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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Party Hardy

Today's paper had an article examining the idea that there are three types of New Year's Eve people. Those who go out to a party or otherwise doll up and toast the New Year. Those who stay at home with some popcorn and a good movie and ring in the New Year by watching the ball drop or banging pots together, and finally, those who don't make it past ten pm.

We have all three right here in our house. Sister St. Aloysius is in the middle group. She is always at the ready to bang some pots together, but since no one else around here does that, she is afraid of offending group three, so she just blows on a noise maker and calls it a day. Sister Mary Fiacre is asleep on and off pretty much all the time.

I have been known to hoof it down to the bay, where revelers gather to drink champagne from the deck of a fancy hotel down there. I stand under the deck on the walk way. We are all watching fireworks over the bay. It's like I'm at the party, but I'm not. Believe me, I am always invited in by anyone who spots me down there, but it's nothing personal. I think they just like the idea of hauling a nun into the party. The same thing would happen if I was dressed in a giant bunny suit or as Frankenstein.

Speaking of dressing up:

I keep seeing pictures of our ecclesial prelates decked out like Liberace on one of his worse days. I mean, Jesus and the Apostles never would have been seen dead in outfits like this. (Me neither.) So why do the princes of the church?

I'm not sure what you mean. I'm assuming you mean the priests at Mass. Or the Pope.

Yes, they are dressed in some pretty fine and fancy vestments once in a while. I have yet to see any of them fly into church wearing a boa, but I have seen many things I thought I would never see. Liturgical dance, anyone?

Anyhow, these lovely outfits are nothing new. It twas ever thus. Here's the priest at St. Patrick's in New York.

And here's some saint or another. Not sure who. I believe it's St. Phillip of Neri.

It really looks like the priest at St. Patrick's might have gotten a deal on a saint's vestment on ebay, doesn't it? Or someone did.

Also keep in mind that it's not as though the priest cracks out a vestment once and then never wears it again, like some designer gown for the Oscars. Vestments get worn over and over again.

Why so fancy? A couple of reasons. In the Catholic church, we spend every second reminding you about God. God is spectacular and we are going to dress to the nines any time we celebrate at God's supper. The supper is available all the time, just like on a cruise ship, and just like being invited to the Captain's table, we're going to look extra spiffy. You may show up in your ripped jeans with your midriff hanging out, but the priest is going to dress very nicely.

Plus, it's just not all doom and gloom and hell fire and bloody martyrdom and suffering saints and people roasting in Purgatory. At the end of it all, God is spectacular. We like to remind you about that. So the priest wears some spectacular outfits. What? God doesn't deserve at least what you'd get at the Grammy's? I think He does.

No, Jesus and the Apostles didn't dress up ever, as far as we know. That doesn't mean we shouldn't dress up for them. As soon as we leave Mass, priest and parishioners, we are back to our everyday clothes from KMart and Target and the sale at Macy's and the Sears catalog.

If I were you, I wouldn't sweat the vestments. Let it go.

And while we're on the topic of Mass:

I would like your opinion on the issue of young children at Mass. My husband once knew a priest who would stop Mass if a child was crying and ask the parent to remove the child...so he's been "trained" if you will to hold steadfast to the belief that children do not belong in Mass.

I tend to agree, only because I often have trouble hearing the homily for all the fussing, talking and crying. We have a 20 month old whom we would never expect to sit quiet and still for an hour. We take turns going to Mass on Sunday while the other spends time with our child--of course it takes twice as long but it gets the job done! We have taken our son to Mass once in a pinch (vacation) and I was so busy trying to keep him occupied that I didn't really participate in Mass. I don't know how other people do it (or do they?).

I love your insight and want the honest truth: Are we being too wet-blanket-ish or do you, too, think it's a good idea to keep young children at home until they can reasonable sit still for at least an hour without needing coloring books or Cheerios?

I've talked about this before.

Verdict: Wet blanket.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dingdong, Dignity Calling

Our doorbell is broken. Certainly no big deal, we thought, until everyone started knocking. If people knock on the door we can't hear them very well. Everyone figured that one out pretty quickly and starting rapping on the glass. We hear that. It's loud enough to wake the dead. Sister St. Aloysius has an over active startle response, so I more or less hear it twice. Once when the person raps on the glass and then the ensuing stifled scream. Or not so stifled scream if she is lost in thought at that moment. Happily for me, my mother was the same way, often screaming, "Oh St. Peter and Paul and all the saints!" My life has prepared me for my life.

Who are these people, this never ending train of humanity? I've mentioned, around Halloween it's the people who need something sewn. Year round there are people who need something sewn, but we have many more at Halloween. You can always tell, because they tend to be a little wild-eyed.

Once in a while we have someone who is hungry. There is a sort of crazy man named William who wants to cut our lawn. We don't have a lawn, or a single blade of grass.

We have people who have some sort of question, need a shoulder to cry on, want advice, want to know if we know of any jobs. Just the other day, for example, we had a young woman whose family ignores her.

As terrible as that sounds, the reason is that the family was living happily for years and years and then this girl was born. The family was very happy to have a new little daughter and she was well loved and doted on. But now she lives far away and they are simply back into their old routine of living and working among themselves. Out of sight, a little bit out of mind.

I told her to go visit them. Surely they'll remember her then. She has had a wonderful Christmas visit, not because of Christmas, because they are Jewish, but because her mother and Jesus share the same birthday. Ironic.

