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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Not Yet Confirmed

Dear Sister Mary Martha I'm having a hard time finding my confirmation name. Do you have any suggestions? I'm thinking one of the doctrines of the church. What's your opinion. My mother stalks your blog and was soooo happy when you commented on hers.

Hello to your mother!

I'm not sure one of the doctrines of the church works as a confirmation name. "Hello, I'm Catherine Anne Assumption of Our Lady Into Heaven Sweeney." Sorry, I couldn't resist. I know you meant one of the Doctors of the Church.

As a girl, you only have three Doctors of the Church from which to choose. There are only three women Doctors of the Church and they only have two names. You have to choose between Catherine and Therese, although you have a choice of Theresas and how to spell Teresa.

Those are some great choices: St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Theresa the Little Flower and St. Teresa Avila. Any one of them would be spectacular! It's not like some mistake can be made.

You know who I would love to see you go with? St. Ignatius of Antioch. What a guy! For one thing, all the art work with him in it is just fantastic because he is always being eaten or he's about to be eaten by a lion, since he was indeed eaten by lions. That is so very dynamic.

St. Ignatius was exactly the type of person you should be, as you become a soldier of Christ. Like you, he never met Christ while Jesus was walking around on earth. Ignatius had to rely of what St. Peter said about Jesus for all his information.

So do we, in the sense that we have to listen to Peter's successor, the Pope, for our information.

Oh, St. Ignatius of Antioch, we have so much in common!

After St. Ignatius listened to everything St. Peter had to say, St. Ignatius did just what he was supposed to do, which was to spread the Word. Unfortunately for him, but very fortunately for us, St. Ignatius was hauled off to jail. It was fortunate for us because being hauled off to jail was an exceptionally long trip and the whole time he was being dragged away, St. Ignatius wrote letters about what was going on and giving encouragement to his readers.

Did I mention he was a bishop? He was a bishop.

Sadly, St. Ignatius was torn to pieces by lions as entertainment for the masses. We hope this never happens to you, but you could end up on American Idol.

We never hear much about hoping for a martyr's death anymore these days, do we? We talked about it constantly when I was little girl going to Catholic schools. It's a wonderful thing to die a martyr's death, because it means you go straight to heaven. Other than that, there is nothing too wonderful about it, not to mention that we strive for a day when there is no need for anyone to die as a martyr ever again.

I digress.

My point here is that St. Ignatius if the perfect example of a soldier of Christ, which is what you are about to become. A card carrying member of the Church Militant by your own choice.

Is there a girl version of the name Ignatius? You know what I mean? Like Thomasina? Or Josephine? I certainly had a nun or two with the name St. Ignatius, but then nuns have boy names all the time. Or they used to, back in the day when they took a whole new name. Some still do.

I'm not sure I've been much help. Perhaps if we knew a little more about you, we could find the perfect Confirmation saint. You can still comb through all the boy Doctors of the Church and use a girl version of one of their names. Let us know if you need more help. I'm sure our readers will have some suggestions.

Trick or Treat

Want some candy? You can't have any. Not because we're selfish and want to keep all our wonderful homemade candy to ourselves. You can't have any because it's all stuck to us. Expect typos. My fingers are stuck to the keyboard.

We have some homemade candy corn, some gummy worms, some made from scratch marshmallow ghosts and some chocolate blobs. I'm not sure what happened there.

We can pretend that the marshmallow ghosts are saints if we want to, since we believe that dead people who are in heaven are saints, and even though ghosts are dead people who hang around here, we can pretend they are just visiting to collect our prayers to take back to heaven. Then we'll eat them.

Isn't that the whole idea of Halloween anyhow? Not our original idea, certainly, but the idea these days in general is some fun make believe dress up time. Not to mention some creativity and ingenuity. I'm looking forward to hearing from readers as to who dressed up as what.

This year I'm going as a nun.

Just kidding. This year I'm going as Marilyn Monroe. No I'm not. Perhaps it would be clever of me to slap on some giant eyelashes and try to pass myself off as Mary Tyler Moore playing a nun in "A Change of Habit".

I'll probably just throw on my pointy hat, as most people are half way to thinking 'witch' when they see me in the first place.

