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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Thank God It's Saturday

Vacations and weekends. Aren't those things supposed to be a time when people get to relax a little more. The opposite thing happens. Having any time off from work or the day to day drudgery means that we try to cram in the 'fun' (exhausting) or run all the errands we can't get in during the week because of the day to day drudgery work schedule.

I decided to tackle this question today, since we have all weekend to work on it.

I've got the "tortured by my imperfections" part down pretty good.
It's the "life of heroic virtue" part that gives me trouble. Between sheer cowardice (go look for trouble? me?), a tendency toward bone-idleness (can I do that tomorrow), and frankly not facing many challenges in daily life, I feel totally inadequate to the challenge most of the time. I have a small icon of St. Maximilian Kolbe above my desk, and feel intimidated every time I look at him. Even St. Therese had chronic illness to contend with. I have a mortgage, a wife who loves me but who stopped going to church/confession/anything sacramental years ago, and two lapsed daughters. Most of my troubles in the life area are of my own making. Tiny, tiny, tiny little crosses, really. And an easy-to-manage problem with diabetes. I worry that having led "a life of somewhat mediocre virtue" isn't going to cut it.

I'm no slacker in my Catholicism, really, but I'm wondering what I've missed, and what I can do about it. All ideas not involving physical self-flagellation welcome.

I remember a priest in the local ghetto saying to me once that he resented the idea we seem to have in this country that anyone can be anything. The people who have this idea point to people who have someone managed to get from the ghetto to Yale or some other such symbol of success. The priest said, "Those people were extraordinary. Not every person is extraordinary."

I suppose the operative word here would be 'aspire'. In this country, any person can aspire to be anything, unless you are a woman who aspires to be a Catholic priest. Other than that, you are good to go.

I'm not sure you can be a woman baseball umpire either, now that I think about it. But I digress.

We can't all be saints either. Actually, I take that back. We can indeed all be saints. Not all of us can be canonized saints.

If you are dead and in heaven, you are a saint. The Church recognizes certain individuals, once they are dead, as being in heaven through the process of canonization. And the first thing you need to get the attention of the Church to be a canonized saint is that you have to have heroic virtue.

You have to have been extraordinary. So dear reader, you can let it go. That's not to say that you have the chance of a snowball in a blast furnace of ever becoming a canonized saint. You could make it. YOu never know.

Certainly, your safe, fearful, lazy life style is getting you nowhere on the road to a statue with a halo and a prayer card in the back of the church (or a medal in my shop!).

But don't beat yourself up for being normal.

Do beat yourself up for a lack of effort. "D" for effort, for you mister.

There are so many things you could be doing (on the weekend and your vacation time) it makes my head spin. You could visit the sick, head over to an old folks home, deliver meals on wheels, drive someone who can't drive, volunteer at a homeless shelter, gather and drop off clothes to the Catholic Charities, read to some children, rock sick babies, mow someone's lawn, wash someone's car, buy someone groceries, pay for somebody's lunch while they're not looking, mop the Church floor, make a cake for the bake sale, walk somebody's dog.

But you don't have to do that all tomorrow. It's like exercise. If you weigh 300 lbs. and you try to run a marathon, it's not going to end well. We have to get some of that fat off your soul.

So, pick one thing. Go over to old Mrs. Sanchez, who can barely walk and offer to sweep her driveway or whatever she needs over there. Something alone those lines. Go to the old folks home and sit in the day room and chat with a few people. That type of thing. And do that once a week.

Just one thing. Do just one thing.

And, as they say, one thing will lead to another. We already have made a to-do list. It is called the Corporal Works of Mercy. You can skip Bury the Dead. I don't think you're allowed to do that legally, unless that's your job.


Anonymous said...

I always considered 'bury the dead' to be a more open work: so I pray for the souls in purgatory and support those grieving by being present at funerals when appropriate(i mean I don't go to random funerals or anything) Perhaps I am too general in my "works" though?! Love the blog!

bill7tx said...

Sister, thank you for your reply. In my defense, I actually do or have done many (maybe most, I'm not into inventories on Friday evening) of the things on your list. I don't think of them as anything heroic. They fall into the "useless servant" category -- they are only what we are expected to do.

Also, I think there's nothing wrong with wanting to be a saint (canonized or not). Not that you said there is. It's just a little unusual. My concern is whether what I have done to date is getting me anywhere down the road to sainthood, at any level. And yes, I know it's not a done deal, and that it isn't over until it's over.