Why was I talking about this?

Oh, yes. I wonder what the neighbors think. Frankly, I know what the neighbors think. The parade does not please them so much.

Our readers are still on the case about my last TWO posts:

If you've ever lived next to a meth house or had to walk past the trailer park you wouldn't be so sentimental about white trash. They're bad news as neighbors.

I think we are bad news as a neighbors, although we try to keep a tidy house. As a rule, we don't walk past much of anything. We wade in.

That's because we are not sentimental, although we are followers of that sentimental old fool, that dumb bunny, that naive goof, Jesus.

Moving on.

Hi Sister, I have a question about the works of mercy. I understand that one of the corporal works of mercy is caring for the sick. I am (finally!) about to complete my training be a nurse. Is doing my job a work of mercy or does it not count because I get paid for it?


I wondered if you might be able to tell me a reliable site for hagiography. I have just looked up St. John of God and read three very conflicting accounts: conflicting on more or less important points, such as whether he became a soldier to escape importunate marriage proposals or whether he took up his charitable work as penance for the misery he caused as a soldier or whether he was simply a heroic soldier for a brief time. I cannot feel that this online version of the Catholic Encyclopedia is really reliable - too many typos and hyperlinks, not at all like the venerable printed edition wiht which I have whiled away many happy hours when I was meant to be doing research on my thesis. Neither do I feel that I can bring myself to trust Wikipedia entirely, even though it is better orthographically. I hope that you can tell me of somewhere (other than your excellent blog) that I might find reliable information on saints on the internet. If anyone would know, I think it should be you.

I lumped these two together because St. John of God is the patron saint of nurses.

So for our nurse, I have this to say: I have some bad news. You are not going to skip off to work everyday singing, "Oh joy, I get to serve the sick! I get to dress their wounds and change their bedpans and fetch them ice and make their beds while they're still in them and make them get up and walk a few hours after their surgery and walk with them while they howl and yowl and complain. Oh, rapture! I get to do the night shift during which an old lady will scream incoherently all night long while all the other patients beg me to knock her out with drugs I am not allowed to minister or, failing that, a frying pan."

You will indeed be doing a corporal work of mercy and getting paid for it. Whether or not it actually counts as a corporal work of mercy depends on good you are at administering the love and comfort you are in a position to bring. How lucky you are to get to make sure your patients are treated with dignity.

It's the secret of serving. Delivering Dignity. You can bring it in on every tray you have to set up, every milk carton you have to open, every IV you have to stick in someone, every person you help try to get their hospital gown to close in the back.

Lucky you! It's just a matter of attitude. We've talked about this before.

As for the lovely St. John of God, I don't have any better sources than you. I just read everything. Sorry. St. John of God was quite a fellow. Certainly one of my favorite saints because he jangled around forever doing this that and the next thing. He reminds me of that Frank Sinatra song, "I've been a puppet, a poet , a pirate....." you remember that song. St. John finally went off his rocker and ended up in the looney bin, which is not so fun these days either, but back then was a hellish experience. Jesus paid John a visit, referring to John as "John of God" which is how John got his nickname. After that St. John took care of sick people, begging and borrowing beds and mattresses and anything else he could get his hands on to bring comfort to the sick. Once his makeshift hospital burned down and John ran back and forth carrying all the sick people out and then went back in to salvage as many mattresses as he could.

Maybe someday our new nurse, Rebekka, will be known as "Rebekka of God". Wouldn't that be lovely?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Poor Dumb Jesus

O Holy Night!

And now, back to reality.

What a bunch of crabby pants readers we've had, and at Christmastime, no less. Merry Christmas Sister Mary Martha! You are working for poor dumb Jesus, Who just had the craziest ideas ever. You'd be better off married to General George Armstrong Custer. At least he looked good in his uniform.

Yes, the argument about how it's okay to call whoever we like whatever we like if we have decided the derogatory term is descriptive enough rages on.

From a reader, as to my post explaining, with great patience, why the proper term for everyone that isn't "me" is "Brother", I get this:

Italics Mine

And this is why political correctness is so tiresome. Do we really need to spell out that "white trash" is an idiom? Yes, we do, especially if there are children present while we are spewing this animosity. And no one is actually advocating taking any one of them, crumpling them up and tossing them in the wastebasket like an old piece of scrap paper? Not yet, not this time, but maybe tomorrow when we argue that since they do not seem to care enough for themselves, we don't need to care for them either. Never mind that Jesus said exactly the opposite. I think it went something like this: "Whatsoever you do the least of My brothers (there's that word again!) that you also do unto Me." Unlike, however, what white trash are often known to do with their own unborn. Abortion mills do quite a business in white trash areas. Abortion mills do quite a business everywhere. Historically, abortion is a procedure that was only safely performed on the upper classes. So here we are, calling an entire class of people murderers. What was it you were saying about an idiom, again?

Not all of white trash culture is immoral:Thank goodness you are here to judge the morality of an entire class of people. Do go on! no one sins when they hang a black velvet Jesus painting, own an Elvis clock or puts plastic flowers in the dirt in front of their home. Uh-oh, am I about to be judged because of my glow in the dark St. Claire statue? But a life-style built around fatherlessness (or child-abandonment from either parents), drunkenness, drug use, unrelenting foul language from the cradle to grave, avoiding a job and sleeping with your half-sister, well, that's sin. And if we're to really be charitable to those who commit such atrocities, it just might be saving some people if you give them a clue that their behavior is white-trash-like and is damaging to their souls.

