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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

School Days

My brain is stuck to my skull. School started on Wednesday. Children are lost, have forgotten their lunch, are dressed inappropriately, can't remember their names. Thanks to our cracker jack staff we've lived to tell the tale and so have the children. I think. I guess I should call their homes and make sure.

Which brings me to today's question from a reader:

A young (30-something) friend of mine teaches in a Catholic School - middle school aged children. She teaches religion, among other subjects.

On a recent retreat, she admitted that, while she calls herself a Catholic, she doesn't believe in The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Pope's infallability, celibacy for priests, male-only priesthood, Purgatory, Saints, offering sacrifices... the list goes on and on. She feels if "it isn't written in the Bible, it isn't from God." Can you tell she went to a non-Catholic Bible college?

My eyes must have been bugging out of my head - because she took offense at my reaction.

SO - in this day of poor catechesis - what's a person to do? Beg her not to fill children's heads with inaccuracies? Talk to her principal? Ask her why she thinks she's a Catholic? I am praying for her, and her students - and ask that others do so as well.

Let's tackle the last part first. What's a person to do?

All of the above. She can believe anything she wants, including that aliens have landed and that she is in danger of becoming a giant peapod, but she better be teaching what the Church teaches, so asking her not to fill children's heads with her own made up cafeteria of faith is a good move. So is talking to the principal. I'm not sure asking her why she thinks she's a Catholic is appropriate, but I'd sure like to know the answer to that one.

I'd also like to know how she comes up with the idea that the Blessed Virgin Mary is not in the bible. I'm pretty sure she's mentioned. I'm guessing this teacher is one of those folks who doesn't believe in praying for the intercession of the Blessed Mother. And guess what? That's not a problem. She can skip that altogether as a Catholic. She can skip the intercession of the saints as well. We don't mind. (Even if it means a few less Christmas orders this year.)

But as long as she's at it, I hope she's at least consistent in her beliefs and doesn't ask anyone else to pray for her either. Why bother? It's all between you and Jesus, right? I don't mind. The situation will free up some of our time.

What she can't do is tell people not to believe in intercessory prayer. That would be bad. I have a feeling she actually does believe in intercessory prayer. She does if she's ever asked someone to remember her in their prayers. Perhaps she has a grudge against the saints. Many people do. They make us feel so inadequate, what with getting their fingers chewed off by the Iroquois and being roasted to death on a grill and being shot full of arrows and saying only, "I forgot to duck!" Wait...that was Ronald Reagan.......St. Lawrence had the Reaganesque comment when he was being roasted, "Turn me over, I'm done on this side!" I think he also said something about dinner being ready soon.

Purgatory IS in the Bible. It's just in a part of the Bible that the Protestants threw out. She might want to make sure she has a Catholic Bible. Maccabees 12:46: "Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin." Please explain what this means if there is no Purgatory. Dead people in heaven don't have to be freed from sin. Dead people in hell aren't getting freed from anything. The Catholic church just gave that place a name. A purging place...hmmm a purgatorium.....Purgemart...PurgeyWorld...PurgeInn...

I think they came up with a pretty good name for it.

A more interesting question is: how did Maccabees get thrown out of the Protestant Bible? Martin Luther was mad because the Church was selling indulgences. He was right about that being very bad. The Church at the time actually had a jingle to go with their sales pitch ("As soon as the coin into the coffer rings, another soul into Heaven springs." I hope it had a cathcy tune), that's how bad it was. But then Martin Luther went and just took things out of the Bible he didn't want to be in there. He was mad about indulgences so he took out the reference to Purgatory. Way to go, Martin. Problem solved. Let's all try this tactic at tax time next year. What W-2's?

I'd like to find out what she thinks Jesus meant by, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23). Maybe I only dreamed that was in the Bible. Maybe I read it somewhere else. "Travels with Jesus and His Pals" "Chicken Soup for the Confessional" "All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten...or from Jesus", perhaps.

Here's more on Confession.
And other stuff.

The only area worth discussing on her list (her list so far) is the celibacy thing, since we actually do have some married priests in the Church as we speak.

Oh well. Won't she be surprised if she finds herself in Purgatory with the Blessed Mother bringing her water, while one of her uncatechised students seated next to her mentions that they both would have been better off going to confession once in a while.


Melanie said...

Hi, SSM, here I am with another question. I would like to know how alms giving can atone for sin like it says in Sirach 3:29. http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/sirach/sirach3.htm
is were the verse is if you want to see what I am talking about. The verse was part of the reading for Sept 3rd. I am at a complete loss as to how that would work. Could you please help me out? It was Labor Day so I couldn't ask a RCIA leader when it met on Mon. I am still wondering about it.

Andi said...

I was introduced to this blog by a friend of mine who said it was quite entertaining and wonderful.
Everything that your friend mentioned was not in the Bible, is in the Bible. For example, Jesus did say the Pope was infallible by saying, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt 16:19)
And she has to admit, even most Protestants believe in Mary.
I could give many other examples, but I don't think comments on blogs are supposed to be a page long each.
BTW, I really do love reading this blog. It gives me something to do when I get home from work. And I will definitely continue to read it after I go back to school.