Here's two thoughts that sparked my question. Some fluffy book years ago had a line in it that was the truest thing the author ever wrote in all his fluffy books: "Here's a test to know whether you've accomplished your mission in life: If you're still alive, you aren't finished yet." And something a saint (you probably know which one) said about God: "He's never satisfied with anything."

Thank you again. I hope to see you one of these days, in a better place.

berenike said...

Dear Bill - I know *exactly* how you feel!

Pray lots!

I'm not speaking here from a position of achievement, just to be clear. But the thing that turns all the dross (and you should see my drab life!) into gold and diamonds is charity, and that comes out of prayer (there's only so far we get by working at it, and only for so long). The one thing we can always do all the time no matter what is pray. As Dom Chapman said, "pray as you can, not as you can't". It's all St Therese did. And even the desert fathers say "yeah, fasting, yeah, but mostly - stick to whatever you're doing, mind your own business, remember your sins (Dear God, even my sins are drab and petty) and keep praying". I know exacly how you feel, Bill!

Making a decision and sticking to it no matter what (within reason) is good - e.g. some part of the breviary, rosary, half an hour of scripture reading, holy hour three times a week. Confession quite frequently (because we do little sins all the time) and to the same guy, so he knows how crap you are. And Dom Benedict Baur's book Frequent Confession, and/or St Francis de Sales, Intro to the Devout Life. Dull everyday life is great because we have no delusions of grandeur! Dead good for humility.

must nash, should be in library, God bless!

ps As a dead French thelogian points out (Garrigou Lagrange) the life of grace we have now is the *same* supernatural life as that we will have in heaven, just in a different way (with weaknesses and through a glass darkly etc). If anyone feels like looking at that link, the meat is all in Part I, the prologue and sub-parts I and II (up to the end of "The Seed of Eternal Life in Us", or maybe the "Consequence".)

Diane said...

Some of the saints think their work isn't finished even when they get to heaven. St. Therese (sp?) comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

sister mary martha,

i saw some of your recent answers to questions regarding marriage and i have one to throw into the mix.

My fiance is not from the U.S. and he married a woman at a justice of the peace here in the U.S. in order to get his greencard.

They divorced 2 years later with his greencard in hand. Is this marriage still valid in the eyes of the church? Does he still need to seek the Decree of Nullity?

(he is not catholic but I am)

thank you sister, i LOVE your blog you are so insightful.


JP said...

Burying the dead...

I sing in a choir. I consider (in fact, a priest once told me this) that each time I sing at a funeral, I am doing my part to bury the dead.

N'est-ce pas?

Pam @ Frippery said...

Sister, I know pride is a sin but I added you to an award list on my blog. I know you will accept it humbly.

Unknown said...

Dear Sister M&M,
Due to a shortage of priests here in CinCity,we were unable to get hold of one to provide Sacrament of the Sick per the family's request to a dying patient. I did my best with "Hail Mary," but do you have any suggestions for a layperson to provide anything more?? I suspect that God is more interested in intent rather than any specific words, but I think that the familiar and "ceremonial"--for lack of the word I'm searching for--words can provide some comfort to the patient and family involved.
Any help is greatly appreciated. Our admissions are generally from trauma and head bleeds, so very sudden turns of events for families and very stressful for them to have to make sad and difficult decisions. We would like to provide as much comfort as we can, which quite truthfully feels very inadequate. Thanks for your time.

bill7tx said...

distracted by shiny objects:

A Hail Mary is good. The best (other than Conditional Baptism for someone who is conscious and asks to be baptized) seems to be to say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Jesus told St. Faustina, "Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you. Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this Chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy. Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will."

This was, of course, a private revelation, and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a personal devotion. However, the Church has approved St. Faustina's visions (I think that's the right way to put it), canonized her, named the Sunday after Easter Divine Mercy Sunday, and attached indulgences to the devotion, so in my opinion you can have every confidence in the Chaplet and in Our Lord's mercy for the dying person.

The Chaplet takes about 10 minutes to say. I don't know how you will arrange to have 10 minutes in a busy ER, but maybe you can. And if there is family present and they know the Chaplet, they might appreciate being reminded of the importance os saying it.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the info. Appreciate it very much. In this gentleman's case, his wife wasn't there because of her own injuries so he wasn't with family. We stayed with him. Thanks again:>)