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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Praying to Grandma Part II

It's only Wednesday, and we've made such a mess cleaning the desk, it will take us several more days to clean from the cleaning and be ready to roast some weenies and load Sister Mary Fiacre into her traveling wheelchair to head to the docks and watch the fireworks. The end of the school year is one of my favorite times for cleaning. I get great satisfaction by throwing things out.

I grew up in one of those German households where everyone saves every single thing. Nothing is ever throw away because you might need it five or ten years from now. When my Grandmother passed away, we found three Cool Whip tubs she had saved, because, of course, you can't throw out a perfectly good plastic container. Each tub was full to the brim with bread bag ties. Not the useful kind that twist that you could also use on garbage bags or plate stakes. No, these were the little plastic square things that are only good for holding the bread bag closed. You get a new one every time you buy a bag of bread. Even if you lost the one on your current bread, you would never need three tubs full of little plastic squares.

Hopefully, Grandma is in heaven now, rewarded for her thriftiness and attention to detail.

Or, shes' in Purgatory, suffering because she really was kind of glad when Grandpa kicked the bucket. She loved her children so dearly. Him, not so much.

Dear Sister Mary Martha,Are we supposed to be praying for those people that are in Hell? Not that I suspect that anyone in particular is there, but would our prayers help them? Thanks,Jack W.

No, it's too late for them. Hence the term "hell", meaning, a terrible place of suffering that you never can leave no matter what. That's why we fear Hell.

We're not looking forward to Purgatory. I know I'll end up there for a good long time. But the people in Purgatory are suffering happily. Like a woman in labor, the situation will have a happy ending.

Hell, not so much.

Sister, Don't we know for sure that children who have died are in heaven? Children under the age of reason have not committed any sins of their own, so why would they need to make a stop in Purgatory?--Lori

Good point! Children under the age of seven go straight to heaven! Everyone is heaven is a saint.

Hi Sister Mary Martha,I didn't realize that the Church discourages asking for the intercessory prayers of dead friends and relatives. I have asked my parents (deceased) to pray for my three children. I figured they raised me and my brother...I don't understand why this is discouraged.Thank you. Love your blog!Suzanne

Well, I think I explained why it's discouraged. Perhaps you were cleaning up a coffee spill and missed that part. It's because we don't know if you're love one is in heaven. If your loved one is in Purgatory, he needs your prayers. You should be interceding for him, not the other way around. And if he is in heaven, your prayers for him go to someone else who needs them. There must be some sort of computer or accounting system that takes care of all of that. You needn't worry yourself about it. Mary is in charge of Purgatory and she knows where to send all the prayers.

And hang on a sec...I believe the Church canonises people because miracles have happened through their intercession? So presumably people must be "praying" to them before the Church has sanctioned it? Seems a rather chicken-and-egg set up to me!

Another excellent point! But don't concern yourself about it.

To begin with, the canonization process doesn't just take into account the you are dead and we liked you. To even begin the process, we have to have massive evidence of heroic virtue, virtue above the call of duty. Like Maximillian Kolbe. He lived an exemplary brave life, right up to his stunningly brave death.

Then, we begin the rest of the process, the 'cause' of the saint, meaning, if we get some miracles out of you, that will cause you to be a canonized saint.

Holy Mother Church allows the faithful to have faith. When the Church is dealing with supernatural phenomena, like where a dead person's soul might be, or was that really Mary in the toast, She will do one of three things:

1. Tell you that something is worthy of veneration.

2. Leave you alone to venerate something while the jury is out on it's worthiness.

3. Tell you to put a cork in it.

In other words, some things are encouraged, like a belief that Mary really did appear to three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal. Some things are ignored, like saints who have been venerated for years by the faithful, but who have no proof of even their existence, like St. Philomena. The Church is not going to tell you to stop praying to St. Philmena, but She is not going to encourage you to pray to her either.

This is the category in which your dead relatives reside. We like to err on the side of caution, so their veneration is discouraged.

Which is not to say that they are in category three: forbidden. Your dead relatives are not Mary Toast or Nancy Fowler.

