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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Garden of Gethsemane

Nothing to do with this post but I was talking with my 12 year old son about vocations today. Among others things,I told him that I had read online about a nun who at first became a nun because she thought she was too ugly to get married. (I hope I am remembering that story properly.) He asked me if I meant that "nun with the blog" since he reads your blog over my shoulder sometimes. When I told him yes, he said, "I've seen her picture; she's not ugly."

I believe the work I used was 'homely'. Your poor boy. Have you had his eyes checked?

Last year we also had a question about taking Sundays off from our Lenten sacrifices. This being Sunday, I thought we should tackle this one:

I have a question. If you say you are going to give something up for Lent and then go ahead and do it a few times anyway (i.e. eat a brownie, or watch TV), is that a sin? Or is that just a mess-up and you start over more strongly commited the next day (like on a diet)? Does one need to take it to confession if they knowingly failed in giving something up perfectly? If they made a fully concious choice to give in to the temptation?

I would so love to tell you, "yes, that's a sin."

But it's just not. This is one of those golden moments when a nun could get away with making it up that it is a sin, too! If you were in second grade I would be so tempted!

But it's just not a sin. Sin is when you veer off God's path. When you decide to give up something for Lent, it really doesn't have anything to do with what God wants. It's to help you join in the suffering of Christ. In as much as I'm sure God wants you to join in the suffering of Christ, you are merely volunteering to do so during Lent. It's really about you and working on your spiritual character.

Imagine you made a plan with a friend of yours that you were going to do something nice for her that she liked. Weed her garden, say, or take her to breakfast. And you tell her, "I'm coming over today to week your garden! I'm coming over today to take you to breadfast!"

And then you don't show up.

Does it matter why?

Sure it does! If you found the children trying to make papier mache masks by lathering papier mache onto their faces and that baby's mouth is glued shut and after you get that off you discover that the papier mache has glued the seven year old's eyes shut and nothing will get them open again and you have to take him to the emergency room ande that's why you couldn't get over to your friend's house, that would be okay.

If your mother slipped on an icy patch and sommersaulted or went end over tea kettle or simply filled the air with arms and legs for a moment there before landing in a heap over by the mail box and you had to go check on her, that would be okay.

But if you just over slept and then made a quick phone call and got stuck while your
Aunt Marg yammers at you about your Aunt Rose and her colonoscopy and then you were taken in by something on the tube for a minute there about a kidnapping victim and suddenly it was lunch time and the whole morning was shot...not so much.

I think your friend would be very disappointed. And hungry.

Could you start in again tomorrow and do it?

Sure you could!

Better that than just say to yourself, "Oh well." I'll bet your friend would feel fine about that, too.

When I was a (homely) child I was fascinated with the story of the apostles in a food stupor from their Passover dinner in the Garden of Gethsemane, unable to wait up with Jesus at this crucial time, even though he begged them. "What is WRONG with those people," I thought. "I would never do that!"

Ha! I've done at least that! I've also glued children's eyes shut and had to go check on old ladies who have sommmersaulted down their driveways and gotten distracted by the problems of others and whether or not kidnapping victims have been found. I've fallen asleep while the whole convent prays the rosary. I dozed off standing up with a mop.

The least we can do is make a simple promise and try to keep it for a few weeks and not get distracted and try to stay awake with Jesus. In heaven's name, make a real effort. Pretend you're in the Garden of Gethsemane if you have to! Stay alert!

And get that kid's eyes looked after!


Tracy said...

Dear Sister,

The boy is not wrong, he is simply looking past external appearances. The tree is recognized by its fruit, not by its flowers...(Luke 6:44-45a).

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sister! I like the idea of pretending I am in the Garden of Gethsemane. It will help me keep temptation at bay.

Anonymous said...

NEW question for you, Sister.

If you're visiting with a Catholic family member, and that family member openly (and rather proudly) admits to committing a number of mortal sins on a regular basis and then says something like, "I need my sins to get me through life, so they are just venial sins, not mortal sins for me..." -- are you obliged to attempt some gently worded correction? And when that family member expects to go to Mass with you on Sunday, are you obliged to suggest that you both go to confession beforehand? And if that family member says, "I don't go to confession, because I can't stand the guilt trip," and then goes to church with you and your small children on Sunday, are you obliged to suggest that maybe that family member ought to refrain from receiving the Eucharist?

I guess what I am asking is, aren't we supposed to look out for the souls of our loved ones and help each other achieve holiness? And when do we add action (speaking up) to our passive efforts (prayer, having Masses said for the person, etc.)?

