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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Falling in the Fall

Sister Mary Martha where are you? I miss reading your blog. Are those 7th graders keeping you too busy?

Did I stop writing my blog? I thought I was still here. I guess I haven't been keeping up.

I can't blame the 7th graders. I blame the fall, which includes not only the 7th graders, but getting ready for winter in the garden and the house. Not that we have much of a winter, but we may get some rain and the roof leaks. Sister St. Aloysius used to be able to climb onto the wall and use the tree to get onto the roof and affix a tarp up there. The tarp blows off each year by late spring or tears to pieces in the wind, so we have to put a new one on each year. Now the tree is gone. I guess she'll have to stand on my shoulders or something. The tarp does keep us dry.

The really scary thing is that when the roof does leak in the kitchen, it leaks down through the light sockets. Yikes! We don't want to get zapped and think we see Mary in the refrigerator.

Which brings me to today's question:

Sister, you often have said that we are not required to believe in the private revelations of individuals. It has long bothered me that St Paul's vision on the road to Damascus was a private revelation and yet he is considered a father of the church, something like 13 of his epistles are in the bible. And yet, Paul never met Jesus in life, and was frequently at odds with the apostles *who were there with Jesus*. I think this is behind the protestant argument that Catholics are not Christians: so much of Catholic teaching is based on the teaching of Paul, rather than Jesus. It was private revelation!

I wouldn't worry about it. Jesus didn't say that much to Paul. Paul isn't telling us in his epistles things that Jesus said to him.

Remember what happened here. Paul was riding around persecuting the first Christians. He took part in martyring the first martyr, St. Stephen. St. Paul held the coats for the people who were stoning St. Stephen to death so they could have better range of motion for their stone throwing.

And then one day, according to Paul, Jesus knocked Paul off his horse and while Paul laid on the ground wondering what hit him, Jesus said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Paul's name used to be Saul.

Then Saul/Paul was blind for a bit and when he finally figured out what was going on and accepted Jesus, Paul/Saul got his sight back.

Unlike Fatima, or Lourdes or Sister Margaret Mary who had a vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and started that devotion, no instructions were given, no words of wisdom. Just a thump in the head from Jesus. A kick in the pants.

Jesus never even asked Saul to change his name to Paul. Paul had to learn and figure everything else out for himself, which he did, superbly. Jesus didn't reveal anything to Paul except Himself.

The Church Fathers saw fit to include Paul's letters and thoughts in the New Testament.

I think everyone has some kind of unformed thought that Jesus lived, died, rose and ascended and then four guys sat down and wrote about it and some people gathered up letters that the early disciples wrote and then we have the New Testament. As though somehow it was just there in a few years. Or that God got out His big gold pen and wrote a book and handed it to St. Peter.

But that's not what happened. The New Testament was not finished in the form in which we know it during St. Peter's life time. The New Testament didn't come together until the fourth century when the early church Fathers sat down and decided what would be in and what would be out, like Heidi Klum on Project Runway. Their choices were not frivolous. There was much arguing and debate. They were guided by God as the Church always is guided by God.

And that's the part you have to remember. Paul's writings are in the New Testament as guided by God. The Catholic Church is God's Big Gold Pen.

Here's something you might think about: I think this is behind the protestant argument that Catholics are not Christians: so much of Catholic teaching is based on the teaching of Paul, rather than Jesus.

Actually, the protestants base virtually all of their arguments on the teachings of St. Paul. Martin Luther certainly did.

So you can relax about St. Paul. He's my favorite patron saint for people who want to turn their lives around.

Ain't that a kick in the head?


Anonymous said...

Hey Sister Mary Martha -

Although Sister St. Aloysius and you make a dynamic duo, please be careful with that roof!

You had me laughing out loud with the getting zapped and thoughts of seeing Mary in the frig line.

Good stuff on St. Paul.

Looking forward to the Nun So Beautiful contest results.

Kazimer - "Kaz"

Michele said...

you should take up a collection to get the roof fixed. can you write to the bishop and request it to be fixed?
i for one would donate to help pay for it.

Jen said...

"Looking forward to the Nun So Beautiful contest results."

Me too! Makes me almost excited that September is nearly over. How will the results be determined? Do we get to vote?

Anonymous said...

I wish I could buy you a new roof. Heck, I wish I could buy us a new roof. Is there a patron saint we should be saying novenas to for roofs?

Saint Joseph just finished getting me a new job--they interviewed me on day nine, and called that evening to tell me I had it. Wow! Did I tell you I've tried to get on with this corporation for 9 years? I'd done everything but a novena before. Should have started with St. Joe!

I wanted to tell the gal who thinks Catholic teaching is too much of Saint Paul--I was out of the church for 25 years and went to the Baptist church with my husband during the last 2. We went every Sunday. They read entirely from Saint Paul for their services, had only Bible studies on books of Saint Paul, memorized only verses from Saint Paul, and I got to a point where I decided they worhsiped Saint Paul. Oh, there were a few sermons on the Rapture, but they still cited as much as possible from Saint Paul about that!

Finally I had enough and checked into why Catholics believe what they do--all of which Baptists feel are heresies. When I found out the Catholics were absolutely right on everything, I came home. What a blessing it has been!

I still don't remember why I left. I must have just drifted away in my 20s. Sad thing.

