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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Menu of Patron Saints

The elephant honeysuckle has grown so huge that it obscures the pathway to our front door. Before all the little ghosts and princesses and Hulks come for candy tonight, we have to get out the clippers. The candy is in the big yellow bowl and I am keeping my mitts out of it.

For now.

Today's question from a reader:
Sister, Is there a patron saint for eating disorders?

There are quite a number of food related patron saints. I suppose it depends on which direction the eating disorder lies.  Too much food? Or not enough food?

I think we can cross off the patron saints of cooks (because he was famously roasted on a grill), St. Lawrence,  (and famously said, "Turn me over, I'm done on this side!") and St. Martha, the patron saint of waitresses, cooks and hostesses because of her famous "Dinner with Jesus" where Jesus admonished her for being irritated with her sister who wasn't helping in the kitchen when the Apostles descended upon her home one fine day. They don't have anything to do with actually eating a lot or a little.

We could go with St. Charles Borromeo. He actually has nothing to do with eating disorders, but he is the patron saint of stomach and intestinal woes. But not because he had any. There is no real link between him belly pain, except that he probably caused stomach aches to the folks around him with his strict discipline.
A little strict discipline might help an eating disorder.

His name always reminds me of "Bromo Seltzer". St. Charles Bromoseltzer.
That leaves us with St. Thomas Aquinas, on the "eat too much" side.  He was famously weight endowed and many people believe he had some sort of eating disorder beyond, "Wow! I sure do like deep fried macaroni and cheese wrapped in bacon!" Or perhaps some sort of chemical imbalance.
But then, a lot of people who are weight challenged like to believe they have a glandular problem they don't. Almost no one has glandular problem that causes them to remain obese.

On the other side I offer for your consideration St. Catherine of Sienna. St. Catherine fasted almost continually, surviving for very long periods on only the Holy Host.

I hope I won't upset people by saying that I don't think this is a good idea. St. Catherine was truly one of our greatest saints, but as they say, "Don't try this at home." She also died at age 33.

Whatever you do, while you pray for the intercession of our great saints to help you (or whoever it is that you have in mind that needs help), make sure therapy is sought and followed. We are not Christian Scientists here. We believe in science and medicine and seeking appropriate help when we're in too deep to help ourselves. The saints can pray for us to have the grace and strength to survive our serious problems, but we'll leave it for them to survive on only the Holy Host.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jude Who?

Over the weekend, while Sister St. Aloysius finished up some Halloween costumes, I stumbled across an interesting take on St. Jude.

Sunday was the feast day of St. Jude and St. Simon, two of the apostles. We know almost nothing about either of them.

We don't worry too much about that in the Catholic church. We honor the saints and make up things about them based on what little we know. Don't get yourself worked into a lather because I said we make up things. We made up names for Mary's parents and for the Three Kings, for example.

Yes, these names come from what we call "Sacred Tradition", but the New Testament does not mention Mary's parents, let alone by name. And the New Testament doesn't really say how many wise men came to visit the Baby Jesus. It could have been 4. It could have been 14. So we certainly don't know their names.

I never worry about it. It's okay with me that we honor St. Anne. And St. Joachim. Certainly Mary HAD parents. Joachim and Anne? Fine with me.

Sister St. Aloysius has a special affinity to St. Anne at this time of year. St. Anne is the patron saint of seamstresses. But then, we have no idea if St. Anne ever sewed much of anything. I imagine everyone who lived in those days had to be handy with a needle.  Anne couldn't run out to Macy's or Walmart for a new tunic.

But we don't even have "legends" about poor St. Jude. We believe his name was Judas Thaddeus and after Judas Iscariot went off the rails, Judas Thaddeus became Jude. Who can blame him? That's it. That's the extent of our knowledge.

So it has been my understanding that St. Jude became the patron saint of impossible causes because everyone figured that he was rather neglected, that very few people would think to pray for his intercession, and that would give him time to take on the really hard stuff.

Now, don't get your hair on fire about St. Jude having time in Heaven where there is no time. It's just the way people think. It doesn't make it deep theology. Or true.

I enjoyed reading about how little we know about St. Jude.  Then this jumped out at me. A fresh take on why St. Jude is the patron saint of impossible causes!  Try this one on for size!

The non story about St. Jude shows us that the impossible can happen, when a completely obscure man can become so wildly famous. Even non-saint-savvy folks are familiar with St. Jude, even though technically, there is nothing with which to be familiar.

Works for me either way!

St. Simon doesn't seem to have been similarly blessed. But then he didn't have Danny Thomas.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Time Marches On

Long time no see. I have been following this blog for years now and I have been wondering if Sr. Mary Fiacre is still with us.

Yes, I'm happy to say she is! And when I say "with us", I mean with "us".  We almost lost her, not to Heaven, but from the house. Much more of our time is given to her care, but we have it down to a science, thanks to the critical organized thinking abilities of Sister St. Aloysius.