As I mentioned, however, in the post that generated this barrage of questions, it's perfectly normal for you to talk to your loved ones who have passed and to yearn for their, hopefully, heavenly help and guidance.

While you do that, Holy Mother Church will just close Her ears and hum.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Marriage Proposals

Today we have a couple of questions for the marriage minded. The first question was sparked by our other workplace dilemma of the witch in the cubicle.

I have a very different problem at work. One of my coworkers is recently married. She invited me to her wedding, but I could not attend due to a previous obligation. We belong to the same parish and work at the same store, but outside of that we do no socialize (I'm old enought ot be her mother!) Here's my problem: she keeps reminding me that I have not given her a wedding present yet. Is it customary? Expected? Good manners? Just one of those social mores?


Holy Toledo! What gets into people? My readers have had various comments about this situation, mostly pointing out that the poor new bride has poor manners. Although this is certainly true, it doesn't help poor Karen out, unless we expect Karen to throw her nose into the air and say, "It is the height of bad manners to ask for a gift. The meaning of "gift" is that it is a freely given thing. If this is your attitude, then please call it by its proper name, 'obligation."

I know Karen is thinking exactly that. We all are.

But, it doesn't solve the problem. If Karen doesn't respond somehow, the bride will probably (I'm going out on a limb there) give up eventually. But her long nagging period will also cause resentment to both parties, making going to work all the more.....work. It shouldn't be work to go to work. It should just be work when you get there.

Meanwhile, over in the Peanut Gallery, there has been added discussion about whether are not you are obliged to cough up this wedding obligation. The truth is, you are never obliged to give a gift. But bad manners go both ways, so all the etiquette books, which are really simply guidelines in how to treat other people nicely and not ruffle any feathers and make everyone feel at ease, say that if you go to the wedding, you should bring a gift.

This seems fair to me. Especially is you are partaking of the free party after the wedding.

The etiquette books also say that, if you are not attending, you are not obliged to give a gift.

This puts Karen squarely in the second category. She did not go to the wedding.

Being right doesn't really do much to not ruffle any feathers and put everyone at ease. My solution is to cough up a gift that doesn't cost anything. Once you have given a gift, the poor clod really has to stick a cork in it for good. I suggest a prayer card. I realize that it's not what she's after and that she'll probably be disappointed. But she can't point out to you that it's not a great gift, because she would insult you and because it actually is a great gift.

Make sure that you say, "OH! I brought your wedding present," when you haul it out to hand it to her. Make sure the card says on the front, "The Gift of Prayer", just to drive your point home. That should fix her wagon.

Meanwhile, this lady is looking for a ring.

I was wondering which saints might be helpful in getting my boyfriend to finally "pop the question". It's been four years now, and although I know he loves me and wants to get married someday, his idea of someday and mine are very different. I'm tired of living the way we are living and want to fulfill my vocation and raise some good Catholic stock of my own!
Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you for your time.

Are you sure you don't want to ask Dear Abby? I know Ann kicked the bucket, but Abby's still around isn't she? I think her daughter took over the column.

I know I'm a nun and might be missing something on which everyone else is clear. After four years you can't just say to this fellow, "When are we getting married? I have to fish or cut bait here."

I don't understand why you have to hem and haw and hint and pussyfoot around a very important question that involves the both of you equally. "We've been going together for four years and I'd like to know if we are going to get married, and if so, when."

It's not a timetable for pulling out of Afghanistan, for goodness sake!

Is it really just a matter of wanting him to be romantic and get down on one knee or have the question posted on the jumbotron at the ball game or put the ring in your pie at dinner?

After four years, I'd say, get over it. Apparently, he's not the type. We can't have everything.

St. Agnes is the patron saint for landing a feller.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wiccan at Work

We've had quite the discussion in the comments section, over the workplace 'witch'.

Says Carlos:Well, if she says that she is a witch, then she is most likely a Wiccan, which is a pagan religion whose participants call themselves witches. I wouldn't insult her faith because that may get you in trouble at work yourself. I think "spells" are a form of prayer for that religion.

