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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

St. Florence Syndrome

I have been diagnosed with a debilitating illness. Poor me. It seems I have Crazy Nun Syndrome. I should have known when the symptoms reared their ugly heads. Shooting off my mouth, making things up about Abe Lincoln to make people feel better about themselves. So obvious.

Luckily there is a cure. Shut up and stand corrected.

There IS a St. Florence. There is not one St. Florence in fact, but quite a haul of Saints Florence.

I did look for St. Florence before I put my foot in my mouth. I just did not look very well. Poor me. Poor St. Florence....Saints Florence. Poor old fool. Me. Not St. Florence, any of them.

I can forgive myself on one level. I could have done something really detrimental, like told you it was okay to skip Mass on Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation, which would land both of us in Hell, me for telling you something I know isn't true that causes you to go to Hell and you, for skipping off taking my word for it and missing Mass. Frankly, my sin would be the worse of the two.

I didn't get up at the Mike and Mike Roast on ESPN and swill vodka and take the Lord's Name in vain.

But that's no excuse is it? I don't think it is. I'd rather not have that other affliction, "Next Guy Syndrome" either. You know the one...."Well, at least I'm not THAT GUY. I'm not as bad as THAT GUY." What a sorry judgemental way to let oneself off the hook for one's shortcomings.

Anyhow, I should have known there was at least one St. Florence in heaven, which brings me to today's question:

In great kindness, one more question please:
I'm planning on joining a traditional order of nuns. In most of these orders the sisters take a religious name with their vows. Would this name be considered in preference to the confirmation name, or under it?
Also, after thinking about it, I wonder if confirmation name would be more like either your first name or surname in heaven. Just a thought. After all, if your parents named you after Saint Therese, and you are confirmed as Catherine, why ditch dear St. Therese? Shouldn't it be 'the more the merrier'? I am certain the saints in heaven are happy to share the load of patronage--being saints, they don't get jealous.

This is a POSER! Here's why. All these years women who became nuns took a new name, or were given a new name. St. Bernadette, for example, was given a new name as a nun, because her Mother Superior thought Bernadette was a stupid babyfied name. I imagine that a nun's 'nun' name is the name she'll be called in heaven, as opposed to her old Baptismal name, since as a nun she becomes the spouse of Christ.

But it's not that simple. For one thing, there are a slew of nuns who changed their names back to their Baptismal names after Vatican II. I don't know what in heaven's name happened to cause that, but they did it when they changed into their 'modern' habits (with the little veils and the 'nun bangs'). New outfit, old name. Go figure.

A fellow novice of mine, who had been Sister Mary Arthen, did not change her name. Her name was Florence and she told me that when she was a girl, everyone called her "Flossie", a cow's name. I tried to tell her that she must be thinking of "Elsie", the Borden glue cow. But there was a "Flossie" and no one in there right mind would want to be named after her.

Proof that Sister Mary Arthen did not have Crazy Nun Syndrome.

I would say that she is definitely in heaven (and be guilty of "St. Florence Syndrome"-stating something as a fact when you actually don't know what you're talking about) as she was just the bees knees and I'm just sure God wants her there singing to Him, even though while she was on earth she sang really, really badly after her throat went into a steering wheel when she plowed the convent car into the side of the convent. I don't know why that happened. Perhaps she was swerving to avoid hitting a cow. It WAS a rural area.

And in heaven, no one is married. That might make her Flossie again.

What was your question?

Oh yes. I remember now. I think 'the more the merrier' and be prepared to answer to anything up there. Over there. Wherever it is.

Everyone thinks heaven is 'up' because Jesus ascended into heaven, but the Church doesn't believe heaven is in any particular direction. The general thinking is that the reason Jesus went UP was to show that He was LEAVING, that He was gone. If He went down, people might think He went to Hell and if He just walked away, everyone would have thought He was around somewhere. (He is, but not like that.) So He went up, so no one would be confused as to His whereabouts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Margaret

We have had quite a lot of follow up questions about picking a Confirmation name. I've heard from a number of readers that some people don't even pick a new name any more. How sad. That's like everyone being baptized "John Doe". Even the girls.

The number one question was this one:
Ashley said...
Where does the idea that "your Confirmation name is the name you'll be called in heaven" come from? I've never heard that before

So now there are at least two things that I always took for granted which no one else ever so much as heard. The Dear Boy Savior Club, of which I was secretary in the second grade, is the other one. Perhaps I simply hallucinated that we had a club and I was the secretary and we learned "Robert's Rules" to run the meetings and we had little buttons with the Boy Jesus on them. Next, you'll tell me you never heard of "Robert's Rules".

Now, I'm willing to chalk this up to just another one of those things that the nuns made up. I won't even pretend nuns don't make things up. Sometimes they do it in gangs, meaning, the whole order, or one particular convent full will all say the same thing. "Animals do not go to heaven, or anywhere else when they die, because they do not have immortal souls and they are not held accountable for their behavior." That one didn't spring helplessly from the mind of some over zealous Mother Superior who was trying to answer the questions of first graders. That one comes from the minds of some the Church's greatest thinkers.

But sometimes the information comes from one particular nun who has some idea that she wants you to carry with you. We'll never know her motivation. I'm sure it is just something she truly believed.

This one, about the Confirmation name being the name you are called in heaven, seems to fall in the middle. I believe it was one nun in particular who told us that. I'm sure I've repeated it many times. No one has corrected me.

It's not a crazy thought. When you are baptized someone picks a name and some Godparents for you. When you are Confirmed in the Faith you pick your own name and your own sponsor. Why wouldn't you be called that name in heaven, since this is the name you are choosing for yourself, finally? Makes sense to me.

