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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Mark of the Long Dead Beast

On the day before Halloween let's discuss a personal pet peeve of mine.


Boy, does the superstitious craziness around this number bug me. The "Mark of the Beast!" The return of Satan! Who could it be? Hitler? Ronald Reagan? Every other Pope? The Omen I, II, III and IV?

Scholars, historians and various and assundry Church elder types feel that 666 refers to the emperor Nero. I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Actually I've been on the band wagon for years.

Why just yesterday Mrs. Morris treated me to a coffee in a neighborhood coffee shop and the bill came to $6.66 (she had the curly fries). The girl behind the counter got all googly-eyed and actually changed the bill to $6.65! As though if we paid $6.66 the devil would come to get her.

I suppose he may anyhow, if we are to believe what we read on her tattoos.

It was everything I could do to stop myself from shouting, "It's NEROOOO!" But I didn't want to cause yet another scene. I did explain to her that she needn't worry, that 666 refers to Nero, so everyone can just let it go. I left a penny in the tip jar.

Mrs. Morris, by the way, the poor thing, blew my extra hour from the" fall back" time change right out of the water with her kind deed of taking me out. She forgot to set her clock back and showed up for our 8:30 AM coffee shop plan at 7:30 AM. I never told her. I didn't want her to feel foolish. The fact that my veil was way crooked should have tipped her off something was up. I've never met anyone who forgot to set their clock back...or forward..who didn't feel foolish after they show up an hour early for the party or almost miss the whole thing and realize what went wrong. Our Lord in Heaven, NEVER plan a surprise party on the day after a time change.

At some point Mrs. Morris must have discovered her mistake and felt foolish in private. I hope so. ................I mean I hope it was in private.

I'll admit that there are some who argue about 666 being Nero. Jehovah's Witnesses, for example. But the evidence stacks up.

I think the first thing I read about the matter explained that, like the ancient Roman language, there are no such things as numbers in the language in which Revelations is written. Think Roman numerals. Letters are used as numbers. Anyone reading Revelations back in the day would have read the word as 'Nero' and all of this Damien nonsense would never have occured.

I tried to fact check that, about the letters and numbers and came up blank. I'm sure I didn't dream it.

I did have a dream that I dropped my school papers in a puddle and when I went to try to grab them out they just kept getting further away and when I waded in after them I sunk like a rock into a black oblivion. Oh well. At least I was fully clothed.

If you look up Nero and 666, you'll at least see that I'm not making this up. Look on the Google. It's on the internets.

Also, it's extremely likely that the Book of Revelations was written during the reign of Nero. It was definitely not written before his reign. If it was written after his reign it would have only been about 30 years later.

Does Nero fit the bill? Yes. However it happened that Rome caught fire and whether or not he danced a jig during it (the fiddle was not yet invented), Nero did catch the blame from the rumors that he did both things and he needed a scapegoat. The Christians were chosen for their "hatred of Humanity."

Let me just stop right here and say that in the light of history, this lunatic idea that there is a 'war on Christmas' makes me even more berserk than this 666 stuff. A bunch of people out Christmas shopping wondering whether to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" to a perfect stranger can't hold a candle to being dragged off for your alleged hatred of humanity and made into a human tiki torch for an imperial dinner party. Now that's what I call a war!

Nero threw the Christians to the lions. But that was only step one. He also paraded them around in animal skins and let wild dogs tear them apart. It was all great fun for the Romans until the tiki torch episode, which no one much cared for. They thought it made Nero appear cruel.

Ya think?

So can we all just take a deep breath and let this go now? The Church Fathers had a big fight in the 4th century as to whether or not to include the Book of Revelations in the New Testament in the first place. Why? They thought people would get too confused.

Ya think?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fall Back

I know most people love the 'fall back' thing, gaining an hour in the middle of the night. I certainly did as a child. Some of you have noticed I'm a bit of a night owl. I always have been. I was asleep at my desk as a child. Being awake in the morning is a perpetual penance for me. Hooray!

So where most people are content with the extra hour of sleep, I am perplexed each year as to what to do with the extra hour. Perplexed is putting it mildly. It' s like a little mini-Lent. What should I do with the time? I'm ridden with guilt.

So what else is new. Is the Pope Catholic?

Every year I think I'll come up with a great plan and every year I just spend the hour saying the rosary. Not that that is so horrible. Our Lady told us the only thing standing between all our recent sins and the wrath of Jesus is saying the rosary. 'Recent' being since at least the turn of the century...not this one..the last one. If He was mad back then, imagine the smoke shooting out of His ears now.

I pay really close attention to Mary sightings. Here is Mary come right down from heaven to give us the latest messages. Just about every time she visits she tell us that Jesus is pretty much up in heaven saying to her , "Hold Me back! Hold Me back!" And she has been doing just that since at least 1917. She tells us that if we say the rosary the world will be a better place and Jesus will calm down. So far it's been working.

Sure things are bumpy at the moment. But Russia did fall and two World Wars ended. I can't imagine Jesus is very calm at the moment, especially if He's been watching campaign commercials, so once again this year, the rosary it is for my extra hour.

