About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

St. Guinea Pig

I was a Catholic School Guinea Pig.
In the first grade, they decided on some new fangled teaching technique to help children 'visualize' math.  So, instead of learning to add and subtract, we all had an abacus.  I loved that thing. The little round sliding circles looking like jewels or Life Savers, or Life Savers made of rubies and emeralds. It was so easy to do math.

By the end of the second grade they realized that none of us could add two and two without our sliding candy toys and we had to start all over.

Somewhere in the fourth or fifth grade they introduced what they called "New Math".  I don't know what that was, because from that point on I never knew what anyone was talking about in math class at all. We were in high school before they changed back to "old math" and I'm still terrible at math. Thank goodness, I have Sister St. Aloysius to balance the budget and make change.

Every other class of children lined up along the Communion rail to receive their First Holy Communion and we all so looked forward to doing what the grown-ups did.  But no.  They opened up the Communion rail and we marched up to the altar. The next year it went back to normal. Just us, the Guinea Pigs.

But we still got our Confirmation names! Apparently, that is no longer the case for many!

My Confirmation class (in 1997 or so) didn't deal with Confirmation Names. I don't know why we skipped them. My younger siblings' classes didn't use them either. But now, people from that church are the only people I know who were confirmed without a confirmation name.

Am I missing out? Is it kind of like finding your own patron saint, who you then have a special relationship with? Am I too late? I mean, obviously I'm too late to have a real confirmation name at this point. But I could still talk to a Saint about being extra good friends, couldn't I?

Poor dear.  Did they give you and abacus, too?

I've heard this from quite a few readers. No Confirmation name.  Booooooo!

It's never too late to pick a saint for yourself. Let's take a quick look at why we even have a Confirmation name in the first place.

When you are baptized, someone else has picked your name (we hope they picked well and didn't saddle you with "Tiffany" or "Dakota" or "Elmer"....or like my poor uncle "Elsworth Elmer") and stood up for you before God, choosing to have you join the Church.

Now you have decided for yourself to recommit yourself to become a "Soldier of Christ" and so you are going to pick your own name this time.

That's all.  It's not rocket science.

I can see where it isn't really necessary to tack on another name that you really won't ever use on your passport or on a  legal document. But it's such a lovely idea and a nice way to reconnect.

 "Church Militant (that's you), meet the Church Triumphant (the residents of Heaven)."

 And people pick names for various reasons: a beloved relative had that name, they want the patronage of a certain saint or identify with the saint, or they just flat out like the name. It's all good.

So go right ahead and jump on the band wagon! Let us know who you pick! Inquiring minds want to know.

Another reader asks:

Also, is there an easy way to find your blog posts about specific saints. I was telling a friend about St. Joseph of Cupertino as patron saint of autism, and I thought there might be an easier way to find your postings versus scrolling backwards through them all and hoping it pops up.

Since I back reference to various saints all the time, searching the blog might not be helpful. Have you tried a Google search?  I think if you type in the name of the saint plus Sister Mary Martha, you might be able to find what ever you're looking for.  In any case, you'll find plenty of references to St. Joseph Cupertino and you can just read it for yourself.  I'm always surprised people ask me about saints that they could just go look up.

Not that I mind.  It's my favorite thing to do anyhow, and often people are asking about a problem that doesn't have a proper saint or the saint fit of the assigned saint is...well, St. Cecilia, case in point. Love to do a patron saint matching any time.

Which brings me to:

Sister, is there a patron Saint for Catholics with no sense of humor?

Of course there is!  St. Lawrence was a real cut up and his sense of humor was not appreciated. Went over like a lead balloon. He's having the last laugh in Heaven.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fire in the Hole!

Once in a while a question arises that I really don't want to answer. The more uncomfortable I am with broaching a topic, the more I realize it must be broached.  Usually, this feeling occurs when someone asks for some kind of personal advice. That's always a dodgy one, since in this type of format, who knows the whole story, the background, the psychological make-up of a person?  I think it's dangerous territory.

But rarely do I find I'm uncomfortable working on a patron saint matching! I know the answer to this question.

