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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who Ya Gonna Call?

When I was a little girl we used to play a game we made up called, "I Hope the Ghost Comes Out Tonight!"  It was a scary night time version of tag that we would play at dusk in the summertime.  One kid would hide somewhere and then, after counting for a bit ala hide and seek, we would slowly walk across the yard chanting "I hope the ghost comes out tonight!" until the hidden child would leap out and chase us all. We all had to make it back to home base (the back porch steps) before being tagged by the "ghost".  If you got tagged, you were the ghost. I was almost never the ghost.  Somehow, it was much more scary to think you were being chased by a ghost, than by Kathy Kroeger or Jackie Kimbrell.  I always think of that game whenever the topic of ghosts comes up. 

Speaking of the dead, what do you recommend we do when our house is haunted? The house has been blessed. I've asked the ghosts to leave in a stern voice. Nothing. In fact, it made them more active. There are at least 3 of them in the house. They haven't done anything to hurt us but they are scary. You can't 'prepare' for it so I'm always caught off guard. They can be seen, heard, smelled (one smokes something that looks like a cigarette but smells like cigar). They make noise. Once, I was on the couch and it sounded like every pot & pan, every dish, everything I owned had crashed in the kitchen. When I ran to the room, nothing was out of place. The person I bought the home from sold it because she was afraid to live there. I thought she was crazy. It's a beautiful home. Too bright and sunny to be haunted. And when you die, you go to hell, purgatory or heaven. There is no 4th choice of hanging around and haunting a house. So what is going on? It doesn't seem evil or demonic.

The underlying question here is, what does the Catholic church have to say about ghosts?

Not much.

Do we believe in the supernatural? Every day. Virtually everything we believe is supernatural. God, Jesus, resurrection, ascension, transubstantiation....if that's not supernatural, what is?

So I've been doing some research for you all on the topic. What does the Catechism say about ghosts? Not a word. But here's a good summation of the overall thought on the subject:

(a ghost is defined as) “a disembodied spirit. Christianity believes that God may, and sometimes does, permit a departed soul to appear in some visible form to people on earth. Allowing for legend and illusion, there is enough authentic evidence, for example in the lives of the saints, to indicate that such apparitions occur. Their purpose may be to teach or warn, or request some favor of the living” (Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, Modern Catholic Dictionary (Garden City, New York: John A. Hardon, ©1980) published by Doubleday and Co., p. 229).

The problem here is there is a huge difference between an apparition of a saint or a soul from purgatory and some guy who doesn't know he's dead or whatever and also still loves his cigars, even though he no longer has to breath air, with or without smoke in it.

So now we have to take a look at what the Church teaches about the occult which is this:

“All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others — even if this were for the sake of restoring their health — are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2117).

Where does that leave you and your haunted house?  Not every priest would tell you the same thing, but I believe that the general consensus would be that these are not dead people who are stuck in time.  We do  believe that after death a person goes to one of three places, Heaven, Hell or Purgatory and no one is stuck here. If someone does get to pay us a visit after their death it is with God's permission, not to just hang around and puff on cigars and rattle the pans.

So the Church would say demons often don't look demonic. That's a big part of what makes them demonic and the entire reason you are not allowed to try and talk with them. You would be in over your head.  Why do they hang around houses pretending to be Civil War veterans and dead damsels? Maybe because your belief in them would cause you to doubt the Church. Just a thought.

What to you do about it? I don't know. St. Benedict (who had a vision of his twin sister's soul rising to Heaven when she died) is the patron saint of exorcism.  The prayers said during an exorcism are written in code on the back of his medal.   If our readers would like to follow the discussion so far, go back to two posts ago and read the comments, where there has been more on "the haunting".

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It Takes a Village of Saints

We have had quite the discussion in the comments section because of a haunted house. I promise we'll discuss the haunted house. But today we have a matter of some urgency.

Hi Sister, who would be the best saint for this whole situation. A sick child that can't communicate where his pain is (autistic), that is having almost daily bouts of awful pain by the look of it and is generally under the weather, doctors that seem not to be taking it seriously enough or don't believe me or are next to useless for whatever reason, long delays in getting to see anyone who could possibly help, or tests done (even with private health care we are still having this problem) and a parent reaching the end of her tether and, sorry to say, almost despairing. I really need some divine help here.

