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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Davey and Goliath

Lately it seems I've been very fortunate in that the questions people are asking here on the blog are so long that they take up all the space I would normally use to blather on and on myself.

Cuts my work load in half!


I recently purchased a necklace from you, and I love it! I actually wrote about it here.

I hope it sends you a little traffic. :)

Anyway. I have read your blog and wanted to ask you for some advice.

I am an actor, and am in graduate school for acting. I've been cast in a play where the character I'm playing says g**d*** as an adjective. I am not comfortable saying this, and have been replacing it with d***. My director (who is also my professor) has said that he thinks that as an actor, I need to "get over" my aversion to this, as it will limit me in casting. Additionally, he says that in refusing to say it, what I'm really doing is judging the character (which, as an actor, you're not supposed to do) and stepping outside of it, which will prevent me from truly connecting with and embodying the character.

Acting is my vocation, and I feel strongly about being as good of an actor as I can be. I know that this is what God wants me to do, and it's going to be my way of changing the world. But then I think of Saint Genesius, and think that maybe avoiding blasphemy is more important than being a free actor. But I also don't want to limit myself within my art (and my profession). I have no problem playing a sinner (like a murderer or a liar), but usually, playing those roles doesn't make me feel as though I have to sin in order to do it (i.e. an actor playing a murderous character does not actually murder, but an actor playing a character who takes the Lord's name in vain actually has to do it).

Anyway. I guess I'm just confused on the matter, and I wanted advice from someone outside of the theatre (because I'm the only Catholic in my program, and the others think I'm overreacting). Would God want me to stay strong on this point? Or will God forgive me because it's the character who is taking his name in vain, and not me?

Any direction you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you kindly,


Your director/professor is not just whistling Dixie. He is correct on all points he makes about how your aversion may limit you. He is correct in saying that in order to play the character you have to fully understand the character . The character seems to have no trouble whatsoever taking the Lords' name in vain. It's not really a bad idea that you would try to understand this person. Let's not kid ourselves by pretending that this character is a very unusual person because of this proclivity.

I imagine at this point that my readers fully expect me to stop here and say, "but by playing this person who so easily blurts the name of God you are giving a tacit agreement to this type of venial sin and our agreement to small sins is what leads us to big sins."

So there. I just said that. On top of that, the vicious cycle of 'this is how people talk' makes people talking that way all the more common. Which means you'll have a lot more roles to turn down in the future. Too bad for you that "Davey and Goliath" isn't on TV anymore, since that and Sesame Street will soon be about all that is left for you.

But I'm not going to leave it at that, because I don't know the context of the play, or what the play ultimately says about the character who speaks this way. Perhaps, in the end, the play shows us why we shouldn't speak this way. I doubt it.

What would God think? Sin is about intent. Most plays, in some way or another, are about morality.

I'm sure in the future, if you are a very good actress and people are pursuing you, you are going to have to turn down a lot of roles. What if you get a highly paid juicy lead in a slasher movie and you have to run through the woods in your underpants chased by a chainsaw? What if you get a TV commercial for Viagra?

What if someone asks you to do Shakespeare?

I'm not sure I've been much help. One day you can start your own production company and be free to practice your art and play all the starring roles. Until then, perhaps our readers will weigh in with some sage advice.

Here in Los Angeles, people light sage on fire to 'cleanse' the air.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Tar Tar

Every year at this time, the weather cools off for a little while and then at the end of September gets very hot again. Then we have our little 'fall'. Fall for you might mean 50 degree weather gradually dipping into 40 degree weather. Fall for us means it's not 102 any more and the daytime weather is in the 70's.

The reason it gets hot is because of St. Ann.

It's not really. The winds that are blowing hot air in from the east are called the "Santa Ana's". I never thought for one second about St. Ann. I took French in high school and the poor beleaguered French nun wasn't very good at her job of teaching. She was very good at French. She just didn't seem to know how to teach it to someone else. Poor thing.

I digress.

So much is in Spanish here that you forget the words have meaning in another language. For example, yesterday we took a field trip to the famous La Brea Tar Pits. There is a museum there with the bones of literally millions of animals who have gotten themselves stuck in the tar for the last 25,ooo years or so. Mastodons and saber toothed cats and extinct wolves lived alongside human beings. Only one human being was ever found in the tar. A little cave woman who had her head bashed in.

And it isn't really tar, by the way. Tar is a man made product. It is thick gooey petroleum. It looks and smells just like tar.

