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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Under the Mistletoe with You!

Oh Whew! Here we are! Merry Christmas (season) and a Joyous New Year! Before we know it the Wise (if you insist) Men will arrive and you can finally take the tree down. Then you can clean up errant pine needles until Easter.

And after that you can clean up stray Easter grass until Christmas.

I've missed you!

Our lives have been in upheaval since the passing of Sister Mary Fiacre. We weren't sure we would continue living here and we struggled to find our way. I'm sure many of you have had the experience of having all your time and energy taken up by one thing and when that thing is gone it can really take some time to fill the void.

Now our void is filled and here we are! Did we ever discuss how nuns really don't have convents so much any more. Sometimes when nuns are ancient it can be a challenge to find a suitable place to care for them in their dotage.

Or dottering, as the case may be. We are experts at dottering! Dotter away!

So after much consternation  we have welcomed Sister Mary Denise.  I can't help but think of St. Denis, who, legend has it, was beheaded in an unpleasant part of town. Not happy with this turn of event, the saint picked up his head and strolled to a better part of town where he expired.

I think Sister Mary Denise has done just that, but has not yet expired. Certainly, her head may as well be in her lap for all the good it does her. I'm fairly certain St. Denis is her patron saint.We love having her!

We knew Sister Mary Fiacre as a person, before she slowly lost marble after marble. So we knew what amused her and what foods she liked.  Now we find ourselves in the guessing game a new mother must find herself in with a fussy infant who has no language with which to communicate simple thoughts, such as, "Never feed me peas again as long as I live!"

Soup has been a winner, if not messy.

Also, Sister Mary Fiacre loved having certain sports on TV. Basketball and hockey and sometimes tennis. Not baseball. Not football with it's constant stops and starts. Sister Mary Denise seems to respond to music, which means we can also turn on the radio.

Day and night.  A new meaning to "Rock Around the Clock".

And although she is not coherent, she does talk to us and so we have been able to piece some events in her life together. For example, she must have broken her ankle, because she asks almost everyone she meets if they have broken their ankle and no matter what their answer responds with, "Well, I have."

And she sings.

She is not a singer.

So here we are! I'll try to answer lingering questions and visit with you more often.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

St. Winifred's Well, well, well....

I would have thought that, with Sister Mary Fiacre gone to where the woodbine twineth (as my mother used to say...she has some good ones), that I would have more time on my hands. But nature abhors a vacuum (as someone said, whoever that was) and the opposite has proved to be the case. I'm sure this poor woman went to Wales and back already, however, in the interest of the next person who confuses tourist stops with pilgrimages, I'm going ahead with the answer:

Sister, can you do something on pilgrimage? I'm going to Wales in a month and I'm not sure if I'm going on a pilgrimage or not. I'm planning on visiting as many ancient Christian sites as I can, from the days of the first Christians in Britain. One place I particularly want to go to is St. Winifred's well, because of all the Winifreds in my family. I'm planning on approaching it by foot on a day hike that includes some other historic holy sites. On the one hand, I truly believe a place can accrue holiness because of the faith of some many believers over so many years, including pre-Christian believers at some of these sites, and I want to connect with that on this trip. On the other, I'm not looking for a miracle and I'm not hoping to be healed by the waters or anything, and in fact I kind of have a feeling St. Winifred herself might be one of those saints the church has some doubts about these days, her story is so out apocryphal and out there (Her uncle reattaches her head after it's been cut off and she comes back to life? Come now!) so I think I can be pardoned for being a little skeptical about her herself. So am I going on a pilgrimage or am I just a tourist? Especially since I'm sure there was an aspect of tourism to the pilgrimages the folks did in the Middle Ages, as well. 

Technically, you're just a tourist. That doesn't mean that you can't salvage a little pilgrimage action out of the deal.

Really, a pilgrimage is the WHOLE TRIP. A plan to visit a place that is brimming with holiness. It doesn't have to involve miracles or healings or leaving your crutches in a pile by the shrine. But the pilgrimage begins when you step out of your house.

Plus, there is no removing a modern pilgrimage from its historical origins. The idea that a person would want to visit a holy place to venerate the person, act (like say, martyrdom) or phenomenon that took place there, is pure human nature. It is an instinctive notion of the human heart.  And who made that nature, that heart? God did. So it follows that God would use that notion to aid in His grace and blessings. With me so far?

The Church then begins to assign pilgrimages as punishment, as penance. Back then, you didn't just go on Orbitz and book a flight and a room or sign up for the parish bus trip tour of incorrupt saints. No. You laid down your weapons, took off your shoes, walked from wherever you lived to wherever you had to go, BAREFOOT, with no money. The danger, the humility in your shoeless penitential garb, that is some punishment.

So if you follow what it might be like to pull that off, you have to understand that every barefoot step of the journey connects you to the goal.

And that's what you're missing by thinking of this tourist hike as a pilgrimage. It's not a part of a trip. It IS the trip, even though nowadays we keep our shoes on and fly and sing Kumbyah on the bus. (And have a bottle of wine in the hotel room with the other ladies on the trip, I am told.) There is a blessing of the staff to set you on your way. It's a whole big thing.

I think you can salvage some aspect of "pilgrimage" out of that hike, if you keep your mind on the journey.

I'm not sure why you'd really want to have a pilgrimage to St. Winifred's well, since you seem to not really .... care so much...for her story. I can't say I blame you. The poor thing has one of those "okay, nevermind" kind of saint stories that leaves us scratching our heads. The first part of her story is typical of the virgin martyr. When she spurns the man courting her, he becomes enraged and lops off her head. In one version of the story, her head rolls down the hill and a spring springs up (ala St. Bernadette). In another version, once her head is off, her uncle puts it back on. The perpetrator is standing around looking smug and Winifred's uncle curses him. The perpetrator drops dead on the spot and, as if that isn't punishment enough, the ground opens up and swallows him. But there is much more to her story than that.

