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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Picky, Picky, PIcky

Good thing I have a little extra time. The nit pickers have arrived.

Normally when someone responds to an entry I respond in the comments section of the post. But yesterday's entry had two responses that need a whole new post to reply.

Now, I realize you're all lazy and would love it if I would copy and paste the responses here for you to read. Fat chance, lazybones. Go to yesterday's post and read them yourselves and if you're annoyed, offer it up.

I'll wait.

One of the things I love about the Catholic church is that it indeed has an answer for everything. Just like we have a patron saint for everything. Really. Everything. Cramps (Pancras) and hemmoroids (Fiacre!), lost keys (Anthony) and the internet (Isidore), dogs (Rock) and cats ( I forget, but there is one), casting out demons (Benedict), airline pilots (you have your pick of at least three), dizziness (Ulric), eczema (Anthony the Great).

We didn't set out to have an answer for everything but we constantly have to answer really stupid questions that you make up when you are seven or eight and never let go of.

For example, back when we had to fast before Holy Communion (dropped at Vatican II with the Friday fish....except for Lent...you still have to fast on Friday's during Lent...unless St. Patrick's Day lands on a Friday...then you can get a special dispensation from the Bishop to have your corned beef dinner...but not at your house........at the church fund raiser) I had this gem:

"Sister! If I make a whistle out of a blade of grass by putting it between my thumbs and blowing on it and I accidently swallow the grass, can I still go to Communion?"

After calling on St. Dymphna, the patron saint of insanity, I answer. "Was it really an accident? Technically, you did indeed break you fast by having something enter your stomache. But sin is about intent. You had to intend to break your fast. And fasting is not about eating or not eating, anyhow. It's about what you do and think while you're not eating."

"Survey says! No sin here."

Which brings me to my two nit pickers on the subject of to whom you confess and what constitutes contrition.

Here's the deal. If you have a mortal sin on your soul and you are about to buy the farm, you better be really remorseful to have God accept your apology. Them's the rules.

For those who LOVE to nitpick, we have two kinds of sins. Mortal and venial.

We also have "near occasions of sin" meaning you are purposely (perhaps) putting yourself in harms way. They are four: Remote, Proximate, Voluntary, and oh look out you are about to be sooo in hell. Not really. The last one is Necessary, like you have a family of twelve and the only job you can get is next door to that place Tony Soprano owns. Anyhow, they too are to be avoided. Not avoiding sin can be a sin.

Thinking about sinning is also a sin if you intend to commit the sin as soon as you get the chance even if you never get the chance. God is still offended.

And finally, we have two types of contrition, to which my two responders are referring.
Perfect contrition is when you know what you did offended God and you are really sorry because you understand just how exactly it offended God and you feel just terrible about it. The more you understand about God's feelings and how you hurt them, the more perfect the contrition is.

Since we don't that really expect that from you lazybones, we'll take what we can get, which is called 'imperfect contrition', which is when you're sorry because you know what you did IS a sin even if you don't agree, and you are afraid God is going to do something untoward toward you, better known as the Wrath of God.

We figure that's enough for forgiveness for your run of the mill 'lied to my teacher, poked my brother in the back of the head,' type sins. And if you're even a little sorry, for whatever reason, maybe your understanding of your badness will grow on you and you'll grow toward a more perfect contrition.

But you are not going to get away with imperfect contrition and manage to get through the pearly gates if you are, say, Hitler. We never ever ever say that anyone is in hell, not even Hitler, because we give everyone the benefit of the doubt, that somehow in their last moments they suddenly said, "What was I thinking?" But someone as rotten as Hitler, or you if you have really rotten sins going on as you fade from consciousness,must have perfect contrition to cut the mustard.

From the Cathechism of the Catholic Church:
1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.

Which brings us back to the original question of yesterday's post. Why the priest?

So to sum up:
On Your Deathbed With a Mortal Sin on Your Soul
Perfect Contrition (good luck)=no priest necessary
Imperfect Contrition=get yourself one of those medals that say "in case of emergency please call a priest" . Better yet, have it tatted on your forehead.

See? I learned about tats.


