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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What Can Brown Do For You?

I'm glad to have the opportunity to explain more about sacramentals, which seem to drive many people around the bend. I hope those who have been driven around the bend by sacramentals and the questions about them are offering up their suffering. It IS LENT.

We've had quite the discussion about the Brown Scapular.

One reader wants to know:
I am I to understand that as long as I wear the brown scapular (provided it doesn't fall off), I get to heaven even if I deny the Trinity, the Real Presence and Christ's Redemption by the Cross?

I really have to ask a question in return. If you deny the Trinity, the Real Presence and Christ's Redemption by the Cross, why on earth would you run around in a scapular all day every day? Clearly, you have no fear of hell in the first place.

But fine, for the sake of argument, let's pretend someone would do that. (We can do that while we're pretending the bones of the Jesus Family have been found and identified.)

Here's how I see it. Keep in mind I am an old nun that taught Catechism to second graders.

1. Our Lady made the Brown Scapular promise in direct reference to people who had devoted their lives to Christ and His Church. The Brown Scapular to which she refers is a part of their habit. So the promise already refers to the faith. She could have phrased it this way, "All you Carmelites will not see the fires of hell."

2. The Pope extended the promise to the rest of us, meaning, the Church Militant...which means, we believe the same thing. He didn't extend the promise to the separated brethren or the Wiccans.

3. As an old nun who taught Catechism, do I believe that you could be a Catholic believer, yet lead a sinful life and still not see the fires of hell because you wore a Brown Scapular? You bet I do! God can do anything He wants, including honoring Mary's hair-brained promises. God likes to cut people some slack whenever the opportunity arises. Perhaps Mary in her Motherly wisdom realizes that you have to look at that thing and shower with that thing and wear your prom dress with that thing every day of your life and that just maybe that will be enough of a reminder for you to dial it back and straighten up and ask for forgiveness. Like when Jimmy Cagney looks at a picture of his sainted mother while he's in the pokey and he's sorry for the sorry life he has led. So touching. These things happen.

Do you have to believe this? No, you don't.

4. Do I think if you wear a Brown Scapular and lead a sinful life and are not sorry ever but just run around saying, "Ha ha, I'm wearing a brown Scapular! Satan will never get me!" that you won't see the fires of hell? Not a chance. Satan already has you. The one time you take it off to shower, you'll slip on the soap and crack your head open. The bus that knocks you out of your shoes will knock you right out of your scapular. The flood waters that wash you away will wash the scapular off your neck. Your evil boyfriend will remove it while you sleep and murder you for your jewels. The paramedic will take it off to give you a shot of adrenaline that doesn't work. The nursing home worker will steal it from you. The atomic blast will vaporize the Scapular one millisecond before it vaporizes you. As you tumble, end over end, down the basement stairs with no one home to hear all the thumping, your scapular will be tossed off and land right before your eyes along with you at the foot of the stairs. As the life drains from you as you lay bleeding from your head wound, you will reach pathetically for your scapular, but the cat will grab it and run out the basement window. At some point, you are going to want to throw it in the wash. When you do, you'll drop dead.

You are not going to get away with it, mark my words.

From another reader:

The point I am trying to make is that when catholics make claims about sacramentals without giving the whole story, non-catholics easily fall into the "Catholics aren't Christian. Catholics are idolators" and a whole bunch of other stuff. I have to frequently explain to non-catholic friends the ideas of sacramentals, praying 'to' saints, and 'worshipping' the Blessed Virgin.

I have to do that all the time too. Offer it up. It's a great opportunity to set the record straight.

From yet another reader, this crackpot idea ( I had to correct some spelling):

Got to love how we try to secure salvation through any means possible, regardless of how puerile or ridiculous it is. How can a piece of cloth guarantee salvation? What are we, Hindu?

Along these same lines of superstitious, pagan left-overs in the Church, the Eastern Orthodox have numerous nifty wearable items and prayers to guarantee just the thing you need! Sure glad the church thought of everything. 100% money back guarantee, just like Folsom Lake Ford. Except this time it'll be too late to go spend your money.

The piece of cloth is a symbol of what we believe. You don't need the symbol to believe it. You can dump all your sacramentals and saint holy cards into the landfill tomorrow. No problem. You can forget about wearing a scapular. You don't have to believe in anything that came to us through private revelations: scapular, the Miraculous Medal, the St. Gertrude prayer...let it all go, no problem.

I may suggest also that you rid yourself of your family album and all those videotapes of the kids when they were little and the keepsake opal ring that belonged to your Grandmother because.... who needs reminders? What are we Hindu?


cattiekit said...