I don't know about patron saints for mental illness, but I'm having surgery tomorrow, and if you know of any saints that cover the digestive system, perhaps you can ask him/her for some intercession for me? I am having 8-10 inches of intestine removed due to diverticulitis. Last time I had surgery (for something else) it was a nightmare. A second surgery followed and I contracted an MRSA infection that took months to clear up. So I'm pretty nervous about tomorrow. I love reading your blogs! Thank you for helping us to strengthen our faith. I'm only 48 years old and am praying this takes care of the medical issues for awhile!

Ugh.  You poor thing.  I have direct experience with loved ones who have been similarly blessed.  And yes, of course, there is a patron saint for the intestines (specifically).  But perhaps you should read this some other time. Perhaps now is a good time to simply invoke St. Erasmus, better know as St. Elmo, or let us invoke him for you, and you just get some bed rest and push that little button attached to your IV.  I'm sure they've told you your prognosis is excellent!

For now, when we think of Elmo, let's just think happy thoughts.

Then, when you're feeling better--say, six weeks from now--you can come back and read the story of St. Erasmus/Elmo. 

St. Elmo was a bishop. He lived during a time of persecution.  For a while, he lived the life of a hermit on a mountain top and was fed by a raven.  I mentioned that to someone the other day, who thought I meant he was fed by a raven like a baby bird in a nest, where the bird partially digested his food for him.  No.  The bird merely brought him food.  Like St. Rock's dog.

Life would have been grand for Elmo/Erasmus if he had just stayed up there. But then, who knows how long raven's live?  In any case, he reentered society and things went downhill.

I don't really believe all these things happened to St. Elmo/Erasmus.  I believe his story has been conflated with another saint or two who lived around the same time.  Because if all these things really did happen to him, I picture him a little like the Marvel superhero "Wolverine" who has titanium bones, or some bones made of some metal that doesn't exist.  He can't be harmed because he instantly heals from whatever you do to him.

That's what went on with Erasmus/Elmo until they pulled out his intestines and wound them on spindle.  That finally did him in.  Or not.  In another version of his story, he merely had hot hooks hooked into his intestines and miraculously healed (again).  Let's go with that version!  In that version he was finally beheaded.

In the meantime, he had his eyes gouged out (St. Lucy),  had hot oil or tar or something poured on him (St. Catherine of Alexandria), was thrown into a fire (again, St. Catherine), had all manner of hot pokers poked into him (St. Blaise), had all his teeth pulled out (St. Apollonia) and at some point everyone trying to kill him was killed by lightening (St. Barbara) and he was roasted on a grill (St. Lawrence).  He walked away from each of these trials, miraculously healed, like Wolverine.

Which makes him an excellent saint, for you, personally, given your own travails.

His association with being saved both by and from lightening strikes earned him the appreciation of sailors at sea and the phenomenon "St. Elmo's Fire" being named for him. St. Elmo's Fire, however, is not actually lightening.  It's plasma.

If you have read on, even though you are still recuperating, offer up your sufferings, both from your recent surgery and from reading this blog, to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.  And meanwhile know that our little community here at Ask Sister Mary Martha will have more than a few conversations with St. Erasmus on your behalf.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Talking Cure

Sister, I was going to ask about the Patron Saint for psychiatrists and I googled it and came up with Saint Dymphna? is that right...

When were you going to ask?  Oh!  You are doing it now!

Yes, that's correct. But in my opinion, it's not really right. St. Dymphna is the patron saint for everything 'crazy' from any type of mental illness to sleepwalking and therefore for the people who treat the people who sleep walk and/or have mental illnesses.

And while I won't argue with the wisdom of the Church on Dymphna's assignment, I don't think she's the best candidate for most of this, for the most part. The reason poor Dymphna is the patron saint of craziness is because her father was crazy.  He went right off the deep end when his beautiful wife died. He suddenly realized that his beautiful daughter looked just like his beautiful departed wife and decided Dymphna should replace his spouse. Dymphna ran away with the help of the parish priest but her father pursued her to the ends of the earth--or at least, what he and Dymphna and the priest knew of the earth.  Dad caught up with his daughter and killed her and the priest.

What a sad mess.  Poor Dymphna.