Still.... I feel I should try to be more ....creative. I thought maybe I would take Sister Mary Fiacre out in her wheelchair for a spin around the neighborhood to look at the Halloween decorations. She won't notice them. But it's the thought that counts. It's always good to give her an airing.

Hanging around with Sister Mary Fiacre covers five out of seven of the corporal works of mercy. She's both sick and imprisoned. Imprisoned in her own body. We have to feed her, get her dressed. All that's left is sheltering the homeless and burying the dead. Maybe Teddy will bring us something dead and we won't fling it over the wall this time. Then I'd be six for seven.

Or I could clean up the neighbor's driveway. Our neighbor's like to use their driveway for extra storage space. I've never seen a car there. I've seen bikes, tires, TV's, lawn chairs, trampolines, beer cans, amplifiers, fishing equipment, big wheels, empty bird cages and a pony. I suppose there could be a car there under all that stuff. Cleaning the driveway would probably take more than an hour though and the neighbors might be insulted.

I could do most of Sister St. Aloysius' chores. Fat chance. They're somehow always done. I think maybe she is a secret bi-locator, like St. Martin de Porres and Padre Pio. The refrigerator is immaculate. And I don't use that word lightly.

I could dust pews. Go the extra mile and use Murphy's Oil Soap.

I think I"ll go for the walk. I can probably say a rosary at the same time. We'll all sleep better. The next question is...just when does the hour start?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mission Accomplished

I don't mind telling you that sometimes Sister St. Aloysius bugs me. I'm not talking behind her back here. I told her just today, "You are REally bugging me." She would laugh if she had a sense of humor.

Occasionally it's a daily living thing, like when I found out she had never ever cleaned the stove. There was another time when I lost her at the grocery store for over an hour because instead of staying put like I asked her, she was looking for me while I was looking for her. That never works. Sometimes she doesn't pay attention to where we've parked and we have to get someone to drive us around in a golf cart until we find the car. That's embarassing.

But most of the time she actually bugs me in a good way, in that she comes up with things I hadn't really thought about, like the possibility of a future war in heaven. I can't stop thinking about that. I'm very upset about it.

When we got back from the Catholic Charities empty handed again and with the clock ticking on Halloween she opined that before we go back we'd better have a plan. I couldn't think what she meant by that. We have a plan: get stuff to make Halloween costumes.

"No, " she said. "We need to know what we're making exactly and what's appropriate."

Okay. The Little Mermaid, out. Saints, okay but not necessary.

"When we were little we loved to dress up as tramps, " I told her. This is a no-brainer. First of all it's an easy breezy lemon squeezy costume to come up with, especially if you're shopping at the Catholic Charities. It's easier than being an Episcopalian. And secondly, it's fun to be a tramp. Tramps don't live by the same rules as the rest of us.

"No," she said. "Tramps are just homeless people. It's not right for children to pretend to be homeless for fun."

She had me there. The Foster Brooks factor. Drunks used to be funny. No more.

You may be surprised to find that I'm all for political correctness. To me, that just means pay attention if you're hurting someone else's feelings. And if you get your knickers all in a twist because it causes you to behave in some way that makes you uncomfortable bingo! You'd better take a look at why it makes you so unhappy to consider the feelings of others.

But this is a slippery slope costume-wise. "If that's the criteria, then are we crossing pirates off the list? Pirates are really evil people. Is it okay to dress up as evil people?"

I'd like to stop thinking about this and mull over the war in heaven. I feel like Donald Rumsfeld talking to James Baker.

"My brother thinks that Halloween should only be about scarey stuff. Goblins, ghosts, monsters..." she said.

"Oh, I don't think so. It's also about clever costumes, and dress up, and pretty, pretty princesses...." I argued. Although I have to admit my two favorite costumes during my days as a trick or treater were the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow and the two headed monster my friend Jackie and I made by sewing a two tramp costumes together. We scared my six year old cousin out of his socks when we came lurching up out of the basement in it.

I was scaring children even back then.


"Ghosts are always easy, " I offered. "We probably have enough old linen to skip going back to...."

"NO!" she gasped. "We don't want the children getting involved thinking about ghosts!"

She's got me there, again.

I mentioned before that the Catholic church doesn't get all silly about Halloween. But we do want you to stay away from seances and ouija boards and all that kind of thing. Here's why: the devil is a tricky guy. You may think it's your beloved Aunt Julia haunting the old house, but it could be the devil dressed as your Aunt Julia. And he doesn't wait around for Halloween to behave this way like you do. Or it could be your Aunt Julia on a field trip from hell. How well did you really know her anyhow? We need you to stay away from that whole thing. You'll be in over your head and end up the subject of a movie where you spew a gallon of pea soup.

I believe it was at this point that I told her she was really bugging me.

"You're really bugging me, " I said. "We have to get this done with so I can crawl up in the garage loft and get out the Halloween decorations and put them up."

You'd love our Halloween decorations. They are as old as the hills. Jointed skeletons and witches and black cats. We have a big caldron we put the candy in and we wear pointy hats and stand out on the porch and hand it out. If we have time we grab some dry ice. Spooky. My knack for scaring children is the perfect finishing touch.