I'm pretty sure that Winifred never lost her head, and it therefore never rolled down any hill, because we next find Winifred as a nun and the abbess at Gwyetherin in  Denbighshire.

St. Winifred was a real person. Historical records show that she was the abbess for 8 years, that she had a scar on her neck and that her uncle did kill Cadaroc (the perpetrator) for some reason. I think we can surmise that something unpleasant happened between them, but that Winifred walked away with her head on her shoulders.

Perhaps the legend sprang up because no one could believe she survived the attack. Or perhaps it just grew from people playing "telephone" and getting the details wrong. Whatever happened, Winifred was revered from the moment of her death.

This is very important. It means that pretty much everyone who knew her thought extremely highly of her, that she was worthy of veneration and that grace could flow through someone like her.

And that's what a pilgrimage is all about. Her shrine, St. Winifred's Well, is the only continuous shrine in Britain, where pilgrims have been coming for thirteen centuries. I think God would have but a KI-bosh on that a long time ago if he wanted our intrinsic nature to be focused elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Not Sorrowful Mystery

What's "Joyful" about the Presentation in the Temple in the Holy Rosary. To me, hearing the news about the baby and hearing that a sword will pierce her own heart would be devastating to our Mother Mary. Do you know how it ended up being a Joyful mystery instead of a Sorrowful mystery?

Because it was a happy occasion in the first place. And there is only the one bummer piece of prophesy, and even that one follows from the joy of what Christ brings to the world. All of which is covered by Simeon, who is thrilled, by the way, to get to hold the child in the first place.

At this point, there is no such thing as Baptism. This particular ritual, offering the baby to the service of God in the Temple, is the Jewish version of this happy day. Imagine, then, you take your baby to the Baptism and some old man jumps out of nowhere to wax on about what a very important baby this is. The Savior of the World, this one, and the old man is oh so happy to be able to witness this person's presence in the the world. The old man prattles on about the immeasurable change this will create. And then he mentions that this will be particularly hard on you, Mom. But your hardships will also help humanity for the rest of time.

Is that so bad? It's not a Sorrowful Mystery because it's not a sorrowful occasion. The Jewish ritual of presenting a child to the temple of was an act of obedience and gratitude. It was a way to thank God for the child. If you were doing it today, you might hit the IHOP on the way home to celebrate.

And we're happy that Mary and Joseph led by example in following the rules. They didn't have to do that. Jesus is the New Testament with God, after all. They present Jesus, the Lord, to the Lord. We're happy about that. It shows us that they followed God's laws. They could have sat home, thinking, "This IS the Lord. He'll have His own book soon enough." 

Here is a lovely article about how nice it all really is.  That should help.

And note that there are a bizzlion depictions of this event in art. And everyone always looks happy.

You can be happy, too.

Monday, July 14, 2014

St. Teresa of ADHD

I was wondering if there is one for females who have ADHD?

I go out on a limb here and offer up St. Teresa of Avila. She is well known to be such a marvelous thinker, a person whose works have everything to do with her ability to concentrate, to lead a life of contemplative prayer so deep as to cause spiritual ecstasies and whose body of writings and work is do deep that she has been declared a Doctor of the Church.

ADHD? Where does that come in?

If you just do a quick internet googly search of St. Teresa, you'll see nothing but beautiful, coherent writings. For example (my personal favorite):

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

 That's because all you'll come up with is her greatest hits, so to speak. The Best of St. Teresa of Avila.

But if you actually try to slog through her actual writing...well, you'll feel like you have ADHD.  They are often rather meandering, taking side trips. She digresses. A lot. You'll need a nap.

And one of her frequent topics, unfortunately not found on her greatest hits album was her long road to be able to concentrate.  She really had a problem with that. She was a flibberty gibbet. She talks about that a lot. A lot.

But she very much overcame that.  Which is why I offer her as your girl patron saint for ADHD. As I understand it, the main treatment for ADHD is to learn coping strategies. Honestly, that was St. Teresa's whole life. One long coping strategy, which led her to the astonishing life she led. She didn't start out trying to be a mystic saint or a Doctor of the Church. She was just trying to concentrate.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

St. Joseph on the Job

I appreciate that people are still finding us and combing through the hours of blogging to find answers and have a laugh at our expense. I know this is happening because we get follow up questions from age old posts.

My question is, do I remove my St Joseph statue if I'm renting my house to a couple that wants to buy my house? They are waiting for her dad to sell some land so then he can give her the money to pay cash for my house. Thanks

You're welcome. Oh, wait, that was a thanks for the answer. Which I haven't given yet.

I'd say no. Leave him there. Anything could happen. Dad could spontaneously combust or wake up from a coma and not remember he promised to sell some land to buy a house for some people who claim to be his children, although he has no memory of them. Dad could suddenly look around and think, "The better part of my life is over, what do I really want to do?" and sell his land and take a world cruise. He could join the circus.


there is no Dad and they are enjoying renting your house.

As I said, anything could happen.

I wouldn't move St. Joseph until you hand over the deed to the house and skate away, St. Joseph in hand.
The good news is, he's working on it. He's on the job.

Perhaps someone needs to tiptoe over to Dad's land with a second St. Joseph statue. That way, you'll also know if there is a Dad with land.

Is the land nearby?  If it's far away, this is not an option, unless you have far flung (and stealthy) friends.

Or, you could mention to the couple to tell Dad to buy a St. Joseph real estate kit.

I'm sure, that since St. Joseph is already on the job, that everything will turn out peachy keen. Good on you for collecting rent on your home for sale, rather than have it sit there while you fry butter and cinnamon on the stove to make it smell homey as you hold open house after open house. You can thank St. Joseph for that, as well. 

Now. You're welcome.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tony Tony Two

Today is the feast day of St. Anthony! He is one of our very favorite saints, and when I say "our", I mean "OUR".  Catholics, Protestants, Jews, agnostics and probably some Hindus and Buddhists routinely turn to St. Anthony when something goes missing.