I think you should be charitable in how you deal with her, but make it clear that you're not interested (assuming you're not). You should pray for her as well.

I believe I also said we shouldn't be sarcastic and that we should pray for her. But the discussion continues:

I agree with Carlos. "Witch" is not just a fantasy creature like unicorns. Wiccans, and many Pagans in general, use the terms "witch" and "warlock" to describe their role in their faith. I can tell you from personal experience that calling her silly and telling her you'll pray for her is the number one way to guarantee she will never EVER listen to anything a Christian has to say ever again and will, in fact, make sure all of her friends know to hate Christians as well. Again, personal experience. I know a number of pagan people who decided to invest firmly in that faith because of the final straw when the Christians treated them with mocking and disrespect.

One main idea that many pagans (
Wiccans especially) hold as a foundation is "An harm none". If you need to talk to this co-worker in her language, you could point out that doing something to you ("casting spells") against your will is harmful. Ignore the fact that we don't believe in spells... she obviously does. She needs a reason to stop that makes sense to *her*. The best way to get through to her may be you taking the time to figure out some of her faith language.

Wiccans brought me back to Christ after a traumatic absense. Most of them have a firmer and stronger faith than many Christians I know; it's just faith in the wrong thing. I really hate to see when a loving group of people such as these are attacked or demeaned by those who don't take the time to understand.

and also:

Carlos is correct: Wiccans consider themselves witches and telling them there is no such things as witches is insulting to them, and frankly, naive. It's too big and serious a thing to be brushed off so easily. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca Sorry, Sister, but I think you're way off on #1. However, I believe #2 and #3 are both excellent advice.

I beg to differ. Witches are indeed fantasy creatures. Perhaps not like a unicorn, though, and more on a par with vampires and werewolves.

I can call myself a vampire until my face turns blue. I can dress up and go to vampire nightclubs and rob blood banks and drink blood and go to a dentist and have my canine teeth filed to razor points.

I'm still not a vampire. I'm just a poor sad person who thought it was cool to have my teeth filed and run around looking scary. I will not live forever, be burned to ashes by exposure to the sun, turn other people into vampires by biting them, not be reflected in a mirror, have super strength or turn myself into a bat.

Although, a lot of people seem to think I can turn myself into a bat or that I already am one.

In any case, if you come up to me and tell me you're a vampire, I don't have to give you a big speech and say that I think you are a poor sad person who is trying to be hip or that you are looking for some sort of power in life that you are very sadly lacking and that you couldn't be barking louder up the most wrong of trees. But I think it's legitimate to mention to you that there really is no such thing as a vampire.

So even if I am part of a group that calls itself "Wiccans" and as a girl Wiccan I call myself a witch, the truth is, I am not a witch. I have no power over anyone. There is no such thing as a love potion or a love spell, so it really doesn't matter what I call myself when I 'cast' one.

Power comes from God. Not from a love of nature or dancing around in the forest or crystals or the roots of plants.

A person can certainly run around and do evil in the world. But said person will have no actual power over you except the powers of persuasion.

And a person can do evil in the world by running around worshipping nature instead of God, who made nature, by getting other people to follow along, thus taking those people away from their relationship with God.

I especially disagree that telling this poor girl she is silly is in any way a disservice to her. I expressly stated that there is no reason to be unkind or sarcastic. I didn't say, "Tell her to go find someone more gullible and cast her spell on that poor sap." But telling her that it is silly to believe that her love potion has any sort of power, that is the truth in its simplest form.

Where is St. Boniface when we need him? The Germans were worshipping a big tree, "The Tree of Thor". Boniface went a lot farther than telling them it was silly. He chopped the tree down. The Germans were quaking in their boots for a minute there, waiting for Thor to strike them all down. When Thor was no where to be found after the incident, St. Boniface had an instant Catholic parish.