What might be more charitable is for us to love other people as brothers as Jesus commanded us. But then, as we have discovered time and time again, a lot of people obviously think something was wrong with Jesus. His ideas are too hard, too silly, to unrealistic and only for saints, who are all crazy people too.

I'm sure there are reasons Jesus so loved sinners. Maybe He identifies with people you so need to call white trash. His earthly father didn't sleep with His mother at all. Clearly a case of neglect or some sexual dysfunction. Jesus never had a job and just lived off of other people who put Him up in their houses and fed Him AND all his friends. He actually told His friends to STOP WORKING and hang out with Him. His final words to them was a commandment to never even try to earn money and have any money or nice clothes or even shoes. Lazy slobs. No wonder they were all killed.

Jesus loved sinners. Remember? We never have to condone sin to love a sinner. God does it every single minute. It makes me extremely sad to think that we can not let go of calling people some kind of name and that we insist it is just fine and dandy to do so.

Can you imagine if Father stood in the pulpit said "white trash" and meant it? Why is it not okay for Father to say that, but okay for you?

Maybe it's time to bring back the ruler.

And just when I thought everyone wasn't crabby enough:
Sister, I went to Midnight Mass last night, at St. Cyril's of Jerusalem, in Encino, Cal., and the Mass lasted 1 hr and 45 min. because the choir was up behind the altar and the Mass would stop each time the choir launched into a song. I got so tired of it. When did Show Business replace the Sacrifice of the Mass?

Oh, please. It's Jesus' birthday. That was His birthday party. You've already been to Mass so you can sleep in on Christmas day. Jesus was there at the party. Why would you want to ever leave?

Always count your blessings. I'll bet the music was beautiful. You could have had an hour and forty five minutes of this:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To Men of Good Will

My readers have been having a squabble, ironically, about my last post where there is a family squabble question.

There was a phrase in the question that I will admit made my blood pressure rise, but I chose to ignore it and rather focus on the question about getting to Mass on Christmas day.

I'll let you take a look at the original question again. You might also want to cruise through the comments. I'll wait.

Caught up? Time for me to step up and settle the matter.

My readers have been arguing about the use of the term 'white trailer trash':
Anonymous here again, TheIntrepidPie, and sorry, you seem to be a very gracious person, but the OP used the term "white trailer trash" to refer to other family members; that is a vile term under any circumstances, and most definitely reeks of classism, arrogance, and prejudice. I can't imagine using that term in a neutral or even joking tone; it is as offensive and unacceptable as using any other racial or ethnic slur. I don't see anything arrogant about stating that.

I don't either. I just chose not to mention it, myself. But this further comment from another reader bears an answer:

But IS there such a thing as "white trailer trash"? Does it exist? If it does - and I have much proof that indeed, it does - that means that somewhere, some people really *are* "white trailer trash". In which case, it would be the truth to call them what they, in fact, are. Why do you have a problem with calling something what it really is? Keeping in mind that this is all anonymous. PC-ness is just about the most tiresome thing in the world.

Merciful heaven! Thank God for PC-ness if it stops people blurting out their most ignorant prejudices and half baked theories. I'm sorry it's so tiresome for you to behave yourself.

Very, very sorry.

Why do you have a problem with calling something what it really is? I have a problem with calling something what it really isn't. God doesn't make trash. God doesn't make trash in any color or size. Calling God's creation in His own image 'trash', thereby making those people a little less than human, is the root of evil.

Does it exist? If it does - and I have much proof that indeed, it does - that means that somewhere, some people really *are* "white trailer trash". I would like to meet these people you so cavalierly label as 'white trailer trash' and give them a big hug for the indignities that they must endure due the the judgment of people who are apparently more fortunate.

More fortunate, but not at all kind.

We have all met people who don't live as we do, enjoy things we don't enjoy, don't raise their children the way we think they should be raised. The reasons for these differences range from a matter of taste, lack of education and poverty, to criminal intentions and mental illness.

What is our commandment? Did Jesus ask us to go hang out with the 'white trailer trash', or to judge anyone as such? Jesus actually hung out with some very unsavory people. He had a name for them, too. He called them "brothers".

That is our commandment: love our brothers.

If PC-ness, which I prefer to think of as TAWYS (Think About What You're Saying), is too tiresome for you, you can go with an actual Commandment of Jesus. We don't even have to sit around with more acronyms asking "WWJD?" He mentioned what He would do and what He would like us to do, "Love your neighbor as yourself." That includes the ones who live in trailers.

I often think that "WWJD" should stand for what many people actually seem to think about Jesus: "Why Was Jesus Dumb?" Because many people seem to think that poor old Jesus was very stupid and naive to think that we could actually live in peace with each other if we tried a little harder.

Keeping in mind that this is all anonymous. Maybe here on the internets inside the tubes. But not in Heaven, or.....not Heaven, should we utterly fail to behave.

Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will. An important distinction.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let It Snow!