It may well be something some nun made up.

PraiseDivineMercy said...
Ack... I never heard of the whole "name you'll be called in heaven" thing either... I figured it was just having a patron saint. I liked it because my name is just a word, albeit a pretty one, but I'm not sure I want to be called "Francis Assisi" for all eternity. Wouldn't that get confusing after a while, since he's a popular saint?

You haven't thought this through. Do you really think that St. Francis was the only guy named Francis who came from Assisi that made it to heaven? Assisi is a big enough place and been around long enough that there must already be quite a few Francises of Assisis in heaven. And all of them are also St. Francis of Assisi because everyone who is dead and in heaven is a saint. So when you get to heaven, you can just look for the Francis of Assisi section.

But then what would happen to all the people who never got confirmed or didn't get to pick names?

I really, really, really do not want to have to go around calling people "Anon" for all eternity (of course, I'm willing to put up with if that's what it takes...but still)
They will all be called John Doe or Jane Doe.


They will just have to make do with the names they were saddled with.

So that said, would be it very strange if I chose Mary Magdalen to be my confirmation name? I am worried that everyone will think that I'm a huge DiVinci code fan, or else somehow a reformed something. However, she is the saint I have the most devotion to. Seems like getting two names is somehow a better deal also.

That's a perfectly wonderful name. Mary Magelene was the first person to witness the most important event in history. That's about as good as it gets. I wouldn't worry about the "Da Vinci Code". There is a reason that book is listed under 'fiction'.

I grew up on St. Florence Drive. Are you telling me there is no actual St. Florence?

That's what I'm telling you. There are towns named St. Florence as well.
There are some names that are like Florence and I think that's where the name comes from.

I seem to be a part of the only RCIA class that has put an emphasis on choosing a confirmation name....There seem to be a lot of Elizabeths out there! I'm happy to know there isn't some secret list of blacklisted names (like certain numbers in sports that have been "retired"!)

Well, there are saints that have been nixed and I have taken to discouraging people from picking them as Confirmation names. St. Christopher and St. Philomena, for example. Not that anyone would pick "Expeditus" as a Confirmation name, but he just flat out did not ever exist.

I do find it interesting that you recommended Mary or any of the variations. I was confirmed in 1970 and I picked Mary for my confirmation name. I remember Sister Agnes being very unhappy that I had picked Mary.

What was her problem? Maybe she was unhappy with you and thought you'd never measure up. I think Abe Lincoln had the same problem. His father thought his mother was stupid for naming him a great Biblical name like Abraham when it was obvious that this ugly baby would never measure up. And look how well he turned out.

I totally made that up about Abe Lincoln. The affliction must come with the veil.

Okay, Sister, it's confession time. Mine's Bernadette. What's yours?

Bernadette! How lovely.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Saint Peter and Paulllll and Alllllll the Saints

The title of today's post is something my mother used to scream when someone scared her or if she had some sudden jolt. There was always an "Oh!" in front of it.

Not so long ago a reader asked about picking a Confirmation name. She wanted to know how one goes about picking a good one, if there are rules involved, can you name yourself after your Aunt Flo, that sort of thing. I thought we could take a look at picking a name and how most people approach the choice.

Confirmation names 101.

First and foremost, you must realize that your Confirmation name is the name you'll be called in heaven, so you don't want to saddle yourself with some silly name as though you are a Hollywood star naming her baby. You can't just call yourself "chocolate" or "dupa". Leave your Polish grandmother to call you Dupa. (And don't let anyone but her get away with it.)

We encourage you to pick the name of a saint, that way you'll have the added patronage of that saint. It's as though you're adding a heavenly Godparent.

We don't want you to name yourself after your Aunt Flo, because we don't know if your Aunt Flo is in heaven or not, unless she's been canonized. That's not to say you still couldn't pick "Florence", but keep in mind you'll be called "Florence" in heaven. Is that what you want? Anyhow I can't find anyone named St. Florence.

That leaves us with picking a good saint's name. Where to begin? There are several strategies:

1. Go with the big names. You can't go wrong with one of the Fathers of the Church, like St. Peter or St. Paul, one of the twelve apostles, any Mary name or Martha. I always recommend Martha. I'll come back to that later.

You could also go with one of the Doctor's of the Church. That narrows the list to forty some odd saints and only three women;St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Theresa the Little Flower, and St. Teresa Avila. Of the women, you only have two names from which to choose because there are two Theresas. You would just have to settle on a spelling. You could also spell it "Therese".

2. Use the name of a saint that also is the name of someone you admire, like your Aunt Flo.

3. Pick a name you like and see if there is a saint named that. Nine times out of ten, there is.

4. Think about your aspirations and find the patron saint of that. For example, if you want to raise bloodhounds, you could pick St. Hubert, the inventor of the bloodhound.

5. Assess your personality and find a saint that is something like you. Perfectionist? St. Teresa of Avila. Annoyed by the annoying habits of others? St. Theresa the Little Flower, who kept a list of all the people and things that vexed her so she could offer them up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. She had wanted to be a missionary, but being too sickly, made suffering fools and their foolishness her mission.

6. Have a problem that burdens you? A cross to bear, a dilemma you struggle against? Find a saint with the same problem you have. St. Charles Borromeo, for example, is the patron saint for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I'm not sure why. He was not well liked by the people around him in the order for which he served and imposed new strict rules on them. Perhaps it gave everyone a stomach ache.

We can't just go slapping a Confirmation name on you. You're going to have to do a little research. It's daunting, I know, because there are thousands of saints.