I never talked about our adventure here on the blog, because I felt it would just be upsetting, and upsetting people with our personal lives (besides sharing our yearly struggles with Halloween, etc. for your amusement) is not our goal. Our goal was to point out that the lives of religious are not all that different from yours. We just have the added onus to try and get everyone's souls into Heaven. You have that job, too, but our version is on steroids, as they say.

In any case, a while back, Sister Mary Fiacre had a heart attack. It wasn't a massive heart attack and because of her advanced age, there was really nothing to be done for her, healthwise. But then, near the end of her hospital stay, "they" started asking us where she was going to go.

"Why, back home...", we said.

"No, she has to be in a nursing home.  You won't be able care for her yourself."

Now, I will admit to you that I was very worried about taking her home. I had spent over a week witnessing all that had to be done for her, including turning her every two hours, day and night. It was daunting. But a nursing home had not occurred to me. Before I thought about it, I said,

"Of course we can care for her at home."

I don't know why I said that.

My response caused a meeting with the hospital staff and social workers. It was very grim and stern. The tone of the meeting was that these people would sit us down and explain to us, in no uncertain terms, that we didn't know what we were talking about and we were in over our heads. What was our plan?

I didn't have a plan. I just couldn't face dumping her off. There is no place she could go that is close by. There is a nursing home that takes old nuns down the coast. But is is waaaayyyy down the coast.  We wouldn't be able to see her for days at a time and I couldn't picture her, in her condition, in this strange new world full of unfamiliar faces.

Sister Mary Fiacre is all about the familiar.

I was just about to have to sit there and flap my jaw up and down with no sound coming out when Sister St. Aloysius pulled a folder out of nowhere. I had not noticed that she had a folder.

Boy, did she have a folder. She had covered every detail, from where to get a hospital bed, to swing people to cover any time either of us would be unavailable. She had a nutritional program and had figured out how we could get Sister Mary Fiacre out of bed and into her wheelchair using the slide board (just like there is a patron saint for everything, it turns out there are tool for everything, too!) and how much time she should spend in and out of bed and even outdoors for some sunshine generated vitamin D.

And here we are. It is labor intensive, but it's happy labor. And  Sister Mary Fiacre is actually thriving, in her own declining sort of way. We have what you would call a "new normal".  I was certain she was on her way out, because she wasn't eating much of anything in the hospital. They pretty much told us she had maybe six weeks.

Several months ago.  Her appetite returned, not to its former robustness, but to a new normal that includes three squares and a snack. She always did have a sweet tooth.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Devil Made Me Do It

Sister, my poor son has a devil of a temper--old-style irascible, this kid, and it gets the better of him all the time. Emotions just bubbling up everywhere all over the place. Now we have (along with appropriate disciplines) instructed him to ask his patron saint (Stephen) and guardian angel to pray for him, but are there any saints for a hot temper? Or perhaps better, one who was calm, collected and measured in all things? He needs some heavenly intervention.

It he left handed?  Just kidding.  That was an old nun joke.

St. Stephen, the patron saint for headache pain (as he died getting hit in the head with rocks), is a better patron saint for you than for your son, it seems to me.

I always recommend St. Peter for the hot headed.  He flew off the handle a lot, but he turned out all right. "Upon this rock I shall build My church", and all that.

Maybe you need St. Jude, the patron saint for impossible causes. Or St. Rita, for difficult cases.

Maybe you need to take a look at what's causing him to fly off the handle all the time. How old is he?  If he's two, I wouldn't be too concerned. But if he's 12 or older, I'd sit him down for a talk.  He needs some coping mechanisms.  I knew a lady that gave her son an egg when he was mad, and tell him to squeeze it til it broke.

Have you ever tried that?  You can't break an egg by squeezing it in your hand.  One of the wonders of God's creation.  If that didn't get him past his initial tantrum (this was a teenager), he was to take it outside and hurl it against a tree.  That will break it.  And his anger, apparently.

Anger, by the way, doesn't stem from hate.  It arises out of hurt. Anger is unaddressed hurt, physical or emotional. So the question isn't "what are you mad about?", it's "what's hurting you?".  You don't need to solve his problems. You just need to be compassionate.  "That must feel terrible" is a better response than "you'll feel better tomorrow".

To that end, I recommend St. Padre Pio, who had the ability to read souls. He'll be good for the whole family. Cool as a cucumber, that one.  He compared confession to dusting the furniture. It should be done once a week.  But every day, he believed, one should take a spiritual inventory. I think doing that would be a great help to your son.  He should take his spiritual temperature every day, and try to assess what he needs to clean and what he has already cleaned. And then take Padre Pio's most famous advice:

"Pray, Hope and Don't Worry"

St. Pio didn't have a easy time of it. He was very sick a lot of the time. He had the stigmata, which is not like some Jesus tattoo.  The wounds are the actual wounds of Christ and are painful accordingly. He had horrible fights with the devil that left him bruised.  So, I think his words, "Pray, Hope and Don't Worry" are particularly sobering.

Unless your son is two. Then really, really...don't worry.