Or some one.  Or cats....
I lost my cat once. I looked all over for him for hours in the middle of the night. I finally started to pray to St. Anthony (St. Anthony, St. Anthony, Please come around, for Bon-bon is lost and cannot be found). After deciding to check the neighborhood for the inth time at 3am, a woman who was talking to someone in a car in the middle of the street stopped her conversation, looked at me, and asked if I was looking for a white cat. When I told her that I was, she told me she just saw one run across the street to the train station. I ran over to the station, called his name, and there was Bon-bon crying for me. St. Anthony, through God's Grace, has never failed me!

Bon-bon thanks you, St. Anthony.

Eyeglasses, keys, documents, cell phones.

And why is that, do you suppose? Because St. Anthony never fails to come through.

"Holy Tony, come around, something's lost and can't be found."

St. Anthony is, therefore, one of the greatest examples of cognitive dissonance, religion edition, we can find.

Here we have people who don't believe in saints, or don't believe we should pray for the intercession of saints, doing exactly that--because it works--and then going right back to not believing in saints and not praying for their intercession.

Just for the record, so you don't have to go look it up, St. Anthony's penchant for finding your other shoe stems from the story that a novice made off with Anthony's beloved Book of Psalms. Anthony prayed very hard for the book to be found. The novice had a terrible nightmare about the book and returned it.

I just...whatever. I think there is a much better case to be made for Anthony's forte. Involving his actual forte. He was one of those people who remembered every word he ever read about everything. And so once, when a speaker failed to show up, St. Anthony was pressed to say a few words and wowed everyone with his knowledge and eloquence. Because he remembered every word he ever read. Which is why he can remember what happened to your shoe.

And if he can find your shoe and your dog, imagine how great your life could be if you turned to other saints for all kinds of other problems and fears and phobias! If you're already calling on St. Anthony, it's pretty illogical not to wade on in.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Active Choice

How do you "honor" the Face of Jesus or the painful wound on His shoulder. There are prayers but that can't be all there is to it. To honor His name, I say "May your Holy name always be praised and adored" whenever I hear the Lord's name in vain. So, I guess that's an active way of honoring His name. And my kids are forbidden from every using the Lord's name in vain. I told them I would prefer them to say every horrific word including the F-bomb rather than use God's name in vain. And it's one of the few rules that I NEVER allowed to be broken. But what can I do to honor His face and the wound of His shoulder? Just saying a prayer just doesn't seem like enough. I want an active way to show I care.

First, let me just say that not all prayers and thoughts to contemplate have to be thought about or prayed by everyone. That's why we have so many orders of nuns. We end up with the Blessed Sacrament nuns, the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, The Sisters of Jesus Crucified and the Sorrowful Mother (that's one order with a long name), Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady of the Sacred Wounds, Adorers of the Sacred Blood,  the Congregations of the Sacred Stigmata, and a whole slew of various orders that end with "The Sacred Heart". To name a few.

Many of the prayers we say involve contemplation. Contemplation on a single focus is sufficient. We don't also have to try to paint the face of Jesus (that sometimes doesn't turn out so well) or carry a cross to see how that actually feels (although there have been plenty of people who have tried that).

But if you insist. How to honor the face of Jesus. Let me count the ways.

How do honor the face of your mother? You carry her picture in your wallet. You have her on the mantle. You remember her face with fondness. You don't make fun of her nose. You see her face in the face of your children.

An active choice about the wound on Jesus' shoulder? That wound is from carrying the cross.  The cross symbolizes our sins. Jesus has taken on our burden. I suggest that if you want an active way to honor the wound on Jesus' shoulder, you take up the burden of someone else.

For example, once in a while, for reasons unbeknownst to me (but probably because we haven't gotten around to it), our neighbor sweeps our driveway. I love that. Wouldn't you? Who wouldn't?

I do think you should re-think the idea that other horrible things people can say are preferable to taking the Lord's name in vain. We don't have to create an hierarchy of what's worse to say. Don't say that stuff. Maybe you were just trying to get your point across.

We used to do that with soap. But those days are gone.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

If At First You Don't Succeed

But this raises a related question for me. I have been trying to be faithful to at least morning and evening prayer. You say "You only do it wrong when it becomes rote or thoughtless." And I wonder, what is the difference between reading the Office and praying it? I asked Father after Mass once and he sort of mumbled something about intent and said I should be able to tell the difference. But I can't tell! If I'm reading the words with the intent to pray, but I don't 'feel' anything while I'm reading them, is that still prayer? And sometimes, I notice that I've gotten distracted, and I go back to the point I last remember being attentive... I've been operating on the assumption that I should continue regardless of the way I feel, because otherwise it makes the prayer more about me than about God, you know? But Father's comment that "I should be able to tell" disturbed me. Maybe I really *am* off track.

I should add that I chat with God inside my head throughout my day. I think that's prayer, too, so hopefully my attempts at the Divine Office aren't my only prayer.

Anyway, anything you could say to shed some light on this would be appreciated. I'm a convert and I often feel clueless, but I want to pray well to express to God the indescribable gratitude I feel every day.

It's not rocket science. And it's not about feelings. It can be. But praying isn't about evoking emotions.  Spiritual ecstasies aside, prayer is a conversation with God, a connection with God, so that you can receive His grace.

So if you and I were having a conversation and you somehow managed to keep talking while you were distracted with something else, it's not much of a conversation. What if I just suddenly blabbed out one of my distracted thought while I was talking with you?

"It has come to light from recently published documents that the CIA actually promoted artists like Jackson Pollock during the Cold War to show the world, but particularly Russia, that the United States of America was on the cutting edge of everything, including art."

While this is a true statement, it has nothing to do with you and me and our conversation. It's fascinating, though, isn't it?  I've been thinking a lot about it lately.

I understand that the mind wanders.  I'd like to say "don't beat yourself up about it."  So I'll go ahead and say that.