That sort of clinched the deal, I guess. She loves the decorations, too. What's a skeleton, really, but a naked ghost? What's a witch if not an instrument of the devil? Let's just have costumes and candy and make believe and feel a little scared and try to keep your mother from eating all the Snickers bars you got and leaving you with candy corn.

Candy corn! Now THAT is evil.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jesus Doings

Sister St. Aloysius and I made a trek down to the Catholic Charities bins. We offered it up and took Sister Mary Fiacre with us. There are about nine ladies that work at the local Catholic Charities store (it's like the Salvation Army store, but closer to salvation) and they rotate their hours. They can't seem to stay away so all nine of them are almost always there. Three of them are in their nineties. None of them are under seventy. They always make quite a fuss about Sister Mary Fiacre. They feed her cake.

We went there because of my fiasco at the fabric store. I left empty handed for all of that. Poor Sister St. Aloysius didn't get anything she needed.

If ever there was a forgiving soul it would be Sister St. Aloysius. Everything is so difficult for her, she never faults anyone for their short comings. (Especially when they come up short at the fabric store during a weekend sale in October.) It made her a terrible teacher, though. Nothing got done. Teachers have to drag people through their shortcomings.

Anyhow we hit the Catholic Charities store thinking we could find things for costumes there, or at the very least she could find some things she could rip apart for parts, like zippers and buttons and fabric.

As soon as we walked in the door we were overwhelmed with a horrible stench. Sister Mary Fiacre, who rarely speaks, shouted, "What STINKS?" That's how bad it was.

I couldn't get my bearings. If I could have I would have remembered that the ladies have often told me that there is a poor man who shows up there from time to time and they never know what to do about him. They had told me that he stinks so badly that no one can breath while he's there or for hours afterwards and the whole store stinks for days. They don't know what to do about it. They want to ban him from the store somehow.

So there in the corner were Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Gott with this talking mound of grime. They looked stricken. The other ladies were cowering in the kitchen. The one lady that could still stand, Mrs. Andrews, was attempting to make a couple of sandwiches for the man, since that's why he came there.

I am ashamed to say that if I could have gotten away with it I would have spun around and high tailed it out of there, Sister Mary Fiacre and all. But when she screamed, "What STINKS?" The ladies spotted us. I saw the look of relief on their faces, as if here at last was the answer to their problem.

I'm really not the answer to their problem. They have told me about their problem before and I had no answer then. It's a charity. You are there to help people like this man, of all people. You don't want to hurt his feelings, but you can't let him hang around or even come very often because you can't help other people with that awful stench there. Mrs. Gott and Mrs. Morris, certainly the most capable of the bluntness needed here, have told him he can't hang around, so he has been more scarce. But he also hasn't taken care of his problem.

It begs the question, "What would Jesus do?" Jesus would, of course, embrace the man.

I knew I wouldn't be doing that.

I am supposed to, though. Or at least I'm supposed to take the most Jesus-y route.

What would Jesus do? Obviously we are dealing with mental illness here. So I think Jesus would have cured that right off. Then while the man was blithering in gratitude, Jesus would have gotten the women to wash this guy up. Not with anyone's hair this time. "Go now and stink no more."

It's also conceivable that since people didn't bathe so much back then the whole thing wouldn't have bothered anybody so much. Or maybe Jesus was just too polite and forgiving to worry about it. Maybe St. James the Greater and St. James the Lesser actually refers to the way those two smelled and not the order of their apostledom as everyone thinks.

The thing is, no matter which way you turn it I'm in over my head here. I can't cure him, there will be no hugging, and even if we all had hazmat suits we can't wash him. There's no shower here. And suppose we did? What happens after he goes home and sits on his couch and sleeps in his sheets? Since his smell is a direct result of his mental state, what kind of state might he be in if he's clean? He's docile right now, but after a little Irish Spring.....................

"Oh, Sister!," Mrs. Morris said. Mrs. Gott took the opportunity to high tail it out of there. I think she might have run right out the back door.

"Mrs. Andrews is making Bob some sandwiches," Mrs. Morris told us. That is shorthand for "any moment now, we'll get Bob out of here." As Bob lurched toward me Mrs. Morris signaled me, by looking to the sky and waving her hand under her nose, that she was about to faint. Mrs. Morris is 85. Mrs. Gott, the sprinter, is 75.

As Bob moved in my direction I wished everyone could have the experience I was having. That way there would never again be any argument of the divinity of Jesus, the embracer of guys like this one.

I was formulating some remarks. "Bob, " I would say in my kindest non-Margaret Hamilton voice, "the ladies have told me about you. They would be happy to help you get cleaned up and fix you up with some new clean clothes....." No, I can't say that....that would be a lie...the ladies would kill me if I volunteered them for that........happy!!!!???

Right then Mrs. Andrews came flying out of the kitchen. "Here you go, Bob!" she said in her nicest non-Bay Buchanan voice.

Just like that, Bob was gone. I hope that the door closed behind him before he heard Sister Mary Fiacre shout , "You STINK!" Although maybe it would have been helpful. "The truth shall set you free." Who said that?

We tried to help fumigate, but the ladies assured us it would take a day or for the cartoon stink lines to evaporate. That means we'll be back there again this week. We took some cake for Sister Mary Fiacre to go.