Saints, indeed. But also, some help from a social worker. Isn't bundling the latest thing in technology?  Let's do some bundling and call out:

St. John of God, the patron saint of social workers and nurses. You need some muscle in your corner and autistic advocacy groups can help you get the help you need. The former Secretary of State once reminded us that "It Takes a Village" and was ridiculed for it. But it does take a village.

 I think you should also turn to St. Gemma, a young lady who lived with horrible pain and paralysis for years on end, but who eventually had a miraculous cure. She knows about pain and patience, two things that, oh, so unfortunately, often must go hand in hand. You have to have patience for two, so Gemma is your girl.

And let's not forget St. Joseph Cupertino,  who I believe probably was autistic.  There's a good saint bundle for you.

Let us know how you're doing! And get on the internet and find an advocate in your area.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Together Forever

Since it's Lent and we're not supposed to run around doing the happy dance, I thought this is as good a time as any to talk about what we do with our ashes when they become ashes and our dust is dust again.

Recently my husband and I were discussing the topic of non Catholics being buried in Catholic cemeteries.Is it allowed? I am a convert to the Catholic Church and our children are Catholic. My husband is a non practicing Protestant who comes to church with us occasionally (Christmas and Easter). I want to all be buried together ...after the Lord calls us home....in a Catholic cemetery, which hubby has no objection to if it is allowed.

Which brings up a few other questions about the end.

Yes, the rest of your family can stay with you, almost no matter what was going on with them. Unless one of your daughters or sons is a famous heretic, they can join you. Technically, even if they weren't famous and they were a heretic, they couldn't come along. I'm just imagining that unless they were famous for being a heretic, how would anyone really know they were a heretic? How can we account for someone's private heretical thoughts? We can't. 

I digress.

Catholic cemeteries are sacred ground, blessed by the Bishop. There are cases that have to be approved by the Bishop, but generally, we like to keep families together.

So while we're on the subject let's talk about a couple of other things that tend to come up.

1. You can be cremated. But your ashes have to be buried, not scattered. Or interred. They have to go in an above ground mausoleum or a below ground in a grave. Your choice. But you can't be in a pendant around someone's neck, flung out to sea, shot into space, or sitting on top of the TV with the St. Clare statue.

2. Once you are a corpse your dead remains have to be treated with respect. They have to be  buried or interred, cremated or not.  They can't be stuffed and perched on your favorite horse who is also stuffed, as Dale Evans once threatened to do with Roy Rogers. (In the end, Trigger was stuffed, but Roy was not.) Or kept in the basement to scare ladies that stay at your motel.

3. It's a great idea to be buried in a Catholic cemetery. The ground is blessed, the other people visiting the grave sites are all on the same page. We're all family here. Canon law dictates that we always preserve the respect for the dead.

4. And finally, people who commit suicide can be buried in a Catholic cemetery. We don't know what is in someone's heart so we can't judge someone who has taken their own life. Unless the person was also a heretic. 

I hope that covers everything. It's important that your mortal remains are respected and left undisturbed. Unless you are a saint, ironically. If you're up for canonization, we're going to dig you up to make sure it's really you.

Either way, we'll bring flowers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Meanwhile, in Heaven

Hi Sister - in the spirit of St. Valentine's Day, I have a question about a saint for married men. Of course, St. Joseph immediately sprang to mind, but he seemed happily married! I wonder if there is a saint you could recommend for the following: My sisters and I would like to pray a novena to ask for protection for our father from his second wife. She is nominally a Catholic, but treats him in an unChristian way. He is in his 70s, and in good health, but she is 10 years younger and always calling him old man and talking about assisted living and how the old should not be taking care of the old. We fear for him. He can come live with any of us any time he wants, but as a truly devoted Catholic man (who had a very good marriage with our mother before she passed away), he holds marriage in high esteem and I cannot imagine him ever leaving. (There is much more to the story, but I am leaving the really ugly bits about the second wife out, in case she finds this blog & recognizes.)