Don't beat yourself up about it. Not because it doesn't matter or because it's normal or expected. Don't beat yourself up because doing that is a waste of time. Beating yourself up serves no purpose whatsoever in this matter. (In other ares of life, it might be a good idea to give yourself a talking to, a finger wag, or a boot to the head. But not about this.)

Move forward. Do better. Don't dwell on your past failure. Concentrate on redoubling your efforts.

Imagine you were reading me a passage from a book you enjoyed. You would be engaged in the words you were saying.  What makes saying these prayers any different from that? Perhaps you simply need to say your prayers out loud.

It takes some discipline to pull your mind back if and when it wanders. I frankly find these questions about prayer to be rather like questions about dieting. We'd all love to find some magical diet or pill that allows us to eat as much of anything that we want and do little or no exercise. But that is never going to happen. If we want to maintain a healthy weight we're going to have to have a little discipline.

If you think of your prayers as a conversation with God, you actually should be able to tell whether or not you are having one, don't you think? You can tell when you're having a conversation with someone, right?

Good old Maya Angelou went home to God yesterday. (I'm not wandering off, I'm about to make a point.) She said once that when she went to write (she kept a hotel room in any town in which she lived and would go there every day at 6am), she began by clearing her mind of everything: what happened yesterday, whatever was on her mind, what happened on the drive over. She brought herself to the present. She mentioned that she didn't really know how she did this.

I'm suggesting that you do this somehow. Take a few deep breaths. Bring yourself into the present moment. You are connected with God. You are a part of Him. You don't have to feel anything. It's already there and happening. Read the prayer to Him.

If you can't maintain any concentration, stop. Try again later. Try again tomorrow.  The ability to focus and concentrate is a muscle. I'm sure you use it in other areas of your life. You  just have to train it to this use. Beating yourself up about it is a waste of energy. Do better. If you don't do better, try again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Divine New Math and the Litgury of the Kitchen Table

 Sister, I have a question for you. I am looking to deepen my commitment to the faith by reciting the Divine Office. But I don't know where to begin—literally. Or for that matter, how to get
through the middle and make it to the end, I have seen the four-book set for the Liturgy of the Hours, but having tried to get through it once, I became thoroughly lost. Do you know of any website or other resource that can explain how to do it? Also, can you explain a little about the Little Office of the Virgin Mary. It seems much less confusing. Is that an acceptable substitute for a lay person, or is it meant as a supplement to be said in addition to, rather than instead of, the regular Liturgy of the Hours? Any help you can give is appreciated. —A faithful reader.

Oh, I feel your pain. Explaining the Divine Office and the Liturgy of the Hours reminds me of when I was a little girl and my mother would help me with my math. I couldn't understand any of it and it just sounded like....she may as well have been speaking Greek or Lithuanian or some sort of gibberish made by mixing them together. Eventually, I would cry. I couldn't help myself. It was all so hopeless.

I don't mean to imply that the Divine Office is gibberish. But I agree that explanations I have read are nearly indecipherable. I tell you this to assure you that you are not alone in feeling lost and overwhelmed.

So, I did a little research for you, figuring the internet tubes are the best way to find a simple explanation, or a set of guidelines that anyone could understand. And here's what you're up against:
What is the Divine Office?

It starts out pleasantly enough, but ultimately makes me want to cry. There was a point where my eyes glazed over, kept working, but shut off any information from traveling from my eyeballs to my brain.

So I tried that vast store of information for the informationally challenged, Wikipedia.  And lo and behold! It actually has a fairly succinct and understandable explanation. Because even though I actually pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I could never have laid it all out and explained it like that without reducing you to a crying little girl at the kitchen table trying to comb through long division while hobbled with the new method of teaching math known as "new math".

But it does bog down a bit when it starts to explain what to do. I got worried that if you have four books of what to do and can't figure that out, Wikipedia isn't going to iron that out for you.

Let's stop for one moment and say, please don't become obsessed with doing it "right". Of course, it would be lovely for you to pray the way you're "supposed to", because the Church has gone through great pains over centuries to formulate the Liturgy of the Hours and the prayers and when you say them and what you read and sing and therefore think about.

But in the end you're praying. Period. It's very difficult to do that wrong. You'd have to really work at that. Praying is talking to God. You only do it wrong when it becomes rote and/or thoughtless. And to that end, you might do just as well to just pray during the appointed hours, rather than to mumble out a bunch of stuff you don't understand while you quietly worry about that new weird sound your car is making.

The real thrust of the Liturgy of the Hours, is that the whole Church (or as much of it as we can muster) is praying together around the clock and the power and grace that may produce for the world.

But I persevered. The internet, with all its problems, misinformation and sinful imagery, is also a wonderful place full of useful information, explanations, understandable charts and the like.


That should help you. You won't have to juggle four books and you clearly know how to use the internet. Voila (as the French say).

Let us know if this works for you!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bright Yellow

Welcome back everyone who gave up the internet for Lent! I imagine everyone is having a swell time doing whatever they didn't do, eating whatever they didn't eat.

I heard from a number of people who do what I call "Reverse Lent", where they strive to do something that is difficult for them, rather than giving something up. As my long time readers will attest, I do not ascribe to this philosophy since it does not align us in any particular way with the suffering of Jesus. Lent is like one long "Sorrowful Mysteries" of the Rosary, where we dwell on one aspect of the life of Christ. Let's not make them into the "Luminous Mysteries" or the "Glorious Mysteries".

Okay. I'll leave it alone.

But then, when Lent is over...do you stop doing the thing your were striving to do? What if you didn't achieve it?  What if you haven't assimilated the new behavior?  Lent is over, you're done. You don't have to keep trying if it's difficult (and it at least should have been difficult!). You should be celebrating! You see my problem with this.

We're having some leftover ham. Ham was a favorite of Sister Mary Fiacre, so we're enjoying it for her. We rarely have ham. I'm not supposed to have so much salt. But one of the ladies of the Catholic Charities brought a little of that Honey Baked Ham over and that is such a treat. Perhaps my feet will become enormous. It's only for a day or two.