Another Guy With an Odor Problem

Friday, October 20, 2006

So there I was at the fabric store, sitting with that poor woman who had thought I was in a costume, looking through the pattern books. For the uninitiated, which I'll assume is just about everyone since no one makes their own clothes anymore, even the children chained to sewing machines in China for Wal Mart, the pattern books are huge and there are tables full of them.

At this point I had spent about an hour in the parking lot of the fabric store and a good forty minutes roaming in unfamiliar territory. They don't just sell fabric at the fabric store. They sell: ready-made costumes, holiday decorations which already include Thanksgiving and Christmas (I remember a time when no Christmas items were sold until after Thanksgiving, but then you can wear white after Labor Day now, too), baskets, craft paint, yarn, books, fake flowers, scrap booking items which take up three aisles, clay, wood, already made wooden items to paint or decoupage, batting, pillows, lamps, special lamps that mimic daylight, buttons, ribbon, purse handles in case you make the rest of the purse yourself, quilt making paraphenalia, emboidery hoops, thread, floss, three more aisles of jewelry making goo gaw, beads and what not. And 'notions'.

The pattern books are in the middle of the store like an oasis -- an oasis because there are chairs there. You can sit. But if it's really crowded there is a line for a chair and maybe one of the books. You look in the book for the pattern and when you find something you like you get the number and find the pattern in giant file drawers which surround the oasis. There wer a lot of peole looking at patterns. It was like being at a Starbucks inside a Barnes and Noble, minus the coffee.

The woman who thought I was wearing a costume, we'll call her Miss Gourd, was buzzing around me making sure I had a chair and grabbing books to bring over. She never stopped talking. I was trying to listen politely, but I was on a mission to find a pirate. I was nervously thinking ahead at how difficult it was going to be to figure out how much fabric to buy, which I must have spoken out loud because it seemed to have tripped a tape recording in Miss Gourd's brain that caused her mouth to broadcast an oration about why she is not good at math. During this I overheard the woman next to me telling her daughter that they could find her costume here.

The tired whiney child sat on her lap as they looked through the big book, a little angel of maybe four years who was about to smear chocolate everywhere.

I am a nun. I am NEVER without a hankie. I keep it up my sleeve. I sprang to action.

I really did spring.

I had forgotten that children are terrified of me.

I get that I'm a little scarey looking. I would be a little scarey looking if it were still 1950. I think I might be in the same category as Santa and clowns to a four year old even back then.

But these days when no one ever really sees a nun in a habit, when the only people in long robes you see are on TV pumping uzis over there heads, to have some old lady dressed in black with only her face and hands showing.........an old gnarly face and hands at that.... leap at you. I was all red in the face from the last two hours of fabric store shock and awe. I was sweating. I must have looked like some demon that had arisen right up out of the floor ready to snatch her from her mother's lap and pull her down into one of the books never to be seen or heard from again.

The child shrieked. The whole store stopped.

It could have ended there if I had just not tried to fix it. I was apologizing but the woman would have none of it. She gave me quite an earful. When I said, "I'm sorry", she said,"What did you think you were you doing!?" When I tried to explain, she said I should mind my own business. (How many times did I say just that to the second graders?) How dare I scare her child. "I wasn't trying to scare her, I was trying to wipe her!" I think the manager started heading our way right about then. Miss Gourd was trying to tell Mrs. Mommy that I wasn't in a costume which caused Mrs. Mommy to let Miss Gourd have it with both barrels.

"I'm not stupid!" Mrs. Mommy screamed. Miss Gourd, dim bulb that she was, understood the implication that meant that she was stupid.

"I'm not stupid enough to let my kid wipe chocolate on the whole store!" squealed Miss Gourd. When in doubt, accuse and exaggerate.

I gave up on the mother and tried to console the screaming child that I was not an ancient monster dropped from a lightening cloud. "What are you going to be for Halloween, dear?" I asked. I probably sounded like Margaret Hamilton after the green paint she was wearing for make-up caught fire as she dropped through the trapdoor. I certainly felt like Margaret Hamilton after the green paint caught fire. At least for her, production stopped. No such luck for me.

As Miss Gourd and Mrs. Mommy continued their argument, my eye fell upon the pattern book with a picture of the child's choice for her costume. The Little Mermaid.

"Oh my goodness!" I gasped. I must have sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. "You're not going to let her wear that?!"

"What?" snapped Mrs. Mommy. "It's warm outside and it's not really flippers...she can walk in it...."

I think since I had sucked all of the air out of the room everyone was a little dizzy.

"She'll look like a harlot with fins!" I sputtered. "Her arms are bare and it's a brassiere top made of garish flowers and her middle is bare..."

From waaaaayyy across the store I could see the manager speaking to some sort of security person whose hand was already on his giant flashlight in the doorway. I thought I'd better make a run for it.

"Don't you want to be St. Cecilia?" I asked the child. "She's very pretty and she plays the harp. She likes water, too. She died in her own bath tub...."

I heard her mother calling me crazy from across the store as I left. I distinctly heard her say, "That crazy nun!!!!" I'll bet she was pointing at me while she said it.

