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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Welcome to the World

I examine my conscious daily
wondering why I write. I started writing to answer the many questions that are put to me on almost a daily basis in the real world. I can't be going door to door, not is this neighborhood. Plus, that door to door thing goes over like a lead balloon for those Jehovah's Witnesses.

But the blog took on a life of it's own. That could be sinful.

I don't think it is, though. Or at least, I don't think it has been. In part, I wanted people to realize that although I am a nun, I live in the same world you do and I am subject to the same problems, annoyances and temptations. More and more nuns live in the same way that Sister St. Aloysius and Sister Mary Fiacre and I do than go out to work and come home to a convent full of other Sisters.

But we have a higher calling. We constantly have to concern ourselves with the state of your soul. It's our job. Not only do I have to worry about it because it's my job, I have the added bonus of the going to the lowest rungs of Purgatory for my failures. The religious and clergy are destined for the worst punishment there.

Which is just another good reason to continue writing: the more readers I have, the more people I may have praying for me when I end up there. Because, let's face it, I'm going to be spending some quality time in Purgatory.

Today's question from a new reader:

Dear Sister,
Good post and I am really happy to have discovered your blog.
As a protestant I do have one question, why is it so important to keep praying for the deceased? Aren't they either in heaven or not? Does it make any difference whether we pray for them, shouldn't we just leave to God what happens to their souls?
Kind regards and keep up the good work.

I am happy you have discovered my blog, too. Do you know why you are called a Protestant? As a Catholic, I am happy to explain this to you. Here's what happened:

In the early 16th century the Catholic Church was rife with corruption. (Don't worry. We've straightened out the problems and the corrupt clergy that caused the problem are probably still in the lowest rungs of Purgatory...or worse...) The really big problem for a man named Martin Luther was the fact that the Church was selling indulgences.

Indulgences are prayers and penances that the Church as the authority to give to get people out of Purgatory early. They are like Purgatory parole. We don't have a problem with indulgences or the Church's ability to grant them. But selling them? That's bad.

We can all agree on that.

So bad, there was even a commercial jingle to boost sales.

So Father Luther -- a Catholic priest-- had a legitimate beef. He tacked a list of grievances up on the church door about all the things he was mad about. He wasn't trying to quit the Church. That's how you called for a debate back then. He was Protesting.

But the Church got mad and booted him out all together. So he started the Lutheran Church, which is why he was called and you are called a Protestant. He was so mad at the Church and the clergy that he decided to just cut them out of the picture. He decided we didn't need the clergy to understand the New Testament and all the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. He cut out the "middle man". I still can't figure out why the Lutheran Church has Ministers. Why do any Protestant churches have Ministers?

Could Martin Luther have been wrong about not needing a road map through the Bible? Hmmmmm.....

Anyhow, ex-Father Luther was so mad about Purgatory and the indulgences, he decided there was no such place. I wish I could solve all my problems so easily. Car broken? I'll just stay home. Children fighting with each other? What children?

Call me crazy, I follow the Church that was founded by Jesus while he was alive on earth, not the church founded on the teachings of a 16th century priest, or the next group who just wanted to change of couple of things from what Luther thought, like Calvin, and the next group who just wanted to change a couple of things from what Calvin thought until there were literally thousands of factions. I also don't follow the guy who wanted to get divorced but the Church wouldn't let him so he started his own church which is curiously similar to the Catholic church. But that's just me (and a few million other people.)

The Catholic Church believes there is a place where you are made perfect before entering heaven, that chances are, if you drop dead tomorrow, you are not in perfect harmony with God and have to get a few things straightened out, maybe suffer for a few of your sins. That place is Purgatory. Contrary to what you may have heard, there is indeed Scripture to back up the notion. "Praying for the dead" is mentioned.

"It's not in my Bible," you say. No, it probably isn't. It's in the book of Maccabees. Guess who threw the book of Maccabees out of the Bible? His initials are ML.

And, as you say, there is no reason to pray for a person who is in heaven or a person who is in hell. So if the Bible mentions 'praying for the dead', and it does, there must be someplace in between. A place where people need our prayers.

