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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Shall We Dance?

Where does the time go?

I'm still here in the Midwest. Soon I'll return to my station. Everything here is different. Everything there will be different.

The second I get home, Sister St. Aloysius is taking off for a think tank. She does this every so often. She'll be away for six weeks.
Let me tell you a story. When I was a girl, I used to like to play in my aunt's barn. We had a giant thick rope that hung from the very top of the barn, through the hole up to the hayloft, down to the barn floor. We tied it in a big loop. There was a large coil of rope left on the ground. One kid would stand in the loop and the other kid would grab the end of the rope and pull it across the length of the barn. The kid standing in the loop would be just about parallel to the floor. Then the kid pulling the rope would let go and the kid in the loop would swing really high, back and forth across the barn.

What a riot!

My friend was in standing in the loop and I pulled the rope across the barn and let go. Just as I let go, I looked down and saw that the whole rest of the rope coil on the ground was wrapped around my ankle. But it was too late. I hollered for her to stop, but the rope came taut around my leg and jerked me across the barn.

I was actually mad at her for not stopping, as if there were any way that she could have stopped. I was the one that stood in the coil like a dope. I had to control myself and my inane resentment.

So Sister St. Aloysius is swinging off to the think tank and my ankle is in the coil with Sister Nicholas.

Did I mention I still have a scar around my ankle from the rope burn?

Ah well. We get used to even the most unacceptable situations. (Unless we are Paddy the Papist.) I was used to our little household and it's eccentricities and now I will have to adjust to a new set of foibles, surprises and habits. It should be interesting as Sister St. Aloysius and I have become a well oiled, if somewhat cockamamie, machine.

For example, getting Sister Mary Fiacre in and out of her wheel chair was our own personal science project. We park her wheelchair at just the right angle to the easy chair. Then we lean her forward. Then we heft her out of the chair by grabbing her belt and spinning her around into the chair. She sort of lands with a plop, but the job gets done.

There was a time not so long ago that she could take a step or two, so we could actually stand her up and hold onto her while she turned around. But now her feet really don't leave the floor so much, so when we went to pivot her into the chair, Sister St. Aloysius became alarmed that her ankle would snap, since her feet didn't move and the rest of her body was now facing the opposite direction. She came up with the fabulous plan to stick a bread bag under Sister Mary Fiacre's pivot foot. It did the trick! Her foot slid right around! Genius! Now we always make sure we have our plastic grocery bag or bread bag everywhere we go.

Someone was trying to talk us into having a reusable bag to take shopping. It was too tedious to try to explain that we need a steady supply of the plastic ones and it has nothing to do with the environment.

I suppose it's my way of carrying on my father's legacy of being personally responsible for global warming.

Anyhow, our whole day is like that, every day. Our prayers and readings, moving
Sister Mary Fiacre around and seeing to her, more prayers and chores, more Sister Mary Fiacre hefting. I feel a little like Fred Astaire without Ginger Rogers.

Thanks so much, everyone, for your prayers and compassion.

I'm ready to get back into the swing of things. Sort of.

Any questions?


PraiseDivineMercy said...

Glad to see you posting again Sister. Hang in there. ^_^

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back!
I don't have any questions for you right now, but I'm sure others do!

Tracy said...

Yes, glad to see you back. Hope the readjustment goes well.

Anonymous said...

I went barn swinging in college once. Only you took the rope up to a hayloft and jumped down. . . I didn't know whether I would faint or wet myself from the adrenaline rush.

Do you think Sr St Nicholas could mover Sr St Fiacre single-handedly? Seems to me you have a few days of just sitting around coming to you.

Anonymous said...

There is no better childhood than one spent on the farm. The freedom is intoxicating. One also learns that stupidity has it's consequences. If you get hurt, it's your own fault. Farm kids wear scars like a badge of honor. Siblings and cousins bond over the shared secret that usually starts with "Don't tell Mom...". City kids just don't learn the value of a creek or an orphaned calf or a hay loft.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're back. I do have a question--I'm trying to pray more in my daily life and I'm interested in the Liturgy of the Hours. Yet the more I try to read about it, the more confused I become. The Magnificat has morning, evening and night prayers but these seem different from the ones I've found on Universalis.com. Do you have any suggestions on where to begin--how to pray and if just praying with my Magnificat is "right"?

Thanks and God Bless you always!

Anonymous said...

Ditto on growing up on a farm. I loved our hay loft, and spent many hours there as a boy.

Sarah - Kala said...

I remember the terrible rope burns I got swinging on a rope in a barn whilst in my youth. I wouldn't trade that time for anything!

Glad you're back as back can be.

Anonymous said...