But by this logic, St. Barbara could also be the patron saint of crazy people. Her crazy father killed her, too. Barbara's father went off the deep end with the idea of what might happen to his beautiful daughter at the hands of men, so he locked her in a tower, like Rapunzel. Barbara made the best of it, while her father went off to war or something like that, she had some workmen cut a third window into her tower to represent the Holy Trinity. When her father returned he was convinced that she had the window for men to access.  He dragged Barbara out and killed her.

St. Barbara is not the patron saint of crazy people. She is the patron saint evoked against lightening and the patron saint of fireworks and firefighters.  That's because when her father killed her, he was instantly felled by a big bolt of lightening.  She should be the patron saint of 'when someone needs to be smited by lightening", but she isn't.

I propose a different saint for psychiatrists.  What does a psychiatrist do?  He tries to help straighten out other people's issues by listening and talking things out and listening some more and sometimes he might even have to be a little stern. But he must always maintain his compassion and understanding.  Enter St. Catherine of Sienna!

St. Catherine is a doctor, one of only three women who have earned the title "Doctor of the Church".  She lived during a time when the Papacy had moved to France, but back in Italy, no one was happy with that, so there was a Pope in France and  Pope in Italy.  St. Catherine tirelessly wrote to all parties, trying to get someone to step down.  When that failed, a new Pope was named.  Then there were three Popes and no one would step down.

Did Catherine succeed? Yes and no.  She did succeed in convincing Pope Gregory to return the Papacy to Rome. But after his death there was a great schism, known as the Great Western Schism complete with anti-popes and war and queens siding with anti-popes.  A sad mess.  St. Catherine was relentless in her zeal for reconciliation, and although she was not successful there, she did succeed in becoming a person whose opinion was solicited by cardinals and kings.  She was not afraid to speak truth to power.

So here you have a great saint who was good at pointing out to people that they were not acting any anyone's best interest and encouraged everyone to talk it out and reconcile their problems.  She often spoke to their psychological motivations.  Here is what she said to the Queen of Naples who was accused of murdering her husband and who was backing the anti-popes:  "You know that you do ill, but like a sick and passionate woman, you let yourself be guided by your passions."

I'll let our readers weigh in. They often have some wonderful patron saint match ups of their own.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

White Jesus

Since Jesus was a Jew is it wrong to portray him in a different culture (like African American or Hispanic for example)?

Or White European, as He is usually depicted?

We can never portray Jesus accurately, since Jesus arrived before the invention of cameras and never sat for Gainsborough. Most of us grew up with "White Jesus", who looks like just the kind of person mosquitoes love to bite. Certainly that is not accurate, yet I've never heard anyone ask or complain about that. Was that wrong?

No. But it did have repercussions. It took the Jewishness out of Jesus and allowed for all manner of religious and ethnic persecution. That was wrong. If the purpose of making Jesus white in the first place was so that people could relate to Him, then the Jewish people were purposely left out of relating to Him.

Jewish is the one way you'll rarely see Jesus portrayed in art, which is the only way we have to portray Him. I've seen more scientific and historic types go for some kind of Jewish Jesus rendition, but no one has that image on their wall on hanging from a crucifix as far as I've seen. So if it is wrong to portray Jesus as other than the Jew that He was, then just about every image of Jesus ever made is wrong.

And since we've been happily making Him white for so long, I really can't see a problem making Him any other color in which people actually come.

That's not to say that "anything goes". But reasonable people may disagree about portrayals of Jesus. I have a problem with those "sports Jesus" figurines, where Jesus is out playing soccer with the kids, or baseball or whatever. There is one for just about every sport. I appreciate that it's nice for kids to imagine Jesus in their lives that way, but the figurines always make it look to me as though Jesus was taking sides, kicking the ball away from the other poor little kid. Some people love these figurines. I find them a little depressing.

And then there were the rather smarmy looking "office Jesus" portraits. I haven't found anyone who likes those.

And let's not forget where Jesus appears. Not so happy with Him on the bottom of an ashtray, although again, the sentiment is helpful.

I've never been a fan of "glow in the dark" religious items either, but many of my readers are thrilled with them, what with being able to find their rosaries on the bedside table at 3AM during some sleepless night.