Unless you don't believe in praying for people who are suffering. To each his own, I suppose. As a Catholic, you are not obligated to spend one second praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory on your own. You will be praying for them at Mass. And hopefully, on All Souls Day which is right around the corner over there by Halloween.

You can go ahead and pray for the Souls in Purgatory...or you can pray for your own soul for when you get there. Because...well, I know I'll be there. Let's leave it at that.

I choose to pray only for the souls there now and hope that someone will return the favor and carry on the Tradition while I'm there. Because...I'm going. Even my scapular won't keep me out of there.

Speaking of Separated Brethren.....

Get over to the Blogger's Choice Awards and cast your vote for the top Catholic blogs. Although I love having your votes, right now the Anglicans are on top. We can't have that. The Catholics were out ahead all this time! Vote for me while you're at it...but don't make me into Ralph Nader here. It's a Blogger's Day of Obligation, Church Militant.


ann nonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha,

I love you and I love your blog! I'll be praying for you until I get to purgatory myself. That is unless I get there before you, or unless, God forbid, I end up short of my mid-range goal, too. Well, put it this way, I'll be praying for you for as long as I can and from whereever I'm able.

Thank you for your posts! They are one of the highlights of my days. I love opening my browser and seeing a new title waiting for me to read! I voted for you a while back. Are you allowed to vote for the same blog twice? At last check, the Catholics were back in first with the Anglicans in second.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Oh Good! It's neck and neck I imagine. I hope my post did some good.

Sister Mary Martha said...

And no, you can't vote for the same blog twice. It's not American Idol.

Anonymous said...

Sister, I was raised Catholic but at 20 years old joined the Episcopal Church. I am delighted to say that I have been able to come back to mother Church, and my husband has become Catholic as well. Thanks for what you do on here; this latest discussion on Purgatory cleared up a lot of things for me. I still do not know why I have the recurring dream, (my comment from a couple posts back) but hey, it took 30 years just to get back to the Church, so I guess I am a slow learner.
P.S. I am even relieved to know that we can loosen up and even celebrate Halloween a bit this year(forbidden in our Protestant church).

Anonymous said...

Your blog is a delight! I always remind my children to pray for me after I die to which they usually reply, "Oh mom, really." So I keep reminding. Seems as though so few think to pray for the souls in Purgatory anymore. Enjoyed your post.

Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha,

Love your blog too, just voted for you too. Thanks for all your inspiration.

Elsbeth said...

Thank you sister for taking the time to answer my question. I will look up what is said in Maccabees about praying for the deceased. One question does remain after your explanation and that is about grace and forgiveness of sins. Ofcourse we are hardly ever in perfect harmony with God and there are always things (sins) that need straightening out but I believe that that is what Jesus came to earth for, among other things like teaching us how to love our neighbours etc etc. That means that when we die God sees us through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and that would mean no purgatory. Ofcourse that does leave the problem of what happens to people who are not christians when they die. I always hope that Gods grace also extends to them but that might be like ML chucking things I don't like out of the window and pretending they are not there.
Kind regards from Elsbeth from The Netherlands

Denise said...

A very good and concise explanation of purgatory! I do think you may want to change your first sentence, though. I am sure you examine your conscience not your conscious on daily basis.

Anonymous said...

I good explanation of Purgatory. I had trouble understanding it until one of my teachers (a deacon) explained it was a process and not a place. Like washing your hands before eating supper, it removes the dirt.

A couple of my relatives were Christians who believed that after they accepted Jesus and was baptized, it didn't matter what sins they committed. The other Protestants in the family (Anglican and Lutheran) never could figure out how his church went from sanctifying grace (not works) to "Jesus is my 'Get Out Of Hell Free' card".

Melora said...

I just came back from voting for you. Your blog is educational and funny, and that Anglican blog (currently in the lead) is a jumbled mess.
I'm an Episcopalian who feels drawn to the Catholic church. The big (Huge) roadblock for me is that I was married and divorced once before I met my husband. We've been happily married for over ten years now, and have two children, but I've read that the Catholic church would hold that my current marriage and children are illegitimate because the first marriage was not annulled. Please let me know if I am wrong on this point!

Denise said...