It's been a while since I last posted. Sorry to hear of your father's passing. Sending you an e-hug and saying an extra prayer for you and your family. Having recently lost my father November 2007) I know only too well the pain in your heart. There is a special bond between Dads and their girls.

Are you gearing up for the upcoming Papal visit? I think it will be very exciting.

Amy said...

Glad to see you back. I've prayed for you as you work your way through your loss.

Maybe while you were gone Sister St. Aloysius taught Sister Nicholas the bread bag trick and you won't have to worry at all.

Tia Colleen said...

That must have been one heck of a rope burn to leave a scar like that. Not that I know much about rope burns. I've never had one.

xx Tia

Melanie said...

That is a cute story. I am glad to hear from you again.

PraiseDivineMercy said...

Oh, I have a question! *raises hand*
Are the nuns living with you all fangirling over the Holy Father's upcoming visit? I certainly am.

Anonymous said...


I think the prayers on Universalis are actually Anglican. Your best bet is to get yourself a copy of the "Shorter Christian Prayer" book, which includes morning, evening, and night prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours.

pax et bonum,

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister,
So glad to have you back - I've been checking everyday, and my prayers have been with you and your family since your father died.

This may be a silly question, since you are obviously a smart and capable caregiver, but due to Sr. Mary's disbility, could she (you) be eligible for any type of home health aide or respite care, at least during this transition period after your father's death and during Sister St. Aloysius' sabatical?

Blessed are those who accept help!

Anonymous said...

I too am sorry to hear of your father's death.

You can get a belt-like think which will give you a better 'handle' when you move Sister A. I too think there may be help for your little household available. A social worker will likely be your best source of information about this.

My mother was born on an Easter Sunday and she always said she would die on an Easter. She is 88 this year and she made it through another Easter. EXCEPT the Easter she is talking about is the Orthodox dates.... I keep forgetting this little detail.

Joan said...

One sentence for you Sister. YOU ARE A RIOT!!!

Anonymous said...

Denise, I have recently started praying the LOTH.

First question: which book do you own? I use the one-volume "Christian Prayer" (which is the American version, but I was in the US when I bought it.) If that's what you have, email me and I will walk you through it. If you have the four-volume set, I can't help you directly, but I can still point you to some resources. :)

Anonymous said...

Universalis is Catholic. It says so on their FAQ. The web site has information on how to pray both of the American versions (One and Four-Volume.)
They have made their own text: the published books are under copyright. So, they use the New Jerusalem Bible for scriptural stuff and translated the other stuff from original sources, themselves.

marissa | Rae Gun Ramblings said...

"I suppose it's my way of carrying on my father's legacy of being personally responsible for global warming."
That was my absolute favoite line.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if i'm doing this right, but i have a question for Sister Mary Martha. I recently purchased a book by author Kevin Orlin Johnson PhD. In pages of the book was a "teaser" for another of his books: "The Eucharist Abuse: Why "Eucharistic Ministers" Are Illegal in the Catholic Church". Is this true? If it is not - should i take stock in any of his writings? If it is, why are we "breaking the law"?

bill7tx said...

Denise, for a simple way to pray a Liturgy of the Hours, I recommend The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It's basically one set of psalms, prayers, and readings, organized by the days of the week and the liturgical hours, that repeats every week. The only thing that it lacks is variety in the readings for the Office of Readings, but you can find your own resources for those (or just spend a little time reading Scripture).

The next step up is the book titled "Christian Prayer" which is the one-volume LOH. It has everything in it, BUT you have to read the instructions carefully and you will soon discover why it has so many ribbon markers!

The four-volume set is probably wonderful (I don't own it and have never seen it) although it seems from its description and format to be intended more for religious than for lay people -- and it's not cheap.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sister,
Just wanted to say I got my Pope tickets (prayed to the suggested saints for intercession!) and my less-than-reverent 5 year old daughter loved the "manger game" and is more receptive to at least the lessons if not Mass-she still tries to sleep her way through it!
Thanks for the great advice on both!

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Canada sister. Leave it to me to think of a question like this - but it is sincere.

A- Why would a monk wear a mustache? I saw one on EWTN with a Clark Gable type of mustache and wondered why in the world would a monk concern himself with something that seems along the lines of vanity... seems to me a monk would either shave his face completely or not at all.

B-which led me to wonder if nuns bother shaving their legs or armpits.

Okay. Inquiring minds just wanna know! And I doubt it's in the Catechism.


Anonymous said...


You might peek in the archives at friarminor.blogspot.com and tau-cross.blogspot.com for some stuff on LOH. What worked for me was to pester a beloved deacon (who incidentally gifted me with Christian Prayer when I converted) until I got it figured out. You can start simply, with the four-week psalter, and then gradually add saints' days and so on. Every priest and deacon (and I think religious?) is supposed to be praying the hours daily, and if the ones in your parish do so in community, see if you can join them.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sister Mary Martha,

FIrst please know that you and your family remain in my prayers as you move through this difficult time.