As always, ROTFLMAO. ;>D

I already suggested to the one Separated (Episcopalian) Brethren (or Cistern) who was so scathing about Brown Scapulars (and Catholic dogma in general) that TV reality shows might provide a better source of mirth and mockery than Catholic doctrine.

I personally can't watch even network *plugs* for such shows without praying for the souls of all the deluded and pathetic people who choose to abase themselves this way.

Nothing funny about that, really. OR Catholic beliefs. !!!

You tell 'em, 'Ster. I'm behind you 100%. :>)

And *honestly*? Who would wear a scapular (scratchy spidery old thing) and NOT believe in the promise?

Makes no sense. :>)

DCMS said...

I love you so much. :)

Anonymous said...

Awesome, awesome post, Sister!

Anonymous said...

I wrote something once about my late husband - who wore the scapular - Blessed are the Pure of Heart

CMinor said...

Speaking of the Separated Sistern, I think Sister needs to "explain it all" for that poor benighted lady in the combox two posts down. I don't think she's quite gotten this blog.

BTW, my convert hubby roared at this post! Said it's the best thing he's read in a long time.
Thanx, 'Ster!

Anonymous said...

Sister, I love you. My poor Calvinist self loves you.

Anonymous said...

Sister: You are the best!

Anonymous said...

Thank you sister for letting us know what we can and can't get away with! We need that! And you make us laugh. Want a brownie?

Tina said...

Sister, I have a question for you about Lent. I have been told conflicting things by different priests though. My question is, is it allowable to indulge in whatever you have given up for Lent on Sundays, since Sunday is not actually part of Lent? If so, where can I find information about that? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You are awesome! I just found you and bookmarked you for daily reading. You rock!

Sister Mary Martha said...

Hello, Tina, we talked about Lenten Sundays a few posts back. It's called "Lental Soup."

Anonymous said...

Both the anonymous commentors you quote are me. I am not anti-sacramental. I am only against misleading the already lost sheep.

I keep a rosary everywhere in the house I'm likely to be seated. This makes praying it convenient and turns me back ontrack as needed.

I have 14 medals taped to my monitor that I've been sent by Catholic organizations seeking donations. They are there to keep the demons in the computer at bay. They aren't entirely effective. I'd baptize it, but it's liable to fry something. Besides, I doubt it'd be covered by the warranty.

By the way, you write a really cool snit.


cattiekit said...

alexa, that's a sweet, sad, beautiful story.

God bless you, George's soul, your son and your wonderful new husband. <3 :>)

(That's supposed to be a heart, but cminor likes to think it's a mouse. Love ya, cminor.)

Lots of love to *all* our posters.

cattiekit said...

kitchen madonna - is it the *famous* brownie recipe of Sister St. Aloysius?

Just talking about brownies made me think of 'Ster's story about Sr. St. Aloysius and the Brownie Points of Purgatory. ;>D

C'mon - share! The recipe, even if it's *not* Sr. SA's. :>)

CMinor said...

Good explanation to our separated sister, cattiekit. Also charitably stated, which I think was important.

Anon/Denise, please set me straight here: You're concerned about Sister's explanation of the Saturday Promise because it may make us look ridiculous to the Separated Bretheren, but you put medals on your computer to keep off the demons?

Please,those of you who think we're too Catholic, not Catholic enough, or have otherwise checked in our brains: give us a little credit for common sense. We all know Sister isn't the Catechism, and most of us probably know (or should)how to cross-check her with an authoritative source. Moreover, if you read for a month or two, chances are you'll encounter somebody pleasantly submitting a correction or counterpoint, as is appropriate in cases of disagreement.

I am sure that most of the readership here are not a bunch of mind-numbed Sister Mary Martha cultists. We just find her posts entertaining and informative and thus far, not heretical!

Goodness, ya take a couple of days off from reading and all heck breaks out!

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

Are you from Cincinnati by chance? I saw the post on Frishes and I had to ask. If you are what school did you teach in.


Sister Mary Martha said...

I am not from Cincinnati although I know many fine people who are. I am from the Midwest.

cattiekit said...

Why, *thank you*, cee (if I may call you that)!

I wanted to mention the oddness of taping medals to a computer for demonic possession of the same (Episcopalians believe in demonic possession?), but you put it just right. :>D

Hearts and mouses to you. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 ;>D

CMinor said...

Sure, cattie; I answer to that, too.
Actually, I think the commenter with the computer medals was RC.

Anonymous said...

Sister, I do not doubt your cathechetical training, nor your good intentions regarding your blog. After having read your entries in their entirety, I leave an honest thought that is neither meant to hurt nor to inflamme.