AnchorMama said...

Well done, Sister, as always.

By the way, the picture you have of the little boy about to put a butter knife into the electrical outlet? One of my young sons did that -TWICE- and lived. Is there a special patron saint for a child like that?

Sister Mary Martha said...

Miss Muddy, off the top of my head, St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most brilliant theologians ever, was known as 'the dumb ox' in school. He grew out of it.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Melanie, at the risk of being dim, I don't quite understand you're question. I read the passage in your link. It seems all very self explanatory, unless you think God can't make the rules..or something. I feel like I'm missing the boat on your question. There's this:

Anonymous said...


I have 3 small children and one thing that I'm never sure about is when it's okay to miss church. My youngest had strep this week, and we went anyway (keeping well away from everyone), but we've missed it before when some or all of them were throwing up. Is it ever okay to miss Church due to illness if it's not sufficiently serious enough for hospitalization?

Anonymous said...

I was reading the link on confession with great interest. You see, I just went to the confessional for the first time ever yesterday (and was received into the church today!!! YAHOO!!! mile-wide smile over here...to finally partake was sublime).

I was a nervous wreck going into confession. Seriously - drenched with sweat, light-headed, my mind went blank. I'm not sure why, because I had desired to have this sacrament for so long but was unable until my marriage was convalidated. Father was very gentle, just wonderful (bless him!!) and gave me absolution for all the confessed sins and those forgotten.

I still feel heavy in a way though.. because in my nervousness I didn't really cover some things I wanted to have totally forgiven. Is it ok to go over those things next week? I have read that any unconfessed mortal sin makes the absolution invalid. Did I do that? Not even sure.....but I want to do this right.

Back when I was a protestant, I looked at the sacrament of confession with scorn. Confessing to God alone was enough, etc., I'm sure you've heard it all. I had *NO IDEA* of how hard it would be, and how much it would encourage me to avoid future sinning as much as possible, so as to not confess it again!!

Anonymous said...

To :Anonymous" @4:54pm -


God bless you. I'd answer your question but, let's wait and see if Sister Mary Martha has any words of advice for you.

Anonymous said...

mom of 3, if people are sick, esp with infectious diseases, STAY HOME!!! see Jimmyakin.org for his 'cold and flu people at mass' post in the left hand margin, and you wont feel guilty.

hope the strep goes aways soon!

Anonymous said...

When I took my middle son to his First Reconciliation, he went in to the confessional while I sat in the pews and prayed as hard as I could that he wouldn't be nervous and would remember all the prayers and "must-dos" we'd talked about. When he finished, I went in for my turn. I sat down, looked at the priest--and couldn't remember ANYTHING! I'd been concentrating so hard on my boy that I'd wiped my mind completely clean of what I wanted to say myself! Father had a good laugh. (And the kid did just great.)

Anonymous said...

I have recently been confirmed as an Episcopalian (Anglo-Catholic). My church offers confession but I've never gone. How does a middle-aged person make a first confession!? There is no way I could remember everything I did wrong in my life (there are far too many sins). I'm scared. Any tips/suggestions?

Stacey said...

Regarding Catholic teachings found in the Bible, Dave Armstrong's books are a good reference:

I really enjoy reading this blog - blessings to you, Sister, and the rest of your order and fellow teachers as well. :-)

A quick question for Sister and the other readers of this blog - my brother's confirmation saint is St. Philip Neri, does anyone know where I can find a good Philip Neri medal appropriate for a teenage boy? I can only find Philip the Apostle medals.

God bless,

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous about to make first confession:

I wrote the post above about having just gone to first confession and being a nervous wreck. I COMPLETLY understand the scared thing. I have literally lost sleep and spent hours thinking about this whole event. Some thoughts have come to mind relating to me, and you may find some use from them.

1) You HAVE sinned. Yes, you know it. I knew it. I have also realized that a rather large dose of pride was present for me to panic over admitting how much I had messed up. (pride will be at the top of the list when I go to confession next Saturday. Wish we had it available every day) It sounds strange perhaps, but there is a difference between saying quietly, in your head, "Yes, I did XYZ" and really being sorrowful and honest enough to say it aloud. Somehow that step of saying it aloud seems to make it all the uglier, at least for me. Even practicing saying it aloud by myself at home is uncomfortable, but honest.

2) God already knows what you've done. Yes, I knew that and you know that. Keep telling yourself that.

3) Make a list ahead of time of what you want to cover. This had been suggested to me way back, and I didn't really think it necessary. I WILL have a list in hand next time. I'm not saying a 10 pages thesis, just a short note to prod your memory if you suddenly find your mind a blank.

4) Finally, let me assure you as strongly as I can.... the torment you will feel for skipping things is painful indeed. No way is the discomfort of confessing them as bad as not doing so. And, I truly did not enter the confessional with the idea of not airing all the dirty laundry. Really and truly, I was scared to say some things but planned to - then when I panicked, there was a long pause and Father started granting absolution. Beautiful words by the way, I am longing to go back next week.