Anyway, Catholics don't base much of anything on Saint Paul. If you think "Saint Paul knew it all"--join the Baptists. If you want a good site to tell you what Catholics base their teachings on go to "Catholicism for Evangelicals". It spells out everything in easy terms.

I cannot find the picture of the nuns I want to send in. Can we have a "Poetry in Honor" contest some time about our favorite nun experiences? I've had some mighty wonderful nuns touch my life and bet others did too. Heck, they were probably praying me back into the church. You know how they are!

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for the great church history lessons. They have helped deepen my knowledge and understanding, which I find so useful in teaching RE. The kiddos are so interested in the history of our faith.
Thanks again, and be careful on the roof!
:) Tami

Anonymous said...

"...as the Church always is guided by God"???
Oh, dear.
If the Church was guided by god to go bash in a couple of heads in the crusades and burn heretics, that's no recommendation. The Church consists of people, people are fallible and make mistakes, so the Church - and any church as a whole - is not always guided by god. No way. One has the impression that god can't have even been paying attention when it came to inspring cardinals to choose a pope. Think of some of the Borgia popes.
God, I believe, can inspire individuals and they in turn can inspire their organisation (see St Francis). If they are lucky and don't get burnt at the stake as a heretic first, of course.

PussDaddy said...

I love fall, it is my favorite time of year.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, there may have been some terrible people as popes, but you will notice that none of them were successful in changing any doctrine, which is astonishing and can only be atributed to the hand of God guiding and protecting the church.

Anonymous said...

The official teaching of the Catholic church is infallible. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Also check out the crusades--not the newly rewritten politically correct version. Islam had virtually overtaken Europe and the Vatican had to do something to save Christendom from being thrown back into the dark ages. Remember that Islam does not allow for freedom of religion, and once those lands were overtaken Catholics were subject to terrible deaths, slavery and forced conversions. Sometimes war is the only way to protect the innocent.

Anonymous said...

"If the Church was guided by god to go bash in a couple of heads in the crusades and burn heretics, that's no recommendation...."

Please, I understand the point you are making, but to generalize the Crusades or Inquisitions this way is unfair to Catholics, misleading and historically inaccurate. I recommend reading an unbiased account of these events, such as Hilaire Belloc's "The Crusades".

Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha!!

My roommate and I are in love with purity! We were wondering if you could write a blog entry about purity and chastity in young people, and how it is so neat! Also, are there patron saints of chastity?


Anonymous said...

Christina, you should check out Maria Goretti! When I was in high school, she was held up to us as a role model for chaste young girls.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister,

There is a HUGE difference between Public Revelation and Private Revelation. Public Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, St. John the Evangelist. St. Paul's conversion is part of PUBLIC Revelation because it's in the Bible (at LEAST three times). The Bible is Public Revelation. Public Revelation contains everything anyone needs for salvation.
Public Revelation is made up of God's written self-revelation--the Bible, and Sacred Tradition--the constant, ongoing oral teaching of the Catholic Church that was given to us by Jesus Christ through the apostles.
Private Revelation is made up of any type of revelation given to private individuals. They are not necessary for our salvation, but if they help you in your salvation, go for it. However, always be sure that the Church has declared a private revelation to be "worthy of belief" so you don't get sucked into some sort of "revelation" given by someone else........

God bless you,

Janelle said...

As one of my teachers notes, "The Life of Abba Macarius of Scetis" has a practical litmus test for private revelation:

"A demon will not say to a person 'pray,' but, 'look, there are three of us, a type of the trinity.'"

Of course, I prefer to avoid demons altogether.... The point is, though, that private revelations should conform to Church teaching.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sister Mary Martha,

I am looking forward to your post that will feature the Nun Pictures!
God Bless!


Jenny said...

Sister, where are you...it's been a whole week!! I'm in SMM-withdrawal!

Anonymous said...

Hey Sister Mary Martha :

The Bloggers Choice Awards has about 2 weeks to go for people to vote for best Religious Blogs.

You may want to get an entry about that fairly soon.

Take care Sister!

Kazimer - Kaz

Anonymous said...

I miss you, too, Sister.

Neuropoet said...

Be careful fixing the tarp - we have to use tarps for our roof too and it's always nerve-wracking getting it ready for the rainy season. Someday we hope to be able to get a new roof - but even with so many of us living together, and everyone working, there just isn't enough money for a "big ticket item" like that. When it comes down to it though, the tarps work - so we might have a bright blue roof, but we're dry... :)

Peace be with you,

Anonymous said...

The Church's universal doctrines regarding faith and morals are most CERTAINLY guided by God. See my post regarding infallibility: http://arkanabar.blogspot.com/2007/10/regarding-doctrine.html

Certainly God guided the councils that decided which works were authentically inspired by God and which were not. One of the criteria, by the way, was that all of the NT authors actually met Jesus, though St. Paul in a less-than-normal fashion, proving that God can do anything he wants.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say, that if in your blog you say that no one should "expect any sympathy" and people have to "be tough"...then where is the compassion of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, our "comforter"? Just asking, because this is a harsh world, and most people are cynical and cruel. You probably know about the emo trend, kids who feel bad and self-mutilate. Well, at schools, most kids who do this aren't given compassion and counselling, but are picked on for being depressed and lame. That's what kids act like. Why would a nun act this way?