As horrible as that was, we now face the horror of not having the supplies we need to do the sewing Sister St. Aloysius has promised. Guess everyone will have to go as ghosts. Even I can make a hole in a sheet.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Norma Who?

My melee at the fabric store was not the first time I have noticed that some employee has their hand on the phone and is ready to call the police to take me away. I was nearly taken away in handcuffs at the bank.

This was a while back. The bank was cutting down on tellers in an attempt to push people into using ATM's for as much banking as possible. That way the bank can keep all the fees and not use the money to pay employees. I believe they call that 'downsizing'.

It up sized the lines at the bank. The lines at the bank were more than 40 minutes long on any given day. I'd have a black mark on my soul if I was lying. I became the "Norma Rae" of the bank line.

In ever escalating protest, I riled up the folks in the big long line. Mind you, they were already in a foul mood. First it was the bank woman who would walk up and down the line and ask people if they knew they "could use the ATM" for whatever they were doing at the bank. I asked her if SHE knew that she was working really hard at ending her own job. I imagine that she figured she wasn't ending her own job, but the jobs of the people behind the bullet proof glass, which somehow in her mind made it all okay.

Then I found out that if you wait more than ten minutes the bank had a policy that said you would get $5. I made sure everyone in the line asked for their $5. I don't think the policy is still....a policy...any more.

On one occassion, while having my turn at the teller's window, I innocently asked the girl what the 800 number was should I need to call the bank and I wrote it down in very big letters. The minute she finished telling me the number I whirled around to face the huge line, holding the number over my head. "This is the number you call to complain!" I told them all. Everyone whipped out a pen.

Sally Field, stand aside for Sister Mary Martha.

And then one day....

The line stretched all the way across the inside of the bank. We were lined up in those rope things, as though this were Disneyland. Each minute the line got longer as more people arrived.

Now picture this. The tellers stretch across the front of the bank, so the last teller is really near the door. (Don't worry...bulletproof glass....) The end of the line is in front of the last teller. But when you are at the front of the line, meaning, you'll be next, you are clear on the other side of the bank, corraled by the ropes until the next avaiable teller beckons.

So I was at the end of the line, in front of the last teller. A terrifically old man came in. He could barely walk, let alone stand. He crawled over to the last teller, kind of hanging on the counter for support. He had just arrived in front of her when she called the next customer from across the bank. This customer was a young man, fully able bodied, not more than 30.

The teller was saying to the old man, "You'll have to wait while I take this man..." I sprang across the ropes.

Okay, I didn't spring. It feels like springing to me. I'm just lucky I didn't yank my veil off on the ropes.

I ran up to the window, inserting myself between the young man and the old man. I said to the teller, "Oh no....you have to take this man next." She politely told me she would as soon as she took the young man. "No, I said to her, " this man can barely stand here let alone wait. And this man is perfectly capable of waiting." I was using both of them as a visual aid. We teachers love our visual aids. I actually said to her, "Look at this man (Mr. Rude Pants) and look at this man (Grandpa Falling to Pieces)."

It turned very ugly from there. Shocklingly the young man did not step aside. I asked the teller why they bothered to have handicapped parking spaces outside if this was how they were going to treat people. I told the young man he should be ashamed of himself. I wasn't quiet at all while making these statements. The old man was thanking me.

To no avail. She made the old man wait!!!! I'm sure this is whyso many people are so taken with the idea of karma, because we would like to think of that young man someday hanging on a counter hoping to get help and hoping he doesn't collapse or faint and no one even trying to help or defend him.

But we are asked to forgive instead. oops.

So I went back into the line. Thirty minutes later when I finally arrived at a teller window the bank manager strolled up behind my teller...a totally different teller at that....and said to me, "I didn't appreciate the way you spoke to my teller." (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

"Really?," I said. "Well, I didn't appreciate the way she treated that poor old man!" I restated my argument, and since he the manager was talking over me, I got louder and louder. Somewhere in there he said, "I'm the manager....." and I said, "Well, you're a very terrible manager! Just look at this place!" At this point the line actually stretched out the door, so once again, I had a wonderful visual aid. And the people in the line were very happy to be part of the visual aid, and began to relish their role as 'angry mob'.

That's when I noticed he was headed for the phone. I had a vision of myself in hand cuffs, the large hand of a police officer on the top of my head, protecting me from bumping my head on the squad car as they loaded me in. You know how they do that, we all see police shows. So I left the bank.

I did get a written apology from the bank a few weeks later, after I had called and written to complain myself.

It was shortly after that that more tellers were added and the lines ended. Last year the bank even opened a second branch in the neighborhood.

But the donnybrook at the fabric store.....I think I may be banned for life from there...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Where have I been? When last we met I mentioned that Sister St. Aloysius has been swamped with sewing, what with Halloween approaching. I also explained that she refuses to go to the fabric store during the month of October. These two things are not compatible.

My toe is better so I sprang into action.

No I didn't. I'm really too old for that. It's also really difficult to spring in any direction in a habit. The whole veil can get caught on a door knob.

I did see it as a hugh opportunity. First of all, the hum of the sewing machine really seems to soothe Sister Mary Fiacre into a doze, so it's much easier for me to get out and about. Secondly, I love a bargain. (I have to....) The fabric store is having a half off event over the weekend.