I vote for St. Martha. I'm fond of her because she is an 'everyman'. She used to have Jesus and His friends over for dinner all the time and was aggravated because her sister, who should have been helping in the kitchen, was lolling around listening to Jesus as though she were one of the guests. Martha had a very common reaction to being left with all the work, although Jesus set her straight on that.

But then, later, when their brother, Lazarus, died, it was Martha who had the wherewithall to realize that her friend, Jesus, was the One Person who could actually bring Lazarus back from the dead, which turned out to be Jesus' greatest miracle until He rose from the dead Himself. Martha was the first person to say, "I think You can pull this off, because I believe You are the the Messiah." Pretty important stuff from the cook. I think we can all identify with her.

Which is what you are looking for in a Confirmation name.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Touchdown Jesus

Save for the amazing turn around of Chris Kaman of the Clippers, it's been a pretty dull basketball season. I've enjoyed watching Mr. Kaman since he first came to my attention. The Clippers had just returned from a game in Milwaukee, during which Mr. Kaman had an attack of appendicitis. He did not return with the team as he was having his ruptured appendix removed. He returned a day later to the Los Angeles AND THE GAME. I just couldn't believe it. I've had similar surgery, and offer it up as I might, it was as though I had been mugged by a knife wielding appendix thief. Play basketball with a stab wound? Do you know why they called them "cagers"? The game was so rough it had to be played in cage to protect the fans. The NBA has cleaned up the game considerably but it still isn't tea time.

Anyhow, Mr. Kaman used to be a very uneven player, great one game, goofy the next. This year his is just terrific. All Star material. Why? All his life he has been misdiagnosed with ADD. I forget what it is he actually has, but he has learned to control it with bio feedback. He had been unable to remember what play the coach had called by the time he trotted back onto the floor. Now he's a dynamo.

Bio feed back.

I'll bet saying the rosary would work just as well.

Which brings me to today's question:
Sister as a fan do you have any comment on ESPN reporter Dana Jacobson and her filthy comments on Jesus? Any ideas on why ESPN would be covering for her? Any ideas on how Christians should be reacting? I'm too mad for ideas, my hand is just itching to slap her filthy mouth.

You must calm down. Anger is a sin. You shouldn't be itching to slap anyone and you don't know the first thing about her mouth. Most people who appear on television have impossibly white teeth and I'm sure they do a lot of brushing and flossing.

So first of all, let's get the story straight before we hang this poor girl with an oh, so very Christian lynch mob.

Miss Jacobson was at the podium for an ESPN roast of "Mike and Mike", two football players who host some kind of football program on ESPN. I don't watch ESPN hardly ever. I prefer games on TNT, because I like Kenny "the Jet" Smith, Charles Barkley (who has REALLY let himself go) and Ernie Johnson. Anyhow, this roast was not televised. The only press in the room was the Atlantic City Press.

We do know, from those present, that Miss Jacobson was swilling vodka (I believe that's the term they used) right from the bottle and swearing like a sailor. She was saying that she didn't care much for Notre Dame, Notre Dame football, and something about "Touchdown Jesus", the famous Notre Dame mural. She was using bad language when she did all this.

We know she was not pretending to drink or pretending to be drunk (for the sake of humor) because at some point someone managed to get her off the stage and she managed to get back on the stage.

I am familiar with this activity, as the mayor of my home town many years ago was notorious for doing just that at ribbon cutting ceremonies. The city police would drive him home and he would escape again, until one day the state police caught him driving down the sidewalk of the main street saying, "Tee hee hee, you can't catch me!" We know this because it was during the big CB radio craze and my aunt heard the whole thing.

What we do not know is what she actually said. I doubt she remembers much of what went on. The man from the Atlantic Press--now PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS PART--has said that he never heard her say what she has been accused of saying and when he asked other people who were there, they said THEY NEVER HEARD IT EITHER.

So how should a Christian react?

Let's use the Mel Gibson model of what sins were actually committed:

1. Getting drunk. Luckily for Catholics and those who attend Notre Dame, drinking is not a sin. Getting drunk might be a sin under some circumstances and only becomes a mortal sin if you get behind the wheel of a car or scrub into a surgical procedure.

2. Swearing. Venial sin.

3. Hating Notre Dame. It's a sin to hate. But Miss Jacobson is a Michigan University fan, so I think her remarks weren't so much 'hate' as sports rivalry fueled by alcohol.

I think she's pretty much off the hook, here. Should she be fired? I don't think so. She was at a party and she behaved badly. Very badly. We really don't know what she said exactly to to keep ranting about her over the internets and such actually becomes a whole new sin, slander. We'll have to start our own sin columns.

Who should be upset? The makers of Belvedere vodka, whose product was represented in a bad light. Even that poor red faced William Donohue believes that ESPN has handled the situation fairly. "I am happy to say that after speaking to two ESPN officials today, and having learned more about exactly what happened, that they are in fact taking this matter seriously," said Catholic League president Bill Donahue in a statement released Thursday. "Indeed, I am convinced that what occurred at the roast will not happen again."

I was actually more shocked to find that everyone calls the mural "Touchdown Jesus". I shouldn't be.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yammering with God

I'm headed for the Midwest once again. My lovely mother, who just turned 87 and who cares for my father who is bedridden and immobile, is sick herself and in the hospital. She'll need some help when she gets out, so off I go. I'll try to keep up with everything while I'm there, which I was able to do last time I had to stay there. We'll be fine with your extra prayers. Which brings me to this question.

Why do we pray? For the living, specifically. I understand why we pray for the dead in purgatory.

When I think about praying for my self, it seems very selfish. Even praying for others, for example, praying for better health for someone who's sick, seems like a lack of faith. Shouldn't I just pray for God's will and give prayers of Thanksgiving for good stuff that happens? Also, should I really believe that God was going to let someone die of cancer until people prayed for that person. Did God change his mind? What if people don't have anyone to pray for them?