Christine said...

Dearest Sister Mary Martha. I hope your toe is feeling better. I do empathise as i broke my toe once too.

I hope I am not being too pesty but honestly, when I was a so-called Catholic no one taught me a darn thing! So I purchased Catholicism for Dummies and Lord have Mercy on my soul! I am in deep doo-doo.

Of course none was intentional so perhaps I am somewhat spared. Chalk it up to ignorance.

Now I would like to know, how does one know if a loved one is in Pergatory and how do we know if they are out?

James M. Hahn said...

On the picky bandwagon...actually Vatican II did not do away with meatless Fridays. Read on...Canon 1250 “All Fridays throughout the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the universal Church.”

Canon 1251 “Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Canon 1252 “The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year.”

Canon 1253 “The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.”

Denise said...

Sr. Mary Martha,
Please note my hand is raised for permission to answer dairylandiva. I hope you don't mind if I chime in.

Short answer is we don't know for sure unless the Church declares them a saint. We are sure the saints are in Heaven because two miracles are attributed to their intercession. Those in purgatory would not be interceding for miracles.

The other thing to consider is that the concept of linear time is an earthly construct. Time doesn't translate into the eternal the same way we know it here on earth. So if we pray for the soul of our loved ones who died years ago, our prayers are still effective.

jfgecik said...

Dear "Sister,"

I was one of the two people who made comments on your previous "thread." I now need to make comments on this new thread, because you have compounded your doctrinal errors -- and have added some unjustified personal insults into the mix. I will now address each error that you made -- and refute it.

(1) The title of the thread is "Picky, picky, picky" ... and you have referred to two commenters as "nit pickers" ... and you drew an analogy between the two comments and "hav[ing] to answer really stupid questions that you make up when you are seven or eight and never let go of."

You are wrong and unjust on all these points. Actually, what I and another person stated were not "comments" or "questions" or "nitpickings," but rather they were serious and significant "corrections" of errors that you made in your initial message.

Now I am adding further "corrections" to new errors. Moreover, it was quite painful to see your insulting sarcasm in reply to me, who had ended my post by complimenting you effusively. Have you no sense of justice at all -- no ability to temper your "tongue?" Have you been "worshiped" by admirers (and/or yourself) for so long that you think that you are infallible, not sometimes in need of correction by the rest of us?

You need to pause and remember what happened so many times in the Church's first millennium, when individual theologians or groups of Catholics occasionally got on the wrong track by using imprecise language. This resulted in ecumenical councils, amplification of the creeds, condemnations of heretics, etc.. That is why it is wrong for you to criticize us for trying to make sure that you use precise language on your blog. That is why what we have been doing is not "nitpicking."

In my first message, I corrected you for using the word, "remorse," instead of "contrition." I should have mentioned that "remorse" cannot be found in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church." Why? Perhaps because, for many people (as explained by a priest who spoke about this on EWTN), "remorse" has the connotation of "regret over having been caught," rather than "being sorry for having done what one knows is wrong" (which is contrition).

So what happened? In your new thread, you mostly abandoned the word, "remorse," and adopted "contrition" -- but without thanking me for the correction! Instead, you criticized me. What's more, you became a "showboat," apparently trying to "save face" by demonstrating some knowledge, going into detail about the kinds of contrition, the kinds of occasions of sin, etc.. The only problem is that you made new errors in the process! Instead of starting a new thread, you should have humbly responded to the comments on the first thread, thanking us for the corrections.

(2) You wrote: "... back when we had to fast before Holy Communion (dropped at Vatican II with the Friday fish....except for Lent...you still have to fast on Friday's during Lent ...)".

Sorry, but you are wrong, in THREE ways!
--- First, we STILL have to fast before receiving Holy Communion -- for one hour. Have you been failing to fast for over forty years, for heaven's sake?!
--- Second, the pre-Communion fast was not reduced from three hours to one "at Vatican II." Rather, it was reduced by Pope Paul VI in 1964, separate and apart from the Council. (Pope Pius XII had reduced the fast to three hours from "after midnight" in 1953.)
--- Third, we do not "still have to fast on Fridays during Lent." Instead, we have to ABSTAIN from meat on Fridays during Lent. There are only two days of required fast in the whole liturgical year: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (the latter now being outside of Lent, because it is in the Paschal Triduum).