And...these are all white Jesus' we're talking about. Someone recently gave me a plastic plate with White Jesus on there. I "re-gifted" it, as they say. The recipient was thrilled. I hope she doesn't serve deviled eggs with it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Music to Your Ears

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

Who is the patron saint of musicians? I am currently struggling as a musician. These days, music from the heart is not supported and instead, "factory-made" music is preferred. It is sad but I am still inspired to continue playing and creating music for the right reasons. Please help me.

Oh Yes! we have just the girl for you!

No doubt everyone thinks I'm about to say St. Cecilia, who is the patron saint of musicians. Truth be told, I can't get all that excited about St. Cecilia as the patron saint of musicians. She's a lovely saint, a virgin/martyr, and there is much to be admired in a young woman who is willing to die for her new found faith. But she wasn't a musician, she really had nothing whatsoever to do with music. She landed that patronage because there is a song or poem about her singing and playing the organ in heaven for the angels or some such thing and that's that.

No, we have the perfect saint for you, although, technically, she's not a saint but a Blessed. We'll talk more about that later.

Blessed Hildegard of Bingen was a prolific writer, healer and composer. Unlike St. Cecilia, who never put pen to page for a single note, Hildegard wrote over 70 pieces that have survived and a whole liturgical drama that is all sung except for a small speaking role for the devil. She is the first composer whose biography is known.

She and her nuns performed her works there at the convent.

She described herself as not so bright all the time and eventually revealed that her work came from heavenly visions. How's that for composing for the "right reasons"? Her songs and writings were shared with kings and Popes.

It's really a shame that she isn't canonized. It's just a fluke, in a way. She's been referred to as a saint by several Popes, including John Paul II and she's in the Calendar of Saints (unlike St. Christopher--we're really going to have to have a chat about all of that again, soon). She was actually one of the first people to which the canonization process was applied.

In the early Church, saints became saints because everyone started calling them saints. They were saints because a cult of veneration grew up around them and that was the end of it. But one too many St. Guineforts, St. Ursulas and St. Philomenas caused the Church to begin to put a lid on that and to try to make sure the person was actually a person, actually had existed in the first place and was actually worthy of veneration.

So poor Hildegard's canonization process took so long that after four attempts it was dropped. I feel safe in calling her a saint, don't you? There are only two requirements to be a saint: dead and in heaven. She's dead. She must be in Heaven given that God talked to her so much while she was alive.

You can actually take up her cause! If you have any information about her whereabouts you can write:
Benediktinerinnenabtei Saint Hildegard Eibingen
Postfach 1320
65378 RĂ¼de
sheim am Rhein, Germany

I'm sure she would appreciate it.

And just in time for her feast day, tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dog Person

More on the St. Michael confirmation name controversy:

According to the definition of the word "person", an angel is indeed a person, as is God (three, in fact).

The teacher obviously meant "human" but even then... I don't see a reason why I can't take Guinefort
as a confirmation name. (And it's a doggone good one, if you ask me)

Yes, St. Michael is a person, by the dictionary definition (and how we speak of God). However, I do think this is often how we get into trouble in the Catholic Church and how people (who are persons) get confused. On the one hand, the concepts with which we are dealing require precise language for us to understand. And on the other hand, most people don't talk that way or think that way and then next thing you know everyone is confused.

Ironically, your mention of St. Guinefort is a perfectly good example of how things go right off the rails.

For the uninformed, St. Guinefort is a dog. A greyhound to be precise, which actually matters in the story.
Is there a St. Guinefort, meaning, is there a dog that is a saint? No. Is there a dog that is called St. Guinefort? Yes, there is. The poor French fell for it.

The story of the noble greyhound (somehow, it's always a greyhound) actually dates way, way back to ancient times. There is some sort of noblemen, a king maybe even, who leaves his infant alone while he goes out hunting. Sometimes the noble woman has accompanied him and sometimes there is some sort of nanny who has also taken an ill timed break from the child. The child is always the only child of the important person (human being, not god or angel person).