I could throw on a cape of some sort and be Batnun. Not a big stretch there, either. Maybe I'll just get some slick shades and ask people if they know they are really living in the Matrix.

The kitchen did not blow up, by the way. I'm so grateful about that, since it is my job to clean the stove and I'd rather clean the stove of the sticky mess it is right now than be saddled with sweeping up stove parts and bits of Sister St. Aloysius, the candy martyr.

Now I can only pray that we get enough trick or treaters to unload this stuff, because I love my teeth and would like to have them for some time yet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Home Running Away

I found the computer. It was under the feathers, rick-rack, empty thread spools, fabric scraps and some buttons. We're done! Ahead of schedule!

Sister St. Aloysius is so pleased with having that all out of the way. Not in the normal, "Gee, I got that done, now I can get back to being normal" sort of satisfied way. Oh, no. She is thrilled because, since she has gotten everything done early, she has time to MAKE CANDY for the trick or treaters.

I should be thrilled myself, but I am afraid of kitchen chemistry. Nothing scares me more than a double boiler. No, there is something! A pressure cooker. I remember an old Popeye cartoon where something was wrong with Olive Oyl's water heater and it started to swell and rattle and Popeye began to say (in the one time we could understand what he was saying since he wasn't mumbling) "It's gonna blow! It's gonna blow!"

Of course it did. I think what she is doing also involves candy thermometers. Couldn't they blow up, too? Glass and mercury stuck in a pot of boiling chocolate over the hot stove makes me nervous.

She was talking about making little marshmallow saints, too. I thought that sounded so very cute! But then the idea of eating little saints is a little disturbing. I have to put a block on the Food Network. I think she was inspired by the Halloween Cake decorating contest in which part of the decorations on the cake had to include home made candy.

We had a couple of questions from a new reader. Welcome!

Hey again Sister, You mentioned Mother Cabrini! I took my mom to her shrine here in Colorado this summer. One of her miracles was revealing a spring to her Sisters living with her up there in the mountains after their stream ran dry. My question about this would be how does this water (which you can still freely obtain up at the shrine) differ from Lourdes water?

Is cussing (i.e. George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words) considered taking the Lord's name in vain? It's obviously impolite, but I've never been quite sure what the deal is, especially since the Marianist brothers at my high school kind of had potty-mouths. Take care and God bless!

What's the matter with those boys? I would love to personally come up there and wash their mouths out with soap, even though I've never done that to anyone in my whole life because it sounds like such a terrible thing to do.

Also, I don't think it works. I say this only because when I was a little girl we had a little kid that lived up the street. We called him Little Earl, because there was also a grown up Earl on the block. Little Earl had a terrible potty mouth, even at age four. That may have happened in part because his mother was deaf and couldn't here what Little Earl was up to every moment. But at least three days a week Little Earl's grandmother watched him and she could hear everything just fine. She would break off a branch from the bushes next to her house as a 'switch', at which point Little Earl would become terrified, and she would chase him up the block and into the house where she would wash his mouth out with soap.

This went on all the time. That's why I don't think it works.

But to answer your question, those words are not taking the Lord's name in vain. They are just bad and make people think bad thoughts and are therefore scandalous, which is sinful. To cause scandal means to behave in such a way that makes it seem to other people that it's okay to behave in some bad way. Which is exactly what those bad boy Marianists were doing. To a tee.

And Marianists no less! Devoted to Our Blessed Mother Ever Virgin. Scandal on top of scandal. Pathetic.

Now this Mother Cabrini Spring business is a little trickier. That's because there are two stories
about it. One is that they didn't have water up there and had to drag water supplies up there where they were staying and one day Mother Cabrini told the nuns to lift a certain rock and dig under it and they found this spring which still runs. That does sound a little like Lourdes.

But Mother Cabrini isn't Our Lady and Mother Cabrini didn't tell anyone the water had any healing powers. They just needed water and she found a source for it. Although people do get the water from the Mother Cabrini Shrine and use it for miraculous healing purposes, a) no one ever made that claim or promise, officially and b) that all started after Mother Cabrini became a saint and the whole place became a shrine.

