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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, May 15, 2009

St. Therese Friday

Thank God it's Friday! I thank God it's Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, too. But all day yesterday I thought it was Friday, even though I knew it was Thursday. I almost went for the wrong Sacred Mysteries.

Now it really is Friday and we have some fish to fry. The questions have piled up:

The title of the book pictured for this post is "How to Deal with Annoying People: What to Do When You Can't Avoid Them." When push comes to shove, I am always able to avoid annoying people. My problem is that my friends think it's not very Christian of me to do so. They tell me that avoiding them means I haven't forgiven the annoyance, even if I do. Is it really a sin against charity to avoid annoying people?

There is nothing wrong with avoiding annoying people, per se. For one thing, you might be side stepping a near occasion of sin. Or an actual occasion of sin if you end up popping someone in the snout.

The problem arises with your judgment of whom to avoid and why. If I'm working with the Ladies of the Catholic Charities sorting the socks and that poor smelly man comes in for a sandwich and I sprint to the back and let everyone else deal with him, that is as your friends say, not very Christian. If I'm at a party and the world's biggest bore corners me with a blow by blow description of her bus ride through Nebraska, and I call you over and introduce you and then I run for the beer cooler, that's not very Christian. If I see her coming and know she was just on a sixty day bus ride through Nebraska and she can't wait to tell me every detail and I give her one of those, "I'd love to talk, but see, I'm on my cell phone" waves, that's not so nice.

I have to see her humanity. I have to see God in her. Tall order.

God loves Nebraska.

Your best tactic is to steal yourself and deal with annoying people, to build up your ability to handle being annoyed. Offer it all up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

I have two further thoughts on this matter, thoughts that are in direct opposition to each other.

One: What is everyone so irritated about all the time? When I listen to the things people complain about, being lactose intolerant, or having their car air conditioning break down (both things can be very miserable, I understand), I can't help but think of all the people who have been attacked en masse and marched across great expanses or stuffed onto trains or locked into huts and cells. I hope none of these things ever happens to any of us. But at the rate we're going, if it does, we will be the first to keel over dead during the Baton Death March to whatever is in store for us.

Buck up.

Two: The first hermits were people who just could not maintain their relationship with God while hanging around with other people. They moved onto the desert and when their followers found them there, they moved even further. One moved on top of a tall pole and when that didn't work, he just kept getting a taller pole. These people are all saints.

Ironically, even though they couldn't stand other people, they couldn't stay sane alone. Eventually, these people of like mind formed the first monasteries and convents.

Sister, I am not sure if you have ever discussed 1 John 4:20 before, and if you have please just send me the link to when you did. But if you haven't, can you please help me understand it? I find it very difficult as it seems to me that it should be the complete opposite of what it says. Ie, easier to love God, who has no flaws, than to love people we know whose flaws we know oh too well!

I have not discussed it before. Oddly enough, I seem to have been discussing it today. It's not rocket science, this one. To begin with, let's not take this passage out of context. John has been going on and on about loving your neighbor and your neighbor being made in God's image. So when we get to John 4:20 we could also state it this way:

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. Yet no one can claim to love God who hates his brother. We cannot love the unseen God when we hate the brother who is in God's image.

No matter how annoying he is.


Martha said...

Sister, there are still hermits in the Egyptian desert, following in the footsteps of St. Anthony. I saw a BBC documentary about an English vicar who decided to have a go at this. He was doing some kind of "extreme religion" study, and also tried some Hindu and Kung Fu asceticism.

Anyway, the Egyptian monk he talked to was Coptic. They have a monastery in the desert, and some of the more mature monks are allowed to live as hermits. You see, it is very difficult, but very spiritually fruitful. Brother Lazarus, the monk, says that one man in total union with God can do more good for the world than all the good deeds taken together. Talk about a "Mary" mentality, as opposed to "Martha." It is very dangerous, he says, because demons try to attack you in your cave all the time.

The documentary about the Egyptian hermit experiment is worth seeing. I haven't seen the Hindu and Kung Fu episodes, nor would they be as much of interest to me. The only way I can find to watch it online is to go to a blogger called "Conversion Diary," and scroll through her April archives. Or maybe March. Anyway, if you can find it, it's interesting. My point is that for Br. Lazarus, at least, it's not about getting away from people so much as getting intensely close to God in prayer.

NCSue said...

Good morning, Sister!

A question for the uninitiated newcomers to your blog:

How do we Ask Sister Mary Martha a question? I don't see a "Ask Sister" button. What if I want to ask you a question that has nothing to do with your post for the day? Take, for example, my comment here, which has nothing to do with the post I'm supposedly commenting ON?

Anonymous said...

Have heard it said that annoying ppl are the sandpaper God uses to polish us into the image of His Son, guess we all oughta be gettin pretty shiny by now!

Ty said...


I'm not going to leave a specific age, but let it be suffice to say that I am still in my parent's house hold. They are Protestant, and I have a desire to be Catholic. Indeed, a deep desire. I pray about it and have started asking the saints for their intersession, and researched the faith. I have yet to find anything against it, and everything for it. However, I sometimes have doubt... I feel like God is leading me. I pray about it and I let my feelings guide me, because I believe that they are coming from God. But can I be sure they are from God? I pray again and again and they never change, but I still worry that I might be being tricked... and also, can you give me any advice for my situation?

Anonymous said...

I am NEVER disappointed when I visit your blog! LOL! LOVE THIS! and sadly I DO have a particular somebody I try to avoid in life, and she drives me to wanting to be a hermit.... (((((HUGS))))) sandi

Shannon said...

Good stuff, Sister!!

Anonymous said...

You ask Sister a question by asking it in a comment. Or you can offer a suggestion in a comment, as I'm about to do.


Two misspellings: "steal" should be "steel", but no big deel. A bigger deal, "Baton" should be "Bataan".


Unless you meant some forced march where we are terrorized by baton-twirlers or policemen wielding batons.

Judith said...

I love your blog. A question: A friend of mine was just ordained two days ago. We have always (for the 8 years we've known each other) been on a first-name basis. Should I now address him as Father? I'm pretty sure he doesn't expect me to, but I wonder. It's probably not relevant, but he's 20 years younger than I am.

Tami said...

You have such a knack for putting things in such an easy way to understand. Thanks for another great post.
Bayouchild, that is a fabulous metaphor. I will be sharing it with my 12 yo son, who struggles with anything/one he deems annoying.

Kemma said...

Dear Sister,
Do you have a prayer that I can say when I find something that offends me? Today my friend sent me a link on Twitter to a guy whose name is "god". I looked at the account and some of his tweets and quite frankly if he's trying to be funny, I thought he failed on several levels. Anyway, I couldn't think of a way to pray for him in a Christian manner. Suggestions?

jane said...

Just for the record, you are the hysterically funny. And informative, but hysterically funny.

Vanessa said...

Nice blog. Good job dear