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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Suffering Succotash

Happy Mother's Day!

I know it's over.

I hope after Mother's Day, if you are a mother, you are still happy. Mother's Day should last an entire week. It should be Mother's Week. That way, everyone would actually appreciate all that mom does every day instead of pretend they do, on a Sunday no less. Brunch and flowers really doesn't quite cut it, in my estimation. A family should take over all, and I do mean all, of mother's duties for one whole week, while mother writes poetry and makes collages, takes hot baths and long walks, comes and goes as she pleases and only gets kisses from clean faces and hands. Then you can talk about how great Mom is.

Just my opinion.

But now that I've missed the whole thing (easily done, with just the one day to think about it), here is today's question from a reader:

Is it possible to be too Catholic? Not like going to Mass too much, or praying too much, but by requiring that all you do and take joy in MUST be related to The Church and the afterlife in some way.

Lots of talk about suffering and mortification. What's your take on this? Is this a symptom of a depressive person, or a hallmark of a future saint?

Is it okay to skip through the tulips eating cupcakes and just praise God that life is just so beautiful? Or does that make me a flipant sinner (unless, of course, they are tulips planted by Carmelites and the cupcakes are assorted to look like a big rosary...and it's a feast day). Am I alone in this confusion?

I'm frustrated.
Wouldn't Jesus want us to spread joy and ease other's pain instead of constantly fixating on our own suffering? I hope this makes sense.

This is quite a complex question, so let's break it down into it's parts.

Is it possible to be too Catholic?

Yes. It's only yes if you find yourself forcing yourself to think about the afterlife every second and pretend to be joyful about it. The deeper your understanding of being Catholic, the less you have to force yourself to do anything.

For example, say you take joy in knitting a hat. Do you have to sit there and knit and think of Jesus the whole time you knit your hat? It would be nice. Jesus would appreciate it.

But you can just knit your hat and take joy it in. Somewhere in there, maybe, you might want to realize that the reason you take joy in it at all is that you have two good hands and a brain that functions together to make all those knots by using sticks and you can see what you're doing and you are a sane person whose house is not on fire and who actually lives in a house and has a roof over your head. If you didn't have those things, the knitting would be an exercise in frustration and misery as your brain told your hands to stab you in the eye with your sticks instead of making measured knots and your hair caught on fire. You may have some awareness of this and think, "Thanks, God, for this knitting."

It's not rocket science.

Lots of talk about suffering and mortification. Is this a symptom of a depressive person, or a hallmark of a future saint?

Yes. There is actually a mental illness that some people have that causes them to feel overwhelming guilt and constantly inflict pain on themselves.

And yes, there are saints who I'd rather not talk about what exactly they did to themselves, lest you are having a snack while you're reading.

Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, I can't tell the difference between some saints and the mentally ill in this respect. I let the Holy Father sort that out.

But for everyday, day in day out harmony with Jesus, I have this advice.

Is it okay to skip through the tulips eating cupcakes and just praise God that life is just so beautiful? Or does that make me a flippant sinner?

Yes. It makes you a flippant sinner.

No. It doesn't.

This is why it really pays to be Catholic. We have the map. You can look on the church calendar and see which days are set aside to focus on joy, or suffering. You can say the rosary and use the Joyful Mysteries or the Sorrowful ones, accordingly. (You''l be pleased to know that we are having a joyful period at the moment.)

And you can suffer and be joyful at the same time. Get your brain around that.

St. Bernadette did.

And it's not just suffering and joy, we have Ordinary days and days of preparation. We offer things to think about every day, ways to focus your mind.

And we have cupcakes! Because unlike the Pentagon, we have to have bake sales to stay afloat.

Wouldn't Jesus want us to spread joy and ease other's pain instead of constantly fixating on our own suffering?

You've missed the point of suffering. The whole idea is to not fixate on your own suffering, but to offer your suffering toward the suffering of others. You can choose who you would like your suffering to benefit, which includes people suffering on this earth and those Poor Souls in Purgatory. Offering your own suffering is one way to ease the suffering of others.

What exactly do you mean by 'spread joy'? That sounds nice. Is it a Hallmark card? A dinner party?

Because I think what you are actually talking about when you say 'spread joy and ease other's pain' is maybe something like what Mother Teresa did. She spread the joy of the Word of God and she eased the suffering of others.

But I don't think her work was a barrel of laughs. I don't think there were many tulips or cupcakes involved, except maybe ones she never saw, the ones other people sold to send her money.

I hope this helps with the confusion.

Since we're all about spreading the joy (according to our map) we found you a knitted cupcake.


Camille said...

I completely agree with you about Mothers' Day should be Mothers' week. But some of us didn't have the luxury of even having someone take over for the day since the husband works out of town. And if I had relinquished control for even an hour...CHAOS!

Instead I partook in the joy of making throw pillows for my living room. Kinda like knitting...only faster. ;)

I've found that offering up my pain (both physical and emotional) for the relief of the people who suffer from similar or even worse ailments helps me realize that even suffering can bring hope and joy. Suffering, in this case, is cause for praise. (I posted about this recently...but no one actually reads my blog. lol)

Anonymous said...

Thank you sister, that was exactly what I needed to hear today.

Denise said...

I think you are brilliant. You have a fantastic way of sharing and explaining things.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Marvellous post, as per usual.

Just one point - though I suspect that you did not intend to suggest this... I don't think being mentally ill need necessarily exclude one from being a saint.

Plenty of saints suffered physical maladies, after all. If they were not preserved from this then I dare say that quite a few experienced psychological problems too, certainly of the neurotic variety, if not of the psychotic.

Anonymous said...

OP here.

Wow, Sister!!! Do you ever deliver!!!!


And thanks for the cupcake. I've never been given a knitted cupcake before!

Elizabeth said...

sister, is it alright to take Communion at a Lutheran Church? And is it really the Body and Blood of Christ?