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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, November 24, 2008

No Joy in Mudville

We are up to our veil tops in candy and little bags. Sister Mary Fiacre is in hog heaven disposing of candy pieces that don't look pretty enough down her candy loving gullet. I have to keep reminding Sister St. Aloysius why Sister Mary Fiacre's interest in dinner is directly proportionate to how many pieces of candy missed making the cut. "It isn't the sauerkraut," I keep telling her.

Although, maybe it is.

I don't like making candy. After a while, the smell is just sickening. It's messy. It takes up a lot of space.

I also don't like cutting out felt numbers. I now dream about gooey sickeningly sweet felt numbers and nothing else.

While it would be nice to say I'm offering it all up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, the truth is, I can't because I'm really not suffering. Sister St. Aloysius and Sister Mary Fiacre are sharing hog heaven and seeing them having so much fun lifts the burden of the oozing and burnt stove top and the grooves on my thumb from the scissors.

It's the same reason, I suppose, that many of you can sit through a soccer game or a T Ball game played by little kids who do not even knowing what to hit or which way to run while your kaboose complains to the inner workings of your brain about the hard, hard bleachers.

Life isn't always about you. Your happiness often has little to do with you actually doing things to make yourself happy.

Which brings me to today's question:

Sister, Do you have a patron saint or perhaps just a good saint quote about sharing in someone else's joy? (instead of being sad that you don't have the same joy in your life) I have a friend (no really!) that's struggling with this. Thanks!

I do. Mother Teresa. She's technically not a saint yet. She is Blessed, at this point. And she indeed has some words to share with your friend.

But let's talk about the problem for one moment: the green eyed monster, jealousy.

Jealousy is not just one emotion. It's a big ball of nasty emotion rolled into one thing that we call being jealous. Like one of those awful ice cream cake rolls with some kind of hard pretend ice cream and even harder freezer burned stale tasting cake.

On the inside is anger. Anger that we didn't get what you got. That's no fun and it's a sin.

On the outside is want and longing, bitterness and greed, self pity and sadness. What a nasty freezer burned stale cake that is! No wonder she is struggling. I'd have trouble choking all that down, too.

So first she needs to take a good look at what it is she is trying to swallow. She might want to just dump that in the trash while the hostess isn't looking.

Except, there is no hostess. She has served herself this stale and tasteless 'treat'. Time to put down that fork and push herself away from the table. Put a napkin over that mess and step away.

Blessed Mother Teresa. It turns out she was almost never happy. She felt abandoned by God. But she just kept going because she knew she was doing the right thing. And because life isn't about making yourself happy. It's about bringing comfort and peace to others.

Comfort and peace lives there, in the happiness of others, not rolled up in what they have and we don't have.

Here's my perpetual answer for everyone who asks "why me?"

"Why not you?"

Here are the comforting words of Mother Teresa, the perpetually abandoned nun who worked with lepers and mind bogglingly sick and poor people. She did not originate these thoughts, but this is her version of them.

1. The version found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.


Shannon said...

Dear Sister,

This post brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for this kind of sincerity - it is so rare in this world.
I'm going to copy Mother Teresa's words and put it up in MY home for children.
Bless You!

Anonymous said...

Powerful stuff; empowering, and uplifting.

Jade Dunlop said...

This is a beautiful post, Sister. Thank you for posting it...and I couldn't have given a better simile for jealousy myself! It's so easy to loose your way in this world and let other people get you down. This is just a reminder that being a good person is always appreciated - even if it is only by God.

Jenny said...

A wonderful priest, one of the best and now faithfully departed, used to say (and say again), "People, it's NOT about US! It's about God."

I give thanks for you and your witness, Sister, and I ask God to bless all you do in His name.

Happy Thanksgiving, once those bags are done!


LittleLamb said...

Beautiful words by Mother Teresa, thank you for posting them - sometimes we all need a little jab to remember what is important in life

UniqueNurseGranny said...

Mother t gives the best to us..

joannaB73 said...

Great thoughts - I have copied this on to my Blog and sent it to all my email friends and family. Great thought for the day!

Anonymous said...

The worst thing about jealousy is that, as soon as you get what you thought you wanted, you want something newer, bigger, more exciting.

The Ebon Swan said...

Jealousy can consume all you see and do, and leave you blind to other, probably better, things to bring into your life. Perhaps that's the biggest hurt of all. It does nothing but hurt yourself.

Unknown said...

dear Sister,

great post but i would like to point out that anger is a secondary emotion. in order to get angry something else has to be triggered like, loss, dissappointment, sadness, pain, rejection so on and so forth.

Tienne said...

Thank you, Sister. I needed this today. :)

Anonymous said...

I love your blog sister! But I'm writing to ask you about Advent. I've been out of the Catholic church for 25 years or so, and came back last Christmas. I am also playing the organ, and am wondering if you have any favorite Advent music? I remember O Come, O Come Emmanuel, but not the others in the missalette. I want to establish the right mood for Advent so Christmas will be all that more meaningful for everybody--including me, though in reality, I'm still blown away by the consecration. It's just awe-inspiring. I don't know how most of the folks at church manage to contain their emotions. It's amazing to witness.

Thank you for writing on the faith and life and helping me to adjust this year to living Catholic again. God bless you and your sisters in faith. I love you all!

Anonymous said...

Thank you sister, that was very well said. I do a lot of things for the same reason you're making candy bags; the people I care about think it's fun. I'll remember that the next time we go to Disneyland. It's not really my thing, but I don't want to begrudge my children, who think it's the most thrilling place on earth. When I get a chance, I'll look up a recipe for homemade marshmallows. You probably won't want to try it, because it looks time-consuming, but it shows what can potentially be done at home.

God rest you merry, Sister (which apparently meant something like "Peace be with you" in olde England.


Anonymous said...

Martha: indeed, that is what "rest ye merry" used to mean -- comfort and joy.

A propos of the original topic also is the Litany of Humility. It can be tough to choke down, but if it is, that's strong evidence that you need it.