We're not chopping her tree down here, as much as we would love to do that. We are just stating two facts: there are no people, except Catholic priests, with any kind of supernatural powers, and it is actually against the law to harass people at work with your 'religion', even if it turns out that your religion is the One True Church. As I said, you can't have a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe on her desk and she can't run around being a "witch" casting "spells". Not at work.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Witch at Work

HELP!! There is a woman that I work with that says she is a Witch. Recently she has started to tell me that she is putting spells on me so that I will fall in love with her. What do I do??
Thank you so much for your blog. You always make me smile!

I wouldn't worry too much about her being a witch. There is no such thing as a witch. Just because someone calls themselves a witch, it doesn't mean they actually are a witch. I could call myself a unicorn, but I'll never ever actually be a unicorn. Even if I buy myself a horn and stick it on my forehead and prance around eating hay.

The real issue here is her unwanted advances.

Unless they are not unwanted. It's possible that you would want her advances, if only she were a nice Catholic girl and not a poor deluded person that likes to pretend she is WonderWoman.

As a result, there are several different answers to your question.

1. Whenever she says she is a witch, simply reply, "That's silly. There are no such things as witches. I'll pray for you."

2. If her advances are truly unwanted (perhaps she actually looks like a witch), take your complaint to the HR folks or your boss. This constitutes workplace harassment and she's going to have to reel it in. It's already workplace harassment that she is making passes at you.

Putting a spell on you. Indeed.

They probably won't let you put up a Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe on your desk and she doesn't get to run around being a 'witch' either. Not at work.

As much as we often complain about secular society and it's rules about religion, sometimes the upside of all of that is apparent, like now.

3. If you actually find her attractive as a person, if she were sane, you might want to say to her something along the lines of, "get back to me when you'd like to join me at Mass sometime."

I would have said, "Get back to me when you'd like to convert to Catholicism", but that is a bit too much to ask of someone who thinks she is a witch. Or believes that witches actually exist in the first place.

As tempting as it might be, avoid demeaning her by saying things like, "That guy over there is a werewolf, perhaps he would be interested."

I hope for her sake that this is a passing fancy, an immature grasp for control in a scary world. She'd be much better off with Jesus, but the poor thing is wrapped in fantasy.

I only hope you are a man. Because if you aren't we have a whole other problem.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Holy Water!

The Lourdes Water debate does not abate:

Thanks Sister, but I am a bit confused about the shop owner of a church shop being there to make a living. I was referring to the little shop in our church entrance that is manned by a volunteering member of the Parish that sells rosaries, little statues, books, etc. I think the money goes to the church itself, if I'm not mistaken. Ok, I'm sure Priests don't mind being asked to bless each object separately but our (now ex-) Parish Priest seemed to be run off his feet and a bit stressed with all the Parish duties and his extra-curricular activities (hymn writing/concerts/cds, etc.).

When I was a little girl my father ran a little corner grocery store that had been in the family for 75 years. Everyone seemed to think we got our groceries for free. Did they think the canned goods and heads of lettuce were brought to the store for free and then we sold some of it and paid the people who brought it something on what we sold?

As a result, I have grown up understanding that most people don't understand anything much at all about retail sales. Perhaps 'retail sales' should be added to the course curriculum in grade school, along with reading, writing, arithmetic, music, a little finger painting. The four "R's". Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic, Retail Sales.

Here's what's actually happening with the little shop in your church entrance. Someone there at the parish, probably overworked Father, sits down with a catalog and chooses the items that will be sold in the shop, orders them and pays for them. The price he's paying, we hope, is "wholesale", sometimes as much as half of what you will later pay for it in the shop.

When the items arrive, someone, probably that volunteer, puts them out in the shop. Someone also has to figure out what to charge for each item. I assure you that there is a "mark up" from the wholesale price. This is what is called the "retail" price. Since every single item in the shop won't get sold, the mark up on all the items is affected. The mark up has to pay for the goods and turn a small profit.

The point of having a gift shop in the church entrance is to try to pull in a little extra money for the church. And the whole reason there is a "volunteer" working in there is because if Father had to hire someone to do that job there wouldn't be any money left over for the church.

I can also assure you that Father is indeed "run off his feet", but he doesn't mind. That's his job. If he does mind, he'll offer it up and confess his shortcomings. He is, after all, God's servant, and those blessings on those rosaries comes from God, not Father by himself.

