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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

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?


Janelle said...

This is a great post, SMM. Having been to quite a few literal and spiritual hospitals this past year, I would like to add that saints and prayer and all that might lead to miracles. Of course, waiting and wading take up most of anyone's time. But there are glimmers of the divine there, too. I had my prayer answered with the help of better sick people... and saints... and God. Happy New Year!

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I remember taking care of people in the nursing homes/assisted living and feeling SO GOOD about knowing that I could treat them in a dignified manner, even if no one else did. I hated to see them treated improperly or abusively and tried to show others how it could be done right. Every day I worked, I felt like I was needed and loved and doing God's work...until I got into the car at night and cried until I felt like throwing up because my back hurt so bad. After dealing with crabby nurses and abusive co-workers, I'd had enough and my hubs told me to stay home with our baby. I think it had to get so bad that God gave me a nudge away from it to get me away or I might have stayed way too long and become jaded and heartless like the other people I worked with. I don't regret the decision to come home and build up my family, but I do miss the residents and the feeling that I was doing something so important for someone at the end of their life. It wasn't always pretty, but it was such a privilage!

Ida said...

Hi Sister,

I have a question for you. I once had someone tell me that it is against church theology to portray angels as female because there are no instances of angels appearing to man as female, only male. Like God, he said, they are to be referred in the masculine. Is this true? And if so...why? What's the big deal? Angels are spirits with no gender, so does it really matter if they are male or female?



Laura said...

Sister, a question:

First, back story--

Before I reverted and was confirmed in the spring of 2007, I was Little Miss Travel the World. I was expected to go off to graduate school and not marry until I was 30; that was always my plan. So my parents were struck dumb when I came home with an engagement ring on my finger six weeks after a first date with a guy I'd grown up with but lost touch with during college. They decided that we were too young to get married and went to the priest who was our pre-Cana counselor and who was to be the celebrant at our wedding to air their concerns about how quickly we had become engaged and about how young we were (21 and 22).

Nobody told us about my parents' and the priest's meetings, however.

Meanwhile, the priest has been neglecting us over the course of the 10 months of our engagement. He ushered us in and out of "meetings" within ten minutes--if he remembered the meeting at all. Often we were left sitting outside of locked parish offices; twice we knocked on the door of the rectory to find him in his pajamas watching television thirty minutes after our meeting was to begin. He'd always ask us to reschedule, and then he was nearly impossible to get ahold of during the week.

So we had a total of three meetings with this priest--the longest of which lasted thirty minutes. That was the day we took the FOCUS test. The day we went over the results of the FOCUS test, he cut us off in the middle of our discussions about our answers. In short, he was rushing us. I can remember going out to dinner after that meeting and bringing our scores with us so that we COULD discuss the results without interruption. We had to do our own pre-marriage counseling.

Our fourth and final meeting took place at the beginning of December; our wedding was scheduled for February 2. At this meeting, the priest told us that he would not marry us for five reasons: 1) My parents had concerns, 2) We were too young and I had not finished my education yet, 3) We had not known each other as adults long enough, 4) Surely we were going to contracept, and 5) My fiance's asking me to quit smoking before we got married was "placing a demand" on the marriage which would nullify it (btw, I had begun to quit as soon as we got engaged and had fully quit by the time of this meeting--and was thankful that he had asked me to do so).

We were shocked. This is how we found out that my parents had been meeting with the priest--they hadn't told us because he told them NOT to. We also felt like he hadn't listened to us at all--he'd never once asked us how we met or came to the prayerful decision that we wanted to be married. He never once asked me if I *wanted* to go to graduate school. And he certainly never talked to us about contraception, sexuality, or NFP, although I had already been charting for months.

Long story short, we eloped in civil court. Yes, we purposely cut ourselves off from the sacraments and fell out of full communion with the Church. We were hurt. Believe me, the resulting spiritual dryness is evident. However, we never stopped attending Mass at least on Sundays, although I briefly attended another parish. We are both members of the choir and we tithe as a family although we are not registered as a married couple with the parish.

Two weeks after we eloped, we got word that this priest had been removed from active priestly ministry by the bishop and would never again be allowed inside any rectory, period. Turns out he had a serious drug and alcohol problem. : ( Please pray for him. Personally I believe that he was not using sober judgment when he made his decision regarding our marriage, but I suppose I will never know if that is true or if I'm just telling myself that to make myself feel better about being disobedient.