The Church would not declare your children illegitimate. You would be required to seek an annulment of your first marriage and then a validation of your current marriage. My brother's wife was not Catholic and had been married once before she married my brother. When she entered the Church, this is what had to happen. I really suggest you talk to a priest and/or also read this book to get your questions answered about annulments. Best of luck to you.

Melora said...

Catholic Mom,
Thank you. I'll see if I can track that book down.

Anonymous said...

Sister, aren't you oversimplifying the Reformation by saying that Luther, Calvin and others just "wanted to change a couple of things?" There is serious scholarly disagreement over whether St. Peter was indeed the first "pope" as the Catholic Church uses the term, and over whether there indeed exists an unbroken line of "succession" from him to the present Bishop of Rome. In addition to protesting against the sale of indulgences and other abuses of the medieval Church, the reformers were simply saying that maybe it just isn't so that the Pope is boss and everybody else toes the line or else. After all, Christ himself said that "whenever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there am I." To say that the Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church, or even the Church of the Nazarene, is not as valid a Christian community as the Roman Catholic church is to ignore the scholarly debate that persuades otherwise. It is the position of the Roman Catholic Church that they are the "one true church" and everyone else must agree to be reabsorbed into them, that is stopping ecumenical reunion dead in its tracks.

Anonymous said...

Scholarly debate that persuades otherwise?

You mean the one that ignores the Church Fathers, history, common sense and all similiarlity to human reason?

Please point me in the direction of this "scholarly debate," and I guarantee it's nothing more than a long list of ungrounded justifications for Protestantism and its adoption of all manner of heresy, marked by historical revisionism and logical inconsistencies.

It's really rather simple. Is the Catholic Church the Apostolic Church. If not, where is it? Historically the Apostolic Church can't be found anywhere else? Can the Apostolic Church cease to exist? Jesus says that the gates of Hell can't prevail against her. Then if the Apostolic Church exists, the only existant candidate is the Catholic Church. If the Catholic Church is the Apostolic Church, then the only thing that can justify you not belonging is if it teaches some error. Demonstrate that the Catholic Church teaches error. If you can't, then you have no excuse for not being Catholic.

There is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church for those who know that the Catholic Church is the one true Church. Think about it.

jj said...

What a lovely post and what an interesting blog. :-)

And Ms Amanda, you can choose many different perspectives in explaining the Reformation and it is easy to get lost in all different perspectives. Often people forget for instance that the reformation often had to do more with economics and power of kings and nobles, rather than with theology or the beliefs of the common man.

I enjoyed reading this very much.

Anonymous said...

My kids were recently baptized into the Catholic Church, but are going to a baptist school. In all the text books - it's Catholic bad, protestant good. Next year my daughter graduates and we're hoping that she will be accepted into a Catholic high school. Then the mixed messages can diminish, if not cease.


Anonymous said...

You are the coolest. Question...you said

But we have a higher calling. We constantly have to concern ourselves with the state of your soul

hmmmmm. I believe this to be true for myself as well...but I'm not a nun. What do you make of that?

Have a great weekend :))

Elsbeth said...

Just a little story as an answer to the true church comments. I am tempted to respond to them in an unchristian manner, but I won't.
This is the story; a christian named George dies, goes to heaven and is shown around heaven by Peter.Peter shows him all kinds of things. And then they arrive in secluded spot,George sees a large group of people,Peter tells George to keep quiet and walk quietly past the group. Why, asks George, who are they? They are catholics says Peter and they think they are the only ones in heaven.

Anonymous said...


What's your point? I'm sure there is a joke for every religious group. Some funny? Some not? Some...that you just scratch your head.

CMinor said...

Actually, I think I've heard that joke told about every major Christian denom at least once.

I believe it's an old point of theology that God is outside of time. He contains all time. So you can pray to Him on behalf of the deceased because he's at the time of their death and at the time you are praying for them.

C.S. Lewis does a good job of explaining this in Mere Christianity, if it sounds confusing here.

La Bibliotecaria Laura said...

Sister, another nice post. I've heard that Luther died a good Catholic and received Last Rites, Confession, and reconciled himself to the Church on his death bed. Is this just a Catholic urban legend?

La Bibliotecaria Laura

Anonymous said...

