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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

To the Moon, Alice!

It seems like I've unwittingly stirred up a tempest in a teapot by mentioning that Christopher Hitchens didn't like Mother Teresa.  (And he didn't just "not like" her, he wrote an entire booked about it.)  I said he thought her an "empty habit".

Which brought to mind, for someone, another famous nun.  A lot of people don't care much for her, my beloved 92 year old mother, for one.

I don't want to talk here about the truths or untruths about famous nuns. What I'd like to talk about is how to not like someone.  This is an issue no one seems to think all that much about, since we all have folks that rub us the wrong way, we chalk it up to, "oh, well..."   What do we do?  We don't actually hate them. That would be sinful.  So we just...avoid them.  Go to a different parish, cross the street, sit somewhere else, find a different cafe, cross them off the Christmas card list.

And some people, for some people, are actually toxic and should be avoided at all costs.  Abusive, dangerous people.  Sociopaths. Psychopaths.  Axe murderers.  No one expects you to go give them a hug.  We'll have to let Jesus give them hugs. They will be in our prayers.

I'm really talking about the annoying nuns and the cheating mechanics,  the telephone solicitors, the loud horrible singers, the people  who are always wrong about everything but won't admit it or don't even know, the rude, the cell phone blabbers, the traffic cutter offers, the loafers, the lazy, the people on the other side of the political spectrum.  We avoid these people at all costs, so we don't grow to hate them.  We think this is a good idea.

But, guess what?  If things go well and you live a wonderful life, there is every reason to believe you will achieve your heavenly reward.  And God is just and kind and way, way more forgiving than you could ever hope to be, which means that once you achieve your heavenly reward, you may find yourself sitting next to a fill in the blank.  There won't be a rope line in heaven to corral them.  There won't be a parish or a pew from which you can flee, another town in which to live, an apartment in which to hide with your caller ID.

You are going to have to love them.

"OH!" you say, "no problem!  I'll be in Heaven and they will have changed, too if they're in Heaven!"  You think?  Maybe.  God may love them just the way they are.

But let's imagine that we will indeed be perfect beings there in Heaven.  Okay....but that means you'll have to change your thinking at some point.  You actually will have to love and forgive everyone.  Why wait to burn in Purgatory?  You have to get your brain around this.

Why do we love Ralph Cramden's famous admonishment, "One of these days, POW! to the moon!" ?  Because we all feel that way sometimes.  You think I don't?  You think living in a house with a bunch of very religious women makes me immune?  Ou contrare.  It can bring out the worst in everyone.

So how do we allow ourselves our opinions of others, which actually do inform our own choices, without judging and bad feelings?  Drop the blame.  Drop the idea that you know why they behave that way.

It is perfectly justified to note that Mother Teresa did a lot of fundraising.  It is not justified to decide that she loved the limelight and that was her motivation.  My mother doesn't care for the other famous nun because, "She (the nun) thinks she's being so cute."

Not your call, Mom.

Hate the sin, love the sinner, is so much more easily said than done.  After all, it's the sinner that puts the sin into action. Without the sinner, there would be no sin, sin needs to be stopped, so the sinner should be stopped, too.  Right?  Stopped, if possible, yes. Judged, no.

So long, Nancy Grace!  What could have been a public service is nothing more than a witch hunt.  Nancy is set for a some very uncomfortable afterlife encounters. As are we all.

Thank goodness for Lent!  Giving up avoiding people you don't like would be a good one for next year.  It will be just like Heaven!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hitching up with Hitchens

A friend of mine has recently lost his faith. He read a book by Christopher Hitchens, which has completely destroyed what he believed. He is very, very confused and angry. What would you say to him?

Oh Goodness!  Mr. Hitchens was very confused and angry, too!  He didn't like Mother Teresa.  Who doesn't like Mother Teresa? That, right there, is enough for me to not listen to another word he had to say.  He felt she spent all her time fundraising and was therefore just an empty habit, a money grubber.

She did spend a lot of time fundraising.  She needed funds for the poor people she served. I suppose, since they were all dying, she could have just left them lie there, but the silly woman believed they should be fed and kept clean and comfortable.