One of the perks of being a nun, besides being married to Jesus, is that I virtually never have to negotiate what I'm going to do or not going to do on any given holiday. We've worked out who does what and when here at the house. I don't have to worry about who to have dinner with or at whose house I will show up to watch the little darlings look pretty in their Christmas finery and open their gifts. I will be at the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and the ten o'clock mass on Christmas morning. Here at the house, we have some 'homeless' people coming for dinner. Sister St. Aloysisus is going to make Bavarian Pot Roast, which is actually my mother's recipe. We have to remember to buy a can of beer. It's one of the ingredients. During the afternoon we'll be spending time with some actual homeless people. We'll put Baby Jesus in the manger, the lights will be on.

Other people are not so lucky.

Sister - Since you brought up Christmas rules....how about attending Mass on Christmas? This year we are spending the holidays with my in-laws, who are staunch Lutherans. My husband & I feel it is important to do things as a family, so we attend the Christmas Eve service with Grandma & Grandpa at their Lutheran church. Since this si a huge retirement community, Grandma loves being able to show off her beautiful, well behaved granddaughters in their cute holiday dresses, especially since their local grandchildren are non-church attending white trailer trash. Unfortunately, the Lutheran service is held EXACTLY at the same time as Mass at the only Catholic church in the 3 county area. Every priest I ask gives me a different answer, but does watching Mass on TV with the Pope at midnight count towards our obligation? If not, do the children need to go to confession as well, since they have no means to get to Mass without me?

You have to attend Mass on Christmas. Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation. It's not a Holy Day of Try to Get There. It's not a Holy Day of Compromise.

It's all very well and good that these people are staunch Lutherans, bless their misguided souls, but it's time for you to step up and be a staunch Catholic.

Is going to church services on Christmas Day a Holy Day of Obligation for the Lutherans? I think not.

Just for a moment, let's pretend that Christmas Day is not a holy day of OBLIGATION, but just good old Christmas day. What is Christmas Day, exactly? It is the birthday of Jesus. It's most definitely not the actual birthday of Jesus. Jesus was probably born in the spring, hence the shepards out with their flocks at night. And that census....why would anyone have a census in the dead of winter and make everybody trudge off to their home town on foot at the end of December? That would be crazy.

It is the day we picked to celebrate Jesus' birthday because it is the time of year that the days get longer again. The Light has come back to the world. Get it? (That's what all the lights and the candles are supposed to get across to you.)

You don't want to miss Jesus' birthday party, do you? Heavens to Betsy! Jesus is going to be there, in the Flesh.

I'm sorry to blow up your family on Christmas with this bad news, but the Pope on TV doesn't count. The Mass for shut-ins only counts if you are actually shut in. You could pray for a blizzard, I suppose.

Here's how I would resolve the problem were I in your shoes instead of my big nun clod hoppers. I would actually go to the Lutheran service with the in-laws. I don't like to upset old people, especially old people who are in the process of showing off their grandchildren. It's good for the grandparents AND it's good for the children who are being shown off.

Then I would find that Mass in that fourth county and pack up grandma and grandpa and the kids and go show everybody off over there. Tell everyone you have a birthday part to get to, attendance manditory. If it cuts into the present unwrapping and such, you can do it the day before or the day after and just extend the merriment.

Short of that, I would be looking for other venues for grandma and grandpa to show off the children. A small parade? Maybe the Lutherans have another service they can attend, since you don't.

No Masses on Christmas Day in a three county area? What's up with that? I would also be raising a stink about that. Some birthday for Jesus that's going to be.

Leave it to the Lutherans to gum up Christmas for you. Thanks, again, Martin Luther!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Rules

We're headed out to get our tree sometime today. We like to purchase our tree from felons who are trying to stay out of jail. They run just about all of the Christmas tree lots around here, so even if we wanted to get a tree from a non-felon, I think we'd be out of luck. Ironically, next to every Christmas tree lot is a medical marijuana ....parlor. When Christmas is but a happy memory, those who are smoking theirs away will still be with us.

It has come to my recent attention that there is a medical marijuana facility at just about the same distance in any direction I might walk. That would be about four blocks. At first I had no idea that these places with lots of tropical plants and American flags out front were joint joints. I found out because I asked the man at the Seven Eleven on the corner what the deal was with that flag place and when I expressed my surprise at his answer he listed all the other locations. That took some time.

The newest one leaves no one guessing. There is a young lady standing outside yelling, "Medical Marijuana!" and pointing up the stairs. At least she has a job. As jobs get harder to find, medical marijuana becomes ever more easily located.

But we were talking about Christmas trees:

Sister, Here is a question for you on another topic: when is a good time to put up a Christmas tree? I know there is no dogma of the Church about this, but maybe you have some advice. Here's my take:
1. The day after Thanksgiving! This is just too soon, and falls into the whole "Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving and ends at noon on Christmas Day" secular mindset.

2. Dec. 17. It's when Advent becomes "more serious." The second Advent preface is used at Mass and there is a proper for each date. This is also about the time when the Vatican's Christmas tree goes up.
3. Dec. 24. Isn't this the best time?! After all, it's a Christmas tree . . . not an Advent tree. But all the trees are picked over by then . . . and no one really seems to do this anymore.
Any advice?

We always put ours up one week before Christmas and take it down on New Year's Day so the house doesn't go up in flames from the impossibly dried out tree. As I have mentioned, I love Christmas and just don't think you can go overboard. Our tree is lit up like an incoming UFO, due in no small part to our collection of bubble lights. Oh, how I love them.