Anyway, we are expecting our first child, a son named Dominic Joseph, any day now (so much for his being positive that we were going to contracept). So my question, Sister, is this: Since we are not licitly, sacramentally married in the Church, are we permitted to ask for baptism for Dominic?

My second question is this: How do we go about petitioning to have our marriage blessed? I believe Canon Law states that we must wait one year after being clandestinely married to seek validation? We celebrated our one-year anniversary yesterday.

And, finally: Will I be allowed to have a wedding? I don't need one, of course, but my parents did purchase a perfectly beautiful (and expensive) dress for the wedding-that-wasn't, and I would like to wear it. ; ) Will we be asked to spend all the money necessary to go through pre-Cana courses and retreats all over again? How long must our second "engagement" be? And what if our pastor never lets us get married? What will happen to our children?

(We *are* young (now 22 and 23), but not as young as many married couples. We are both very small people; I am 5'0" tall and my husband is 5'3". We will always look younger than we are, but we want to be taken seriously in our vocations. It has been very painful, Sister, to know that our hopes and prayerfully discerned plans were dismissed so quickly and that we were kept from entering into marriage the right way. I know God is not happy with me and I am sorry that I sinned, but it's so hard to be sorry for getting married and starting a family when it's what I wanted with all my heart.)

Shannon said...


Dear you have been so brave! My heart goes out to you!

I was married at 21 and couldn't be happier. If I had waited until I was 30 I would have missed out on my three oldest children.

May God bless you and your husband and your dear little son. You have been so blessed!!

I'm sure that Sister or someone here will know what to tell you.

Just continue to be brave.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sister!
I know you love saint matchmaking, and I'm in need of your help! I really need a patron saint of feminism. You'll probably think it sounds easy, but I'm looking for a specific saint who fought for the rights of women(but I'm not talking about the radical feminism being delivered these days...all that sexual liberation rubbish and whatnot. I mean feminism the way JPII defines it). I know that the female doctors of the church were amazing, but I thought they only wrote on prayer and the church in general. Could you please help me? (Even better if the saint is male:) )

Unknown said...

Just another bit of info for Rebekka--You're probably not going to feel like you are "delivering dignity" every day and to every patient, especially when you first start out and are busy learning and making sure you've got the right meds in the right dose to the right patient. It will get better. And you may not connect with every patient, but somebody will, and you can still give good care. Just give the best that you can every day; you never know what little things touch someone's heart. It's hard work,though,and you may not feel fulfilled each day. Hang in and good luck:>)

cathmom5 said...

Dear Sister,
1) First, I wanted to say something to your nurse friend. Please keep compassion in mind. I think Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would be a perfect patron for you. I had a bad experience with a nurse once. I didn't see my baby for several hours afterward and asked more than once. After I got the supervisor to get my baby, the nurse came in at yelled at me for getting her in trouble. Don't ever do that. Even if you have a bad day or whatever, try to be compassionate to all your patients. ;-)

2)I know this is your thing but May I make a suggestion? I think my patron, St. Walburga, is a wonderful choice for "femists" who are not so radical, as-it-were. ;-) I saw a portrait of her on a triptych in Belgium. It was the first time I had ever seen a woman portrayed holding a bishop's crook. In her other hand she is usually holding a book with a bottle of medicine resting on top. She was an Abbess of a combined women's and men's abbey. She took over the leadership of BOTH sides upon the death of her brother the Abbot(St. Winibald). At that time Abbots were of the same "rank" as bishops, thus the bishop's crook in HER hand. The bottle represents medicine as she was what passed for a doctor in the 8th century. You can see a picture of her statue and read her story at the St. Walburga's abbey (Colorado) Website: http://www.walburga.org/arch_walburga-new.html
Another interesting sidenote: St. Boniface was her uncle.
She is the patroness invoked against hydrophobia, storms and invoked by sailors (according to Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15526b.htm
God Bless Sister

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister speaks to so many issues so easily and compassionately with understanding that I can't believe that 'she' is only one person. May G_d bless all the readers of this blog, and whom they touch and are affected by this wisely inspired blog-keeper.

Anonymous said...

Dear JEZ,
You can aski John Paul II himself to intercede and be your patron saint of feminism.
Love Paullie

Rebekka said...

Thank you for the answer, Sister - and everyone else! I've worked on the side at the hospital during my training, so I know that nursing is definitely not a bed of roses, but I love it anyway.

Thanks everyone!


Anonymous said...

Dear Sister,

Sounding like the little girl in "The Sound of Music", I just have to say... I LIKE YOU!!

God has blessed us with you!

Anonymous said...

This man has dead by misoginia.