I suppose she could have sent out one of her no name nuns who worked there at the hospital. Because you know, that would have really helped draw a crowd.

Clearly, Mr. Hitchens had no clue  how to fundraise or that nuns are pretty much synonymous with fundraising and has never been to a church supper, card party or Bingo game.  No wonder he was angry. He missed all the fun.

I'm sorry I don't know quite what to tell you to tell your friend.  I would start by asking him some questions and listen to his answer and not worry too much about arguing with his responses.  I'd try to find out exactly which part of what he read caused him so much consternation.

Then I'd go think that over.  And then I'd go back and talk with him about those things.

Because it really can't be everything.  There must have been something that got to him.  Some thought that was in the book that entered his brain like an earwig (or at least, the mythology of an earwig) and has eaten holes in some synapses.

Then I would suggest some other reading for him.  G.K. Chesterton springs to mind.  All Catholics love him, don't they?  Chesterton himself was a convert to the Catholic Church.  We especially love converts, because they chose the Church in  a way the rest of us have not, although in Chesterton's case he had been Anglican, or, as we like to say "Catholic Lite", so it wasn't a big leap.  Anyhow, you want to look into people who are called "Catholic Apologists".  A weird term, I know, but it refers to people who are explaining (not apologizing).

Hope this helps.  Mr. Hitchens must be very surprised these days, about all the things he got wrong.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Unforgiven Unforgiveness

Monday, March 12, 2012

Christian Singles

Please help. Maybe this is the wrong question for a nun, but maybe someone else on here can offer suggestions too. I'm a young single Catholic women called to marriage... where are all the (practicing) Catholic young men at? Oh, I know they still exist albeit few, but where? I have few friends outside of Catholic activities: volunteer work and the young adult group I attend. It seems that everyone there is already paired off, with respect to both relationships and friendship circles. I've been seeking a relationship and friendships for almost 3 years no avail. As far as love and marriage goes, I've been asking intersession from St. Raphael, Mary and Joseph. Thoughts? While my relationship with God has blossomed in this seclusion, I could really use someone to spend Friday nights with.

You are already taking all the advice everyone gives, which is to look no further than your church group, as though "Of Course that will work!"  Not if everyone is paired up it won't, unless you are one unethical girl.  Which would defeat the whole idea of finding someone in a church group.

It is disturbing that anyone would be "paired off" in a friendship circle. It seems to me that these are the people you want to infiltrate!  Surely they have other friends and relatives!

Let's take a tip from our "Elder brothers" (as the Pope says), the Jews.  The nice Jewish girls I know have pretty good look finding people at least to date (if not marry).  Why? Because they let their intentions be known.  They ask friends and relatives, "Got a fella for me?"  Dates ensue.

A few years ago, I would have told you to stay away from the internet.  And I'm old, so the whole idea of internet dating still gives me the willies.  Apparently, however, it's time for me to put on my big girl wimple and admit that out of the five happy couples I have recently met on their way to the altar, three of those couples sought each other on the internet.  No one is more surprised than me.

But when I think about it, the truth is there are many people finding many things on the internet. God, for one.  I can't tell you how many readers I've had who have said that reading blogs brought them to the Catholic Church, or back to Her.

Meanwhile, two things: offer it up.  There are worse things that not having a date on the weekend. Tsunami's for example.  Life on the Sahara.

Having no relationship with God, who apparently is very happy to be your date.

Secondly: St. Agnes.  She is the patron saint of man hunters (and Girl Scouts).  You've missed out on this year's "bedtime egg".  But that doesn't mean you can't turn to her, even though she was never interested in having a boyfriend.  I've never quite understood why she is the patron saint of the opposite of what was going on with her, but it's not my call. She has been the patron saint of man hunting since her untimely death.  It's rather like having Marie Goretti as the patron saint of finding a boyfriend, but she's the patron saint of teen purity.

Anyhow, St. Agnes is as effective as the internet, as far as I know.

Meanwhile, my recent advice about finding friends applies to adults, too.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

That's the Sound of the Men Workin on the Chain...Ga.a....ang.