And third! If the fabric store is as horrific as Sister St. Aloysius seems to thing it is, imagine the penance opportunity to go in there, not knowing beans about sewing, on a weekend in October with Halloween closing in and a huge half off sale!

I believe Dorothy Parker had the right idea when she said, "What fresh hell is this?" The phrase came to mind in the first hour which only involved the parking lot. I'm excited at the prospect of someday shaking hands with all the souls who were released from Purgatory while I offered up my suffering driving in circles in the tiny parking lot, while someone who just got there managed to get ahead of me and zip into a space over and over again. It's not all that easy to drive in a habit, either.

Can I just ask of all the people who wish all clergy and nuns would always wear a habit or the collar so you know right away they are clergy...... is that so that you know to treat us nicely? Because it doesn't work, anyhow. And shame on you anyway for wanting a heads up so you can treat the clergy in a better way than you treat everyone else.

Also, I now know what happened to all those people who think they were sucked up by a UFO and are missing time. They went into a fabric store on a weekend in October during a half off sale. They just don't remember. They have blotted it from their minds.

Once inside, things went smoothly for a while. One woman was amazed at what a fabulous costume I had made for myself and asked which pattern I had used. Was her face red....
What on earth would make her think I had made myself this whole habit in the middle of October and then run out to the fabric store in it? Not the brightest bulb. I didn't want to make her feel bad for asking such a stupid question and I felt bad for judging her question as stupid so I asked her advice about how to look through the patterns. God gave me the opportunity right away to do penance for all of it by allowing me to spend the next hour with her.

It all went downhill from there. Eventually, I had to be asked to leave the store by the manager. It seems my involvement in the salvation of souls by warning mothers about what not to wear was not appreciated.........more on that tomorrow.....................

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Sister St. Aloysius likes to sew. You'd never know it from her red faced frustration when she actually does sew. But once someone knows you can sew LOOK OUT. Everybody and their dog Rollo will be knocking on your windows. They knock on your windows because they know that way you'll see the longing in their eyes. Bugs Bunny referred to that look as 'the sorrowful eye routine'. They'll be standing there with their kid's pants in hand or some fabric they got on sale hoping that maybe you could make some kitchen curtains ....for them...

Sister St. Aloysius says it relaxes her, but she refuses to go to the fabric store during the entire month of October because it's "amatuer month." I think she could be getting some souls out of Purgatory, but I can't judge. I imagine all the sewing she gets stuck with does enough good for them. Of course when your soul's on fire--in a bad way-- should we ever be using the word 'enough'?

Now the poor thing has the double whammy of people who have asked her help on their children's Halloween costumes.

Let's stop here for a moment and mention that the Catholic church doesn't get all silly about Halloween. We're as afraid of the devil as the next denomination, but people in masks don't scare us. The very word Halloween is derived from the eve (Hallow, Holy, e'een, evening, Holy eve) of all Saints Day, a holy day of obligation. (That means that you and your children, if you're not all throwing up candy, need to get to Mass. If you don't, when you're all in hell, you'll all look like that costume you wouldn't let your child buy.)

But we have always stressed the idea of finding ways to make the holiday holy. One bright idea has been to encourage the children to dress as their favorite saint.

And I just have to be honest and say, enough already.

It would be one thing if the child dressed up as St. Hubert, with a bishop's outfit and hat and had a stuffed deer with him or a mad dog or a bloodhound (St. Hubert invented the bloodhound), and then wrote a report on St. Hubert and sat with other children discussing why they picked the saint ("he has a bow and arrow" is not a good answer). Perhaps we could send little St. Hubert out and see if he can talk any heathens into melting down their idols.

But that's not what's going to happen. What's going to happen is that the child, dressed as St. Hubert, is going to find the largest bag he can lay his hands on. Smart children know about the pillow case. Then little St. Hubert is going to walk door to door and scream, "Trick or Treeeeeat!" and thrust out the giant bag. At least little St. Hubert knows enough to say thank you. Jesus will not be mentioned.

I suppose we could suck all the fun out of this fall festival by having little St. Rose of Lima with her pretend crown of thorns covered in plastic roses ask for money for the poor, or we could make little St. Sebastian, proud of how he got it to look like arrows are sticking out of him, give all his candy to the poor children.

Even I am not THAT big of a wet blanket.

I say, give the child your broom and a pointy hat and let her have fun gathering and eating candy. Tomorrow she'll be at Mass. For a child, that is enough.

And that way, Sister St. Aloysius only has to buy one pattern. We're on a budget.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Brief History of Eternity

My goodness, we've had quite the feedback on Stephen Hawking's marital status. I can't really talk about it any further without resorting to gossip. Let's just say we don't care much for divorce in the Catholic church and leave it at that.

Or....at least let me explain that as far as we know (without a certficate of nullity), Mr. Hawking and his first wife are not apart, even though are divorced.

Prepare to be confused.

Here are the rules.

The church recognizes civil divorce and even the need for it. If a couple separates there are things like child support and property issues that have to be resolved.

But the church never recognizes the divorce as a thing that dissolves a marriage, even if the marriage is bubbling like an Alka Selzter tablet waiting to tackle a hangover.