You strike one as rather smug.

No one has a monopoly on God. Your apparent confidence in all matters spiritual and in the "knowedge" of God surpasses that found in many of the works of the greatest saints.

Your words are covered in pride, and comments from users who disagree with your interpretation of church teachings (yes, many times it is merely your interpretation, and theologians would prove you well wrong) obviously draw that out even more from you. Meanness and insult covered in wit and irony is still that: meanness and insult.

After all these years of prayer, one would think a person consecrated wholly to God would have conquered themselves a little bit more than the rest of us. Spiritual role models are humble and kind and think nothing of themselves.

with sincere prayers.

CMinor said...

If I may make bold to suggest:
"What Christians need most today is a sense of humor and a spirit of faith--and in that order."--Father John, S.M.

Might you be taking this blog a bit too seriously?

Anonymous said...

apologies for my what were, in my last comment, apparently errors in spelling (although I suspect it was the "incendiary" content more than the spelling that bothered).

i will take this opportunity to remind Sister Martha and perhaps others as well, that there are indeed people in the world that are born outside of the American Empire and thus do not grow up speaking English, but rather learn it as a second, third or fourth language.

Anonymous said...

Cminor: Yes, I'm a Returning/learning RC. We can be really strident at times, but we mean well.

I'm a computer professional. If I think it will be taken well by a customer, I occasionally bring out my 'magic wand' (glittery stick with a big puffy silver star). It's fun to whack the machine with it. When I'm shopping and the staffer apologizes for a computer glitch, I usually ask, "Have you tried burning incense?"

I agree with your reply to Michael (I sound a lot like him, unfortunately). I'd like to add a quote from St. Theresa of Avila, "From sour faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!"

Thanks for the heart/mice.

Denise (Anonymous)

CMinor said...

Thanks, Denise, I am much relieved! I thought the reference to demons might be tongue-in-cheek, but sometimes in these comboxes it's hard to tell.

If the combox snit level continues as it's been over the last several posts, Sister may need to consider adding a humor disclaimer to her header.

cattiekit said...

Dear Michael,

Judge not, lest ye be judged. ;>)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Michael. The faith is not meant to amuse you, people. (No doubt, there's a helluva lot of sniggering in hell.) Cattie, if you don't judge when someone is under-representing the faith, then I sincerely hope you will remain Protestant lest your lukewarmness come to be even more Noticed.

Martyrs die for this faith every day.

Arkanabar Ilarsadin said...

Indeed, martyrs die for this faith every day. Some of them (Patron saint of cooks, I don't recall his name) crack jokes in the process.

Look, fun is good, as long as it doesn't lead people astray. And all good things come from God. That would include the affectionate fun we poke at Him and His Church.

And saints get snippy, too. As I recall, the Dominican Order was founded when somebody observed to St. Dominic at the Vatican, "No longer can St. Peter say, 'Silver and gold I do not have,'" to which he replied, "Neither can he say, 'Get up and walk!'" He then walked out and founded an order of beggars.

WNV said...


This is such a WONDERFUL post, I would love to repost it on my blog! I will attribute it to you, of course, and provide a link. Would that be okay?

God love you!
Father Ventura

Sister Mary Martha said...

Yes, Father, go right ahead. I would be honored.

Julia said...

YOU GO GIRL! (hope that's not disrespectful to say to a Nun)

mph said...

This all sounds a bit shifty. If the scapula will be removed from you seconds before death if you're deemed fit for the hell fires, what's the point of wearing it at all? If it's just meant to be a reminder to stay on the straight and narrow surely a crucifix (or for that matter a tattoo/post-it note...whatever) could serve the same purpose.

mph said...

I don't suppose anyone feels like answering my last post...I really want to know. It's kind of an odd thing to promise, don't you think, that you won't see the fires of hell based on what you're wearing at the time of your death. Not that I'm critisizing what Mary says, I'm just not so sure she actually said it. So, I agree with you Sister, that those who deserve it will end up in hell, but don't see the point of the whole wearing the scapular thing if only those worthy of it will actually be allowed to die still wearing it.

Unknown said...

It is with utmost respect, but I truly do not believe that Mary has any hair-brained promises such as you wrote, "You bet I do! God can do anything He wants, including honoring Mary's hair-brained promises."

In JMJ I remain

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I just discovered your site sister and starting to love it. =) Thanks also for making me laugh today. Funny but you sent the message across.

"As the life drains from you as you lay bleeding from your head wound, you will reach pathetically for your scapular, but the cat will grab it and run out the basement window.

from Abu Dhabi