I actually do believe in the power of prayer, I'm just not sure how, or even if I should, direct it.

You have to pray for yourself. It's not selfish. Don't you need God's help? Even Oprah and Dr. Phil understand that you can't help anybody, even souls in Purgatory, if you are a big mess yourself. Just ask that Ted Haggard fellow.

Anyhow, you're already missing the key element about prayer (as with so many other things): it's not about you. It's about God. Then it's about God and you and what the two of you are up to together. Prayer comes from God, not the other way around.

Remember in the Old Testament how God is always talking to Abraham? They have pretty important things to say to each other. They have to come to some understandings. That's why when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham grabs a knife and heads for the hills. That, and the fact that animal sacrifice was a normal thing. God was just asking for a better gift today.

Which, by the way, is just another reason I don't think animals have immortal souls and go to heaven. Not to harp on this, but if animals have immortal souls and go to heaven, then all those doves and lambs were murdered at God's request.

God never asks for murder. He stopped Abraham.

I digress.

Prayer is about you being on the same page with God, not about you asking God for things that make you happy, including the health of your loved ones. Not that you shouldn't talk to God about that. Does God cure people? Yes. Does he cure everyone? No.

God never cures cleft palates, for example. Only surgery will fix that. He also seems to have no interest in growing back limbs or making Little People taller. Other than those things, He has pulled off some doozies. People living with axes in their heads (only in the deep South), a girl who lost half her brain and is just fine, and you may have heard about His latest accomplishment, when that guy survived a 47 story fall. Most people don't survive a three story fall. I'm sure that guy was praying on the way down.

So was his brother, no doubt, who also fell but did not survive. Let's hope he was wearing his scapular.

Why did God do that? It's a Sacred Mystery. (That's Catholic talk for 'let it go'.)

I think you are correct, however, that all we're ever really asking for is that God's Will be done and for the strength and wisdom not to be angry and bitter when God's Will is done and we pretty much hate it. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead everyone was crying and Jesus was crying and people were saying, "Gee, this guy helps blind people and cures lepers. Why didn't he just stop Lazarus from dying in the first place?

Why indeed? When He goes out to raise Lazarus, Jesus prays, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." That's all.

"I thank Thee."

So, you're on the right track here.

And quickly, someone asked if they should have St. Christina as their confirmation name. Which St. Christina? This one? or This one?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Is My Face Orange!

I am in the dog house. I made somebody stand in line way too long. I remember the incident now that it's been brought to my attention.
It's almost Ash Wednesday Sister and time to burn those orange glow sticks. It may not have been you that emailed me and said that your opinion would be up in a couple of days last year but just in case it WAS....I've been waiting terribly anxiously for almost a year now. (I offered up ALL that suffering too.) But since the topic might actually fit into your blogging schedule sometime in the next couple of months, I just wanted to you to know I still care about your opinion.


Is my face red! It doesn't look good with all this black and white. (It's usual pasty white with translucent blue is much more becoming.)

That was me that commented, on my birthday, no less, not that we care about birthdays. Please accept my sincere apology.

Of course I had an opinion.

I have no idea what it was.
This must be like the "Geraldo door" for you. Remember that? Geraldo Rivera had some secret cave or something with a vault that contained secrets about Al Capone and after a huge build up all week, when he opened the door or cracked through the wall or whatever he had to do to get to the vault, there was nothing there. Nothing at all.

I won't leave you with nothing. Orange glow sticks, indeed.

Let's start by giving the crazy church the benefit of the doubt and say that the preacher was attempting to make Palm Sunday pertinent to the children by helping them to understand that if children back in Our Lord's day had orange glow sticks that's what they would have used. What do palm fronds mean to children anyhow?

I'd be interested to know what the man had to say about Palm Sunday in general. What is the point we take away from Palm Sunday? Pretty much how fickle and weak we are, dancing around Jesus one day with a big parade and turning our backs the next. Jesus who? It's been the story of Jesus' life, hasn't it?

Maybe if the kids had to wear the spent orange glow sticks around there necks for the rest of the week until Easter as a reminder of what was really going on here, I could get on board.

It could be worse. They could be playing "Pin the Palm Frond on the Palm Sunday Donkey". I shouldn't have said anything. That will be next year's sermon.

I do remember, when I first read about the orange glow sticks, being shocked and appalled. I can't muster any emotion about it now, but I do know why.

When I was a child the nuns who taught us always said that we weren't allowed to go to other churches (meaning 'Protestant' churches) because GOD WASN'T IN THERE. They actually said that. As children we had a really hard time trying to figure out how God, Who is everywhere, wasn't there, as though Protestant churches were some sort of God black hole, or maybe God spread Himself like mustard over everything and skipped the Protestant churches like the corners of dry bread. (I use mustard as an example because I love mustard. You can't put too much mustard on my sandwich.)

After Vatican II the nuns amended their Protestant church admonishment. Now we could go to a Protestant church, but we should not pray while we were in there. There was no mention of God not being there. As a child I was left to imagine that while God WAS there, He was holding His ears and humming.

My mother (whose birthday is TODAY), never one to take what nuns say with anything but a huge grain of salt since she was raised by them in an orphanage, went to any church she wanted to visit, if invited by Protestant friends. I have a feeling she didn't do any praying in there. I'll have to ask her. At any rate, she encouraged us to do the same, not to shop, but to understand.

