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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One Small Step for Man

I think I mentioned the other day that I had an old neighbor, Bud, who did not believe in the moon landing. He was not alone in his insistence that the whole thing had been staged in a Hollywood studio. There are websites out there supporting this view.

Did we land on the moon?

Back during my Chicago days, I was visiting an office building for some fund raising. We know how much I love fundraising. I went to visit a man who was a big deal at Pullman Standard. As far as I know these are people that make cars on trains. I never bothered to learn a single thing about my contact there or the company. My spiel really doesn't change anyhow.

I was sitting in this man's office. He had a picture of the earth taken from space. On his desk, he had a little Apollo landing spaceship model. He had another picture of someone walking on the moon. "Hmph," I thought. "Great pictures. Guess he likes the space program." When suddenly I realized I had his name before: James McDivitt.

He was an Apollo astronaut! The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. An Apollo astronaut! I was thrilled to meet him. I asked him what it was like to walk on the moon. He said, "The moon is really boring. It's gray and brown and that's that. There is really not much to say about it." So I asked him about being an astronaut. He told me a few amusing things about that. For example, he said that every single person who ever went into space threw up at some point.

Who knew?

Did we go to the moon? I think we did. But I can't prove it.

Which brings me to today's question from a reader:

My sister is getting confirmed soon (~2 months time), but she's told me that she doesn't believe in God or anything. My parents want her to get confirmed, so she's just kinda going through the motions.. I don't think anything she's going to be taught in her preparation class is going to help change her mind/educate her about Catholicism, at least if they are still the same as when I did them, as I was literally taught nothing about the Catholic faith (not wishing to insult the lady running it, but I think that's true.. A lot of it was probably also down to my own immaturity though)... :/

Anyway - what can I do? Should she not get confirmed at all? Will the confirmation even be valid if she doesn't believe in God etc? My parents want her to be confirmed so that 'she'll have something to come back to when she's older.'

One other thing - can you think of a good patron saint for her? I've suggested loads of names (e.g. Monica, because she prayed for her son's conversion for years, so I reckon she's a dab hand, Mary, because you may as well go straight to the top, and so on and so on..), but she's rejected them all... Thank you sister! :)

Truthfully, she should not get Confirmed at all. But we both know that's not going to happen.

There are a few things you can do, but I think you could talk yourself blue in the face and not convince her of anything. You may as well go argue with Bud Gillman about the moon landing.

Here are things you can do:

Pray a lot. I'd suggest St. Paul, the patron saint of dramatic conversion. Or St. John the Baptist. He certainly shook people up. Or St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Get a green scapular.

Set a good example.

God is there, just like the moon. Confirmation is the point where you confirm your willingness to be a Catholic. So, even if she marches around in a pretty dress or a robe and gets a slap from the Bishop, she isn't going to be confirmed in anything. Sacraments are a two way street. If you go to confession and you're not sorry or you purposely lie or omit sins, your reconciliation does not take place. You haven't reconciled a thing.

The moon is there. You still have to fly over and land on it.

All is not lost. God's not going anywhere. He is going to be there for your sister no matter what. Who knows, maybe the instruction will take! Or maybe, on her way to the altar and the Bishop, she'll have an epiphany! Maybe after it is all over with and she'll realize that she really does want to be a part of this and then 'poof' she will be. Since God has been there waiting the whole time, her Confirmation will just be....retroactive.

As for the Confirmation name, since she doesn't really believe in any of this Bishop-y mumbo jumbo in the first place, I'll wager she's holding out for a cool sounding name, period. She doesn't care that the city of Santa Monica was named for St. Monica because when the Spanish conquistodors first arrived there, the first thing they saw was a rock that was burbling water non-stop and it reminded them of St. Monica, endlessly crying for her son.

I would suggest a very cool saint with a very cool sounding name. How about Maximillian Kolbe? There's a guy who took his Soldier of Christ status very seriously! And her confirmation name could be "Max".

It turns out, by the way, that Mr. McDivitt never actually went to the moon himself. He was the commander on Apollo 9, which orbited the earth and he was in charge of the the Apollo program from the ground. Perhaps that's why he didn't want to talk about the moon.


Claudia said...

These days everyone wants instant gratification and the documentation of everything.
People would believe because of faith now want proof.

It did not help when Karl Marx said that "Religion is the opiate of the masses." At one point in time people believed that there was a after life and if you were good in this one the next would be better.

I do not think the woman does not believe she just wants Proof.

Anonymous said...

Good morning Sister

A question from one of those un-Church-educated children of lapsed Catholics – how exactly do you “offer it up”?

Loving your blog!


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for answering my question Sister (and I'm sorry it was so long...)!
Can I ask you and everyone who reads this to please please pray for her? Her Confirmation is very soon now.
(And you were totally right about the 'cool name' thing... she currently wants to go for Sophia because she likes the sound of it..)
Thanks again! I was so happy to see my question answered.

Unknown said...

I think Sophia would be perfect. It means wisdom and that girl needs wisdom.

Anonymous said...

That is sad when the situation of the young girl and confirmation happens.
As a family who is struggling to have their children confirmed, I would like to add that Confirmation is not the point where you confirm your willingness to be a Catholic. In my opinion, our willingness happens every time we receive communion worthily.

You become fully Catholic and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a special way to not only grow more in holiness, but also to be able to defend the faith too.

We will pray for that young girl. I agree with sister that sometimes they do need to wait especially if they are not properly disposed.

Unknown said...

I think the challenge of confirmation at the age it's presently practiced is that the kids are at an age when they question all that's been taught to them and are trying to make it relevant to their lives and their present knowledge of life. Nothing wrong with that.
There's not much more a parent can do for their kids than to place them on the right path and pray.
My girls also picked names based on the name itself, but perhaps God does work in mysterious ways. Both Michael and Theresa have qualities that will be needed by my daughters. Wishing you all a very joyful confirmation:>)

Illinois mom said...