There are a few saints that pop into mind. But before we turn to Heaven for help, let's try one important thing. Take your dad out and talk with him. Find out how he actually feels. Does he feel trapped and harassed? Is he miserable and afraid? Because he might not feel the way you do about his situation. And if that's the case you'll have to bow out.

Meanwhile, in Heaven, we have:

Two saints who needed protection: St. Dymphna, whose father came after her because she looked just like her dead mother. When Dymphna ran away, he hunted her down and killed her. 

St. Barbara, also had a father who killed her. He had locked her in a tower to preserve her chastity. The tower had two windows and Barbara had a third window installed to remind herself of the Holy Trinity. Her father was convinced she had it put in so the boys could visit. After he killed her, lightening struck him dead. Because of the tower, she is the patron saint of sailors at sea, and because of the lightening, she is the patron saint against lightening and the patron saint of those people who do those elaborate fireworks displays on the Fourth of July and every day at Disneyland.

The patron saint for bad marriages: St. Rita.  Rita prayed for her husband, but he was a bad egg and was bumped off by the mafia.

St. Monica's husband was no picnic either, but she prayed him and her sin loving son, St. Augustine, into Heaven.

There is some serious speculation that St. Louis IX of France was happy to stay away on Crusades so as not to be home with his wife.

If the situation is dire and threatening, you could all take Mrs. Dad aside and tell her, "We're watching you."

And so is Heaven.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

SAINT Valentine's Day

An old friend of mine pointed out that back in the day, in Catholic school, if you said, "Happy Valentine's Day", the nuns would say, "Happy SAINT Valentine's Day".

Actually what he said was, "the old crones would say 'Happy SAINT Valentine's Day'". But I knew to whom he was referring.

I understand, more or less, how St. Valentine, whoever he was or which ever one he was, became the patron saint for lovers (and epilepsy, by the way).  One St. Valentine wrote love letters for someone, one married people in secret who were not allowed to be married by the state. Christians, namely, were not allowed to marry.

And while all of that is lovely, it has rather turned into a day that makes a lot of people sad, or disappointed, while a lot of other people are wallowing in their true love and chocolate.

We complain all the time about the "War on Christmas" (which starts, if WalMart and Target are any indication, the day after Halloween).  All we really mean by that is that Christmas has become too secular, that the birth of Jesus seems to be in the background, somewhere behind the inflatable Santa and the new flat screen TV.
Yoohooo! St. Valentine? You in there?

But the same thing has happened to poor St. Valentine. He is lost under the pile of revealing lingerie, 4 foot teddy bears, boxes of chocolate, roses and massage gift certificates. No matter which St. Valentine we pick, we are actually looking at a man who helped people in need, bringing food and comfort to those in prison, for example.

I think we should take back St. Valentine's day, stop eating cake (it IS Lent, after all), and find something worthwhile to do in the name of love.  A random act of kindness, a donation to a charity, a helping hand, a voice of comfort. No one will be disappointed.

Happy Saint Valentine's Day. From this old crone.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What the Pope Gave Up for Lent

Normally, as soon as I get a moment on Mondays, I write a post. But today is certainly not normal. Our Holy Father has resigned. It is only the second time in the 2013 year history of the Church that this has happened. 

 We've been in shock all day. Usually if anything is going on with the Pope we, meaning we, the public, hear something. I was asked dozens of times if/why/when Pope John Paul II might step down in his waning years. And I always answered, "Popes simply do not do that."

Except for Pope Celestine V.

The strangest part for me, personally, is that I just finished this book yesterday. Yesterday! It's a book about Pope Celestine V, the only man to step down from the Papacy!

Yes, I heard on NPR today, some historian talking about the Pope who stepped down to heal the Great Schism in the 15th century. He doesn't count, as I see it. That was when we had two Popes (three at one point). The Papacy had moved from Rome to Avignon, France and stayed put. Some people wanted the papacy back in Rome and so they got their own Pope in Rome.  The fight went on for years and years. St. Catherine of Siena wrote reams to both Popes, begging them to resolve the issue, for one of them to step down. Finally, in exasperation, someone said, "Okay, neither of you are Pope...we'll have this other fella as the Pope." No one budged and there were three Popes because the third fellow wouldn't step down either. So that's what this man on NPR was talking about. It's really not the same thing.