Here comes the inflammatory part. For lack of a better way to express myself, I have never appreciated the 'dumbing down' of the Bible (bothered by Machabees? tear it outta there!), The New Testament (we don't want people to think they have to DO anything to get to heaven so let's change "peace on earth to men of good will" to Peace on earth good will toward men"), the Litugy (what liturgy?), the Rules (marry the wrong guy? get a new one!, the songs, the lack of kneeling, the lack of Confession....you get the point. The dumbing down of the Eucharist is particularly sad.

And that's why all I can do about the orange glow sticks is sadly shake my head. Or nod my head in a 'what else would you expect' sort of way.

I hope this suffices as an explanation for what I think of the orange glow sticks. If it doesn't I'll have to make up a liturgical dance to express my pain.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Veiled Threat

We couldn't find Teddy today. I was surprised by how worried I became about his disappearance. All he does is eat and sleep. What's to miss? He eventually turned up. He's simply picked a new spot to spend his days. Cats do that;they sleep in one spot for a long time, then they suddenly change to some other spot. What excitement. They don't have to think about this type of thing:

I have been feeling for years that the the Holy Spirit is calling me to veil.I veil in Mass only, but it seems that the more that I pray, and the closer that I get to God, I feel that I am being lead to veil daily as well. I know that you may think that I am insane as well as your readers here, but this is just something that I honestly feel that the Holy Spirit is calling me to do. I'm scared to do it, Sister.I know that I should listen to the Holy Spirit, but I don't want to be mocked or made fun off. My husband says that I should do what I feel I am being lead to do. Another thing is that I don't want any religious to feel like I am mocking them. The closer that I get to God, the more I feel that I am being called to do this. I'm sure that this comment will make some people angry, and I'm very sorry.

I'm not sure who would be angry. I might think you're insane? I dunno. Have you checked out my picture?

There is some anger about veils these days, certainly. What type of veil were you considering? Not something that would get you searched at the airport or rejected by the DMV, I hope.

I have a very strong opinion that no one should tell anyone else what to do about their veils, which includes people talking about what nuns 'should' do. If you want to wear a veil, go nuts. Have at it. I wonder why the Holy Spirit wants you to wear a veil, I'll admit. What example does He want you to set with your mantilla, I wonder.

But I have a feeling you won't know until you try it. I don't think people will make fun of you. They might ask you about it and, if I had money to put down on a bet, I would bet that people will judge you as being a pious holier than thou type.

It's none of their beeswax.

We'll be interested to know how it goes.

Another reader wants to know:

I would like to add to the above question regarding veiling. This is only regarding veiling for mass. Sister, could you please inform us about the original reason for women (non religious) veiling for mass? Why did this practice stop? Was it a requirement that was actually changed or is it a case of mass-disobedience? I've noticed some women at my parish start wearing them - more so at the latin masses, but now also at the novus ordo. I was told also that the requirement was never abrogated - is this true??

I have addressed this before, so I'll just let you catch up.

The hat rule.

So to answer your question, until 1917 no self respecting woman went anywhere without a hat, let alone to Mass. When women stopped wearing hats, the Church did make a rule (in 1917) that women should wear hats in church as a sign of respect. Covering the head before God is an old practice to show humility. (I'm not sure why the opposite happened with men in church. My best guess is that since men always took off their hats to show respect, it would seem disrespectful in church. No one said it made sense.) Then there was the mass misunderstanding with Vatican II, by that time women had already switched to the chapel doily. Now the church has no hat rule on the books. Not a no hat rule. No rule about wearing a hat. You can do whatever you want with your head.

As long as it isn't sinful.

I've found Teddy's new spot. It looks very comfortable.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Suffering Mass Suffering

Holy Toledo! We have so much to cover from the last couple of days. It looks like I might have to be writing even more often to catch up. We have just been bombarded with questions and comments. Good thing it's almost Lent, because guess what I'll be giving up? Free time. Yes, nuns do have free time. It's so we don't go crazy. Even those cloister girls get to goof off a little. Of course their idea of goofing off and your idea of goofing off are, no doubt, light years apart. In their case, a brief conversation. In your case, beer may be involved. Anyhow, we can't have a bunch of crazy nuns running around, even though are numbers our are much smaller these days.

We have to make a distinction about free time and stuff we squeeze in. We make a real effort to have some free time that doesn't involve tearing morning glories out of the garden, harvesting worm compost, rearranging Sister Mary Fiacre, cleaning the stove, or battling bankers. Those are the things we squeeze in. My current free time is spent reading a book the eighth grade boys gave me for Christmas! It's about how to do a pod cast. I don't even know what that is, even though I've heard a podcast and I'm reading this book. Sister St. Aloysius does sudoku. Sister Mary Fiacre has nothing but free time, as far as we can tell.

Well earned.

Let's finish up on the children at Mass issue.
We've heard from readers who just leave the kids home until they are seven (the age of reason, when mortal sin kicks in). Good plan. Not practical for everyone, very practical for others.

Or leave the kids home until they are a little less wiggly, an age which varies among children. ( I know some wiggly adults.) There is also the risk that the non-wiggly child at home morphs into the wiggling poker once that child is faced with getting through Mass with his siblings. Sometimes the temptation to poke your brother is just too great.

That's all fine. My point simply was, if you want to brave Mass with the family, no matter how big, young, wiggly, blabby, gooey and impatient they are, those members are still welcome and shame on the stink eye crowd who would have it any other way.

We were also treated to a litany of what parents and children have been up to at Mass. Stuff like this:

But a few weeks ago, an older child (9ish?) and a younger child (4ish?) were in front of me. Playing video games. During church. Intermittently turning the volume on. The sound would go on, I'd hear loud bleeping and music for about a minute, then mom would turn and tell the kids to turn the sound off. Repeat in 5 minutes. Repeat again in 5 minutes.