You can put your tree up whenever you like. It's up to you how long you want to stare at it. Maybe you have an artificial tree and you can leave it up until Lent if you want. Our house would burn down.

I've often wondered how in the world I would get Sister Mary Fiacre out of here in the middle of the night if the place went up. There would be no time for the wheel chair and I would have to try and drag her. You see people do that in movies all the time, dragging some knocked out person through a hallway and out the door. It's really not that easy. The person may as well be Gandhi, only a hundred pounds heavier from living in America, all dead weight and unmoving. It's just about impossible. That's why Gandhi did it, just went all limp and "I dare you to drag me!"

What were we talking about? Oh yes, the tree.

I don't know why you wouldn't just go along with the Vatican on this one any how. We're Catholic, surely we're all used to going along with the Vatican on things by now.

Anyhow, it takes me about a week to get the tree all lined up once it's up. The lights alone are a whole evening's work. By day three, I'm finally on the beads. I think this is a hold over from when I was a child and my Christmas crazed family put a sheet up over the living room door for a whole week before Christmas because Santa was in there working. (Not every second, but you had to cover the whole thing up so he could come and go as needed.) On Christmas day it really looked like Santa had been working in there all week.

After midnight Mass on Christmas Eve/morning we light 'er up and wait for a call from NASA about what just landed at our house.

I'll bet plenty of people still do the Christmas Eve tree. I'll bet those same people leave the tree up all through the Epiphany because they can do it with less fear of burning down the house.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Building the Pyramids

Since I posted my Modesty Pyramid the other day, we've had quite the discussion about the Mormons, the Amish and Eve.

Several readers have taken issue with my placement of the Mormons over the Amish for dowdy, fully covered dressing. I'll admit I went round and round with it myself and nearly placed the Amish over the Mormons. For one thing, as readers pointed out, the vast majority of Mormons don't dress in the Little House on the Prairie wardrobe. Think "Marie Osmond". Sister St. Aloysius thought that the Amish should go above the Mormons because they don't even have buttons or faces on their dolls.

So sad to have a doll with no face. Too much like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Eerie.

Anyhow, I have to admit to a bit of religious prejudice in my placement. I think I put the Mormons up higher because I have a higher regard for the Amish style of religious conviction. In other words, when the Amish practice what they preach I can get behind it. Their religious beliefs are apparent in every single choice they make, from carriages to faceless dolls, from no buttons or nails to forgiving a man that came out of nowhere and murdered their children.

The Mormons on the the other hand, the Little House on the Prairie ones, seem to just have one thing in mind, which is an excuse for some old goat to keep adding teenaged girls to his harem.

So if the point of the pyramid is that you can get too carried away, even with modesty, as you reach the top of the pyramid, the reasons for the Little Harem on the Prairie Mormons modesty is more in line with those women in Burkhas than with sensible modest dress or the Amish. At the top of the pyramid, the modesty train has jumped the tracks.

I suppose I should squeeze in the words "Little House on the Prairie" on the Mormon line of the pyramid. Otherwise, I stand by my reasoning.

Meanwhile, back on the Eve front, here's a sampling of how the discussion has gone (you can read the whole thing in the comments section of my previous post):

It is without debate that modern men are the causes of war and greed and more than encourage women into sin -- but it's God's own word that tells us we had our paradise, and Eve was weak. We should bear this in mind -- the pain of childbirth is God's punishment for Eve's sin (Genesis 3:16).

And death is the punishment for Adam's sin. The age old argument has gone along the lines that since Eve started the whole 'eat the apple' sin, the whole mess is her fault. I mentioned before that I take issue with that. I always cringe when I hear the words "since Eve ate the apple..."

And Adam was....what? Down at the bar having a cool one? Adam could have said, "You did WHAT??!! NO! I DO NOT want a bite!" Then he could have run off and found God and told God what had happened, begged God to forgive Eve. Maybe God would have forgiven Eve, maybe he would have only banished Eve and made Eva and Eve could have gone out and married one of those people that lived over there wherever Cain ended up.

If I'm at the office party and you come up to me and tell me there is LSD in the punch and I don't go tell somebody or throw the punch out and I instead run over to the punch bowl and down a cup, yes, you are complicit in the crime, but how is it more your fault than mine that everyone at the party tried to fly out the 88th floor window?

I just don't get the 'blame Eve' reasoning. I guess I'm on 'the sin of Adam' side of the fence.

Not really. I blame them both. The very first time they were confronted with temptation they both caved. That's our heritage.

Say...isn't LSD an acronym for the Morman church? No, no, that's LDS. For a minute there I thought I understood what happened with Joseph Smith and those mysterious missing tablets that only he was able to see.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Modesty Pyramid

I apologize for not posting yesterday as I had promised. We decided to put up our Christmas lights (although we won't turn them on until the Big Day) and clean up the front of the house, which was beginning to look like we were having some kind of permanent yard sale. In front of the house was a wicker trunk, a big plastic jug of coolant, a big plastic jug of windshield wiper cleaner, some half burned candles (left over from Halloween!), two different sizes of outdoor grill, a really large wooden picture frame, a bucket of cement with a big yellow pole in it that was used for display purposes at the church picnic and someone borrowed for a craft fair and returned again.

One wouldn't want to light all that up on Christmas Day.