While everyone's out being the worst parents and caretakers in the world leaving an infant to fend for itself for several hours, a viper comes in and the trusty greyhound tears it to pieces. The baby's bed is upended, the house is a mess and the dog and the house are covered in blood.

When the terrible parents return and see the mess, the baby is nowhere to be found. They see the mess, the lack of baby and the bloody mouthed dog and shriek with grief. The nobleman beheads the trusty greyhound.

Calm down, it never happened. It's a story that has made the rounds in many cultures.

The story ends with the terrible parents finding the baby under his upended crib and the snake parts all around and realizing that the dog had actually saved the child. They feel as terrible as they are and they bury the dog with honors.

This story made the rounds, and somehow when it got to France, the dog had the name Guinefort and they actually had a shrine where the dog was buried. (Actually he was thrown down a well and that was made into a shrine, if we need to be very precise.)
Here's where the story actually gets pretty funny, if it wasn't so tragic. The shrine in France becomes so popular as a baby saving saintly place that people are bringing their babies from miles around.

We have to step aside for one moment and make sure we're all on the same page here in the understanding that Catholic sainthood (the process of canonization)very often begins in just this fashion. Saints are made by having a cult (there's a loaded word that has come to mean something other than what it actually means!) built up around them. After the dead person (former member of the human race) has been venerated and miracles are occurring at his tomb, the Church will step in and take a look, make sure the person is worthy of veneration, dig the remains up to make sure that's really him in there, study the life of the individual to see if he was more holy than not (no one's perfect) and check to see if any actual miracles have taken place.

So, back to the Guinefort shrine. The Church sends out their man who is utterly dismayed to find that the 'saint' in the shrine is a dog. I'm sure he would have laughed if it wasn't so tragic that so many people were on the "a dog can be a saint" bandwagon. I'm not sure he knew that the noble greyhound story had been making the rounds for hundred of years. The poor French people. I wonder if they have sent money to the Nigerian millionaire who needs help. In any case, the priest ordered the shrine destroyed and it was destroyed.

And when he left, they built it right back up again and went on with St. Guinefort.

In a side note, in defense of the poor French peasants, St. Christopher is sometimes depicted with the head of a dog. St. Christopher, who also made the Church's "no fly" list a while back has many legends attached to him, one of which is that he was extremely handsome and asked not to be so handsome because of the burden of temptation and was given a dog head. And even that story may have only arisen because, in some language or another, "Christopher" is very close to their word for "dog head". I wish I was kidding. The poor French peasants may have at some time seen that depiction and thought that dogs as saints were acceptable.

You really can't take just any old name for your Confirmation name. You can't have Paul Bunyon or his Blue Ox Babe, you can't have "Large Marge", and you certainly can't have Guinefort. Unless, that is, some day there is a person--a former human being--who is dead and in heaven and therefore worthy of our veneration who has at least two miracles under his belt with the name Guinefort.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Michael the Archangel, NonPerson

I have quite few questions waiting to be answered, but this more recent question has sparked quite a bit of righteous indignation from the Peanut Gallery, so I thought we'd better get on it.

Thanks, by the way, to the Peanut Gallery, for pointing out my monstrous error yesterday by typing the word monstrous when I meant to type "Monstrance". There's a mistake you don't want to make! I am a terrible typist and an even worse proof reader, so thank you all so much for bringing my attention to that glaring whopper.

Hello Sister,

I just found your posts and am
thouroughly enjoying them!!

With regard to saints, I would like to know the church's teaching regarding the information I am sharing below.

My son's religion teacher (Catholic) won't allow him to choose Saint Michael the Archangel for his confirmation name. My oldest son chose this saint when he was confirmed in 2007, with no concerns, at the same church through a different teacher. In fact, our oldest son had to write a report on St. Michael the Archangel, as his confirmation choice, and had to get approval from our parish priest. We presently have the same priest. The teacher's reasoning for not allowing this confirmation name is that Saint Michael the Archangel is/was an angel not a person.

I am frustrated with her
insistance that this saint is not acceptable as a confirmation name choice. After hours of searching the internet I have been unable to find any catholic website or information suggesting that this name is not appropriate for confirmation. In fact, I have read many church approved web-sites that recommend this saint's name as a confirmation choice.