As this.  And Celestine V.

Peter Morrone, who became Celestine V had been a very charismatic and deeply holy monk who founded monasteries and oratorios and the Celestine order of monks and had many, many followers because he walked the walk.  He wore no shoes and a ragged robe. He lived in a cave by himself,up in the mountains. St. John the Baptist was his hero.

Back then there were only about 12 Cardinals around to elect a Pope.  They'd all go off to some really nice place and take their sweet time because the food and wine was terrific. That's why they finally got locked in a room that they couldn't leave until they elected someone, called a papal conclave.  

This time they dithered for two years,  and still couldn't come up with a good candidate.  How in the world did they come up with the idea of a man who lived far away in a cave? Peter Morrone had written them a letter about their foot dragging and said that their behavior would incur the wrath of God. It caused one of the Cardinals to exclaim that Peter was the best choice.

Then they all traveled over to the cave on the mountain where Peter lived. He refused the robes and the crown and the Vatican. He had his coronation procession on a donkey and lived in a castle of Charles II.  He was Pope for five months. During the five months he became more and more reclusive, eventually building a cell for himself in the basement where he signed anything anyone put in front of him. 

But ironically, two of his papal decrees are still with us. One is that the Pope will be elected by locking the cardinals in a room until they elect somebody. The other, that a Pope should be allowed to abdicate.

And here we are. Celestine explained his resignation citing  the desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquility of his former life.  

We pray for Pope Benedict XVI.  Pope Celestine V was chased down by his predecessor and locked in a dungeon where he died. He was canonized in 1313.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Little Big Books of Lent

I must say that the comments and ideas about a new group of Holy Helpers has just been excellent! Keep them coming! Maybe we can have a list by the time Lent starts.

Speaking of which, in an effort to finally be ahead of the curve, I want to give everyone a heads up that Ash Wednesday is next Wednesday. The countdown to Lent begins. Good bye, Ordinary Time.

You don't have to "give up something for Lent".  But you have to give up something for Lent.

You don't have to pick one thing to give up. You can give up things left and right. Take the more difficult path, put in the extra effort--find things that make you uncomfortable. Visiting the sick and infirm and your eyes are watering because the place smells so.....unpleasant? Stay longer. That sort of thing.

So we've gone the extra mile and compiled some of our favorite Lenten advice and admonishments (because what good is a nun if she doesn't scold you a little?) and we have a new set of booklets! We usually sell the booklets separately or as a set, but these four are only sold as a set, as information in one refers to comments in another.

There is advice about what to give up, what not to give up, why we give things up, why we have Mc
Donald's fish sandwiches and what goes on during Holy Week.

We started with LENT, which explains the reason for the season and a guide on giving things up. Then we compiled REVERSE LENT, which explains what not to give up, sort of. It also includes the story of St. Jonas Hubahem, who wins the prize when it comes to suffering. We gathered up the questions we had about all of this for THERE IS NO CASUAL JESUS and finally we walk you through what goes on during HOLY WEEK.

We do it all ourselves, the editting and layout, the printing and collating. We even have a special stapler! It's very long to reach across the page and staple the pages together in the middle without making a wrinkled mess.

Nuns do not like wrinkles, except on faces. And those weird dogs.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Fourteen Holy Helpers

Sister Mary Martha, I am not a Catholic but am an avid follower of your blog-- your common sense, excellent reasoning, humor, compassion-- OK, I'll save the rest 'til they ask me to give your eulogy-- but anyway, I am so often uplifted and thought-provoked by what you say. At any rate: what's up with holy helpers? As in: who are they, why, etc? I know that there's always The Google, but your explanations are most often concise and informative, not to mention (as far as I know) accurate.

Aren't you nice? Thank you for all the lovely compliments!
This is an excellent place to start a list for our times! What are the Fourteen Holy Helpers? I wish I could tag the picture above like they do on Facebook.

I hope I can also iron out the reason the Fourteen Holy Helpers were locked in the cloak room along with terms like "cloak room".