I digress.

And what does "La Brea" mean in Spanish? It means "the tar". So when you say "The La Brea Tar Pits" you are really saying "The The Tar Tar Pits".

No wonder I didn't actually think about St. Ann when this year's winds blew in again. Today, someone asked me who St. Ann was and why does she have these hot winds.

St. Ann is the patron saint of seamstresses and Grandmas. Are grandmas full of hot air?

I think the winds are called Santa Anas because that's the direction in which they blow, east from Santa Ana.

Alright...time for today's question, which I am not happy to answer:

Sister, I love the blog! I have a quick question for you. I work in religious education and youth ministry and I'm planning to incorporate the (excellent) Theology of the Body for Teens curriculum into my programs for my high school students, and I've been reviewing the topics. The end of the program, after building up a good foundation of authentic sexuality, contains a segment on vocations and how our sexuality honors God in different ways through marriage/religious life/priesthood. The marriage section is the easiest to explain, since that's the most common vocation kids see. I can easily explain priesthood as a "marriage" between a priest and the Church because he acts in persona christi, and can explain religious women's vows because they are brides of Christ. However, I'm a little stuck about how to explain religious brothers. True, we're all destined to be brides of Christ in heaven, but that's easier for girls to relate to than guys. Since brothers aren't acting as priests do and aren't "married" to the Church, how do I explain their vows and their importance to the Church? Thanks so much! Maggie

Here's how I would explain it, but I don't think it's going to be helpful in any way.

Sex isn't everything.

There are much more important things in the world and types of relationships in the world than sexual relationships.

Religious brothers focus all their attention on God. It's really not rocket science. Everything doesn't have to be explained through the narrow prism of marriage, which is only one type of deep relationship.

Some of the deepest relationships you will ever have do not involve sex. The relationship of parent to child, the relationships between sisters and brothers, the relationship you have with your closest friend. I would venture a guess that many people will share certain secrets with their best friends that they do not share with their spouses. And that is perfectly healthy. I believe it is often helps a wife not swat her husband in the head with the skillet on any given morning and vice versa, because someone has been able to vent a little to a sympathetic ear.

They are called 'brothers' because the brotherly bond they share is helping each other to be closer to God. Sisters have that going on as well. They are a type of family.

Why are they important to the church? Didn't they invent beer?

No, they didn't. I think the Egyptians did that, although I did hear a story that some brothers invented beer (maybe they didn't know the Egyptians had beaten them to it) and realized that it could make you a bit tipsy. So they asked the Holy Father if it was okay to to drink it and they sent him some. The Holy Father thought it tasted awful (there are people in the world who do not like beer...raises hand) and figured that no one would ever want very much of the terrible stuff and gave it the green light.

All people who work to maintain a perfect harmony with God are important to the Church. That includes you, oh tireless teacher of teens. We just assume that since these particular people spend every waking hour on that project, they are better at it than the rest of us, just like if you spent every waking hour playing the piano, you'd be better at it than me.

At least one would hope that would be the case.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dear Sister Abby

I wouldn't be here if the Catholic Church was not so confusing. I say that with all the love in my heart. I wouldn't change anything, mind you. But there are just things that we find ourselves explaining over and over again, like the fact that we do not pray to saints and that the Immaculate Conception is not the same thing as the Virgin Birth. Nor is it the same thing as an Immaculate Reception, which as far as I can tell from the lame jokes I have been told, is some sort of football miracle.

It certainly muddies the waters.

On top of that, people are continually struggling with what they are supposed to do, or not do. I don't want to take up any more space rambling on about all the confusion, as you will see for yourself how confusing it can get as I attempt to answer two questions, one of which is perhaps better left to Dear Abby. Nonetheless, I'm going to go for it.

Deep breath:

Sister, thank you for this post (on offering up suffering). There is something I just cannot get through my thick head though, and it drives me crazy. I got out of a physically abusive marriage in November, and since then there has been no end to the drama, my husband is in jail, etc. Part of me knows it was right to escape esp. for the safety of the children, but the other part of me feels like I should have been stronger, turned the other cheek one more time, offered it up, leaned more heavily on the Lord, something. I also feel guilty for not visiting him in jail since it is one of the works of mercy. Basically I feel guilty for giving up and I don't know if I did the right thing. Help!!