On top of that, there is another story about how the spring was found. According to a source at the site: "This area was originally established as a orphanage. In 1912, Mother Cabrini and children from the orphanage formed a heart of stone and cross at the present day statue. On their way down, they discovered a spring at the Grotto which flows to this day. "

So which is it? I don't know. I'd just wash my face and call it a day. But I wouldn't begrudge anyone who took some water and had it blessed and prayed for the intercession of Mother Frances Cabrini. I have prayed for her intercession on more than one occasion, I can tell you, and that lady is no slouch.

The short answer to your question about the two water sources is this: we can't stop the faithful from being faithful. We can give something the official nod or not, and after that you're on your own.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All Souls Day

We are in the home stretch for Halloween and not a moment too soon. We have managed to stay our of Joanne's Fabric Store, but not without looking under couch cushion and in Sister Mary Fiacre's wheelchair for loose buttons, pieces of thread, safety pins and whatever other notions we can find to hold these costumes together. If only we were rich. If only the people who needed costumes were rich. If only someone had seventy dollars plus shipping. We could have avoided the whole thing by sending everyone here.

I'm not that big a fan of dressing children up as saints for Halloween. I think it's a little...wet blanketish. But there are a few costumes that might be fun and get the kids excited about learning more about a saint.

Here's little Kateri Tekakwitha. That's kind of fun. They left the smallpox out of the picture. And since Kateri isn't a saint yet, maybe a few kids dressing up like her will help her cause for sainthood. She could have her little brothers and sisters dress up like turtles and follow her around. I would have gone for that as a girl. When in doubt, I was always a bum.

That used to be a great costume. Now we don't have bums anymore. Just homeless people.

Little Rose of Lima is nice. I think she should have a crown made of something that looks like glass. That sort of thing was really a habit for St. Rose of Lima. Or she could have some embroidery with her or something. I always think of St. Rose of Lima as the patron saint of crafters. Her parents were hoping to marry her off to a rich fellow and when Rose dodged that idea to become a nun and live in her own backyard, she made up for the family's loss of rich husband income by making things to sell.

This Mother Teresa costume, although it is very lovely, is a wet blanket outfit for sure. We love Mother Teresa, but she's not a fun Halloween gal.

At all.

For boys, who could resist St. George, even if he is one of those highly dubious saints? I like St. George, but we know his story is...exaggerated. How do we know? Dragons, anyone? If you dress up as St. George you may as well dress up as Superman or Robin Hood. Any of those three should please any little boy.

I like this little St. John the Baptist, but after I thought about it, it seems a little embarrassing for a little boy to run around in a gunny sack with a belt and nothing else. If I were that little boy, I'd pretty much feel like I was wearing a mini skirt. Well, maybe not a mini skirt. But....you know what I mean. It's really like wearing a dress. We call this style a 'shift' isn't that right?

And on the wet blanket side, Cardinal Neumann is a fun killer. Trick or Treat!

Say, that reminds me, I read the other day that they dug Cardinal Neumann up for his cause of sainthood (it's one of the first steps) and he wasn't there. I can tell you that really struck me, because for years people have been asking me why we dig people up at all and I have explained a million times to a million people that we need to find out if the person is really there so that folks aren't standing around a vault with Joe the Plumber in it offering their prayers and petitions. So you can imagine my shock to hear that Cardinal Neumann was gone.

It was his grave and his coffin, however. He had just completely decomposed. Only his Cardinal suit was left.

Not that this costume has anything to do with that.

Today's Nun So Beautiful is from Sue, who tells us that this nun fell over because she saw the Pope.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sister Mary Martha, Stealth Clown

I am used to small children
being afraid of me. Who can blame them? From their perspective, I'm actually scarier than a clown. Which reminds me. I posted this picture the other day. A nun AND a clown. Why is that child not screaming blue murder? Maybe she is. We really can't see her face, now can we?

I digress.

To small children, I'm sure I look like some big scary witch or some kind of black pterodactyl bat witch. But this is a first. I actually upset a little baby girl and I wasn't even there. Poor baby.