I do have a question for you: where does the Church stand on yoga? I grew up hearing that as Catholics, we were not to participate in that but classes are now offered at my church and I've heard folks say that one can simply turn the exercise into a prayer to Christ.

I've tried yoga with dvd's at home and signed up for a class. I enjoy yoga but thought I see if you had any thoughts.

Many thanks and God Bless,


Anonymous said...

I won't presume to answer for SMM, but I was rather surprised to discover, when I looked at a very elementary yoga book, that bending over and touching one's toes is technically yoga. As is every other stretch I learned as a high school athlete. So clearly context matters :)

Anonymous said...

SMM, we miss you, we're praying for you, and we look forward to having you back with us.

re: yoga, the actual exercises are not the problem, but a lot of yoga teachers include eastern or new age philosophies and spirituality that can be contradictory to church teaching. I can't remember any specific examples though.

bill7tx said...

Re: Yoga

Yoga itself is contradictory to Christian belief, since it has as its goal unification with Brahman. In other words, at the very least, a Christian who participates fully in Yoga, including all the prayers involved, would be in violation of the First Commandment.

Stretching exercises, touching your toes, etc., are not Yoga just because there are similar movements in Yoga.

Intentions, set and setting, and specific prayers determine Yogic practice. My best suggestion would be to stay away from Yoga. Gardening and a decent exercise program (or scrubbing steps and floors with a brush and bucket, as Sister will probably say) while saying Hail Marys for the holy souls in Purgatory will bring you the same benefits, without risking your immortal soul.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the quick answers, Monica and Evelyn. I went to the class yesterday and loved the actual exercise part of it. But the yoga teacher did talk about the chanting and invited us to do that, which clearly is bringing in the spiritual end of it. I've talked to some friends who said that I could instead pray to Christ while I move through the exercises but my husband brought up a good point--why would I want to be in the room when the majority are chanting to another god? I think I'll be sticking to my dvd's and drop the class. I'm just conflicted.


Anonymous said...

Thank YOU, Bill. You've touched on exactly what was bugging me. I can do the stretching without the spirituality end of it and get my exercise in better ways. I was surprised that the spirituality/chanting was brought forth in this class as I have never seen it in the dvd I used so I'll not go any further with it.

It is really a gift to be able to have this kind of forum! Thank you!

Tienne said...


You are bold to go swinging on that rope! I was the kind of kid too afraid to go on a roller coaster till I was in college. :)

It's election time again. Can you define "complicity with evil" for me? My Pastor has told me that if you know a candidate supports evil (such as abortion, stem-cell research or torture) but you vote for them for other reasons, you are still complicit with their actions. I thought voting fell under the law of double effect, and that it was not complicity but remote material cooperation to vote for someone you knew planned to allow evil, as long as you personally opposed that evil but felt they were overall the better candidate. If it is complicity, does voting require a trip to the confessional?

bill7tx said...

I *meant* to say that gardening and a decent exercise program will bring you the same physical and mental benefits as Yoga, PLUS if you pray at the same time you gain spiritual benefits, including indulgences, that no Yoga program can ever offer.

Let me offer this as well: If you are going to pray for the Holy Souls, please use the Prayer of St. Gertrude. Our Lord promised to release 1000 souls from Purgatory every time someone says this prayer:

"Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of your divine Son Jesus, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass said throughout the world today, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Amen."

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, Kathleen - the others are chanting to another god - but there really ISN'T another god - for the record. So, actually, they're just chanting.

Although, it could be that their god is THEMSELVES - but that's another topic completely.

Or. Maybe not so completely.

I agree about the gardening and decent exercise program myself.

Anonymous said...


There's some great stuff on LotH!

Anonymous said...


I was introduced to yoga over 20 years ago, and it has been a life saver as far as my back is concerned. I always found it spiritual, but only because I prayed the rosary along with the breathing instead of the suggested prayers. I even layed out a rosary on my mat when taking classes. I recently found and ad for a company called Yahweh Yoga. They have a great web site. yahwehyoga.com I believe. I haven't tried any of their DVDs, but they advertise as a Christ centered Yoga. Give them a try! The physical part of Yoga can be very rewarding, and combined with a Christ centered prayer and medtation, it can also be very spiritually rewarding.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Alison! The website looks interesting. I especially like that you place a rosary on your mat during your classes. What a wonderful way to center yourself on Christ. I've mentally said the rosary when I've ridden the stationary bike but your way is much clearer. I've decided not to go back to this particular class but will check out this company's products.

God Bless and many thanks for letting me know about Yahweh yoga!