There should be no part of you that believes that you should have subjected your children to one more minute of any type of abuse, even if they were only witnesses to that abuse. Every second of a child subjected to that horror, made all the worse when it is happening in the home, which should be a place of love and safety, damages the child. Each second. This goes for parents who bicker in front of their children as well.

You may indeed lean more heavily on the Lord, NOW. Someone else can take up the corporal work of mercy of visiting him in jail. The Lord doesn't ask you not to be safe. The Lord wants you whole, in body and spirit.

Let me tell you something, and please listen carefully:

You did the right thing.

You are still doing the right thing.

Your husband is mentally ill and you can't fix him.

Jesus loves you.

You and your children should be seeking counseling. Even if you think you don't need it, I can assure you that they do.

For the rest of you readers, please don't ever confuse torture with 'offering up' your suffering. And never inflict any type of suffering on children.

And now, before I forward this next question on to Dear Abby:
Sister Mary Martha, I have a saint request for you. Recently, I have started to fall in love with one of my best friends. The other night, he told me that he also feels the same way about me. Which sounds great, at first, until you realize that he's engaged. Now I never intended to cause any strain on his engagement--I never planned to say anything to him--but he brought up how he felt about me first and eventually I couldn't avoid the subject any longer. I am struggling very much with this. I feel as though I am culpable for what has happened. I struggle very much with my faith and only recently have been granted the grace to begin a slow return to the church after years of absence. So I am attempting to get my life back on track with the will of God. In a situation like this, while I know it is not my fault for feeling for him as I do, I worry that perhaps I have committed some indiscretion (I believe the term is called an "emotional affair"--point being an affair, which makes me ill,) along with the fear that I might not have the strength to confront what needs to be confronted and do the moral thing in the future. (Whatever might happen between the two of us, since it is still undecided and he is still engaged.)

So, to get to the saint part of this very verbose request, I would love for you to suggest a saint who might understand my situation. Either a saint who struggled with loving a person they were not allowed to have (even involved with an affair,) or one who struggled to do the morally right thing despite their desires. Or, I suppose, any other saint you might suggest. Thank you for your patience!

If you checked back in the comments section when you left your question, dear reader, you may have noticed that someone suggested St. Margaret of Corona as a patron saint for you. St. Margaret was a person who spent most of her life trying to get over a lost love.

I have a different suggestion: St. Maria Goretti, the patron saint of teens and chastity.

Here's why: to begin with you are going to have to "man up" as they say, to get through this situation. I believe that phrase really means "act maturely". What you have to do is actually very easy to explain. It won't be that easy to accomplish.

Your friend is in a committed relationship. The operative word here is "committed". He has made a promise to someone. It is entirely up to him as to whether or not he is going to keep that promise. He has not yet made a vow.

It isn't fair to him or to you or to her (I'm sure she is a lovely person) for you to hang around this whole situation hoping he'll choose you.

You need to bow out. Step back. Get away from the whole thing.

I know...very difficult. Offer it up.

He will then be free to choose and you'll have your answer. If the answer is not in your favor, please do not slash her tires.

And remember little Maria Goretti, who was stabbed 14 times while saying no. The thought of that should help you man up.

Abby? What say you?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The More Things Change the More They Change

There is a smell. Not a bad smell.

But not a good one. It is oddly familiar. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. A kind of sickly sweet smell. At the same moment that I figured out from whence it was emanating, I also nailed down the sad familiarity. We bought some new garbage bags. They are scented.

And that smell...old lady perfume. Granny hankies dipped in what used to be called 'toilet water'. Seriously, why would anyone put that on? The name ought to be a big hint that the scent is not going to go over very well.

I'll be offering this one up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory for months to come. We are so good at recycling that we only use one garbage bag per week. The box holds sixty bags.

Meanwhile, I was happy to get this question after we discussed Father Juniper Serra the other day.

Was it always two miracles or was it three at one point?! I could be wrong- two miracles is quite something, considering, as you said, who is going to pray to someone for their intercession anyway if they are not already a saint! Very informative post- thanks!

You are one hundred per cent correct! And then...not really.

The third miracle rule was more like the 'and heir and a spare' mentality of a monarchy.

The Church was always happy with two miracles, but went for the third miracle to seal the deal. There is actually a movie called "The Third Miracle". It stars, Ed Harris, who reminds me so much of my brother, they could be brothers.

As movies go, it actually is a useful lesson in how the Church works at determining sainthood. Ed Harris, my pretend brother, is from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He comes to town to interview people who knew the saint candidate and to investigate the alleged third miracle.