One of our wonderful readers, who is also a cake nut, made our horrible ugly cake that tastes so delicious. The poor baby didn't know the cake would be delicious. The poor baby just took one look at this cake and lost it. Apparently, this baby is a true connoisseur of how a cake ought to look, which is not surprising seeing how her mother is a cake expert.

This lovely woman threw a little party for us in honor of our Blogger's Choice Award. It looks like a fun party and the baby eventually calmed down. You would have thought there was a picture of me on top of the cake.

Meanwhile, Sister St. Aloysius has glommed on to the cake blog. I'm sure I'll have to go the long way to the Post Office with our shop orders from now on or someone will have to roll me there. Maybe we'll throw a one nun bake sale. If you come, you'll know which cake to grab. That really ugly looking one. The one that makes the baby cry.

Today's Nun So Beautiful is from reader James Baird

Sister Alyssa

Looks like someone snapped a picture of her at work.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas

We came in third. I should be excited that we placed in the top three. But we came in third last year, too, so it feels to me like we've made no progress. In particular, I feel I should have been paying attention all along instead of just at the last minute and maybe we would have done better.

Don't get me wrong. It's not about being a 'winner'. As far as I can tell, the whole thing is fake or something anyhow, as there is some kind of party in Las Vegas for the winners and we were never notified of winning at all or asked to go to Vegas. We couldn't have gone to Vegas anyhow, but it would have been nice to be invited.

For me, it's about having more visitors. We love our visitors. Please keep visiting.

Sister, can you give us a novena to start on Monday ending on election day for Godly leaders for our country?

Not exactly. I've been working on this. I wanted to go for a novena to St. Constantine. He was my first pick. He turned the whole world Catholic. Okay, not really the whole world. But a huge enough and important enough part of it that Catholicism spread like wildfire. You remember St. Constantine? As in Emperor Constantine? As in Constantinople? Of course you do. That's because you had a Catholic (decent) education.

How did Constantine do it? The answer is the very thing that makes him a ripe pick for our election novena: he made it illegal to not be Christian. You might put a nicer spin on that by saying he legalized Christianity, but you wouldn't be entirely accurate. St. Constantine just made it harder and harder for people to stay pagan by chipping away at what pagans could and could not do, i.e. hold office, own property....until it was simply illegal to be pagan altogether.

He did it a little at a time. It worked out very well because being Christian worked out much better for everyone, better than worshiping those bulky stone statues and all those gods. Not to mention the cost in sacrifices to them.

So if ever there was a person who brought Christian ideals to the world, it would be St. Constantine. But I can't find a novena to him. So then I thought, well, St. Constantine would not have been Christian himself were it not for his sainted mother, St. Helena. Plus, she was the person who discovered the relics of the True Cross and whatnot.

I can't find a novena to her either.

I was also thinking of St. Thomas More, a terrific family man and the person who stood up to King Henry VII. He lost his head for it.

No novena for him, either.

That's not to say you can't go ahead and just make up your own prayers for your election novena to St. Constantine, St. Helena or St. Thomas More.

But I realize that most people want a novena spelled out for them a bit more because they have a hard enough time remembering to keep with the novena in the first place.

Then I found out that some people are calling for a Rosary Novena for the election. Now this seems like a great plan to me! First of all, a rosary novena is an easy thing to remember to do. Secondly, didn't Our Lady ask us to say rosaries for the fate of the world? She has been trying to pound this into our heads for years now. She keeps having to come back over and over again to remind everybody. Thirdly, I always say when things are really tough, go for the big guns. And finally, there is something to be said for a lot of people saying the same prayer together. Gives the whole thing more ooomph.

Which reminds me...there IS a novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. How about a rosary novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help? Done Deal!

Today's nuns are brought to you by the letter "L".

Says Lauren:
Please note: I did not take these pictures but have found them beautiful and helpful in my vocational discernment.
Summit, NJ Dominican Nun
Carmelites of the Divine Heart of Jesus

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Easy Peasy Really Quesy

I shouldn't have had any cake. It would have been better to field this question on an empty stomach.

Robert said...