A marriage is impossible to dissolve. You take your vows before God and the community. "What God has joined together"...you know the drill.

In order to not be married anymore you have to show that you were never really married in the first place. For that you need a certificate of nullity, commonly, but erroneously called "an annulment." To get one you have to show that somebody didn't live up to their promises, or that they entered the promise with their fingers crossed behind their backs. For example, you stupidly marry a person of another faith (a recipe for disaster, what were you thinking) who promises to raise the children Catholic, and then they don't. Since this person never even intended to get the kids up for Sunday Mass and help them figure out what to give up for Lent, but just said he did so you'd marry him. He ( or she...don't get your knickers in a bunch) entered the contract under false pretenses, thus the contract never took place: it is NULL.

The children aren't null. They probably have a lot of catch up work to do, though.

If you are divorced, but haven't had a certificate of nullity, you are not 'divorced'. That means if you re-marry you are living in sin. Tons of sin, really because everything you........do......as a married couple ........each..........is a sin. Or thinking about that with the intent to...have that happen..... whether it actually happens or not. It's a double sin, too. Because you are causing the other person to sin, that's a sin on you, too. Two mortal sins, every time.

Since you're still married, you're even in big trouble if you're dating.

If you're the dump-er we better not see you in the Communion line with that mortal sin on your soul.

If you're the dump-ee you are sin free. Unless you start dating. Then you're on the down escalator. You'll recognize it, it's the one that's on fire.

I don't know the status of our favorite physicist in the eyes of the church, but...it doesn't look good. You can see why it's difficult for me to focus on unified theory when I have to worry about his immortal soul.

At least he has a good understanding of the word 'eternity.'

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stringey Theory

The other day I had occasion to mention Martha Stewart. A long time ago I saw an episode of her program where she was making quesidillas. She was in her fabulous kitchen where she has a special small refrigerator built into her kitchen 'island' that is just for keeping dough cold. Her actual refrigerator, like her linen closet, is the size of our entire kitchen. Don't get me started on that linen closet. If there is a housing shortage in your area it's because of the space Martha Stewart's linen closet takes up. Back to the quesidillas...she had a special pair of scissors, a pair of her old sewing pinking shears. She explained that they were no longer good for sewing any more and she had marked them with one of those embosser things where you can label everything you own and your dog Rollo, and she had put on those scissors "quesidillas".

I use a knife.

Still, after I got my hair to lie back down, I enjoyed her segment on ironing. She did it the way my mother used to, by spritzing each piece of the laundry and then rolling each piece up so it stayed damp, putting each piece in a laundry basket next to the ironing board ready to iron. I don't believe she turned on a soap opera. My mother did that. It brought back happy memories.

I have a love/hate relationship with Martha Stewart. Okay, I don't hate her. I don't think I hate anyone. If I do....straight to hell for me. But she does cause my teeth to clench.

The other person I have a love/teeth clenching relationship with is Stephen Hawkings, the brainiac physicist. You have to admire a person who has soldiered on the way he has, with all his horrible health problems and how hard it is for him to do anything at all, let alone what he has done. Not to mention how brilliant he is. Quite a package.

Then I heard he dumped his wife who stood by him all these years for his nurse. How did he even do that?

We can't judge.


It's pretty depressing when even Stephen Hawkings trades his old wife in for the new model.

You might be surprised that I spend any time thinking about Stephen Hawkings at all, but I do. I do because once I heard him say that he believed in God because he thought he could prove God's existence mathmatically. At least I think that's what he said. Maybe I was dreaming.

But from the little I know about physics, that makes sense to me.

Calm down. I don't need anyone to prove God exists. If I did, why am I dressed like this? I mean, really. I could just be wearing comfortable mumus.

But that doesn't stop me from thinking how great it would be if someone did prove it for people who aren't dressed like this, so to speak. I would love it!

And I would hate it. Not for the reason you probably think...that God is all about faith.

I would hate it because I would have to take Stephen Hawkings word for it that his equation actually proved God's existence. Stephen Hawkings, who like zillions of other middle aged men, dumped his wife for the younger model. I can't check the math because people like Stephen Hawkings talk like this.

I have more faith in Marth Stewart.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My Best Friend the Saint

Nuns always address each other as "Sister". You would think that would be confusing, like when my uncle named his dog after himself and every time his wife said, "George, come here" they both came running.

Of course, it's not a problem for us here at the convent. Since Sister Mary Fiacre is pretty much not going to respond, when I say "Sister", Sister St. Aloysuis knows I'm talking to her.

Still, you would think in a large convent, if there was such a thing these days, the nuns would call each other by their full names or just the back half. Maybe they do. I can't do that with Sister St. Aloysuis or I would be calling her St. Aloysuis and then the actual St. Aloysius would be confused. I don't ask the actual St. Aloysuis to go start the car or bring in the mail.

But isn't it interesting that we are all on a first name basis with the saints? No matter how big, or popular or obscure, we just call them Peter or Paul. Even when there's more than one of them, like the St. Theresa's, we don't say St. Avila.