And someone made the most wonderful baked beans! I'm not a baked bean lover. I can take them or leave them. They always look so good and then they turn out to be ...beans. Dry on the inside, not that great on the outside.  But if I had to live the rest of my life eating nothing but these baked beans...well, I'd definitely have to give them up for Lent.

The secret ingredient, I was told, was a squirt of mustard. I find this difficult to believe. Not because of the mustard. I am a huge mustard fan. There is no such thing as too much mustard where I'm concerned. You can tell when I've had a sandwich because my fingers are yellow. A sandwich should squirt mustard when you bite it. No, I find it hard to believe because my mother always used mustard in her baked beans, too, but they didn't rise to the level of these baked beans. And my mother is a wonderful, wonderful cook.  I think the secret must be in what brand these beans were to begin with. Because we always doctor the baked beans, no matter what that dog and his owner have done with them when the beans went in the can.

And deviled eggs! It's the mustard that makes them delicious. But the woman that made them added some sort of red seasoning to the tops that was scrumptious. Not paprika. This was some brand name "salad seasoning". I believe that is what it was called. She didn't add it herself but set the little shaker out so people could add it if they liked. So I looked it over but good.  For you! Because we can't afford those little luxuries. Those things are stupidly expensive. I'm always disgruntled when we run out of any kind of basic spice because it it such a hole in our little budget.

We've also had two desserts. Wonderful bread pudding with rum sauce and terrific strawberry rhubarb pie. So my feet, after they blow up from the ham, will actually be proportionate with the rest of me.

We'll be walking to the store this week. And everywhere else.

The weather is beautiful! But then, the weather is always beautiful here. Happy Easter! It's a joyous time!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Saturday

Now I know why I never really tackled Holy Saturday.  For one thing, the faithful tend to just kind of ignore it. Everyone is cleaning the house for Easter, buying a ham and preparing casseroles and Easter baskets, and looking forward to doing whatever is was they gave up doing for Lent.  I realize that many people do observe this holy day (it IS called HOLY Saturday), but really, I think there is some confusion about how we're supposed to feel.  And therefore some ambivalence.

Are we supposed to be sad? Or sad with joyful anticipation because we know how this story ends? Do we align ourselves with how the Apostles must have felt on this day, the confusion and grief they must have been experiencing? Or, since we know we've now been redeemed, are we joyfully picking an Easter hat? Yesterday I mentioned that many things have evolved, changed and been revisited by the Church. Holy Saturday traditions have changed over and over again.

In the early Church, the whole day was a sad vigil for the joy to come. It was the only Saturday where the faithful could (and did) fast all day. The service began in the evening and went on all night. The catechumens were baptized.  The "Alleluia" which has not been sung all during Lent, was timed to be be sung as Easter dawned. Every one broke their day long fast with Holy Communion, including the new folks who were receiving it for the first time.  That's quite a big deal of a day and night.

But then the vigil was moved back to the afternoon and finally it was moved to the morning. The fasting stopped. The tone of the vigil itself changed from sadness with joyful anticipation to just joyful anticipation (and they weren't even headed over to pick up a Honey Baked Ham back then).

Speaking of food and fasting (and Honey Baked Ham), during the middle ages meat, milk and eggs were forbidden throughout Lent. So on Holy Saturday, these foods were about to be back on the table (perhaps the true origin of the splendid Easter egg). They were being prepared for the Easter feast but they were brought to be blessed by the priest first. This tradition still goes on in some places around the globe.

That was then. So now?

Holy Saturday is the final day of Lent.  There is no Mass offered. There is a Mass in the evening, so don't be confused. The on the liturgical clock the new day begins at sundown on the previous day. So while you may believe you're going to Mass on Holy Saturday, you're actually attending the Easter Vigil Mass. Just to confuse you more...it's not Easter until dawn, so there is no Communion at the Easter Vigil Mass (except for those in danger of death).

And the tone? Well, remember the day long fast of the first 7 centuries? That got moved back along with the Mass. Then the Mass went away. But for a very long time, the fast stayed. It also got moved to the morning and stayed that way until 1956.  It is no longer required, but many people still fast all morning on Holy Saturday to commemorate and contemplate the sadness of the day, leaving the rest of the day for joyful anticipation of Easter and macaroni and cheese.

And that salad with tiny little marshmallows in it.

Here is what to expect for Holy Saturday. The altar, stripped bare for Good Friday, remains that way as we, the faithful, wait at the door of the tomb, contemplating Christ's suffering and death. It should be the most calm and quiet day of the Church year. Jesus is in His grave and we mourn. During the rest of Lent we align ourselves with the suffering of Jesus. On Holy Saturday, we align ourselves with the suffering of Our Mother Mary.

And while you are melting cheese in a saucepan, we'll be lining up the Easter lilies around the altar for Easter morning. The pews are done. The carpet is vacuumed. Chocolate bunnies are welcome.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On the Home Stretch

It's Holy Week! Thank goodness we've covered everything you need to know in past posts.
Holy Thursday
Good Friday.

Okay, not everything. I haven't had much to say about Holy Saturday. Perhaps we'll cover that tomorrow, at last. Plus, the Catholic Church is 2,014 years old so a lot of things have been added, streamlined, edited, expounded upon, re-visited, re re visited and ritualized. But at least we've provided a tutorial about what goes on and why over the next 4 days.

And by now, whatever you gave up, you've slogged through. I hope it was difficult. It was supposed to be difficult. Not ridiculously difficult, like having a broken leg or shingles or getting hit by a bus. But difficult enough to have had some growth down there in your soul. Like having an annoying old Auntie park herself at your house and hint that you do everything wrong and then tell you how much she loves you. That kind of difficult. Something that bothered you every single day of Lent. Something that you had to think about every single day of Lent.

You're now a better person for it. Congratulations! And you have this opportunity every year! (Or every day, if you're a nun.)