The cake sounds tasty, no matter how it may look. I do have a question for you: I've been out of work since April and my employment insurance is about to run out. I am desperatly seeking work, however, have been turned down for every job I've applied for so far. Out of desperation, I applied for a job as a cashier at a local er...adult...novelty...store... I myself am a virgin and plan to remain one until marriage, nor do I really condone the use of such uh...products. But, I really need a job (eviction is imminent) and they are the only company that seems interested in having me as an employee. What should I do? Should I take the job? If I did, would it be concidered a sin to work in such an industry?

The store also sells cakes.
Just not ones I'd eat.

I feel urp-py.

One of the reasons that the Catholic Church emphasizes a happy, happy life in heaven is that often life here on earth is no picnic. We are expected, when life is no picnic, to walk it off and offer it up to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

So the simple answer is: starve first.

There is a much more complex answer, though, that involves what we call a "Near Occasion of Sin". A "Near Occasion of Sin" is Catholic Church lingo for "in harm's way". Of course, we are in harm's way constantly. We really can't leave the house. We can't stay in the house either. A lot of our sins are thriving right inside our own skulls. Only a labotomy could keep us out of harm's way, sinwise.

And while a Near Occasion of Sin isn't that hard to fathom, the four different types of Near Occasions of Sins can be a little more daunting.

Proximate: meaning one generally falls into sin

Remote: meaning one sometimes falls.

Necessary: meaning one cannot avoid.

Voluntary: meaning one could avoid with a little will power. Or a lot of will power.

Will power is always involved, in any case.

Spelled out thusly, you new job fires on all pistons. Your only sin loophole is that it may be necessary, as in, you can't get any other job.

Meanwhile, you're peddling sin, standing knee deep in sin every working hour, putting up the sin displays and answering customers questions about how to sin better.

Some loophole. I think the only way you get away with the "necessary" loophole is if you don't actually work for these people but ask to set up a table with pamphlets about the Catholic Church and St. Agnes and St. Maria Goretti and such and they actually say yes. It would be a great place to set up a table with scapulars on it and whatnot.

We are so sorry you mentioned their cake.

There are several patron saints for job hunting and financial stability. St. Joseph the Worker, springs to mind. I'm found of St. John of God, as well, as he wandered around aimlessly doing not so nice things for quite some time before he finally went looney and Jesus paid him a visit in the nut house. I would say 'psych ward', but they didn't have psych wards back then. They only had nut houses.

Good luck to you. Far be it from me to tell you that you have to go starve. I just recommend it.

And as long as our stomaches are already turned:

Sister, have you ever seen Corn Smut? It is a black, ugly, fungus-like growth that infects an ear of corn and ruins it. If you ever see it, you won't forget it, as it is very, very yucky looking. Smut is a perfect name for impure images.

Yes, I have. Thanks for the reminder.

So...no nun pictures today. Just...not today....

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Here We Go!

Here we go!

I'm just going to post the Nun So Beautiful pictures in the order in which they were received. Thank the Good Lord we are not required to pick a winner.

Here's the very first one that came in and a great start to the big parade of nuns.

Hello Sister, I would like to enter my friend, Sister Agnes Marie of the Eternal High Priest OCD Who is one of the Extern sisters at our Carmelite Monastery here in Buffalo, NY. She recently made her Perpetual Profession and we had permission from Mother Mariam of Jesus To take pictures.. I hope she wins.. Love, Ellen from Buffalo,NY

Now back to the grindstone.

Sister, I have a question for you about holy water. I understand there are two types - the kind consecrated by a priest (that I use to cross myself when entering and leaving church), and the kind from shrines such as Lourdes. I am wondering what Catholics are required to believe about these two types of holy water vs. what we might believe from Catholic small-t tradition (as you've called it in other posts.) Do we believe consecrated water has special powers of healing the sick, or the ability to ward off evil? Thank you.

Pretty much, yes we do. Although there is a difference between Lourdes water and holy water.

I have to have a nap before I try to explain. There is also a difference between blessed and consecrated.

Two naps.

If I sneeze and you say, "Bless you!" you are wishing me goodness and health. Blessings are the transference or prayer for good. Goodness is transferred from God to you. Are we on the same page here?