I'm a bit behind on tackling questions.  I'll catch up. I always do!

But I have a quick question for you!  Is it okay to say, "Happy Lent!" ?

I don't think it is, but I always feel like saying that, I suppose because I love Lent.  It makes me feel good.  I feel like I'm making spiritual progress.

But I'm supposed to be suffering.

And I am suffering.

But then I feel good about it. Like running a marathon.  That must feel horrible.  But we know it feels great because of the accomplishment. And the endorphins. 

I'll be interested in your answers.  No wonder saints went to such great lengths to beat themselves up. St. Rose of Lima made herself a spike hat.  She was a very crafty girl (as in Etsy, crafty, not sly and manipulative crafty).

Meanwhile, I can't resist this question, even though it's brand new and there are older questions to answer.

I have joined a rosary making group. Lately I have just made them solo, but I wanted to get involved at church. I am having problems with the name of the group. They call themselves, "Mary's Chain Gang" I am finding this very offensive to Our Lady....or is my skin too thin? There are not very many members and I believe this may be do to people not knowing what the group does....especially since the words rosary making isn't in the title. Before I moved to this city I was with a group called Joyful Rosary Makers and we were very active. Being new to the group I wonder if I should even tell them about my concerns. Also interesting enough this group makes cord mission rosaries and very few chain rosaries. Am I totally off base here?

I can't think why that name would be offensive.  Are you thinking of gangs, like street gangs, as though they are calling the group "Mary's Bloods"?  That would be offensive.

A chain gang is a group of prisoners, chained together at the ankles, wearing striped prison garb, breaking rocks with sledge hammers and pick axes.  The purpose is twofold: to put the offender to hard labor, and to humiliate them while they serve their time.

One could argue that these people are criminals, but although chain gangs still exist, you really can't judge.  In the old days (which is where we get the term), the men on chain gangs might not have been guilty of anything more than being the wrong color in the wrong place.  Or stealing a loaf of bread because his family was starving.  Looking at the men on a chain gang, there would be no way to tell who was an innocent caught up in the system and who was a bank robber.

I don't think you'd find an actual psychopathic killer on a chain gang, because that guy would have just gotten hanged outright.

It's just a clever name.  Maybe it's just me. I'm chained to a bunch of people and I wear funny clothes, too.  Sometimes I feel like I'm breaking rocks with a sledge hammer.  Or pounding sand.

The one area where I might agree is that people don't know what the group is or does by the name.  They need a Facebook page or something.  If I were in a parish and I saw "Join Mary's Chain Gang!" in the church bulletin, I would be intrigued.  Maybe people just don't like making rosaries there.

I don't like working with beads myself.  I always drop them all over the floor at some point.

I should join a rosary making group during Lent!

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Patience of a Saint

Sister, can you recommend a saint to help my 9 year old daughter to have some friends at school? Or to help her follow God's will, if He doesn't want her to have a "best friend" right now?

I can't imagine in my wildest imaginings that God wouldn't want a 9 year old girl to have friends at school.  Jesus, God's Son and the Second Person in the Holy Trinity, was all about having friends.  He was friends with people who no one on the planet wanted to visit.

Nine is a tough age.  The tricky thing is to somehow help her understand how to be a friend, to be open and loving and compassionate, and not to expect anything in return.  To let go of the hope of having a gaggle of friends or one or two close ones,  and to just let the cards fall way they may, happy in the knowledge that you've been the best person you can be.

And to not make her lack of friends her fault.

Here's a good thing to learn to do: Listen.

When people talk to her, tell her to listen carefully to what they are saying, and then, rather than comment on it, or try to offer advice, simply to say what they just said back to them in her own words.  Simply be compassionate to their feelings.  Lend an ear. Lend a hand.  The end.

People love a good listener.  When you repeat to them in your own words what they've just said, it lets them know they have actually been heard.  Who doesn't want that?

What she'll need is patience and a thick skin for all the times when she'll simply be ignored for all her good behavior.  I'm going with St. Rita.