Any information you have to share regarding this concern will be greatly appreciated!

Thank you in advance for your help, and may God continue to bless you as you share with countless others!!!


What I'd like to say is, "What is wrong with this woman?! Is she crazy?!?!?! Is her own Confirmation name 'Dymphna'? Has she not noticed that there are churches named St. Micheal the Archangel? Did she have someone in her life named Micheal who wasn't so nice and therefore wants to put a clamp on any further people having Michael in their name?"

But, of course, in the interest of Christian Charity, we will simply say she in incorrect. St. Michael the Archangel is a wonderful choice for a confirmation name.

She's not entirely one hundred per cent wrong, though---not about that being an appropriate name---but about Michael not being a person.

Angels are not people. They are not dead people who now reside in heaven. As much as we love to refer to our dear departed loved ones behind the Pearly Gates as angels, they are not angels and they never will be angels. Anyone who is dead and in heaven is a saint. Mary is a saint.

Michael is an angel. He is God's favorite angel, if indeed God has any favorites. He is God's 'go to' guy. Angels are a different type of entity altogether. They don't have bodies, although they sometimes manifest bodies. They are pure spirit.

But the Catholic church has no problem with St. Michael as a patron saint, confirmation name, pray for the intercession of, treat him like a saint thinking. What part of SAINT Michael the Archangel is she missing?

Why is Michael called a saint when he is an angel? It's really not rocket science. The word saint is from the Latin "sancta" which means "holy". Is Michael holy? Yes, everyone in heaven is holy. We could just as easily call everyone in heaven Holy George, Holy Joseph, Holy Mary, Holy Peter. In fact, we often do just that.

We don't know the names of that many angels, so through the history of the Church, only three angels have been known as saints: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. And, as such, they have been assigned patronages. Gabriel, for example, is the patron saint of telecommunications. Raphael is the patron saint of young lovers and people leaving home for the first time.

That ought to seal the deal right there. If the Catholic Church is willing to call Michael the patron saint of something, why couldn't he be the patron saint of some one? We're done here aren't we?

Michael has quite a long list, among his areas of interest: grocers, the military, and anything like the military--police, firemen, etc. He was the patron saint of chivalry before it died.

I'm not sure what you can do about this poor lady. Be kind. Print out some articles, show her the other kid and his report who had the bishop give him a little slap while dubbing the boy with a new middle name, enlist the help of the priest who approved the whole thing before. Show her pictures of churches named after St. Michael. Bring in his list of patronages. Purchase a St. Michael medal for her.

And above all, ask her to explain why this great angel is always referred to as SAINT Michael the Archangel and not just Michael the Archangel.

You may just have to ignore her, or go over her head. You'll know who to ask for intercession.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nothin' But Blue Skies Do I See

There are things we are not meant to understand. God's universe will always be beyond our comprehension. For example, why is the sky blue? There is a scientific answer to that question, something about the way light refracts through water molecules in the atmosphere. Google it if you really want to know.

But after you find the answer, you still won't know why. You'll know how. But why? Why isn't the sky green after the sunlight moves through the molecules? What is blue? Another example. We know how planes fly, lift and drag and all of that. But we really don't know why. Or maybe we know why, lift and drag and all of that, but we don't know how that would hold up all that giant tonnage, and by tonnage, I am referring to the people who can't even fit into an airplane seat and all the luggage everyone tries to get away with bringing on board. People would still carry an upside down chicken on board if they could and a goat on a string.

I digress.

So, I have often talked about the Catholic use of the term "Sacred Mystery", which means, in Catholic, that which you will never truly understand as a human being and can only guess at the reasons edges so you may as well just let it go.

Or keep trying. I suppose you could end up being a Doctor of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas. Meanwhile, all the best with the Sacred Mysteries.

I understand what you say by Sacred Mystery, my problem has always just been actually believing and feeling that the bread and wine have become Christ. I want to, I always have, but it's never clicked. (I'm a lapsed cradle Catholic with 12 years of Catholic school.) Any suggestions on how to get my brain/soul/heart/whatever make the leap?