Speaking of cleaning, here was the question we wanted to tackle:
If a woman chooses to dress in a tank top and skimpy shorts for her own sake, and not to tempt someone into sin (although it seems women have been tempting men into sin since the days of Eve, the poor lambs), and a man is then prompted into sinful thoughts, is it still a sin on the woman's part? Should women be required to dress modestly so as to not inadvertently cause men to have sinful thoughts?

The simple answer is "yes", although it has always bothered me that Eve gets so much blame, as though men never tempt women to sin. Would a woman even think to dress in a tank top and skimpy shorts for her own sake? Perhaps if the temperature was a hundred and three.

So I came up with this pyramid. It takes us from one extreme to the other and it is colored coded like our Terror Alert System. I hope it functions better than our Terror Alert System. What am I supposed to do, exactly, during Terror Level Orange? I already have duct tape.

I digress.

At the bottom of the pyramid is the useful, if unpleasant, word SLUT. This would be attire that has in mind only one thing, to seduce. Obviously we wish to avoid the bottom of the pyramid all together as when we linger there we are into double sin territory, as you are responsible for the sins you cause in others.

This applies to men, too! Once you've oiled yourself up for a magazine cover, you've landed at the bottom of the pyramid.

Next we have inappropriate dress. By this I mean when you show up at work with a low cut blouse and a mini skirt, or stroll through the supermarket (as a reader suggested) in your teeny bikini. The teeny bikini, even on the beach, may land you back at the bottom of the pyramid.
Remember this song?
"It was an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini That she wore for the first time today. An isty bitsy teen weeny yellow polka dot bikini So in the water she wanted to stay."

Good move, dear.

We move up the pyramid to BAD TASTE. This is a tricky one. As the saying goes, there is no accounting for taste. But one can be aware that everything that is written on a T-shirt is not an adage for public comsumption, or appropriate for your child to see or wear. One would hope men and women might get a clue that some clothing that is considered fashionable does not fit on a body fueled by Taco Bell. Bad Taste is further up the pyramid, because it is possible that it is not intentional.

Don't kid yourself into thinking that all Bad Taste is unintentional. I would be willing to bet (which is not a sin) that Paris Hilton does not wash her car on her hands and knees while eating a hamburger. We are literally back to square one.

Next, in light green, is dressing in a way that is attractive. Men and women are meant to find each other attractive. We don't have to live at the top of the pyramid. We want to look beautiful and handsome at the prom. We want to accentuate the positive, as the song says. Just don't accentuate yourself back to the bottom of the pyramid.

Modest dress is in green. Everyone looks good in longer sleeves, even if you have great biceps. Low heels are better for your spine. Shifts are very comfortable and often have those useful giant pockets.

Then we cross over the line to covering up so much as to look dowdy, until only our hands and faces show. The Amish and the Mormons. If you want to dress like that all the time, just become a nun already.

In the end we've become so paranoid about inappropriate thoughts and sinning that we can't even show our faces, walking around like a human tank make of cloth, a walking pile of fabric.

I hope this is helpful. Common sense would be helpful, too.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Yesterday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I hope everyone went to Mass. It was a Holy Day of Obligation. If you didn't go to Mass I hope you went to confession and told the priest that you didn't go to Mass. Of course, if you are already skipping Holy Days of Obligation, chances are very good that you are also skirting the confessional.

Do they even have confessionals in your parish? We have them, but confessions are not heard in them. The latest trendy trend is the face to face confession. I can appreciate why so many people dodge that experience. In some ways, avoiding that kind of potential embarrassment is how we arrived at the old confession box.

I love the old confessional. Don't we all have the stories? The person in front of you who talks too loudly in there, the old priest who dozes off. We had one priest when I was a girl who not only dozed, he was just about impossible to wake up again. Especially in the summertime. It wasn't that he was snoring away in there or anything. He just didn't answer. You had to stop periodically and say, "Father? Father!" Then the person next in line would hear you in there. It was a vicious cycle.

I guess it wasn't vicious. It was just a cycle.

The ritual of "Bless me Father for I have sinned..." made the process easy and understandable. You could get out your examination of conscious sin list and run through the Ten Commandments and all the sins you might commit under each one and make a mental or a real list and you were off to the races. Take your lumps, receive absolution, feel better.

Badabing Badaboom, as they say.

It's probably better the way things go now. Less factory, more actual understanding.

Still, I think a lot of people are very uncomfortable with the whole thing. They need to get over it. Sin is supposed to make you uncomfortable. Guilt is a good thing when you are actually guilty.

Ah well. Today's question which refers to my last post about couple's living together.

I am confused what you mean by scandal. Say nothing is going on, and you and your friend know it. And God knows it. We should be all about pleasing God here, so does it really matter if other people think different?

Yes, it does matter. Unless setting a good example has become utterly meaningless. Let's talk about the set up again here so we are all clear. In this particular little 'if/then" equation, we have a couple who is living together who plan to marry but aren't 'doing' anything, living chastely together until the big wedding.

Yeah, right.

But, for the sake of argument, which is your question, lets' say they actually are doing just that, like some sort of modern day Gable and Cobert "It Happened One Night" behavior. It does matter if other people think differently if what you are doing causes them to sin. Here is what the Catholic Church means by scandal:

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

We can't just sit here and say that a couple in the situation you describe are sinning away and causing other people to sin. We just tend to try to err on the side of caution. As I mentioned, eternity is such a long time. Suppose after Mary and Todd live together and get married, all sin free, Mary's little sister Beulah decides, "Hey, Mary and Todd lived together before they got married and nothing happened. Certainly, Alphonso and I can live together that way, too."