Here's what I gave up for Lent: using two spaces after a period while typing. Using two spaces was beaten into me by Sister Mary Teresa, the high school typing nun. Typing away on ancient typewriters that you had to have the fingers of Thor and the dexterity of a Vegas card dealer  to manipulate. I can still hear the clunk, clunk, clunk of the keys all going down in unison as we all typed and the grind of the carriage.

"What's a carriage?" at least half of you ask.  "What's a typewriter?" your children query.

Of course, that is not what I gave up for Lent. It it, however, an example of the minutia with which we now occupy our minds. This is precisely why we have to challenge ourselves and shake things up.

So I hope you gave up something good. Made it count. Because you were trying to align yourself with the suffering of Jesus and He certainly made it count.

And you still have until Saturday to do it. Hooray for you!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Back from the Dead. Literally.

I can't believe so much time has passed. It's seems like years since I've visited you all. It also seems like yesterday. I'm glad at least you could comb through some of our old posts for Lenten guidance. Heaven knows we've been prolific on the subject through our years here.

It's just the two of us now, Sister St. Aloysuis and I. Sister Mary Fiacre has gone to Jesus.

One never knows how one is going to react to the death of a loved one, a sister, a Sister, a person for whom we cared intimately. She seemed to be our reason for living for such a long time, our schedule was built around her for many years now. What we ate or didn't eat, fashioned to interest her appetite. Whether we were awake or asleep, depended on her. And finally, we slept with one eye open for many weeks.

I had an idea of how I would react. That feeling of emptiness when the person is no longer there to take up every waking thought. The sweet preciousness of caring for someone who needs so much care. At first there was a sense of relief, since we spent so much time on high alert, lest she be in distress. And then that hole that is left in your world.

But I didn't expect this.

I'm jealous.  Jealous!  She's in Heaven! Or at least in Purgatory, where Heaven is guaranteed!

I find myself saying things that jealous people say. "I'm happy for her!" That sort of thing. I'm not lying. I do feel that way. But always with that tinge of jealousy for what she now has and I do not.

Jealousy is, of course, a sin. It doesn't feel sinful. I'd better beware.

There is so much to do after a person goes, that you don't really think about. Forms to fill out, things to mail and places and people to call, arrangements to be made. So that's why we haven't been visiting with you here.

Our little household is up in the air a bit. We're not sure yet whether someone new will join us or we will have to move ourselves, or whether things will just stay the same.

Well...not the same.

And here we are in Holy Week! It will seem so strange to get the church ready without Sister Mary Fiacre standing by...sitting by...in her wheelchair. Packing her snacks. Just the other day we realized when we went to the clinic that we could park far away! We always had to park as close as possible to the doors. No longer.

We're packing up the Murphy's Oil Soap. And just us two.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

What Should You Give Up for Lent Made Easy

So here we are! It's Lent! Get out your hair shirts. Put the Pringles can down. Back away from the TV. Take a break from Facebook. Stop wearing shoes.

There are so many ways you can experience the period of atonement and sacrifice that is Lent. Here at the cyberconvent, we have our hands full so we haven't put much thought to what to give up this year. Thank goodness we stumbled across this.

What Should You Give Up For Lent?

Beware, the language is not completely, well, nice. But we're adults here.  It's not that bad. Just don't use that language yourself. Or, if you're already using that language, give that up for Lent. BOOM! You're welcome.

Now, how telling them that my favorite muppet is that Swedish Chef thing got them to pick giving up coffee for me is beyond my feeble comprehension. But they really nailed it, I have to say. The people around me are thrilled if I don't give up coffee for Lent.  If I did it would be a huge sacrifice FOR THEM, just to tolerate being around me. I have given up putting milk in my coffee, so that I don't actually enjoy it. But give it up?  That's dangerous.

Literally dangerous, to myself and others. I'm blind until I have my coffee. It's one thing to go to Mass and pray before having coffee, blind, it's another to actually work and be available to speak to people and that sort of thing.

But who am I to question BUZZFEED's amazingly accurate Lenten pick? 

A person who is about to unleash their uncaffienated self on the world, that's who.

Keep in mind that once you give up something for Lent, you're not allowed to moan and groan and complain about your deprivation. We are aligning ourselves with the suffering of Christ on the cross and He did not complain about opening the gates of Heaven for you or dying for your sins. You have to pick something that will cause you to suffer on some level and then put your big boy and girl pants on and deal with it.

It will make you a better person, I promise.

And, as always, lose weight and stop smoking on your own time. This is not about your looks or your health. You can't give up candy for Lent and then grin because your jeans fit nicely. And you shouldn't be smoking in the first place. What about "your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit" don't you get? Cut that out. It's not a sin to smoke.  But Jesus wants you to quit.

Let us know if you get an accurate pick.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

You Got Judas!

Oh no, I got Judas Iscariot!! I was wondering if he'd be an option and sure enough he's the one I get. Here's what it says: Black sheep, loner, ne’er-do-well, rebel… You’re the kind of person who’s never really fit in with the crowd and you’re okay with that. You do your own thing and live by your own rules. (Also, people don’t really seem to trust you for some reason. You might want to work on that.) Can I still read your blog or am I banned?

You're not banned. But watch out next time you walk through a field. You might burst.

The responses to yesterday's post were our laugh of the day!  Somebody actually got Judas! Glad I didn't have a mouthful of anything when I read that.

There are only two people in history that I can call to mind that are indisputable pariahs. No children (except perhaps the children of crazy people) are named for them. Their names are synonymous with betrayal, death, evil and mayhem. Hitler is one. Judas is the other.

The Judas kiss.

The comically cheery description of why our poor reader is most like Judas completely ignores centuries of connotations that all point to one thing: that person in the inner circle who is so evil he leads an innocent lamb to slaughter.

For his own gain? We don't know. The way we've always viewed Judas is that he became aggravated that Jesus wasn't overthrowing the Romans and snapped one day when a woman washed Jesus with some expensive perfume. Judas thought the money should go to the poor and Jesus told him to relax, just this once.