This is a huge problem. It's really the very core of the faith, so you're going to have to get on board and jump on the Sacred Mystery (just let it go and believe it) bandwagon.

The good news is that you are very much not alone in your difficulty. First of all, the whole Protestant Church and all its denominations don't believe in transubstantiation (the $10 word for the miracle that occurs during each Mass). They believe it's all just symbolic.

They are correct in believing that within the walls of their own church. Only a priest can perform the miracle, so there is no transubstantiation taking place over at the Lutheran church.

But then, you're not a Protestant. You can't get away with going the symbolic route.

Still, you're not alone. You may be surprised to find that, now and again, a priest in the process of performing the miracle is having severe doubts.

And every now and again, his doubts will be totally alleviated by what is commonly known as a "Eucharistic Miracle". I say "commonly" know, because it has happened enough times to have the name "Eucharistic Miracle".

The very first one, as far as I can remember, happened in 700 AD to a doubting monk saying Mass. If I remember correctly, the Host turned into actual flesh and began to bleed. Finally, sometime in the middle of the 16th century someone thought to test it. Yes, it was still around! Details are coming back to me....the blood was in five big sort of drops and, of course, everyone put that together with the Five Wounds of Christ.

Since that time, it has been tested several times, as late as the 1970's and maybe even again in the 90's. The results have never varied. The flesh is human heart tissue and the blood is type AB.

So now we know Jesus' blood type.

It's happened quite a number of other times, almost always, if I'm not mistaken, to a priest struggling with the same doubts you are having. And now, we have it on film!

In this instant, the Host changed to flesh and bled, but after they put it in a Monstrance for the faithful, it also began to glow and pulsate like a beating heart. And here it is:

I hope this helps.

I do understand your difficulty. I've always felt a little sorry for St. Thomas the Apostle who is forever known as "Doubting Thomas" because he was understandably dubious about anyone returning in tact from a crucifixion. I like to give Doubting Thomas the benefit of the doubt. He wanted some flesh and blood proof and Jesus was happy to oblige. Then and now.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

First in Line

Dear Sister Mary Martha - Is Saint Joanna patron saint for anything?

Actually, no, she isn't. That is to say, as far as I can tell, there is no specific designation of patronage for her.

That won't stop us!

Let's have a look at St. Joanna. You remember in the New Testament, there always seemed to be a group of very faithful women who were very near to Jesus a lot of the time. The loaves and the fishes was not an every day event. These women helped fund Jesus' ministry by feeding the disciples and putting them up in their travels, that sort of thing. There were at least 13 people to feed on a daily basis. Mary Magdelene and Susanna were the other two well to do ladies who chipped in.

And in the end, they were at the foot of the cross. They were rewarded by being the first people to discover that Jesus had risen from the dead.

St. Joanna has the cheery nickname "the myhrr-bearer", because that's what she was carrying on the big day when they went to embalm Jesus and found He didn't need embalming.

Or food anymore, or a place to stay.

The only other thing we know about her is that she was a married lady. Her husband was a steward for King Herod.

So let's see. She could be the patron saint for undertakers, innkeepers, Red Hat Ladies and society dames. She would make a great patron saint for Catholic women's groups, like the Ladies of Charity and those ladies who tirelessly organize fundraisers and card parties, bake sales and car washes.

She would also make a lovely patron saint for those types who are always first on the bandwagon with a good new idea, like solar panels and IPhones.

I'll be interested to hear what our readers think.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

After the Fall

Not too long ago we were talking about fallen angels. We have a little clean up work to do on the subject.

But before we launch into that, how is everyone enjoying fall and the start of a new school year and season? I thoroughly enjoy the change of seasons, even though nothing much has changed yet. Apples are arriving at the farmer's market, at least. I am an "apple a day" girl from way back. Years ago, I would have also enjoyed the arrival of Halloween decorations and maybe even scraped up a dollar to spend on some fake cobwebs for the end of next month. I think the Halloween decorations have been at Walgreen's since the Fourth of July. I like my seasons seasonal and I do not approve.

What was I talking about. Oh, yes, the dreary world of the devil. Here we go:

On the topic of fallen angels, I was just wondering if it is true that we have all been assigned a fallen angel, much like we're assigned a guardian angel in that it always stays by your side, but instead of protecting you it is always tempting you?