(3) You wrote (concerning the accidental eating of a blade of grass), "Technically, you did indeed break you fast by having something enter your stomach. But sin is about intent."

It is true that, when one does something forbidden -- but accidentally, or without knowing that it is forbidden -- one incurs no guilt. So, "intent" is certainly important. But it is misleading to say that "sin is about intent," because it is an incomplete statement and could lead people into thinking that sin is merely a subjective matter. Sin is ALSO about objective moral norms: God's laws and the Church's laws. Readers of the blog need to be told these things -- especially non-Catholic guests.

(4) You wrote, "If you have a mortal sin on your soul and you are about to buy the farm, you better be really remorseful to have God accept your apology."

Substituting the word, "contrite," for "remorseful," I can say that you are right -- but only if a person has no opportunity to make a sacramental Confession. [More about that in a moment.]

(5) You wrote, "[Imperfect contrition is] enough for forgiveness for your run of the mill 'lied to my teacher, poked my brother in the back of the head,' type sins. ... But you are not going to get away with imperfect contrition and manage to get through the pearly gates if you are, say, Hitler."

Your statement is incomplete and thus misleading, especially to a non-Catholic. Either you know all the facts, "Sister," but you give only a partial explanation ... or your own knowledge is incomplete. Why do I say this? Because you make it seem, to a reader, that NEVER can a mortal sin (e.g., murder) be forgiven if one has only imperfect contrition. You fail to mention that a mortal sin CAN be forgiven if one makes a sacramental confession after entering a confessional with imperfect contrition. You fail to make it clear that perfect contrition, while always desirable, is absolutely necessary only on a deathbed, and only if no priest is present to hear one's final confession.

(6) You may have noticed that I started this message by putting the word, "Sister," in quotation marks. I did that because I have concluded that the odds are about 99 to 1 that you are not really a religious sister, but rather a man pretending to be a sister. You are free to do this, but why have I come to this "probable" conclusion?
--- Although there is a stereotype about elderly sisters being bullies (rapping knuckles with a ruler, and even worse), my experience is that this is a phony caricature. You exhibit the bullying and the sarcasm and the desire to "save face" that are found in a prideful man, not in an elderly religious sister.
--- You make too many theological errors to be an elderly religious sister.
--- You make too many spelling and grammatical errors to be an elderly religious sister!

Still, you may be a 1-in-100 longshot sister, I will concede. If so, you have all the more reason to be ashamed of yourself!

May God grant you the grace humbly and silently to accept these fraternal corrections and make a better person out of yourself. Now you have some material for your next Confession, "Sister." I hope that you will have "contrition" for what you have done!

CMinor said...

Oy vey,
Some people take this blog waaaay too seriously!

Julie D. said...

What cminor said ... including the oy veh!

Christopher Clark said...

It seems that my self-imposed role as devil's advocate has been taken away from me.

I can only suggest that the cathechism, so often referenced by commenters, is entiely the work of man, without divine intervention. The cathechism is not the bible and, therefore, is not the word of the lord.

Remember Zechariah 13:3
If a man still prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall say to him, "You shall not live, because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord." When he prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall thrust him through.

James M. Hahn said...

The Catechism is in a way divinely inspired (not on the same level as the Bible of course). This is so because it is the offical teachings of the Church. The Church is the body of Christ. The two cannot be at war with each other. He who hears you, hears me! Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.

Sorry for all this trouble sister. I do love your blog!

Sister Mary Martha said...

Nit picking the picking the nitpicking is what makes the church so much fun.

Have at it I say. It only confuses everyone more. My style of writing is aimed only at the basics. If you have to rail on about the difference between contrition and remorse, enjoy yourself.

Vatican II didn't do away with hats in church for women either, but here we are.

But what's with all the gender bashing?

Sister Mary Martha said...

Thank you Catholic Mom for answering Dairlylands question.