This may seem like an odd choice, as St. Rita is the patron saint for not so hot marriages and infertility. But here's the deal, St. Rita always wanted to be a nun and the nuns just didn't want her.  At all.

But Rita never gave up and finally, angels came and flew her over the convent wall.  That got her in. You'd think that once angels flew you into the convent, the nuns there would snap to attention and welcome her into the fold.  They did not.

They gave her a task to demean her and to prove her mettle (!) and her obedience.  They stuck a stick in the ground and made her water it every day.  This went on for quite some time. And then one day the stick sprouted leaves and eventually grew into a tree. I think it's still there.  Maybe not. How long do trees live, anyhow?  I'll have to look that up.

One would think that after angels flew you into a convent and a stick grew into a tree, that the nuns would finally want you as one of their own.  Nope.  Rita was never accepted into the community in a loving way, because she had been a wife and mother, and her husband and sons were all not nice people (as in, involved with Mafia types, not nice).  Back then, women who had been married and had children were not concerned nun material.

Finally, St. Rita received the stigmata, with a thorn in her forehead that festered and stank.  Finally, the nuns understood her holiness, but now, what with the stench and all, Rita had to spend the rest of her life in her cell by herself.  After she went to her Heavenly reward, her room began to smell of roses, and does to this day.

Patience and a thick skin.  St. Rita reached her goal.

I'm sure your daughter will not have to water any sticks or stink up her room.  But if she remains patient and compassionate, her loving nature will be rewarded.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

To Have and Have Not

Sister, a contructive criticism made possible by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, the Congregation of Christian Brothers, the Augustinian Fathers and the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross, all of whom taught me to pe precise in my expression, it is not "I understand that the Mother Superior wanted Sister Hepburn to have to do something huge to prove her metal."; the word you are searching for is "mettle". Thank you, Russ

Thank you, Russ! That was really bothering me! I know in print this sounds like I am being sarcastic, but I assure you, I am not.   I knew something was wrong but I could not remember the correct word.  Now I will write "mettle" on the board 400 times.

Now you must go write "constructive" on the board 20 times.  And "be".  Or maybe type those words.  I'm sure it was typing.  Unlike me, who actually had the wrong word altogether.

I do depend on my readers to let me know when I've tripped the type fantastic.  I often have to pick a new word, because I can't for the life of me remember how to spell something.  Here's one: "racked", as in "I racked my brain trying to think of the way to spell mettle."  Is that correct?  It always seems like it should be one of the silent "W" words to me.

It's a wonder I can put my shoes on.

How is everyone's Lent going?  I am facing my usual Lenten dilemma, whether or not to eat a McDonald's fish sandwich.  The answer is generally, no.  But I go round and round.

To begin with, the McDonald's fish sandwich was invented for Catholics.  Sitting in a habit, eating a fish sandwich on a Friday in Lent goes a long way toward our main mission: getting our souls and the souls of others to Heaven.  It's "a picture is worth a thousand words" moment.

And a "take a picture with your cell phone" moment, as far as I can tell.

Also, it's a thrifty thing to do.  The McDonald's fish sandwich is on sale on Friday's in Lent.  We like thrifty.  We need thrifty to survive.
I almost feel duty bound to head over to McDonald's on Fridays in Lent. I can even walk there. Talk about thrifty!  So what's the problem?

I love them.  I find them completely delicious.  The hot steamed bun, the slice of mild cheese, the thick tartar sauce dripping and oozing and squirting.  It doesn't seem right to me to have a treat on Fridays in Lent, the one day in the Lenten week where we 'up the ante' so to speak, by not only our regular Lenten fasting, but skipping meat as well.

Which reminds me...what do vegetarians do?  They never eat meat in the first place.  I suppose they give up cheese.  Or lentils.

What to do?  I think I'll have one.  Why? Because I have always referred to them as my 'guilty pleasure', not because of my Lenten dilemma, but because they are loaded with all things McDonaldsy bad.  Two million calories. Saturated fat. I'll focus on the 'guilty' and not the 'pleasure'.

And I'll just have the one.  Which will make me suffer all the more when I don't have another one.

Or.  I'll ask for a Hula Burger.