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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Prettied up for her holy card.

The Real Deal.

We're gearing up for one of our very favorite feast days, right on the heels of St. Catherine of Alexandria! Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Catherine Laboure. Oh, how we love her! She sat with her head on Our Lady's lap!

I think we're a little jealous.

I always love entering the world of Mary's visits to our pathetic planet. As many times as she's come around to chat with us, not that many of her visits are...believable... at least as far as the Catholic Church is concerned.

I mentioned before that right off the bat we're going to dump the grilled cheese sandwiches, tree trunks and melted chocolate. Those things give us tension in our jaws and necks. Bishops grind their teeth. I think I had a nightmare about the melted chocolate. We couldn't clean Mary off the stove. In the dream, my old high school principle showed up to tell me the chocolate wasn't Mary and I felt really stupid because I already knew that. Typical of my many waking encounters with Sister Mary Arthen.

If Mary shows up in your back yard, the church will investigate thoroughly, and let everyone know if the situation is worthy of our belief.

If is is deemed worthy, mind you, you still don't have to believe it. You can if you want to.

If the church doesn't recognize the Mary visit, you are asked to stop showing everyone the tree bark or underbelly of your turtle. But no one actually does stop you.

St. Catherine Laboure was awakened one night by a small child. Odd, as she was in the convent. The child told her she was to get into the chapel right away. Catherine didn't want to go, because one isn't allowed to just wander around the convent all night. Think how scary that could be! But the child told her to get in there.

When Catherine arrived in the chapel in the middle of the night it was lit up like the Chicago fire. Mary came in and sat in a chair. Catherine and Mary talked and Catherine rest her hands on Mary's lap.

This happened a number of times. Mary showed Catherine a vision of a medal that Mary wanted Catherine to have made. Not an easy thing for a nun in a convent to accomplish. Catherine told her confessor (she never told any one else about any of this, ever), who treated the whole situation like so much melted chocolate.

Eventually he gave in and had a few of the medals made. They immediately became extremely popular. So many people had miracles happen to them while venerating the Mary of the medal that the medal became known as "The Miraculous Medal". Sales skyrocketed.

Now, if you think about it, unlike Fatima or Lourdes, the picture of Mary on the Miraculous Medal is a self portrait by Mary. Her other self portrait would be the one she painted for Juan Diego in Mexico, known as "Our Lady of Guadalupe", although Guadalupe has nothing to do with it. I guess Juan Diego had a heavy accent and the bishop, with his clenched teeth and tense jaw, didn't quite understand what Juan was saying.

It's a fabulous self portrait. Grace flows in streams of light from her hands. She stands on top of the world, crushing the head of the serpent under her foot.

St. Catherine took the secret of her to her deathbed in 1876 but did make a full account of the events before she departed. Her body was exhumed in 1933 and was incorrupt. Her heart, a couple of ribs, her kneecaps and her hands were removed.

I have to say, the kneecaps is a new one on me. It is very common to remove the heart of a saint and ribs, because you have a few, make for a good source for relics. Her hands were removed because they touched Mary. Her body, now under glass has wax hands and her actually hands are back at the convent along with the chair in which Mary sat. (It had been the Mother Superior's chair....considering Catherine never told anyone what when on in the chair, imagine how the Mother Superior must have felt when she found out, like Papa Bear, who had been sitting in her chair.) I'm guessing the kneecaps went because she knelt at Mary's feet while Mary sat in the chair? I'd like to have been at the meeting where they decided that one. Italians must have been involved.

Like most Mary visionaries, Catherine was a bit of a dim bulb, so there is hope for all of us to some day have a heavenly visit.

And the Miraculous Medal is still doing it's work. It's now the official patron of motorcyclists. I think they scrape their knees a lot.


Kasia said...

Why do they pretty saints up for their holy cards? It almost always seems they looked better in real life...and has the extra bonus of reminding us that they were real people with extraordinary lives. I can see it for people who predate photography, but...

Sister Mary Martha said...

More and more we're seeing holy cards with the person's actually image. You can actually get Padre Pio old or young.

They do go for an "official" holy card look. I remember there was a ruckus when the official Juan Diego came out because he was too caucasian.

Kasia said...

Sister, please tell me more about this "offering up"...

I understand the theory. But I don't think I fully understand the mechanics of it.

Let's say I'm working our front desk, and I'm waiting for my co-worker to relieve me for lunch. I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, and I want to get off the desk before the phone rings AGAIN. (Just theoretically, of course!) She's taking her sweet time, and I'm getting more and more frustrated and uncomfortable. So I think, "Offer it up." Have I offered it up if I'm still irritated? What if the irritation goes away as soon as I start offering it up? Did it count?

Any insight?

cattiekit said...

I think the object supposed to resemble the BVM really looks more like the Maltese Falcon (of Humphrey Bogart movie fame).

Anonymous said...

When I was a Daughter of Charity, one of my sisters gave to us a small Miraculous Medal that had been laid in Mary's chair at Rue de Bec. I don't believe much in things, physical things, or their connections, it's the mind and heart and soul that matter, but I don't know what became of that medal, I suppose I gave it away. It was a comfort to me, though. Are such things still available?