Which, by the way, is something we should keep in mind when we overly admonish ourselves for being too little, not doing enough, failing.  Even Jesus gave Himself a break.

But right after that Judas betrayed Jesus for the sum of thirty pieces of silver.

Scholars have gone round and round trying to figure out the Judas story.  He died several different ways. There are many theories about what little we do know.  He wanted a physical uprising. He didn't betray the whereabouts of Jesus, but His private teachings (which the Sanhedrin used at His trial).  Iscariot isn't about where he was from, but a nickname Jesus gave him, like calling Peter the Rock.

It's true that Judas may have felt like at outsider. He was the only non-Galilean. He kept the money for the group. No one likes that guy.

It's also true that we shouldn't see Judas as all bad. He was, after all, chosen by Jesus, the Divine Master (His nickname), to be in His inner circle.  What we need to remember about Judas is that even one such as this could have a colossal fall.

Another thing to keep in mind when you're beating yourself up about your lack of faith or you failings and inabilities to be the best follower.  Even one of Jesus' hand picked disciples failed spectacularly.

For the record, I got Matthew. And that doesn't fit me at all, either.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Cyber Quiz

We have been here at the cyber convent a long time. During all of this time we've always had the eighth grade boys to help out with anything computer or internet related. We've been here so long, they are not the same eighth grade boys as when we began, and truth be told, at this point I think the kindergarten boys and girls would be almost as savvy. I recently had a young mother opine to me that her toddler was not potty trained but he could program the DVR. Whatever that is.

I know what that is.

Because that is the joy of having young people around all the time. You get to see whatever is the latest thing.  Of late they've been fascinated with all sorts of "which character from some TV show are you" websites.  "Which Harry Potter character are you?"  Then you take some sort of half baked test and the website tells you you are "Ron".  There are dozens of these. Pointless.  How can they tell if you are "like" some character when that character is entirely fictional?

It makes more sense to me to have one that would be "Which Founding Father are you?"  There probably is one of those.

But today, they emailed me the link for "Which One Of Jesus' Disciples Are You?"  So I had to take that test.  If I had to just guess, I would have said maybe "Peter", because he always seemed to struggle so much to figure out what to do, while at the same time having no qualms or doubts in his belief.

I'll be interested to see who you get.  How would they even know if you were like Jude?  We know almost nothing about him.

Who did I get?  I'll tell you tomorrow.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lightening the Load

One of the things that happens when all around you is a bit sad and grim and people talking in low voices, is that folks send along things to cheer you up. It's a swell idea, really, because who really needs to spend every moment grim and sad and talking in a low voice. One of the most welcome sounds in a sick room is laughter.

And this made us all laugh.

Don't tell Mr. Schlephorst that this is how we really feel.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Before the Storm

Thanks for hanging in here with us, folks. We have been having a large transition period with many adjustments with two people now in hospice care, one of them our own beloved Sister Mary Fiacre.

I know many of you have had this experience and I hope you can share with us your memories and feelings. I feel it is such a precious time, this letting go, this gathering of time. Creating peace.

How is it that during all of these we eat like horses?  Or not at all.  Or coffecake. Just coffecake.

I will be around to answer questions and patron saint match, still my favorite preoccupation.

I hope to check back at week's end or certainly early next week. Meanwhile, talk among yourselves.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off

Hello Sister. Is there a patron saint to help me get over a man?

Of course there is.

There is also time, keeping busy and the Corporal Works of Mercy, although you might want to skip "Bury the Dead" unless you sing in the church choir for funerals.

But patron saints always abound. 

Let me digress for a moment and mention that I always get help from saints. Where I'm sometimes not sure if my own prayers have been answered (given that it's sometimes not the answer we want or like or even notice), I am always sure of the thump of aide landing at my feet when I ask a saint to pray for me.

Now, you may recall that I have in the past asked you all to pray at a specific time for some reason, so that we are praying together. And I have the same thump of an answer from that. So, I have to wonder, if once I ask a saint to pray for me, if that saint hasn't gone around to his saintly pals in Heaven and done something like that.

Maybe it's silly of me. But I do think about things like that.

I also think about this type of thing. (Of course it was the graphic that drew my attention.)

There. I've finished digressing.

Onto your patron saints!

Let's start with St. Helena, who I think of as the patron saint of dump--ees.  St. Helena was colossally dumped by her husband the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Happily for her, she had a son. When her husband dumped her for the younger trophy wife model, she went sadly away.

But when her ex went to where the woodbine twineth, Helena's son rose to the throne. From that point on, she lived a life of which women today would be envious. While her son Constantine established Christianity as the religion of most of the known world, she traveled freely and became an archaeologist (if by "archaeologist" you mean someone who finds major relics by being shown where to dig in dreams).  She discovered the true relics of the Cross, the nails, the scrounging post, etc.  Did she come up with Jesus' birthplace? I think so. I'l have to look that up.

So, while she feels your pain, she also sees how great life can turn out once you get past it.

Then I might also recommend St. Rita who, after a rather unhappy marriage, was able to finally requite her one true love and get married. To Jesus.   It's what she had always wanted in the first place. 

I wonder which patron saint these women might have turned to?  St. Helena was around before the whole idea of patron saintage was really going strong.  But St. Rita may have had some saints she felt comfortable calling on for help.  I'll bet it was maybe a virgin martyr or two. St. Cecilia, perhaps, or St. Agnes or Lucy.  

None of these women had life of moonbeams and stardust. But they found great joy and fulfillment in their lives, which is what we hope for you.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hidelfont of Bengal Baden

In real life, I have a problem remembering names. Not a normal one. I'm really good at remembering names. Once I know your name, I'll never forget it. My problem is that I don't always get the name right in the first place, or pronounce it correctly, and once that happens, I will always remember what I think is your name. If your name is Margo, but I heard it wrong, I'll never be able to remember that you're not Margie. One poor lady I met, because I saw her name in print before I met her, will forever be Marcia (Mar-SEE-ah) to me. Her name is Marsha. But she spells it Marcia. Because I made this mistake early on in my relationship with her, I never trust myself to say the right name. I always wait for someone else to say her name first.