First, Dairyland, learn to spell Purgatory! Write it on the board twenty times.

And Catholic Mom is absolutely right that time in Purgatory is one hundred per cent different from time here.

I did a whole blog about Purgatory Dairyland, but to sum up....there are many saints who have visited and had souls visit them. One hour in Purgatory = sixty years on earth.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Thank you James, I'm a tough old bird.I actually did go to school with knuckle rapping nuns...they only rapped knuckles on a good day..so I can take it.

Christopher will have to go stand in the corner again today.

Christopher Clark said...

The quote you've referenced "He who hears you, hears me" probably should not be interpreted as "change my rules if you want to and I'll be cool with it."

Sister Mary Martha said...

Boys, boys...time to go outside and clap erasers!

Jeff Miller said...

James M. Hahn,

Since I have been designated a nit picker (though I only pick nits in the summer), the bishop' conference in the U.S. has not designated the form of penance to be used on Friday's outside of Lent. Jimmy Akin at Catholic Answers goes through the pertinent documents to show this. http://www.jimmyakin.org/2004/07/since_tomorrow_.html

Sister Mary Martha said...

I knew I wasn't crazy.

JWD said...

Dear oh dear oh dear, such a fuss.

First, a hat tip to Sister Mary Martha, for making me laugh. Two hat tips if you're really male (and I'm betting you're not).

Second, let's take a moment to bow our heads...breathe deeply...and pray for the virtue of humility. Commandment #1: No one's God but God. No human being has a lock on the whole truth, and all of us will be wrong at least some of the time (perhaps even most of the time).

Third, a wondering...truth is a wonderful thing, but Christ taught us it's inseparable from love. Is there a way to pursue and promote the truth with one another a little more gently? If I recall correctly, Jesus did not chastise the Pharisees for getting the rules wrong, per se, but for not seeing the forest for the trees...for being so focused on enforcing the Law that they forgot the whole purpose of the Law is oriented to the weightier matters of justice, love, and mercy.

Another wondering...is this what John Paul II of beloved memory really had in mind when he called for a new evangelization? Pity the poor seeker who looks into the Catholic Church online and finds...a bunch of people angrily denouncing one another over the finer points of doctrine, each with as much certainty as if s/he were the whole Magisterium squeezed into one person.

And finally, a thought about confession. This really is a lovely sacrament...every time I go, I leave with such a peaceful, joyous feeling unlike anything I have ordinarily experienced. Not that we should receive the sacraments to "feel good" (because the feeling won't always be there)...but I have also noticed what a wonderful effect it has on my daily life. God's grace has really worked wonders in my life through this sacrament. If you haven't been since you were seven, you might give it a whirl. (If you really haven't been since you were a kid, you ought to say so to the priest so he can help you out.)

Oh, and by the way...if you still wonder why we need to confess our sins to a priest, ask an evangelical. From www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=7526:

One such website is mysecret.tv, which is managed by evangelical Christian minister Rev. Craig Groeschel, the founder of LifeChurch. He told the New York Times that the large number of anonymous accounts he reads on his website have affirmed his belief in the need for confession.

LifeChurch set up mysecret.tv as a forum for people to confess anonymously on the Internet about a month ago. Since then, it has received more than 150,000 hits and more than 1,500 confessions.

Groeschel told the Times that after 16 years in ministry he knew that the smiles and handshakes he received each week from parishioners often masked a lot of pain.

“I realized that people are carrying around dark secrets, and the website is giving them a first place for confession,” he told the Times. “There’s no magic in confessing on a website. My biggest fear is that someone would think that and would go on with life. This is just Step 1.”

Keep up the good work, Sister.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Rev Craig will have a deal with ABC any second, I'll wager.

James M. Hahn said...

Thanks for the link. Much appreciated!

Andy Looney said...

On the Friday before I made my First Communion in 1949, as we were leaving school, the teacher said: "Now when you get up Sunday morning, don't eat or drink anything. Last year a little girl forgot and had a drink of water and she had to make her First Communion the next week....ALL BY HERSELF."

And we all visualized this little girl walking up the aisle ALL BY HERSELF.