Video games? I wouldn't know what to say. But I did tell a man (20's) to stop talking on his cell phone.

That's bad.

But it's not that bad. Look at it this way.

Sins you could possibly commit:

Torturing Someone
The Giving End of False Imprisonment
Electronic Devices at Mass.

As they say on "Sesame Street", "One of these things is not like the other."

I highly recommend talking to your pastor, asking for a line or two in the church bulletin, a sermon on the subject, or a sign in the vestibule. "Turn Off Electronic Devices. We Can't Believe We Have to Tell You This."

After that it's between them and God, not between you and them and God. Mind your own Massness.

I'll be back tomorrow. Even though it's Sunday. And not Lent yet.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mass Suffering

I guess I did this backwards as, when last we met, we discussed getting children to go to Mass. Much earlier, a reader asked about having children at Mass in the first place. No wonder that person the other day was so mad about me ignoring her. I think I really am quite behind, upside down and backwards. I'd better get in gear, since Lent is upon us.

Here's where we should have begun:
What do you think about children at Mass? What noise level should others be expected to tolerate and when are parents supposed to get their kids out of Dodge? Our cry room can be likened to a toddler version of Lord of the Files, chaos reigning supreme. My three-year-old loves Mass (but only in the main sanctuary, not in the cry room), but my nine-month-old is a bit of a chatterer when I can't get him to sleep through the service. Thanks for listening!

It would be great if it were like the Lord of the Files in there. Everyone would be concentrating on mastering their alphabet.

Who's in charge of the cry room? Is your cry room like the McDonald's ball cage, where the kids get left to bounce around and throw things at each other while the parents are having a smoke on the other side of the building? I thought each parent stayed in the cry room with their child.

Show's you what I know. Our parish doesn't have a cry room.

Show's you what they know. Kid's belong at Mass.

I don't know what's happened to our society that so many people can no longer tolerate children, even people who are practically children themselves, i.e. young people. I remember when I was a little girl being amazed that there was a group of old people who excluded children from their retirement village in my home town. Unheard of!

My mother patiently explained that when you get really old, young children (especially very young children) make old people nervous. That's understandable. Children in what I call 'the chasing phase' (where you pretty much just chase them around, rescuing them, you and the dog from disasters and explosions) can be very nerve wracking for a rickety old thing who might break a hip. I still thought it was just a little mean to exclude them from your world. Peace and quiet is overrated.

Or to put it more succinctly in the words of my great uncle Lloyd, "You can sleep when you're dead."

Still, I understand.

But now the "leave all children behind" phenomena is massive. That might he because there are so many undisciplined children running around. No one likes that. Many parents seem to have forgotten how to say these two important words, "Don't run."

I digress.

Children belong at Mass. How do we know? Jesus said so. "Suffer the little children to come unto me."

Note the word "suffer". He could have said, "Oh, bring the kids over!" Or even "let the children come unto me."

He didn't. He said, "suffer." Maybe each child should have that stamped on his little head. Then, when someone shoots his mother the stink eye, the child can point to his head, or his mother can, and then point to Jesus on the cross. Meanwhile, Mom can have stamped on her head, "Hey! I"m suffering, too!"

Of course, you have to do your part to discipline and keep your children quiet and respectful. I know you are doing that. And if the child is wailing or blabbering he has to go.

Other than that, Jesus commanded the rest of us to suffer having them around. Or suffer while having them around.

Anyhow, old people need a jolt once in a while to keep them perky, so don't worry too much about giving old Aunt Clara a shock to her system because the the five year old just stood on the baby's fingers and the sudden shriek is like pterodactyls coming in for a landing.

Jesus wants his family over to the house every Sunday, so go. He doesn't mind the squirming, shrieking, babbling, poking, climbing or sleeping. He knows they'll grow out of it. I've always wondered what Jesus would be doing in this picture if the children were pulling each other's hair and screaming. The same thing, no doubt, that He is doing now.

And if you are one of the people who has trouble tolerating children at Mass, this is your opportunity to suffer. It's almost Lent.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Wake Up Call

I think I mentioned that I am not a morning person. I've never been a morning person. I was asleep at my desk as a child. For my entire adult life I've had to pretend to be a morning person, which I don't think I could do without drugs. A drug. Caffeine. I'm actually blind until I have a cup of coffee.

My mother gave me coffee as a child. I couldn't eat breakfast food without it. The idea of a glass of milk (which I enjoyed with every other meal) with breakfast caused me to turn up my nose at a slice of toast. That was my breakfast everyday, toast and coffee. I now realize that I wasn't drinking coffee, I was drinking milk and sugar with coffee in it.

Every single morning we tromped off to school, went into our classrooms, then lined up and tromped back out of the school across the street to church and went to Mass. Then we all tromped back over to school and went to the cafeteria and had an Underbrink's Bakery cinnamon roll, because back then you couldn't eat before Communion for several days. No...I'm kidding. Just several hours. The first and pre-First Communion second graders got a free Underbrink's Bakery ride. When we had a free day due to a Holy Day of Obligation, we had to tromp off to Mass from home.

Eventually, we stopped going to Mass first and started going to Mass before lunch instead. Then it was Mass, lunch, recess. I'll come back to this after we take a look at today's question, which has caused quite a bit of discussion:

I have a question which I hope will be short and easy. Maybe you can answer between dusting pews and airing Sister Mary Fiacre. Is everyone else with kids constantly baraged on Sunday mornings by "But I dont want to go to Mass" and "I am tired and I need to sleeeeep" or is that just me? Where did I go wrong? Because the catholic blogging moms (esp the homeschool ones) seem to never mention children who complain about going to Mass, how long Mass lasts and etc.