I don't remember all the details. There were Nazi's in it. The third miracle was that the saint had caused bombs that were falling on a village not to drop. She wasn't dead and in heaven at the time. She was a little girl...I think. Ed Harris couldn't find anyone living who had witnessed the event. And the almost-a-saint needed that third miracle. There had since been two miraculous cures. Or maybe it was one miraculous cure and a bleeding statue. I don't quite remember.

But...and here is where the plot really thickened...there was one person living that had witnessed the event, but no one knew he had been there. It turned out that the priest assigned to be the Devil's Advocate on the case had been a young Nazi at the time and didn't want anyone to know his ugly past and so was blocking the whole sainthood thing to hide his own shame.

It's a movie, folks.

That was something else in that film that has been dumped by the wayside. Not only did the Church drop the third miracle requirement (it is only two now), the Church also dropped the "Devil's Advocate".

This was a move by Pope John Paul II, who canonized more saints than any Pope in history.

Of course he did! He dropped the Devil's Advocate and the third miracle!

The Devil's Advocate was a person assigned to argue against the cause for sainthood of the person in question. As the Devil's Advocate, it would be your job to refute any and all 'evidence', from deeds of heroic virtue to supposed miracles.

I have to say, I am still sorry to see the Devil's Advocate go. There should be vigorous debate. I assume there still is, but it just seems more efficient to me to have someone whose whole job is to defend the anti sainthood cause. After all, we have a whole "Congregation for Causes of Saints", we ought to have at least one "person against the Causes of Saints".

I'm sure the job was not a pleasant one. It's never any fun to be the wet blanket on everyone's saint party. Still, we must do what we must do.

Anyhow, as remarkable as the" stopping bombs from falling" miracle was, I don't think it would actually count as the third miracle. I believe any miracles for the cause of sainthood had to occur after the person is dead. That's the whole point of having the miracles, to prove that the person is in heaven.

The devil is very tricky, but he doesn't go around doing good deeds. Miracles come from heaven. I have to be dead and in heaven to be a saint and the only way to prove that I'm in heaven (because proving I am dead will be a snap) is to have a miracle based on my intercession.

So I don't think that bomb falling would count, even though it actually was a miracle.

If you really want to get the inside scoop on saint makers, check out that book I've had sitting over there in my sidebar for months on end. "My Cousin the Saint" is a very good book anyhow, and a tutorial on the whole process.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The More Things Change...

Did I mention we are back to normal?

We are back to normal. Sister St. Aloysius has returned and Sister Nicholas has shuffled off to Buffalo.

We can't find anything. I should have followed her around while she was cleaning.

Suddenly, fall is upon us. School has started. The air smells of crayons and pencil cases and sweating children. Sister St. Aloysius is already mulling over Halloween.

What did Alice say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Probably Alice did not say this. More likely, someone said it to Alice.

Here's a question for you! Surprise! Our priest retired at the age of 80 last month, and was replaced a middle-aged priest who has made some changes. I don't know the Magesterium all that well, so I'm betting that things needed to be tightened up a bit at our little country church, but folks are grumbling. Some are saying they may leave the church over matters that seem trivial to me--who announces hymns during the Mass, moving furniture, that kind of thing. Having returned home to the Catholic church fairly recently, I just don't want anyone to leave--especially for something stupid! What should I say to them? Some have a protestant background, and protestants follow personalities instead of dogma. We're Catholics; we shouldn't be doing this. I don't want things to get ugly over this kind of stuff. Shower some wisdom on me sister--please? --Mary Ellen

It isn't just retiring priests that cause things to get shuffled around. Must be that time of year, or that time of the decade. My mother's beloved pastor, who has been there forever and knows every single person in his parish and every single thing about them, just left last week having been transferred. I know another priest who was just moved.

Any of us could get our marching orders any day. That's our job.

It's a shame that people can't get their brains around why these changes take place in the first place. Oh sure, it's true that in this case the priest has retired. But priests are moved around all the time for a lot of reasons. Your new priest has caused a domino effect. Wherever he came from, he has to be replaced.

But more importantly we must remember our vows of obedience. Our job is to become completely attached with Christian love to our parish, our flock, our school. Our job is also to leave and give that same unequivocal love and attention to the strangers that will become our parish, our flock, our school.

We love everyone. We are attached to no one. Our relationship to you comes only through God, as we are all his children.

You are absolutely right that these matters of the hymn announcers and the furniture arrangement are very trivial. Leave the parish?