Ya know, I was in the protestant church for 30 years, and came to find that over there, everyone is their own little pope, hence, all the dissatisfaction I saw, and all the division. After running home to the Catholic Church, I was delighted to find a lot less legalism (oh yeah) and a lot more mercy, and sincere concern for the less-fortunate. I was also struck by the high level of education, and the intellectual depth and integrity of the clergy and religious. Whenever I go to mass I just feel so thankful and blessed to be there.

Anonymous said...

To answer "Anonymous"'s comment above:

Miss Amanda holds no truck with people who hold up "history, common sense and all similiarlity to human reason" as a touchstone for the truth. After all, common sense and human reason tell Miss Amanda that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it. Surely this view has deep historical roots and was believed for thousands of years by people of much sense and exalted reasoning.

Peter is not the only apostle to have founded a church. In fact, he founded several churches, the church at Rome being only one of them. The apostle Mark, whose gospel we often read, founded a church in Alexandria which today is known as the Coptic Orthodox Church. And there are many others.

Miss Amanda would refer "Anonymous" to the book entitled "Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit," by Garry Wills (Doubleday, 2000), although Miss Amanda knows she refer in vain, since "Anonymous" would probably much rather burn a book with such a title than pick it up, let alone read it. But there "Anonymous" will find enough scholarly references, including the works of the church fathers, to refute the notion that there is one and only one "true church" and that it is called the Roman Catholic Church.

Arkanabar Ilarsadin said...

Miss Amanda might also wish to refer to some of the criticisms of Garry Wills' work, which point out (aside from the tendency to ignore documents that contradict his thesis) that Wills is more interested in debunking Catholic doctrine than anything else. And frankly, infalliability of doctrine is so necessary to Christianity that I was able to demonstrate that to one of the godliest men I know, a Baptist minister. But I'll post that on my own blog.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Miss Amanda is all for scholarly criticism.

Also, let me clarify a point. I think it's just as wrong for the various Protestant sects to say that the Catholic Church is "bad" as it is for the Catholic Church to level that criticism against the Protestants. Tertullian, who gave us the expression "See how these Christians love one another," must be groaning in the afterlife.

The Anglican Church (of which the Episcopal Church is a part), among others, considers itself joined to the unbroken (however unbroken it may be) line of apostolic succession and, as such, as much a part of the Holy Catholic (universal) and Apostolic Church as the Roman Catholics do. Unfortunately, the Roman Catholics do not return the compliment.

Anonymous said...

this is classical speech from the Whore.. trying to disminish the Protestant Reformation with superiority... Don´t get fooled by this nonsence, who Obiously has no love for the Truth, but full allegience to the kult "Catholic church", "catholic church" is in the Apostles creed that is a usual creed in "protestant" churches. it just means "common congregation".
It was interesting to see this demon filled nun´s fire kindled against the critic.. It probably was the same spirit that worked on the "bartolemy night"...

Anonymous said...

Back on Purgatory: a priest explained another way to look at it. Imagine spending eternity as you are now, with all your petty grievances, disappointed dreams, guilt over offences committed to God and others, etc. How Heavenly would that be!?! Eternity like that! No thank you. Purgatory purges = cleans, so we can enter heaven pure to enjoy ourselves with God forever.

Anonymous said...

Wow! In Ocober 2007, I was looking for answers while heading back to Mother Church. If I'd stumbled onto this explanation, it would have saved me a hundred hours of searching Vatican archives online and books and verses and all. SMM you're incredible!

Anonymous said...

Regarding the deacon's comment about Purgatory being a process and not a place...like washing your hands. You have to stand in a PLACE to wash those hands. Just as you need to be in a place to serve the temporal punishment due for sins. We do not go to "Nirvana" where we are absorbed into the cosmic "Other". We remain ourselves from the moment of death and receive our glorified bodies on the Last Day.

Anonymous said...

Miss Amanda,

my apologies for taking so long to return to this.

As it happens, we Roman Catholics do recognize the succession of (male, heterosexual) Anglican bishops, which is why we can give Holy Orders to men like Fr. Dwight Longenecker.

Now, as to whether it's proper to offer criticism of other faiths: yes, it is. The original term for this is "apologetics." However, it is not proper to presume that others are damned eternally because they believe heresy or error. It IS further sin to make no effort to correct them.