Then Beulah and Alphonso can't cut the mustard. Now what? I'd avoid the whole mess.

And then this:
If a woman chooses to dress in a tank top and skimpy shorts for her own sake, and not to tempt someone into sin (although it seems women have been tempting men into sin since the days of Eve, the poor lambs), and a man is then prompted into sinful thoughts, is it still a sin on the woman's part? Should women be required to dress modestly so as to not inadvertently cause men to have sinful thoughts?

I think maybe tomorrow...we need to talk about the modesty pyramid from skimpy shorts to Burkhas.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Three's a Crowd

Just a question: Is it still a sin to live with someone you're not married to even if you're just roommates? Male and female roommates not in a relationship together? Like that bunch on "Three's Company"? What if you are in a relationship and you do live with that person, but do not engage in marital relations? Does this all come down to that "you-have-an-opportunity-to-sin-whether-you-choose-to-take-it-or-not" thing?

This is not a cut and dry, easy to answer question.

It is certainly possible to live with someone of the opposite sex that you are not married to and carry on as roommates with separate bedrooms and for the sake of peace, bathrooms, with no sin involved.

I know such a 'couple'. They are not romantically involved and I believe I can safely say they never will be. They are not buddies. They are not enemies. They like each other in a friendly passing sort of way, the end.

I wouldn't bring that bunch on "Three's Company" up, though, if you are trying to make a case for an opposite sex roommate. That bunch is an illustration of every reason such a situation could be sinful.

For one thing, the boy had a crush on one of the girls. That is a near occasion of sin and no doubt many occasions of actual sin.

The occasions for actual sin are double and re doubled as the girls take every opportunity to dance around the apartment in tiny shorts, tube tops, bathrobes, towels and bikinis. Each and every time one dresses in such a way to cause another to sin, two sins occur for the sinner. One for trying to tempt someone to sin and one for succeeding. A double sin on the sinner, the girl in the tiny shorts and tube top on the trampoline because she is responsible for the sin she causes in another person.

Encouraging a girl to wear a tank top and tiny shorts on a trampoline would be a triple sin on behalf of the person suggesting such an activity. Maybe even a quadruple sin, for thinking of it in the first place.

I digress.

The nasty cesspool of double entendre and lingerie that was "Three's Company" has little to do with the actual living conditions of many people who need to share an apartment or a house for economic reasons. There really is no sin involved in sharing an apartment or a house.

The sin part would only happen if sins do start to happen and you don't get yourself out of there, pronto. If one were to find oneself daydreaming, so to speak, about the roommate and what could happen in the right circumstances, the water slide to Hell has just been installed. Three is not company when the third guy is the devil.

No small consideration: the devil is always looking for opportunities to grab your soul and take you off to play an endless game of flaming canasta with Hitler. If Hitler is actually in Hell. You and your boyfriend don't want to find out the hard way, whether Hitler is there or not.

If you are actually in a relationship with a person and trying to be 'just roommates' you are just asking for trouble. I can't just say it would be a sin to just live together. But to think that you could actually pull that off and not having any sin going on? Pretty stupid. Very unrealistic.

In fact, now that I mull it over, I'd have to actually say that there would be sin involved even if nothing was 'going on' with such a couple, because if other people (friends, family and colleagues) know the pair is actually a couple, NO ONE is going to believe there isn't something going on (even if there isn't) and that would make the situation a scandal, which means the couple would be responsible for any sin they cause in all those other people.

Dreadful. Just like that awful show.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ready for Eternity

Advent is the perfect time to wonder whether or not you're going to make it into heaven. I'm not surprised about these two questions from readers:

I'm a bit confused by the inclusion of my friend Rahm's photo here as an example in the paragraph on Hell. (And it's Rahm, not Rohm). Is the point that he's missing a finger? Or that he's Jewish? How does the latter figure into his fate in the personal or general judgement? Is that why he's in the paragraph on Hell? Please explain. I doubt he'll see this but in case he does, I'd like to be able to explain it. Many thanks!!! Love the site!

I was referring to his finger only and what would happen to it if he went to Hell, or Heaven, for that matter. He would also be reunited with his finger in Heaven, so that his finger can experience Heavenly bliss. Where your buddy ends up is entirely up to him.

I have also mentioned more than once that in the Catholic church we never, ever say that anyone is definitely in Hell. Not even Hitler. At the last moment, the person could have had a huge epiphany and thought, "What was I thinking!!!!" and been forgiven and gone to a pretty long stint in Purgatory.

I am not comparing your friend with Hitler. I'm just stating a worse case scenario. We imagine Hitler is indeed in Hell, but we will never say for a fact that he is there because we simply don't know.

One of the nuns I had as a teacher in grade school solemnly told us that Pontius Pilate was in Purgatory until the end of time. I always believed that Pontius Pilate was in Purgatory until the end of time. I used to tell people that Pontius Pilate was in Purgatory until the end of time, until one day it suddenly hit me that it was another one of those things that nuns say in classrooms that has absolutely nothing to do with reality.