I hope his CD sales are a help to the parish.

Isn't it a bit odd to have a tiny dot of Lourdes water in a card or rosary? Surely the whole point of Lourdes water is to use it to sprinkle on the sick. My husband used to have jerry cans of the blessed stuff (refilled with Walsingham water when the Lourdes water ran out) and I have a drinks bottle of Lourdes water in my kitchen cupboard for emergency use, brought for me by a friend who went.
We did have a plastic Virgin Mary bottle too (with crown screw cap). I must admit there are some Catholic things that make me cringe , and that was one of them. Since he died I sort of "lost" it. Respectfully of course.

Actually, the whole point of Lourdes water isn't to sprinkle it on the sick. I can understand why you might think that. Surely, that's why someone would want a bottle shaped like Mary with a screw off crown, to have enough water to sprinkle.

But the water itself...it's all about belief. Faith. Don't you remember that lady who was healed because she was crawling around on the ground behind Jesus and He said, "Hey! What are you doing back there?", and she said, "I thought if I could just touch the hem of your garment, I might be healed."

So to just have a little of the water, a drop of the power of faith and the promise of Mary, works for me.

As for Catholic things that make me cringe, I hear you. But, we mustn't judge. I always cringed at the idea of the glow in the dark rosary, but many people find them invaluable on the bedstand during long worried nights.

I'm not sure where you draw the line. Is the Mary toast impression maker over the top? The Jesus ashtray? Someone once gave me a pen with water in it and somehow, when you turned the pen Jesus was walking on water and then in the boat again or some such thing.

I also am uncomfortable with those "Jesus: Dead or Alive" holy cards, where, when you wiggle it, Jesus on the cross has His eyes open, closed, open closed. But...we mustn't judge.

I have to content myself with the idea that a Jesus pencil topper is not such a bad idea, as long as He isn't an eraser getting rubbed away on bad spelling and poor addition. Maybe for some people, Jesus with His hands up on the pencil will remind that that He is always with them.

I have also had a problem with Jesus the sports fan. Not that it's such a terrible idea that Jesus is out playing soccer and football with the kids. It's just that, as depicted, while Jesus is helping a child kick in that goal (how sweet!), if you really thing about it, Jesus is beating that other kid. That's not right.

But I mustn't judge.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Lourdes Water Loophole

Some of our readers are a little discombobulated about my statement that it's a sin to sell blessed objects.

For example, this exchange in the comments section:

Thanks for all you do -- I love your blog!
Surely it's not a sin for a church shop to sell a sacramental? It would make more sense for the priest to do a combined blessing of everything in the shop rather than have people coming up to him every five minutes to get something blessed.

Answered by:

Churches can sell sacramentals, but not blessed ones.

If you buy a rosary with a bubble of water from Lourdes in it, for instance, you are paying for the rosary, not the blessing in the water.

Which begs the question...should they be selling Lourdes water? It is not unusual to see this.

I think I can iron this out, but be prepared to have your brain squeezed.

It is a sin to sell blessed objects. God's Gifts are not for sale.
Blessings are never for sale. They are a gift from God to us through our priests.

Now, take a deep breath as we wade further into the fray.

The priest can't bless everything in the shop, because everything in the shop is being sold for a profit. The shop owner isn't there for charity, he's there to make a living.

But, if you have a blessed rosary and you sell it to me for what the rosary cost you, that's okay, because you are selling me the rosary, not the blessing. No profit has been made from the rosary, let alone the blessing.

Which is how retailers get away with 'selling' Lourdes water.

We could call it the Lourdes Water Loophole.

I've seen the Lourdes Water Loophole worked in two ways:

1. I sell you the object that just happens to contain Lourdes Water. A bottle in the shape of Mary, say, or a holy card with a bubble of Lourdes Water, or as the reader mentioned, a rosary with the bubble.

2. I give you the Lourdes Water and I suggest that you make a donation for it. I might even suggest how much the donation might be. But then I have to settle for whatever you give me, even if it's nothing.