The only one I can think of is Padre Pio, who some people call St. Pio. But then Padre isn't a first name, is it? That would be like calling me Saint Sister if I became a saint. (Fat chance. Although I do think I'll make it to heaven after a long roast in Purgatory. Then I will be a saint, just not a title holder. * But you never know. I could snap some day; people do.) Or Mother Teresa. She's Blessed Mother Teresa. If we call her Blessed Mother we'll have mayhem. But she'll never be St. Teresa, either. She'll have to be St. Mother Teresa or everyone will be confused.

Anyhow, I was wondering why this happened, with so many saints through history that we're still on a first name basis with all of them. I have a theory. (I always do.)

At first, we didn't have that many saints. We had the twelve apostles and a few girls. So we were okay there except for the two James'. Poor St. James the Lesser. That was a stinky thing to do to him, sticking him with that moniker forever. He's only called 'the Lesser' because he became an apostle after St. James the Greater. Couldn't he have been St. James Next or St. James Squared or something?

So everyone is used to calling these saints by the first name, because they didn't have a last name, except for Mary Magdelene. It's good she had a last name because right away we have no Mary confusion. We have the Blessed Mother, Mary the sister of Martha, and Mary Magdelene, so there is only one St. Mary...although...some people do refer to the Blessed Mother as St. Mary. Oh well. We seem to always know to whom we're referring.

And everyone thought Jesus was coming back pretty soon for quite some time, until He didn't. So there was no need to expand the saint naming system.

Then, all heaven breaks loose. But by then we do have a system. Following the lead of Mary Magdelene and Joseph of Aramathea, we just tack on where the person came from. One saint to a town, I guess. Good thing there weren't two St. Josesph's of Aramathea's or we'd have St. Joseph of Aramathea the Lesser.

The second part of my theory is how we managed to maintain the first name basis with so many Peters and Johns and Catherines. I think it's because we like to remember they were just like us, with terrible problems and doubts and crosses to bear and horrible illnesses with no pain killers or portable oxygen tanks and the all that life throws at us, and they still were able to do Christ's bidding. So we look to them, like buddies, to haul us through our own tribulations, which often seem minor compared to, say, having your skin combed with wool brushes or leading an all male army through an entire war and then getting burned as a witch.

I'll be interested to see if Matt Talbot makes it to sainthood, what he's called. I'll put my money on St. Matt Talbot, because even though we're on a first name basis, St. Matt, just sounds too casual.

*Everyone who is in heaven is a saint. A canonized saint is someone who the church as proved to be in heaven, by virtue of two miracles the saint has performed.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Alexa writes:

Dear Sr. Mary Martha,
We have a new car. Twice today my husband parked it and took up two parking spaces on purpose -- to insure against anyone opening their car doors and hitting our new car.
Twice we wondered if that is a sin.

My husband also wants to know if you are more like "Mary" or more like "Martha". We are big fans of yours.

Dear Alexa,

In response to the second part of your question, am I a "Mary" or a "Martha", I have mentioned here on the blog, which you apparently haven't bothered to read, that I am totally a Martha.

(Alexa is referring to the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. I told the whole story and mentioned that I am just like Martha, the patron saint of over zealous Martha Stewart types and waitresses.)

It's certainly not a sin to have skipped reading the rest of the blog and then asked a redundant question. If I end up with a big head because I have 'fans' and I get annoyed when they claim to be fans but aren't actually reading the blog...or maybe they are skimming through looking at the pictures...then I'm sure I'll have some serious Purgatory time ahead of me.

I've also mentioned here on the blog, that the clergy roasts in Purgatory longer than other folks because our sins are automatically worse than everyone elses, one, because we know better, and two because we are in charge of guiding the souls of others. If we fail, we fail you right into hell. That's quite a responsibility.

Luckily, the Blessed Mother is in charge of Purgatory and brings the suffering souls water. Maybe she only does that on Saturday's, though, when she comes to let the people out who were wearing scapulars when they crossed over.

But the car thing, Alexa...I have to tell you I think we have some sin going on here. Taking up two spaces is not good. It's selfish. There's just no way around that. It's putting your needs before the needs of others. So that's bad enough.

Then, what if the lot fills up and I have to try to get Sister Mary Fiacre into church and go park, but there are no spaces because YOU took up two and so I have to leave her on the curb while I go hunt for a space? Sister Mary Fiacre might wander off, or at least, roll away. Meanwhile, I'm thinking evil thoughts about a person without even knowing who they are so I'VE sinned.

Now we have a chain reaction. As other people drive into the lot and find there are no spaces but there WOULD have been if some parking glutton hadn't taken up two spaces and THEIR blood boils, all hell has broken loose.

But it's really worse than that, Alexa, because the REASON you took up two spaces is not because you have to get a wheelchair out, or you have vision problems and are seeing double (in which case you shouldn't even BE driving) or even because you are bad at parking and are too lazy for a do over.


You took up two spaces so your NEW CAR doesn't get SCRATCHED.

How can I explain this, Alexa?

Jesus left His disciples with specific instructions before He made His way back to heaven. He told them to take no shoes, or money, or walking stick.

I can't think that He said "But do take a brand new car and take up two spaces when you park so it doesn't get scratched."

Here's what I think you should do, Alexa. Get out your keys. Go into the garage. Take you keys and scratch you car with them.

There. Now it's all over with.

Hope this helped.