You have too much time on your hands. Maybe you want to do some volunteer work or add some rosaries to your day.

No. Contrary to popular belief, God is not mean. God wants you to go to Heaven. He wants you to be a better person and to protect your soul. He sent us His Son and and whole Church and a big book to follow along. He set up a whole road map of what to think about each day to bring us closer to Him (which doesn't involve wondering if He's working over time to trip you up). He gave you your own personal angel. Sending each person their own personal temptor is just not in God's repertoire.

Don't confuse what people refer to as 'personal demons' to be quite so literal. Just because it's hard for me to resist a big piece of chocolate cake doesn't mean there is a little red thing with an arrow on his tail standing there with the plate.

Although, I think I like red cake even better than chocolate cake....still, no demon.

Now I want red cake. I'll offer it up.
Hi Sister,I really enjoy your blog. after reading your entry on demons I wanted to ask you a question that has always bothered me: why didn't God destroy the fallen angels like he destroyed the evil in Sodom and Gomorrah? Just wondering if the Church teaches anything about this. Thanks for any help you can give.Your faithful reader

You know, I never thought about this ever in my life. Here is why: God hasn't ever destroyed any of his immortal creations. Has He? I can't recall Him doing that. Maybe my desire for red cake with cream cheese frosting is clouding my memory banks. Once He has created a soul, that soul is eternal.

I suppose He could destroy it. He could have destroyed Adam and Eve and just started all over again, too. Destroying immortal souls doesn't seem to be part of His repetoire either.

To me, if you'll bear with me, the question is how disappointed God must be so much of the time because He doesn't do that and why He didn't just erase the chalkboard and start over in the hope of having what He set out to do, because we are just so very....disappointing so much of the time.

Until we aren't. And then we are so thrillingly merciful and loving against such long odds.

Whenever you feel like the world is a terrible place full of nastiness and temptation and red cake, spend a little time with the saints. You'll feel so much better and have a glimmer of understanding as to why God sticks it out with all of us.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sink Your Teeth Into It

It's Labor Day weekend, so besides the fact that today is the Lord's Day of Rest, we have the bonus of an easy breezy lemon squeezy Monday. Here are two questions that we can practically answer in our sleep.

Dear Sister,

My mother and I are hoping you can suggest a patron for my father. My parents, my siblings, and I were all raised in the Episcopal church. My mother, my sister, and I have converted to the Catholic Church. Our sons (Mom's grandsons) have been raised Catholic. The problem is with my father.

He does not attend church or mass. He says that he is convinced that the Catholic Church is the only real church but we can't get him to attend mass. My mother isn't after his entering the Church, yet. She'll work on that once we have him attending. (I'm all for praying for the whole ten yards...) Any suggestions for patron saints or novenas?

We appreciate any and all help.

First, let me refer you to the Stealth Catholicism of the Green Scapular.

And then let's think for just a moment about St. Paul, the greatest apostle next to St. Peter. You do remember that story? Paul, then Saul, was in the crowd holding the coats for those people who had set about making St. Stephen the first martyr.

Then he spent some time rounding up Christians and doing his best to see that they were persecuted. And then Jesus had something to say about Saul's activities. He knocked Saul off his horse, asked him what he thought he was doing, and gave him a new name.

St. Paul is a great patron saint for anyone seeking a 'come to Jesus' moment.

Hi, Sister, who is the patron Saint for teeth - I'm trying to grow mine back?

Are you seven years old? Because, if you are, then they will grow back all on their own with no help from heaven at all, save that which God, in his wisdom, put in your mouth in the first place.

If you're not seven years old, your teeth will not grow back. If your teeth were to grow back, it would be a miracle. I have two suggestions. The Miraculous Medal, for starters.

And then you could maybe pick a "Blessed" someone or another, a person waiting for canonization and the official title of "Saint" and pray for their intercession. Who knows? You could end up being the miracle they need for the finish line.

For more information on the canonization process, read the terrific and inspiring book, "My Cousin the Saint" by Justin Catanoso. You can pick it up just by clicking the little box on my sidebar.