The Holy Helpers were a list of saints that were invoked together starting in the 14th century in Germany.  The list of saints were asked for their collective intercession because of the Black Plague. Here is the list:

St. Agatha.......headaches
St. Barbara......against sudden death
St. Blaise.........against throat problems and for the protection of domestic animals
St. Catherine of Alexandria........against sudden death
St. Christopher....against the Black Plague and for safe travel
St. Cyriacus.........against temptation on the deathbed
St. Denis..............against headache (that's him holding his own head in the picture above)
St. Erasmus..........against intestinal maladies
St. George.............protection of domestic animals
St. Giles.................against the Plague and for a good confession, cripples, beggars and blacksmiths
St. Margaret of Antioch.....safe childbirth
St. Pantaleon........against cancer and TB and for doctors
St. Vitus...............against epilepsy and for the protection of domestic animals

That would be a mouthful, so everyone just prayed to the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The devotion spread like the plague.

Wait..I meant..it spread the way the plague did.    No...I mean, because the plague was spreading the devotion spread.


They had their own feast day on August 8th. At one point the devotion had become so popular that a plenary indulgence was attached. That is no longer the case. And the feast day is no more, as well.

Now we zoom from the 14th century to the 20th century, where we find that quite a few of these saints are not what they were cracked up to be. Meaning that we really don't know as much about them as we thought. St. Christopher is a great example. The Fourteen Holy Helpers are disbanded. They still each have their own individual feast days, although some of them didn't even have that for a while. St. Catherine of Alexandria lost her feast day for a while there, but now it's back. Good luck finding a St. Catherine of Alexandria medal, though. It annoys me. She appeared to St. Joan of Arc, for Heaven's sake!

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. I might add that all those saints for the protection of domestic animals were on there because animals also got the Black Plague.

So in order to come up with a new list of saints, we'll first have to come up with a list of modern problems for which we need Heavenly prayers.

Two spring to mind for me: our violent world and cancer. What do you think?

Monday, February 04, 2013

Holy Helpers

We have had some wonderful saintly help from our readers for the lovelorn. It's been several years since we took up a collection of saint poems for various problems, from St. Boniface and St. Frances Cabrini (for parking spots and car trouble) to St. Anthony, who can find anything (husbands included).

I had forgotten about St. Anne!  
"St. Anne, St. Anne, send me a man."

Poor St. Anne. Little effort was made formulating this saint poem. It seems her patronage of the unmarried might hinge only on the fact that her name rhymes with "man".  The same reason St. Boniface is the patron saint of the parking place. We could just as easily turn to St. Dorothy for the same purpose. "St. Dot, St. Dot, help me find a parking spot." 

 I digress.

St. Anne is indeed a patron saint for finding a husband. And equestrians. I can't think why on either front. Granted, St. Anne was married.  So? A lot of saints were married. Happily married. We could make the case that she would have been the very earliest married saint. 

But horses? I'm sure St. Ann did not have a horse. St. Anne having a horse would be like Jesus having a car. The most Jesus ever had was a borrowed donkey for a few minutes. Perhaps it is because some medieval knights rode under her banner. They each had a horse, I'll bet.

I also neglected to mention the age old invocation of St. Catherine of Alexandria. 

"A husband, St. Catherine;
A handsome one, St. Catherine;
A rich one, St. Catherine;
A nice one, St. Catherine; 
And soon, St. Catherine!"

Here, no one even bothered to find a rhyme scheme.  We can only hope that by "rich" the author meant the other ways one can be rich in life: rich in friends, in spirit, in hope, in happiness.  Because praying for Mr. Moneybags is not something Jesus would like you to do.  WWJNLYTD.

This is another poser to me, like St. Agnes, because St. Catherine had not one thing to do with marriage. She was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers before they were relegated to the list of has been saints. I think that may be how she got grabbed for the Christian Mingles.  Don't worry that St. Catherine is gone from the saint roster! It's just that there was WAY too much legend going on with the Holy Helpers and so the Church decided to not encourage more confusion. 

I think we should have some holy helpers! Let's make a new list! 

We know St. Joseph and St. Anthony are shoe ins.  I don't think we need fourteen. Twelve, I think, like apostles.  Leave your suggestions in the comments section!