Anonymous said...

I don't think you are homely at all -- you are atttractive. The large lens glasses stand out in the small picture and mask your other features. You are also very witty and very wise -- I love your blog. Keep advising us!

bill7tx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1,
As long as you're spending at least twice as much time examining your own conscience, as you do this family member's, you could say something like "The Church teaches it isn't good for us to take Communion when we shouldn't, so it just makes me kind of sad" and then point out when you last refrained etc, it will go over much better.

Anonymous said...

Folks, I'm not trying to be judgmental AT ALL. I don't think I'm better off than anybody else and yes, I do spend time examining my conscience and attending confession regularly.

I didn't ask this family member to reveal anything to me. It was volunteered information and it was all very clearly mortal sins. The family member acknowledged that the Church teaches that these are mortal sins, but is operating under the notion that because these sins are "necessary" they aren't mortal sins for the person in question. And yes, the whole conversation was shocking.

For the record, all I did was wonder aloud if a mortal sin could ever be "reduced to only venial" for any person in any situation, and then was met with so much anger, I kept my mouth shut afterwards. I did NOT suggest going to confession (the person volunteered that they don't go anyway), and I did NOT suggest that the person refrain from the Eucharist.

I just didn't know whether or not I failed to do something I should have done in that sort of situation.

Anonymous said...

No, I don't think you failed to do anything. And, I don't think you're being judgemental, either. I think I would have felt the same in your situation.

Anonymous said...

When there is that much anger, you can bet the Holy Spirit has been talking to them already :)

I would, though, quietly and well-removed from the situation, make a point to discuss with my children the need for sacramental confession and refraining from the Eucharist when appropriate, so that they get a straight story.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I could keep my mouth shut if a close relative did that--but it depends on what the habitual sin is. Sounds like it is some sort of addiction. In which case, if it were me, I'd find some way to get some printed material into my relatives hands about that particular addiction. I'd love to hear what SMM has to say about this.

And Dear Sister Mary Martha, you are most definitely NOT ugly. Banish that thought from your pretty little head at once.

Anonymous said...

Anon, I think the best you can do is pray for the family member. It's my experience (I'd love to know if others have similar experiences) that they are far more likely to be moved to conversion by someone outside the family.

Sr. MM, I hope you have recovered from the flu and that your mother is recovering as well.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sister,

Thanks for posting that picture of Jesus in Gethsemane - it was eerily appropriate, given the question I'd like to ask :)

I have a heavy burden (I won't go into specifics) but let me just say that it's (1)chronic (2)lifelong (3)progressively getting worse.

I know that St. Jude is supposed to help with impossible causes, but is there a Saint who intercedes for people who are in dire straits? Like legendary Saint Christopher who will carry you across the deep end until you reach the shallower bit?

I'm not asking for the burden to go away, but I'd just like to know if there was a particular patron Saint for people who just need to borrow a little strength so they can carry on - like a New Testament version of Samson or something?

Bless you!

Anonymous said...

Sister, I need to know if plastic surgery is a sin. My mother says live with what God gave you, but I'm in pain, physically, socially and mentally. Should I just take the pain as my cross to bear?

Kelly said...

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder Sister, and you are one of the finest ladies I "know" [in the cyber world of course :) ].


Anonymous said...

I of course don't know you and didn't assume, but it's always a possibility...

My mom said once, "Aunt X left the Church years ago, but when she goes to family weddings or funerals, she still goes to Communion. How do you think she'd take it if I pointed out she shouldn't go?"

I said, "Well, if you tell her that we all have times when we shouldn't go to Communion, like when people live together, or even if it's been more than a year since you went to confession! and it's just not good for us to add on another sin like that."

Mom said, "Oh, it's been several years since I went to confession!" so I replied, "Well, you shouldn't be receiving communion either... So, uh, how did you take that?"

Silence. There's no good way, really. You'll make him mad. But it looks like he's looking for you start a fight? Or maybe he's ready to hear it? He sounds pretty in-your-face about the whole thing.

Katy said...

anonymous, maybe you could talk this over with a priest? If you're in physical pain from something, then I don't see how it can be a sin to have a medical procedure to treat it. And, if it's causing you a lot of social/emotional pain that can't just be shrugged off, why must you endure it? It doesn't sound like you're talking about breast implants or a face lift, here.

Anonymous said...


You are indeed beautiful and have given me much encouragement. I've fallen off the Lenten wagon more than once and the analogy of disappointing a good friend (who still manages to love me) is a powerful one. I want to work harder to please my Friend. For love's sake...

Thank you!