So....why are we in a parish? You know how when you go on an airplane the stewardess (are they still called that?) tells you that if that little oxygen mask drops you should make sure you have yours on before you assist anyone else?

We are in a parish to get to Heaven. My job is to get myself to heaven and to assist you in getting to Heaven, in that order. If I'm not working to get myself to Heaven, I won't be able to help you. I'll just pass out and die.

So we sit in these pews together. We pray together. We eat pancake breakfasts and attend funerals. And someday, we hope to be in Heaven together.

If you can't even be in the same church building with Joe Schlemmer because Joe got to read the hymn list instead of Mary Bernbrock, how are you going to stand being in Heaven with Joe?

I'm not sure if this helps you. What can you say to them?

"Get a grip, people! If we can't go to church together, we can't go to Heaven together."

Your patron saint: St. Catherine of Sienna, who kept the Church together while we had two Popes and then three Popes and finally, one Pope again.

Sister, I live with a chronic pain condition. Which Saint can I turn to for intercession when I don't think I can take anymore?

St. Bernadette of Lourdes.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Dig it.

The fires are still raging, but they no longer seem to be bothering anyone. We do hope all the rabbits and squirrels have gotten ahead of the flames.

We're having a nice holiday and the beastly hot spell has finally broken. A good time to talk about Hell.

Why is it that God is happy to forgive our sins before we die, but we don't get a chance to repent after we die? Or, why aren't people who are currently in hell given a chance to repent their sins? What I'm trying to say is that it seems odd to me that an infinitely compassionate God refuse to forgive people after they die. Mind shedding a little light on this for me?

I understand you. It does seem harsh. I do believe I can shed some light, but I'm not sure my answer will satisfy.

To begin with, God does not put you in hell, you go there. God never turns away from you because you sin. Sin is when you turn away from God.

The easy answer would be to say, "You have had your whole life to repent your sins. If you haven't done it by now, what makes you think you're going to do it after you die?"

But, and here is where you and I are on the same page, eternity is a very long time. For example, let's just say for the sake of argument, that Hitler is in Hell. (The Catholic Church never says anyone is in Hell, not even Hitler, because at the last second he could have said to himself, "What was I thinking?!" and gotten himself a very, very long sentence in Purgatory. In another side note, my grade school nuns always told us that Pontius Pilate was in Purgatory until the end of time. Since we actually have no idea who is in or out of Purgatory, we can safely say that those nuns were just making that up.) And now that we have Hitler in Hell, let's give him a sentence of one million years for each individual he so much as made uncomfortable. We're making this up, so let's given him a billion years for every person that died because of him, which would also include all the war dead on both sides and causalities of the war and people who died of a broken heart thereafter.

That's millions and billions of years. Eternity is longer than that.

I will admit that it is hard for me to imagine that there is anything you could do on the earth, even if you were Hitler, that would merit that as punishment. On top of which, you are only human. You only have what brains you were given and what ever kind of paltry education or terrible parents or rotten neighborhood you have had to work with in your quest for God or lack thereof.

And the Church teaches that if you die with one mortal sin on your soul, you're right there with the same Hell sentence as Hitler.

At this point we have to chalk this one up to "It's a Sacred Mystery" (which is Catholic for "just let it go").

But here is where I think I can help, just a little. This, too is a made up story, but I think it at least sheds some light on how people do end up in Hell forever.

Late one night when I was up with Sister Mary Fiacre (she sometimes needs tending at all hours), I was listening to a very silly radio show. Silly enough to be fascinating. Anyone ever listen to Art Bell? He has a program where people come on and talk about ghosts and UFO's and the like. One night he was doing a program about how a giant spaceship was lurking behind a giant meteor and would arrive here soon, for example. (This isn't' the made up part. I really did hear this radio show.)

This particular evening his guest was one of those people who had been brought back from death. You've heard some of these stories, I'm sure. The person is dead and they are going into the light and Jesus or their grandmother beckons them but tells them they are not going to stay right now and then the person is back in the ER wishing they were dead because it's so nice up there.

This woman had died quite a number of times. She had some illness or chronic condition or whatever and she had died seven times or more and on more than one of these occasions she did not go visit Jesus or her grandmother but had gone to Hell.

She said that she was on a 'cat walk' above a vast desert where people below, lots and lots of people, were endlessly digging in the sand, the hole they dug just refilling. She said that she was aware of two things: that she was merely being shown this and not be staying, and that these people could leave anytime they wanted to, but they just didn't.