I can guarantee you, however, that using the Lourdes Water Loophole #2 also involves another tried and true factor, Catholic Guilt. Let's face it, you, as a Catholic, are not going to let me go through all the trouble of wrangling some Lourdes Water for you and then make me take the hit for the expense. On the other hand, as long as you are covering the expense of me wrangling the Lourdes Water for you, we're not really selling Lourdes Water, we're just paying me to get it for you. Lourdes Water Loophole #1.

I'm not very happy with the idea of any Lourdes Water being sold, but....I have some. I have the holy card bubble one. It was a gift. But someone bought it for me, using Lourdes Water Loophole #1, no doubt.

Meanwhile, Father will always be happy to bless something for you, anytime. It will always be totally free. And if for some reason Father is a little cranky at the moment you approach him to bless your Lourdes Water Rosary because he is wondering how in the world he is going to pay for the furnace that needs fixing or the hole that's developing in the roof or the gutter that fell off, don't worry about it. He'll offer up his suffering at being called out of his unpleasant reverie to bless your Lourdes Water Rosary for the Poor Souls in Purgatory and you'll both be the better for it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


I was tidying up the Catholic Club box of stuff at school (holy cards, rosaries, pamphlets etc.) and I found an interesting item at the bottom of the box. An extensive search of the web told me it's called a "Religious Detente" I'm not sure if it's a relic. It's about the size of a dime, crochet around the edges, with leather and clear plastic encasing the tiniest saint medal of Our Lady, a few tiny photos and some other paper items I can't make out. Anyways, I'd like to know what it is and what it's used for. Do you know?

Sort of. I'm surprised you haven't seen anything like this before. I thought every Catholic had something on this order in the bottom of a drawer somewhere in their house. Which is ironic, considering the whole idea behind the little crocheted pieces.

Come on, you've all seen these! The most common image in the middle of all the needlework is the Sacred Heart of Jesus or Mary. Sometimes scapulars come this way, too.

It's news to me that they are called "detentes". I'll throw that out to the Peanut Gallery and see if anyone knows how that name stuck on them. Our Spanish relations must have a clue. The word "Detente" means "the easing of tensions". So...there you go.

The idea here is that you have a little mini shrine. The simplest ones have the image in the middle and then some tatting around the edge. But sometimes it's an image and then some embroidery around there and some tatting around that.

And if you really want to go whole hog on the mini shrine effect, you sew the image on felt that's big enough to close like a little wallet around the image and then you also sew medal onto the inside of the felt so you wind up with a felt thing with tatting around the edges with the image inside with embroidery around it and medals on the sides. Whew! And you could have a relic in there to boot! Probably a third class relic.

They do end up in the bottom of drawers a lot. Seriously, go right now and rummage through your Grandmother's chest of drawers, particularly the drawer where she keeps her old watch and those earrings that screw onto the earlobes and I'll bet you'll find at least one of these. How do they end up in the bottoms of so many drawers? Maybe people mistake them for sachets.

Also, wallets have gotten smaller. People used to keep them in their wallets, back when there was only cash in there and this year's grade school pictures of the children. Now, what with credit cards, ID cards, ATM cards, store club cards, free coffee after you buy 25 coffees cards AND this years grade school pictures of the children, this little crocheted shrine would really cause a bulge.

Hi Sister,
I have 2 beautiful girls a 17 month old and a 5 month I was put on thyriod medicine that can cause phyical deformitys like cleft lip and I was on another medicine that can cause heart defects (I'm no longer on that medicine)I wanted to go off all medicine but my doctor says with my levels I could lose my baby. This pregnacy wasnt planned but its still my baby and I dont want anything to happen because of something I did. Do you know a patron saint for preventing heart defects and physical abnormalitys in babies, also for faith in my doctors and you might want to give me one for patience if 1 more person comments on how close my girls are I'm going to scream

Our prayers are with you and your thyroid gland!

Here are my saint picks. I would start with St. Gerard, who is the patron saint of a safe and healthy pregnancy resulting in a safe and healthy baby. And guess who is often on the back of a St. Gerard medal? My second pick! Our Lady of Perpetual Help. She is our go to solace in difficult and trying times.