You call that easy? I think the only thing that stopped us from complaining on all of those cold, cold Midwest mornings was the fact that we were going, no matter what, and there would be pastry at the end.

But let me tell you of my terrible Mass allergy.

I used to get sick at Mass on a daily basis. I was very small, so I don't remember everything about what all went on. I'm pretty sure I had breakfast (toast and coffee) every day before I went to school, so I wasn't sick from being hungry. And when I upchucked at Mass...well, something came up.

Every day.

So at some point, I was the only child allowed to not go to Mass, which I didn't mind one little bit. I was glad to not get sick every day and the Mass was so boring. Still in Latin, with the priest miles away behind the Communion rail, his back to us most of the time. There I stood, sat, knelt, stood, knelt, stood, sat, knelt, with the snow melting off my red rubber boots. If I wasn't paying attention and put my feet on the kneelers when I sat I would then get to kneel in cold sooty water. I do all of that and then I get to throw up, too? Oh boy! Where do I sign up?!

So I sat alone in the first grade room and then met up with everyone for the Underbrink's. Underbrink's is still there, by the way, and still so very, very good. When my parents had their 60th wedding anniversary last September, guess where we got the cake?

I can't think that anyone babysat me, but someone must have. Surely they wouldn't have let a six year old alone for the better part of an hour. But back then no one dreamed of putting a seat belt on a child in a car or making sure the driver was sober. Back then it was actually a sort of manly pride issue. "I can drive!" So maybe I was alone.

I wonder why they didn't just let me leave for school later. Then I could have slept in! Maybe I would have been awake at my desk!

It didn't end there. Periodically, throughout my life, I have simply keeled over at Mass. Usually, I manage to get outside before I pass out. If I get out soon enough, once I hit the outside air, I avoid actually hitting the pavement. But I have hit the pavement.

I'm not suggesting that at this point I ever want to skip Mass. No.

What I am saying is that I am just the wrong person to ask this question. Getting up early and tromping off to Mass was not my idea of a good time when I was a child and I sympathize 100% with your whining children. And look how I turned out! (Except for the fainting from time to time.) As a child, the 10 o'clock Mass made all the difference and so did going at lunch time on school days. By then I was awake, and not blind.

I don't think children should skip Mass. It's the Main Event in Catholic life and the life of the family.

Here's my advice, for what it's worth. Let them whine. Don't answer their whining and don't punish them. Just get everybody ready for Mass and go.

Like this:

Do we have to go to Mass?

You: Yes, we're all going.

Child: I don't want to go.

We're all going. Start getting ready. Where are your shoes?

Child: I'm tired. I want to sleep.

You: We're all going. Let's get ready.

And on and on like that.
Hum a merry tune to yourself and stay cheerful. Find some great pastry afterward. Enlist the help of the Pillsbury dough boy.

We've also been discussing children at Mass in general. I have quite a lot to say about that.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Please Don't Interrupt Me When I'm Ignoring You

We've had some warmer sunny days. It's been very cold here and is still cold at night. Not cold the way some of you are cold in, say, Maine. But cold enough to make it unpleasant to take Sister Mary Fiacre out for an airing.

So yesterday we took Sister Mary Fiacre out for an airing. We went over to what Sister St. Aloysius calls the "Frank Sinatra Mall". She calls it that because there is outdoor music there. It is almost always Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Amazed that I can tell them apart? Me, too.

We took some sandwiches and ate by the fountain. There is a fountain. All the little sparrows were eating our most tiny crumbs. No wonder St. Francis of Assisi talked to them. They look up at you, look you right in the eye as though they are hanging on your every word.

They're not, of course, St. Francis notwithstanding. They're just waiting for more crumbs to fall and paying attention in case you suddenly try to kill them. I love animals, but I'm not stupid about what's really going on at any moment in their bird brains.

I'd better answer this question before I have to go stand in the corner or kneel on dried peas for not answering it. It seems I in in some sort of trouble.

I found your blog and wanted to ask a question, since that is the name of your blog, but have been TOTALLY IGNORED. Can I ask a question here or not?

I guess I'll try one more time. . .

We always talk about heaven, but the prayer says: "on EARTH as it is in heaven" (like the title of your blog today) ... so if this prayer came true tomorrow, what would it be like here on earth, because we pray "His kingdom come on EARTH as it is in heaven"?

I am looking for an answer, and no one seems to care. (Maybe you won't ignore me this time . . . maybe.)

I had you on the list of questions I need to answer. There are questions ahead of you. Perhaps you could go dust the pews for me so I can catch up.

Which reminds me....we took all the Christmas trees down in church the other day and put them out on the curb because the city is going to do a special pick up. Within hours the pile had doubled! It seems everyone in the neighbor tossed their tree onto the pile! There were some REALLY dried up trees on there. Were they all spying out their front windows for the day the Church tosses their trees, or was it just an irresistible moment of opportunity. We'll never know.

I digress.

I did have your question on my list, but to be honest, I can't make heads or tails of it. You have taken this phrase, "on earth as it is in heaven," out of context. What do you mean, "if this prayer came true tomorrow"? Here's the prayer: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Which simply means we hope to follow God's Will here on earth as it is followed in heaven.*

Which was my point in using it as a title. All the constant fussing about what everybody is up to at Mass and people going to different services, churches and bowing they heads and clenching their hands to avoid contact with the human being next to them so they can have their prayers to themselves always makes me wonder how anyone is going to manage in heaven. No matter how much time is spent explaining that the hand holding issue is about an infraction of what we can and can't do at Mass, the real issues seem to be individual 'touching' comfort levels, germs and death grips. Certainly those things are brought up without fail in the discussion. We hope all the people that annoy us are going to heaven, which means we'll never escape them. We can't go to the heaven across town or go to the five o'clock heaven where they don't hold hands. That was my point.