And this is Hell.

Although I realize that this is not a true story, it struck me as a marvelous vision of why Hell would be eternal. Because even if you could leave, you wouldn't.

Think of the person you dislike the most, someone you despise, even. It doesn't have to be someone you shake hands with at Church (or refuse their hand). It could be the President or Hitler. Now imagine that, much to your surprise, if you make it to heaven, that person will be there. Still can't shake their hand?

You are digging sand.

Sitting through Mass wincing at the hymn selection and the woman next to you who insists on saying the rosary through the whole thing?

You are digging sand.

I must stress that this little story of sand digging is not Catholic teaching. It does beautifully illustrate the nature of sin, though. You go through life bitter and angry, because.....you go through life bitter and angry. You could change. You could leave it behind. But you don't.

What makes you think things will suddenly be different when you're dead?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Beauty Must Suffer

We're not on fire. An enormous area here is California is on fire, but we are far away. We don't really even have to breath the awful smoke, nor are we having ash rains as we have had with some of the other fires. Other places have summer, fall, winter and spring. We have rainy season and fire season. The reason we have fire season is precisely that rainy season lasts for about three weeks in February, where it rains a little bit. Then by June, after no rain, and July and August, after it's 102 at 8 am for a few weeks, the place goes up in smoke.

A very large number of people are suffering. I hope they offer it up. I also hope it rains or something, or the wind changes and blows the fire backwards over the acres it already burned.

A question from a reader:
While you are looking into Saint Elizabeth Seton, perhaps you could also break down for me the concept of just HOW our suffering aids the Lord in the conversion of souls and such. While I understand the "offering it up", the old "Methodist" part of me still snarls that by having died on the cross for our sins, Jesus paid it ALL and that he does not, NOT need our sufferings on top of his to aid in salvation of the masses. (My cradle Catholic husband also joins the choir of discontent and unbelief of this as well) I can ALMOST grasp it, the concept sparkles just beyond my reach. I know that the honest to the point way you have of putting things will lay this gem in my hand. Thanks!

Was I looking into Elizabeth Seton? Uh-oh. I hope whoever was waiting on that information has offered up their suffering.

Apparently you really don't understand the 'offering it up' thing at all.

Jesus does not need anyone's anything. He could just go on His merry Way. He never has to hear from you again. He could be perfectly happy living with His Father and the Holy Spirit and all the angels and saints (who, by the way, offered up their suffering...just sayin') and forget all about the rest of us pathetic sinners.

But He doesn't.

He is a hard person to understand.

The suffering isn't about Him. It's about you. If you can suffer and be glad, if you can suffer and not complain, if you can suffer and make it a prayer, you will understand Him a lot better, because that's the way He lived His life.

Let's pretend for a moment that when Jesus died on the cross it had absolutely nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins. Let' say, for the sake of argument, that what really happened here is that this fellow shot His mouth off a little too often and a little too loudly for the comfort level of some minorly powerful people, so they had Him done away with.

Then what does it all mean?

Is it possible to understand that beyond the forgiveness of sins, that Jesus never stopped showing us how to live, even up to the moment of His death? That He did not raise a hand in defense or anger, that He accepted His suffering, that He did not allow His followers to raise a hand, even in defense. That when He said, "You have learned that they were told, “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” But what I tell you is this: Do not set yourself against the man who wrongs you. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and offer him your left. " (Matthew 5:38-42), He wasn't just whistlin' Dixie?

If Jesus had just showed up as God and run all around saying all of this stuff, we could have all just said, "Easy for you to say, God."

But He didn't. He suffered the way we suffered. He suffered all the ways we suffer. He just handled it a lot better than we tend to handle it.

Offering up your suffering is a prayer of communion and understanding with Jesus and with all those who suffer.

If I can sit here in my smokey house while the ashes rain down, I can better understand the suffering of those who are right on the fire line, whose homes are in harms way, whose eyes burn hotter than mine, whose sinuses are clogged and whose throats are choked.

When I have a day when it is difficult to breath, I can better understand the suffering of those with chronic lung problems.

I can be thankful for what I don't have to suffer and I can be more compassionate for those who continue to suffer.

Please don't forget that Jesus also said this, "Whatsoever you do to the least of My brothers, this you also do unto Me." He wasn't just talking about dropping a quarter in a bum's hat.

I hope this helps relax your snarl a bit.