And for patience, St. Therese the Little Flower, the patron saint for people who are annoyed by the annoying habits of others.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Dearly Departed

Before he died, I spent some time with my Uncle Pete. He lived to a ripe old age and died peacefully this morning. The last time I saw him he was his usual pistol self, a martini in one hand, a war story on his lips. We pray for his soul.

Boy, do we pray for it.

His war stories were never about the war part of the war. He had been on the supply convoys for the duration. His stories were about the French girls. Lots and lots of them, if he is to be believed.

I like to think Uncle Pete is in heaven today with my father (his brother) and Jesus and Mary. But....

He was not sorry about the French girls, as far I as could tell.

Which brings me to today's question from a reader:
What a timely post! Just yesterday my 7-year-old came home with a rosary from her teacher (she attends a Catholic school.)

So last night we sat down with my 10-year-old and said the first decade of the rosary (I didn't want to overwhelm them.) I've been wanting to introduce them to the rosary for the last year but haven't done it. My plan was to start up this summer but I expected resistance.

To my great surprise they were very excited and interested. We all took turns leading the prayers and they're excited (as I am) to pray some more.

My question is this: How and when do we mention our intention for that recitation. My brother recently died and while I pray about (and to) him often I'd like to pray on his behalf when saying the rosary.

Is that something that must be stated at the end of the rosary or at the beginning? When praying with my kids do I have to state that intention out loud or can I say it silently to myself?

Can each of us have a different intention when praying? How does all of that work?

Also, is there anything strange about chatting with my brother now that he has died? I don't feel like I'm forsaking God and worshiping him rather I feel like I'm having a one-sided telephone call with him.

Most of the time I tell him things that I'm thinking about which usually start out, "Dude, you're *never* going to believe this."

I'm aware that no one knows for sure, but do you think he hears me? He was ill and bedridden with MS for a very long time and we'd talked about his death. I always told him I expected him to say hi after he died in a dream and that he had to prove it was really him and not just my subconscious mind dreaming about him.

He said he'd drop by and while I know it's probably not going to happen I'm still hopeful that he'll let me know in some concrete way.

I suppose the bottom line is that I'm not confident in my own spiritual views and I am always looking for someone in the clergy to tell me I'm getting all of this right.

Rosary first: have your intention in mind when you begin. You can state it out loud or keep ti to yourself. Everyone can have their own intention, but the rosary is a very powerful tool when a group of people say it together for the same intention, which is true of prayer in general, hence the 'prayer circle'. And the Mass, the Stations of the Cross, religious ceremonies and processions, large group blessings, such as the Blessing of the Animals...you get the drift.

And, just to clear things up, I'm not clergy. I'm religious. Only priests are clergy.

Having addressed the beginning and end of your questions, let's go for the middle part about your dear departed brother. Our condolences and prayers are with you and his soul.

The thing is, we don't know where his soul is right now, unless he's been canonized. Everyone who is dead and in heaven is a saint, but the reason we canonize people is that we have had proof of their arrival in heaven. As a result, the Catholic Church discourages asking for the intercessory prayers of dead friends and relatives.

We never pray 'to' anyone but God. But we do ask the Church Triumphant to pray for us, just like we ask one another that favor. I'll ask St. Peter to pray for me, but I won't ask Uncle Pete. I will ask St. Peter to pray for Uncle Pete.

It isn't remotely strange that you would keep up a one sided conversation with your brother. It's a perfectly fine way to keep him in your thoughts and in your heart. But the rest of it, hoping for dream visit or a "sign"....problematic.

Let's not run around with our hair on fire because we wish to reconnect with a loved one. It's not sinful. We just rather hope that our faith will carry us, that our loved one is indeed in the arms of Jesus, or on his way there.

Because, even if he is spending some time with my Uncle Pete and the rest of the Church Suffering in Purgatory, he will be going to the arms of Jesus at some point, guaranteed. That's happy news.

If he is in Purgatory with my Uncle Pete, rest assured that Uncle Pete has some great stories.