Catholic, are you?  Somehow, that is something people raised in the faith just...get.  But here you go.  I'll wait while you catch up.

Are we on the same page now?  Any prayers will do, but there are prayers that are expressly for the souls in Purgatory.  There are two St. Gertrudes and they are both famous for their devotion to the souls in Purgatory.  St. Gertrude the Great has a prayer for you to say.  St. Gertrude of Nevilles is the patron saint of cat lovers.

But that was because she thought of the mice overrunning the convent as a metaphor for the souls in Purgatory and since she was so interested in mice she became the patron saint of cat lovers, because cats are very interested in mice, too.

Our newer cat, Chester, is a fine mouser but leaves his gory leftovers on the bathmat.  Go in to wash your hands and suddenly you're in a cat horror movie.

I digress.

It's not just prayers we offer up, but our sufferings, large and small.  Nuns tend to be energetic and tough precisely because they are so highly trained in doing this.  You'll be amazed at the burden that is lifted from you when you're sufferings are no longer your own, but going to a greater good.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Sister do you know anything about Chantal a monk that is honored in Mexico? I do not mean St. Jane Francis Chantal.
a loyal reader

Of course you don't, because St. Jane Frances Chantal would not have been a monk.

But no, I've never heard anything about any St. Chantal who is a monk honored in Mexico.  Another one of out readers guessed that perhaps you're thinking of St. Charbel, and I am sure that reader is correct.  St. Charbel is indeed well revered in Mexico.  Here he is standing atop a mountain of prayer requests at the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.

St. Charbel is quite a character.  I am often asked if the Catholic Church believes in ghosts and the answer is yes, sort of.  St. Charbel could well be the patron saint of ghostbusters.  He was canonized because he made a rather ghostly appearance in a photograph.

I didn't mean that, exactly.  I should say, his appearance in a photograph led to his canonization.

St. Charbel was a Lebanese monk.  (Danny Thomas could have chosen him instead of St. Jude, but St. Charbel wasn't canonized at the time that Mr. Thomas found himself down and out and praying for the intercession of St. Jude, because St. Charbel hadn't shown up in a picture yet.)

In his life, he was a very hermity hermit, living 23 years in monastic silence and fasting continually. He always knelt in his cell from midnight until 9am, even though he had a hair mat on which to sleep.  No one ever saw his face.  He wore a hood, never made eye contact with anyone, and kept his head down. Nonetheless, he was well known in the nearby town as a very holy man and people sought his blessings.

And since this is Advent, the time just before Christmas season, let's also have a look at St. Charbel's death. On Dec. 16th, 1898, Charbel had a stroke and on Christmas eve he laid down on his mat face up with his eyes closed.  He wasn't asleep.

That night there was a huge snow storm and the other monks were afraid that they wouldn't be able to take his body from the monastery to bury it in the church over in town. They were also afraid that they wouldn't be able to tell anyone from the town. How would they get word out?  And even if they did, would that cause people to come out in the bitter raging cold to gather around the body?

And while they were there trying to decide all of that, they were amazed at how freezing cold it was in Charbel's cell of 23 years, the one in which he only knelt all night.  And while they were being amazed, somehow the townspeople got wind of Charbel's death and shoveled their way up to the monastery.

Now it was Christmas Day and the snow was even worse, with blowing, howling wind. But they set off with the saint's body. The wind and snow stopped and down they went.

Now we fast forward to 1925, when Pope Pius XI thought about beatifying Charbel.  In death, Charbel's grave had glowed with light.  But these things take time, often centuries.  Then, in 1950, an American priest from Scranton, PA was visiting Charbel's monastery and took a photograph of his tour group.  When the picture was developed, there stood Charbel in their midst.

Who ya gonna call?

Things moved along a little faster after that, with many miracles occurring. Beatified in 1965, St. Charbel was admitted to the Heavenly Hall of Fame in 1977.  He has been spotted time and again in his hood, his eyes lowered as in life.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Gluten Free Saint

Can you believe we're already into the second week of Advent?  I can't.

That being said, since Advent is all about good news, I have some for you.  I have found the perfect patron saint for Catholics who are gluten intolerant or otherwise digestively challenged to the point where they can no longer partake in the Eucharist!

I was just posting a brand new saint for the shop and was doing some research on her when I had my light bulb moment.  

Bear with me here. You won't see the connection right away, but it's a big one when we get to it.

St. Alice was a Cistercian nun.  She actually entered the convent at age seven.  Everyone noticed what a lovely humble girl she was. Unfortunately, poor Alice contracted leprosy.  She suffered terribly.  Eventually she lost her sight and became paralyzed.

St. Alice is, in fact, the patron saint for the blind and paralyzed, or the just blind, or the just paralyzed.

Now, let me just take a moment to say that we've had quite a number of discussions here on the blog about the plight of the wheat, yeast, gluten intolerant and I've always felt rather badly about not having the perfect patron saint for them.  St. Charles Borromeo is as close as I could come, as he is the patron saint of stomach and intestinal problems.

But St. Charles holds that title because his brothers didn't much take to his disciplinary activities and tried to shoot him, which could give anyone a stomach ache.

But Alice!  To the moon!

You see, St. Alice had one great comfort in life, which was, of course, the Holy Eucharist.  She was devastated not to be able to receive under both species (ringing a bell, stomachers?) because she was not allowed to drink from the Cup for fear of contagion, what with her leprosy and all.   Here's where it all comes together: Jesus appeared to her and told her it was perfectly fine for her to go with just one species.

Right?  It's a good one!  St. Alice knows exactly how you feel about your situation.

Welcome to the shop, St. Alice!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Annoyed by Jesus

Hi, Sister. My roommate is driving me crazy. (And vice versa.) Any saints for us?

Offer it up!  What do you think it's like to be room mates with the souls in Purgatory? I bet some of them are pretty annoying, given the fact that they haven't made it to Heaven yet and they are suffering constantly.  Offer up your suffering for them.

It's Advent, after all.  As we prepare to walk in the steps of Jesus, let's remember that His disciples got on his last nerve on numerous occasions.  Think of all the times they ran to Him with their hair on fire, worried about what people thought of them, frightened that He was too generous and forgiving.  They were aggravated with Him, too.

He was very patient with them.  And He always used the situation to turn it into a teaching moment. Even as a child, calmly explaining to His parents where He was while they panicked and fretted, that He was simply doing His job, holding a Q&A for the elders at the Temple.

Or when His Mother asked Him to save the wedding party that ran out of wine. He explained to her that He really wasn't supposed to start in with the miracles just yet. But He did do what His Mother asked and changed the water into wine.  Really good wine at that.

Let me just digress and point out, as per our recent discussion about the separated brethren and their stubborn attitude toward Mary, in particularly, refusing to ask for her intercession, that if you're going to point to what's in the Bible as the be all and end all of what we are to believe about Jesus, than you've clearly really missed the point of this event.  The point being: Jesus listens to His Mom. Against His better judgment.

What were we talking about?  Oh yes! Putting up with your room mate!  

So Jesus had lots and lots of annoying moments with pretty much everyone around Him, including those closest to Him.  So this Advent, let's all take a deep breath and emulate Jesus and love them anyway.   That's step one.

Meanwhile, a patron saint for annoying room mates? Yes! Of Course! St. Therese the Little Flower.  Living in a cloister with a bunch of other girls is no picnic. St. Therese kept a tidy journal of every irritant so that she could be sure and not miss any opportunity to offer up her sufferings to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Have you heard of St. Therese sacrifice beads?  It's a little set of ten sliding beads so that you, too, can count your sufferings to the tune of at least ten per day.  I can make you some, if you like!