Pontius Pilate may have made it to heaven by now, or still be in Purgatory, or be in Hell with Hitler, if Hitler is even there. No one knows.

As for what Mr. Emanuel's chances are of missing out on heaven because he is Jewish, the Catholic Church does state that Jesus mentioned that one can only get to Heaven through Him and since the Catholic Church is the one True Church founded by Jesus while was He was alive on earth, the Catholic Church is obviously the way to go. But, as I mentioned, in the end it's between the person and God and it's just none of our beeswax, except for us to all pray for the salvation of all. Even Hitler.

I've said that before, that we should all hope that somehow Hitler saw the light and made it to heaven. Boy, does that make people mad. It shouldn't. We should hope for salvation for everyone. Eternity is a lot longer than you think. Even if you kept Hitler in Hell for a million years for each person he so much as made a little uncomfortable, let alone killed, that would just be a speck on the eternity clock. Even two million years per person. Even twenty million years per person that he so much as blinked at, a drop in the bucket of eternity. Even if you went up to government bail out figures, per person, a sliver of eternity.

If Hitler ends up in Hell for all eternity, it will have been his own choice. That doesn't mean I shouldn't feel bad because we lost one. I always feel bad when we lose one.

My hope is that your friend gets the rest of his finger back in Heaven for a blissful finger reunion.

Sister, who is the patron saint of women who are abused by their husbands? Another question (I emailed this to an "ask a priest" website and didn't get a response) I was married in the church (definitely a valid marriage, I could not have gotten it anulled) then we stupidly divorced and I got remarried to a man who ended up being a nightmare. My first husband later passed away from cancer, but I did not want to "remarry" my current husband in the church because the marriage is so abusive. Finally, only because I confessed all his physical abuse to our marriage counselor and she told me I was endangering all 5 of my children by letting him live here and I could lose the kids for that, I got the courage to at least separate from him. Is it WRONG to end this marriage, since we were not married in the church and because of all this abuse and fear we were living with? If we are no longer living together, would I be able to start receiving sacraments again, like go to confession and communion?

This is an easy breezy one to answer, ironically, since it was no picnic for you.

St. Rita is the patron saint of rotten marriages. St. Rita had a lousy husband who was so rotten that the Mafia, or something like the Mafia, bumped him off.

You are not married in the eyes of the Church to the second husband. Your other marriage is all over with because your spouse has passed away. You are an unmarried woman. You'll have to get a civil divorce for the sake of the state, but that's it. You'll have to go to confession because you were actually ....this is going to sound harsh given all that's happened....living in sin, since you were living with a man to whome you were not married. But the sacraments will get you right out of that mess in one fell swoop. One good confession and it's all over with.

You have been very brave. You had a mess and you stood up to it and straightened it all out. May I suggest another patron saint for you? St. John the Baptist, a great patron saint for wiping the slate clean. That patron saint of a fresh start.

And the patron saint of headaches. I'm sure you've had many.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Spring in Winter

Here we are! It's Advent!

The Catholic Church is like a big road map to heaven. First there is the liturgical calendar, which has the seasons. The world has spring, summer, fall and winter. We have Advent, Christmas, Ordinary days, Lent, and Easter.

Advent is very springy as we joyfully await the coming of the Baby Jesus. The priest at Mass is wearing violet almost the whole time. He always wears violet when we have to be preparing for something by thinking things over.

Some people may not have noticed that Father has a whole wardrobe at Mass. Father doesn't just go to his Mass robe closet and say to himself, "I look great in green and the Bishop is coming." He dresses according to the Church calendar. If you ever want to know what's going on on any given day in the Church, just check out Father's dress of the day. He wears violet (almost every day) in Advent, green on Ordinary days, violet during Lent, White at Easter, Red on martyr's feast days.

He never wears white after Labor Day.

Of course he does. That was a joke. White is the happiest color. He wears white for the happiest of days.

On the third Sunday of Advent (and the third Sunday of Lent) Father cracks out his rose colored vestments. If you're following along at home, you have an advent wreath to mark the weeks with one pink candle in there.

This is my point here. The road map. Not only do we have the year all mapped out for you to follow along, we have the 'home version' of the game, so to speak.

It's not a game. It's heaven or hell and eternity.

We do everything we can every second to remind you of that. That's why we have the statues of saints to remind you that it is possible to live a holy life in this world and end up in heaven. We have candles to light the way, medals and prayers and rosaries, holy water, songs, shrines, chapels, churches, a saint for every possible problem or situation or occupation or illness, novenas.... I mean seriously, people, we have now included DANCE and PUPPETS.

We have a TV network.

A small country.

An army.

It's exhausting. We don't mind. We offer it up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

I'm happy to tell you today, that I found this website. It isn't at all new. I'm sure many of you visit it often. It's new to me. It's the Catholic Calendar web site. It ought to be called the Road Map to Heaven website. There you can find out how to turn your attention on any given day. You can see what color Father will be wearing, what mystery of the Rosary you should be dealing with, what to read in the Bible that day.

Everything but which saint is on what day. Maybe it's on there somewhere and I just didn't see the link.

The point is you can go on there and keep yourself really, really busy as a member of the Church Militant and be up to date on what Father will wear and all of that good stuff. You'll know on which mystery of the rosary you should land. So exciting. You won't want to miss a day.

We unloaded all our Advent bags and candy. Time for our spring cleaning. It's Advent!