If earth became like heaven tomorrow no body would be complaining about anything, including how hot McDonald's coffee is, what's the matter with Britany Spears and her sister, or people who have more than 10 items in the 10 items or less line.

It seems you are asking what heaven will be like. The answer is, no one knows.

I can't think of a single time, although many saints have been taken to hell and Purgatory or had visits from people in Purgatory, that anyone has had a visit to heaven. There are saints who have spent a lot of time in ecstasy (not to be confused with "on" ecstasy, as a recent convert I spoke with did), even levitating, but they have kept there traps shut about heaven if they actually got to go for a moment. They do talk about having glimpses--and the operative word here is 'glimpses'--of Heavenly Glory, which is why they are in floating about the pew in ecstasy. But they make it clear that if this is so wonderful, imagine what the whole enchilada might be.

Which is exactly the issue. We can't. We have some guesses.
Guess one.
Guess two.
Guess three.

The true nature of Heaven itself remains a Sacred Mystery. "Sacred Mystery" is Catholic for 'just let it go.'

*The Catechism of the Catholic Church also makes this assertion: "It would not be inconsistent with the truth to understand the words, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," to mean: "in the Church as in our Lord Jesus Christ himself".

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thy Will Be Done

We have not heard the last of comments on people holding hands during the "Our Father" at Mass. This reader sums up pretty much every one's thoughts, as least those who are bugged by the practice:

I'm very weary of many parishes allowing everyone to put their own spin on what they want to do at mass. If you follow the GIRM, you won't get lead into ya-ya land. I have often thought what a coup it was in Satan's cap to have everyone adding all their "feels good" hand holding and other nonsense during mass. The ONE prayer Jesus actually gave us to recite is now interupted with thoughts of whose hand you have to hold, how long, germs etc. when you should really have your mind focused on the words of the prayer. Just my thoughts...

I really can't see how a bunch of the faithful holding hands with each other while they say the prayer Jesus gave us to say is a feather in any one's cap, let alone Satan's. While I understand the slippery slope of looney music, Eucharistic poetry slams, girl altar servers, and wacky interpretive dance, I also believe that people are sensible enough to understand the difference between music you don't like and heavy death metal, Eucharistic poetry and the def poetry jam, girl altar servers and women priests and wacky interpretive dance and the Rockettes high kicking in skimpy costumes. We love the Rockettes. But not at Mass.

I can clear up some of the issues so that your thought will no longer be interrupted:

Whose hand do you have to hold? The hand of whichever brother or sister in Christ is next to you in the pew.

How long do I have to hold my brother's hand?
For the duration of a short prayer. Slightly longer if we're singing the prayer. Even longer if we are not singing a capella and we are accompanied by a pipe organ.

What if my brothers and sisters have germs?
Oh, they most certainly have germs. Jesus kissed lepers. He didn't worry much about the germs, apparently. I realize that we're not Christian Scientists, but if you are really that worried about germs, I think you might have some sort of other problem. Keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth and have a little faith.

Now you can focus.

I don't think Satan is too proud of his hat while the Body of Christ holds hands and prays together. I do think Satan might like his hat while the brothers and sisters are busy loathing touching each other for three minutes (tops) because everyone has cooties.

It's not in the GIRM (what an ironic acronym), so be it. But until the pastor shows up in baggy pants, starts the Mass with a rap and dances a tango with the girl altar servers, I will not raise a fuss. Until then, I pick my battles.

There are not supposed to be girl altar servers anywhere. I have voiced my objection wherever I have gone in the past. But girl altar servers are not going away. Now I spend my time making sure they are appropriately dressed for Mass, let alone to serve. It takes up more of my time than I would have imagined. If the Vatican hasn't dropped the anvil on this practice more strenuously than they have, clearly it's not a giant issue to them either. They wish you would stop having girl altar servers but they are not driving over or making a phone call or, from what I can tell, even writing a letter to stop the practice.

Does it bother me? Yes. Does it interrupt my thoughts during Mass? Not for a second, since it seems that the Church isn't letting it bother 'them'.

That's my last word on the subject, I think. If you want to go on being aggravated during the "Our Father" because you've noticed that your brethren are nail biters, I can't help you. I doubt the lepers had much in the way of fingernails.

Otherwise, if you think it is such a terrible, terrible liturgical abuse that all of us nuns, clergy and religious are overlooking, get it together and form a committee and go marching into the pastor's office and get something done. But I do hope everyone is being honest with themselves about why they don't want to hold hands and not just pinning their own discomfort on the liturgical abuse donkey. Because, frankly, why bring up germs and how for how many excruciating minutes you are going to hold someone's hand if the real problem is abuse?

Here's a question from a new reader:

Dear Sister, I'm new to the "Club" and wonder if I might ask a "how to" question? My daughter volunteers @ a Protestant school and wanted to know whether or not she should make the Sign of the Cross after closing prayer? She noticed that they don't. Told her to focus on the prayer (same God!) but would like to know the "Club" rules for the future. Thanks!

Welcome to the club! I didn't know it was a club. I haven't been in a club since I was the secretary of the Boy Savior Club in the second grade.

What club rules? Now I'm confused. Should your daughter make the sign of the cross when nobody else does? Sure. I say, go for it. They can't fire her, she's volunteering! Maybe someone will ask her about it and she'll have an opportunity to explain our lovely practice. Maybe they'll just ask her to stop. I don't see a down side. Poor little separated brethren.