Where we live, kids get confirmed as sophomores in high school. I think it helps to have the students at an age where they are more capable of realizing what the sacrament is really about. When my daughter was a few months from confirmation, her friend started expressing serious doubts about the existence of God, and said that she didn't want to get confirmed but her parents were "making her". So my daughter came with all kinds of questions and doubts herself, and I'm really grateful that she did talk to me about it.

My daughter was realizing that she really did have a choice, and she said that she wasn't sure she wanted to be confirmed. I took a deep breath, banished the thoughts that immediately came to mind (what will the grandparents think?), and said, "If you don't want to be confirmed, if you don't believe in the Catholic faith and don't see yourself being Catholic as an adult, then you shouldn't be confirmed. And if you don't want to be confirmed, I'll support you."

She was shocked at my response, and frankly so was I, but I realized right then that I didn't want her to get confirmed unless SHE wanted to be confirmed. And if she didn't get confirmed at 16, she could get confirmed as an adult if she chose. It's important that kids realize the seriousness of this sacrament, the commitment that it entails.

I'm really glad I had that conversation with my daughter, she did get confirmed and is stronger in her faith than I ever was at her age. I've got two sons who are also teenagers and coming up on confirmation -- and I'm praying that they feel God's call for them as well. We'll see! Thanks Sister -- this is a great topic!

Sherry said...

Illinois Mom, that took serious guts to offer to your daughter. wow. Will have to work on trusting God a bit more myself if such a circumstance occurrs.

bill7tx said...


At Fatima, the Angel that appeared to the children before Our Lady's first appearance said,

"Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High ... Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sings by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners ... Aove all, accept and bear with submission the sufferings which the Lord will send you. ... Say many times when you make some sacrifice for sinners: 'O Jesus, it is for love of you, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.' "

Someone else has written, "If Our Lady and the Angel ask for prayers and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, this means they actually intend to save sinners if prayers and sacrifices are offered up."

I hope this gives you a model you can use. Or just say that short little prayer the Angel taught the children, word for word. It's easy to memorize.

SAHD DAD said...

James McDivitt's comment about all astronauts throwing up at one point or another reminded me of another moon story I once heard that I thought you might enjoy (even though it's apropos of nothing).

At my college graduation, Walter Cronkite was the commencement speaker and he related the following story regarding an Apollo 11 astronaut (although I can't recall which one for the life of me).

He explained that when he first interviewed this astronaut, he asked him what the flight itself was like. The astronaut replied that "The entire time, all I kept thinking was 'This ship was built by the lowest bidder.'"

For me, this sometimes helps puts things in perspective.

My SAHD Life

Anonymous said...

Sister, I have a patron saint request. Two of my sisters suffer from bipolar disorder. One also has extreme pain from fibromyalgia; the younger may have a personality disorder and sometimes seems almost delusional. I was her Confirmation sponsor.

Both have left the Catholic faith. The older of the two considers herself a neo-pagan, Wicca or something like it. Last I talked to the younger, she doesn't really know what to believe. She is also living with her boyfriend, who is also pretty mentally ill.

I haven't heard from the older in quite a while, but another sister, who is close to her, tells me she is too disabled to work, spends a great deal of time smoking "medical marijuana" for her pain (it's legal in the state she lives in), and also takes an alarming amount of Vicodin. She's married to a nice guy who seems to give her helpful emotional support, but who (according to my sister) won't take initiative to get her better help. She is under the care of a family physician, presumably because she does not trust anyone else, or perhaps he is giving her free services. I know this doctor personally and he is a faithful Catholic, won't even prescribe contraception, but he is not a psychiatrist. So she is not getting adequate care. She seems to end up in the ER regularly, occasionally even hospitalized, for the suicidal depressions that are part of her bipolar disorder.

The younger sister, if you can imagine it, is even worse off. She sees everything in black and white. To her, our mother is "bad" (completely, with no redeeming qualities—which is certainly not true) and her boyfriend is "good" (completely, with no flaws—also not true). She is apparently working part time at a low-paying job, but in the past she has never been able to keep a job for long, so she may well be unemployed again soon. Her boyfriend is too disabled to work. They are completely broke. My mother told me they are being evicted today from their current home, a rental house, because they've never paid a penny in rent—probably because they've never had a penny to pay it with. They were evicted from their last apartment, too. My parents have an open invitation for her to move back in, but she refuses because the invitation does not extend to the boyfriend. My mother buys food for them every time she sees them, but reports that my sister is very skinny. We think she can't even afford enough to eat, though they also apparently take advantage of the local food pantry. I don't know the status of her psychiatric care. She is not very forthcoming about it (my parents had been paying for it, but my sister actually nixed that, I guess because she does not want to feel like she is in their debt).

I live in another state and I cannot think of anything I can do for them, except to pray. And, from reading your blog, I think I'll send them each a Green Scapular, too. So my question is: Who might I ask to be the patron saint for my sisters? St. Dymphna is often mentioned, but she seems overworked (not that saints can actually be overworked). After reading your biography of him, I am thinking of St. John of God, especially considering the younger sister's trouble just getting food and shelter. But I would like to know who else you would suggest I turn to.

Thank you for your time reading this sad story, and God bless.

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...


oh, my. That is a very sad story.

As far as I'm concerned, you cannot go wrong with the two major patrons of my life: St. Jude, patron of impossible causes, and Mary, Help of Christians.

Your daughters were baptised, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. They have been Christians from that moment forward, even when deep in grave or even mortal sin.