When the priest blesses someone or something (like your rosary) that's exactly what he is doing but, because he is a priest, he has supernatural power.

I hope that doesn't upset you. When we say supernatural we mean exactly that. Outside the realm of the earth. We aren't referring to werewolves, vampires and zombies.

I once had a third grader who was concerned that when Lazarus was brought back form the dead he came back as a zombie. I had to explain that Lazarus was just alive and happy again, not a dead person who had a spell cast on him to take away his will and make him forever slowly serve drinks on a silver tray and trudge around and strangle people one doesn't care for.

A priest giving a blessing is not a person casting a spell. He is bestowing good from outside nature. Supernatural good from God.

Still on the page?

The priest blesses objects to set them apart for sacred use for the Kingdom of God. Easy breeze lemony squeezy.

There are two types of blessings: simple and solemn, also called consecrations. What's the dif?

Consecrations are a bigger deal. It doesn't exactly make the object or person any more blessed. It makes the person or object more specifically blessed. A consecration is a more specific blessing, just like a prayer can be general ("Please look after the good health of my family") or specific ("please heal Aunt Agatha's gout").

Lourdes water is a whole other category. Lourdes water was consecrated by Mary herself, set aside for specific use (except for poor little Bernadette).

Anyhow, to answer your final question, 'are we to believe that holy water has supernatural power?', I would say, yes, by definition it does. Otherwise, during an exorcism the priest could just stick your head under the faucet or douse you with a hose.

Lazarus might make a fun Halloween costume. Everyone would think he was a zombie, but we would know better.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Boy Talk

Of course it rained. We only had a little leak, because it was only a little rain.

Our thoughts on St. Maria Goretti solicited this question:

So many pure saints... Only sometimes I, as a male, may ask: what about some patron saint of "male" chastity? I mean, I do take St Cecilia, St Maria Goretti, et al. as patrons for my own purity... But sometimes I would like an example of my same gender. May I think in the great St. Joseph. Any other ideas?

St. Joseph is an excellent thought! You are a good patron saint matcher. Sometimes you have to think outside the box. For example, I think whatever else St. Vincent de Paul might have up his sleeve as a patron saint, he is also the patron saint of pirates. He was kidnapped by pirates once. I'm not sure anyone needs a patron saint of pirates, but if they do, he's your man. Pirates need someone to help them not be pirates.

I digress.

Another reader also suggested St. Aloysius, who is the official patron saint of chastity. Was he ever chaste! Chaste with a side of prude. St. Aloysius took a private vow of chastity at age nine. He would not look a woman in the face, even his own mother. We love him! He's also the patron saint of choir boys.

There is, however, a whole avenue of chaste saints that goes unexplored. I would go with any of the saints who were hermit monks. I would put forth this theory, which I've held for sometime, which is that the whole reason they became hermit monks was to remain chaste.

The first famous hermit monk is St. Anthony the Hermit. There were other hermits before St. Anthony, but he outdid them all by living in the desert proper. He was really out there on his own. He wanted to follow Jesus more perfectly but he found it too difficult to remain sin free while hanging around other people.

Now think about this. What were these other people doing all the time that was so sinful that it would tempt him so much? Usury? Stealing? Being disrespectful to their parents? I think it's a little obvious what the problem could have been. So he removed the temptation altogether by living on his own in the middle of nowhere.

Unfortunately for him, a bunch of people followed him. But fortunately for him, they were all men and eventually they, and people like them, formed themselves into monasteries.

What was St. Simon Stilites really doing up on that pole? Why sit on top of a pole for years and years? Why keep getting a taller and taller pole? What's up with that?

Chastity, drove him up a pole. That's my theory.

If you wear a hair shirt, you really can only think about the hair shirt and offer up your suffering. It takes your mind off of things on which your mind might otherwise dwell. Hair shirts, tall poles, life on the desert. It's all about chastity.

That's my theory, anyhow.

I realize there is much more to it than that. Life on the desert gives one a lot of time to devote to God and prayer and meditation and contemplation. I get that.

I'm really liking your idea of St. Joseph, though. He needed a bit of angelic prodding, but he really came through in a big way.