Happily for me, I tend not to do this with saints. Except for two. St. John of the Cross and St. Hildegard of wherever she is from. I always say John of the Cross when I mean St. Joseph Cupertino. I confused them once and it stuck.

And poor St. Hildegard. I have butchered her name six ways to Sunday. I have to stop myself from calling her St. Hilgefort, because I thought that was her name. And when it comes to her place of residence, forget it. I may as well just make up a name that starts with a "B" and be done with it.

Which is, apparently, exactly what I did.

Wasn't St. Hildegarde of Bingen, not Bergen? :-) 

Sideways smiley face, indeed.

I suppose there are worse mistakes one could make. Although there are few more humiliating moments that confidently calling someone you've known forever by the wrong name. At least I'm on the elderly side and am therefore often let off the hook. It's the one upside to being older. But the truth is, I've always done this, to my chagrin.

I brought it up to a friend recently and he rattled off a list of the hilarious things his Dad cluelessly gets wrong. 

"the DMV (department of motor vehicles), he calls the D and V"

"Immodium AD he calls Ammonia AD"

"he calls the Heimlich maneuver the Heimlich remover" (which is kind of what happens, really)

"Alzheimers is oldtimers" (understandable mistake)

"and he calls an out house and owl house"

 Like him, I believe I have the right name. Once in a while, someone is kind enough to correct me. It doesn't really help though, because going forward I second guess myself over which name is correct and if I got the correction right.

Thanks for the correction, dear reader. Upright smiley face.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Bushel and a Peck and a Hug Around the Neck

 I, too, am looking for a Patron Saint, that is I found this blog. I am single, in my 50's and have a passion for learning, have trouble forgiving (and this bothers me) love music and am taking violin lessons, am seeking a job that I can live on and support my mom on with some luxuries (her art- my music) and be there for her as she ages. Please Pray that a Saint reveals themselves to me and that I find such a job soon.

That's a lotta patronage needs there. Is there a one stop shopping saint for you?  I think so.

Or you can turn to a pack of saints. For example:

St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Albert the Great for a love of learning.  Albert the Great was particularly great in terms of a passion for learning..

The patron saint of music is St. Cecilia, although she has never really been my pick, since she actually had nothing to do with music. Better she would be the patron saint of indoor plumbing and chastity.

I've always thought that Pope John Paul II would make a great patron saint for job seekers, as he had a job he loved for a very long time. St. John of God is another interesting choice. He was a jack of all trades, master of none type until he found his true calling.

And for living to a ripe old age and having a fine life of it at that, St. Raymond of Pinafort lived to be one hundred. He was very busy the whole time being a saint.

I'm sure this group would pitch in and pray for you.

But if you're looking for just one saint to cover all your patron saintly needs, may I suggest St. Hildegarde of Bergen. She is quite the learned, learning loving, musically gifted, disciplined to the point of finger wagging woman the Church has seen for a while. So much so that she became the fourth woman to be named a Doctor of the Church.

Check back with us and let us know how it goes!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Bad Habits Give Way to Good Habits

Happy New Year! the Wise Men are at the Manger with no unpleasant surprises. And then, any minute, we'll put it all away again. I think we ate all the cookies. Some of these tins might still have a flavor no one cared much for. We could freeze those for Lent.

That was a joke.

I can't believe how many questions have gone unanswered.  Perhaps we were in a cookie stupor. Having all your time taken up by deciding between Nieman Marcus cookies or Chocolate Chip bars can really destroy one's concentration.

So here's a chestnut from mid December. Please forgive our pokiness:

We're doing a Jesse tree devotion in my house of many children, and my oldest (17) has lately been questioning the God of the OT, who comes off as a little, um, ungodly, sometimes. Last night we were reading about Moses and Pharaoh, and he asked whether God actually did evil in sending plagues, hardening Pharaoh's heart, etc. I know good St. Augustine had trouble with God's wrath and vengeance, but where can I point my son to give better answers than the feeble ones I can offer?

Happily, for both of us, we answered this one not so long ago.  Not surprisingly, it seems it took me a long time to answer it that time, too.  

This one's a little tougher, but rather delightful:

Hi Sister! I'm 14, and I believe that God is calling me to be a sister. The only convent that is near me is Dominican. What is the difference between Dominican, Franciscan, Benedictine, or any other kind of sisters? How do I know which one to join? Thank you! 

Benedictines are more contemplative, meaning, they spend more time in prayer. Dominicans and Franciscans are more "active".  That means the order, or the particular congregation, has a job to do: running a school or a hospital, working as nurses or teachers, that type of thing. An easy distinction would be to say that orders like the Benedictines (Poor Clares, Carmelites, etc.) the Spiritual Works of Mercy are tantamount. They strive to purify their own souls in order to pray for the world. Their work tend to be work that sustains the community, gardening and bee keeping and bread making.
get one

Active orders are working at the Corporal Works of Mercy, in soup kitchens and schools, missions and hospitals.

One type is not better than the other. It depends on how you feel you are best suited.

That said, you're to young to know how you are suited at all.  Certainly a great many saints were called from early childhood and you may be one of those people. But these days orders don't take children and you are still a child. 

It's a beautiful thing to be and you have important work to do, learning about yourself and the world. Ultimately, when the times comes and you still feel called, you may choose an order, but bear in mind that they have to choose you, too. You can't just run off and be a nun. The order will want to make sure you have a calling and they will want to make sure you are a good fit for the congregation. That means you'l want to bring your "A Game".

And that's what you should be working on now. You're "A Game".  Be the best person you can be. Make good grades. Work hard, have compassion in all things.

And enjoy yourself. Have fun. Explore the world. If you are truly called, experiencing as much of the world as you can won't be hard to give up. You can close that door with joy only when you know what's behind it.