Ok, enough from me who is not remotely qualified to give any advice. I'm hoping others will join in this discussion.

june cleaver said...

When I was in Catholic grade school, a non-Catholic was hired to teach 3rd grade history. My parents thought we were back in the dark ages.

The teacher only lasted a year.

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's me, thinking about making my first confession.

Yes, a list. But no way can I remember 50-odd years of sins. Impossible. How to even begin. The task is so onerous I fear I won't be able to even start. And what priest will want to listen to a multi-page list of sins?

When one does this at so advanced an age, is it not sufficient to list what I consider my largest faults/sins & just say "I'm sorry," in general, for everything wrong I've done all my life? Does one really have to remember & confess to every single thing? I'm not even talking about things like murder or grand theft auto (ha) but simply being rude, insincere, lying, the myriad things most people do every day without even thinking much about it? No one can remember every little thing after a lifetime like this.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I have always been told you are absolved for all of your sins even if you don't remember them.
Now if you leave something out on purpose it's a different story, but if you're really making an effort to remember everything, then you should be just fine.

Anonymous said...

Sr. Mary Martha, I was at another blog today who was trying to educate Catholics about the evils of their church. She had a testimony from a former nun who says she was imprisoned, abused, other horrible accusations.

Can you please clear this up?


Anonymous said...

Anonymous#2 said:

"When one does this at so advanced an age, is it not sufficient to list what I consider my largest faults/sins & just say "I'm sorry," in general, for everything wrong I've done all my life?"

There is something for situations like yours that might help you. A "general confession" is when you confess everything you've done wrong in your entire life.

You aren't expected to remember every specific sin when doing a general confession. Just go through each category of sin (print out this sheet http://www.stgertrude.org/Examcon.pdf) and confess your general degree of wrongdoing, along with any major incidents that you remember. That's all you need to do.

General confessions can be long, and you're encouraged to make an appointment with a priest beforehand, so you're not rushed. Just tell a priest that you need to make a "general confession" and he'll take care of the rest!

Anonymous said...

Sue, I wouldn't be too sure that this isn't a modern-day Rebecca Reed or Maria Monk story. This "Sister Charlotte" talks about being watched so she couldn't escape from the convent and about not being trusted with a spade (a shovel) because they might try to dig their way to freedom. That sounds a lot like Rebecca Reed's story.

Rebecca Reed supposedly "escaped" from a Charlestown MA convent and told a number of lurid stories of "Catholic rituals" with the result that a mob burned down the convent. Some of the "rituals" included sexual advances in the confessional, and that's what this "Sister Charlotte" implies with her discussion of how drunken priests are locked into a room with each one of the "little girls" on confession day.

Maria Monk also supposedly escaped from a Quebec convent with the help of Protestant ministers after she'd given birth to the child of a priest. However, New York reporters investigated and found out she was never a nun; she had been a prostitute in Montreal. But I've seen excerpts from the Maria Monk book cited as fact by contemporary Protestant churches.

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear! Sue, this "Sister Charlotte" is just paraphrasing the Maria Monk story. I just read the rest of the supposed "Sister Charlotte".

She says that unwanted babies are smothered and thrown in a lime pit. That's from the Maria Monk story, as is this part: "They can tell any lie they want to to protect their faith and never go the confessional box and tell the priest about it. They can do more than that. They can steal up to 40 dollars and they don’t have to tell the priest about it. They don’t have to say one word about it in the confessional box. They’re taught that. Every Roman Catholic knows it and every Roman Catholic (you’d be horrified if you know how many of them) steal up to that amount."

Parts of the Maria Monk story can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Monk

Anonymous said...

It's sad to see that anti-Catholicism is alive and well :(

People will believe the worse about the Church no matter what we say, because if we're right they're in a lot of trouble. And it's much easier to be "saved" than it is to be Catholic and work at it.

I once had a girl in a college class publicly berate me for not believing in birth control and not being "saved". She told me that Catholicism was ridiculous and it didn't make any sense.

She was, BTW, living in sin with her "fiancee", using birth control. Yeah, I guess she would see Catholicism as a threat.

Jane said...

Stacey, the store at www.matthewfsheehan.net offers a St. Philip Neri medal, and so do www.saint-medals.us and the Carmel Mission Museum store at carmelmissiononline.org. I have never ordered from any of these places personally, but they look like reputable sites.

Saint Maker said...

Haha, I have the same title on my blog... Nice blog Sister... it is sad to see 'Catholics' behaving badly, then calling themselves Catholics... like Rudy Rudy Giuliani ... aye yi yi ... talk about a mess!

I too have a brave, nutty child ... named Mary incidentally ... who stuck a screw driver in the electrical socket and lived to tell... I almost didn't live to tell it here. I'm sure being named after Our Blessed Mother has helped her out of many scapes...


Anonymous said...

This blog is debunking the Sister Charlotte/Maria Monk story:


Anonymous said...

Speaking of Purgatory: Would you believe there's a prison in Utah called "Purgatory Correctional Facility"? Here's an NPR story telling how the place got its name: