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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lent 2011

With Lent coming soon, I need something to post by my computer to remind me to "try to be good" to paraphrase the title of a Sanford Phippen book  from Maine.

I've been thinking about Lent, too.  It's just around the corner!  We have just about a week to get it together and figure out what we're going to give up.

I'm really torn this year, as I would like to give up sweets.  It would be a huge sacrifice for me, as I have quite the sweet tooth, or, what's left of a sweet tooth after all that sugar.  If I don't want St. Apollonia as my new patron saint, I'll have to do something about my intake of corn syrup.

But... I don't believe in giving up something for Lent that you need to do anyhow.  Want to quit smoking and go on a diet?  Do it on your own time.  This season is about you and God, not about you and your waist size. At the end of Lent, you should be saying, "Wow, I have a much closer relationship with God now!"  Not, "Wow, look how great I look in these jeans!  Thank you, God!"

So, if I do give up sugar, I'll have to just do that and find something else to give up.  That will make it an extra difficult Lent.  Won't I be a joy to be around?  I'll have to be a joy to be around, anyhow.  It doesn't do any good to give something up and then go around acting like a bear being poked with a stick.  That's the whole trick to Lent.

So perhaps for your computer screen you should put on there, "Be joyful!"  This won't work unless you've done something that makes you suffer, though.  If you're one of the Kum By Yah Lenters,  you'll have to take another tactic.

"Be Good" is a rather vague, if not impossible, statement.  Come on, Lent is all about digging deeper.  You're going to have to at least take a stab at determining what exactly would make you a better person.  Again, this isn't about your nail biting habit.  What's the one big change you could stand to make?

And then, what steps do you have to take to make that change?  Need to be more charitable? You don't have to become St. Francis of Assisi overnight. But you can examine how you can be more charitable each day.  Perhaps your computer screen could say, "Got Charity?"

Maybe you should make a list of things that could go on there and change them every few days or so:

Eat Humble Pie

Stop Talking

Speak Up

Go the Extra Mile

Find More Gratitude

Wear Unattractive Clothes This Week

Give Some Things Away

Go to Confession

Put Yourself Last

You get the idea.  You can tailor your list to your own shortcomings.  I'm sure our readers have some thoughts on the subject.

Again, I'm all for the old "give something up". Make it count.

Good Egg is from Paloma's Nest

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Plate Act

Dear Sister,

Can you advise me on how to grow in virtue? Are there any books on the subject that you recommend?

Thank you and God bless, Jenna

Well, that's a big bite to try and swallow. Certainly, there are smarter and more virtuous people than me to tackle this one. St. Thomas Aquinas springs to mind.

He's hard to read, really, for most of us.  I admit that in all humility, one of the seven Heavenly Virtues. Here's your check list:
1. Chastity
2. Temperance,
3. Charity
4. Diligence  (you're going to need that to do the other six)
5. Patience
6. Kindness
7. Humility

So, to be more virtuous, all you have to do is be chaste and pure according to your station in life, achieve balance in your dealings and mental state, give generously of your love, talent and goods, work hard at everything you do, give everyone else a break, treat everyone with kindness and stay humble, especially when you become perfect from doing all of this.

Did that help?

I'm joking.  It can all seem overwhelming.  Rather like you're always doing that plate juggling act.  Remember that?  The juggler has a line of poles, he spins a plate on the top of the first pole, the second the third, the fourth and by then the plate on the first pole is slowing, so he runs back and spins it again and then runs over to the fifth pole and puts a plate up there but by now the second and third plates are slowing so he runs back.....

I feel his pain. 

It's a lot to try to do a whole plate act right off the bat.  I'm sure the juggler just starts with one.  I'd go with humility.  Once you've got that one spinning, the rest are not so hard. If you can just keep three plates going, you'll be well on your way to have all seven spinning merrily away. To practice, do this:

1. Say thank you.  To everyone for everything (God too!) all the time.
2. Say I'm sorry, frequently, whether it's because you have erred or because you feel empathy with the pain of others..
3. Say I love you.

Before you know it, you'll be able to balance a chair on your head with your Grandma in it while you spin those plates.  Let me know when that happens. I'd love to see it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pagan Baby Reunion II

Sister: I have a question. What ever happened to pagan babies? I bought 2 when I was 8 &9 respectively. I saved my pennies until I had enough money to buy a baby. We would put our pennies and sometimes nickels in a milk carton kind of thing, with a slot for money. I named one of mine Elvis Joseph, and the other was named Connie Frances. They were born around 1957 or 1958. Can you check the missions in Africa and see what Elvis and Connie are up to. Can we still adopt babies?

You, personally?  We had to pool our money together, the whole classroom until we saved up the $5 to send to the missions to buy our pagan baby.  And you got to name them yourself?  We took a vote with the whole room.  How did you get away with naming your pagan babies after people in show business?  We always picked a good saint's name so our pagan babies would have that heavenly help.  I suppose you did slide a couple of saints in there. But clearly, you were more interested in the singers than the saints.

We forgive you. You were nine.

Although you were past the age of reason (seven).

I don't have the addresses of the "missions in Africa".  After we purchased our pagan babies and gave them a name, all we got was a certificate to hang in the front of the classroom.  In my first grade room, our certificates lined the front of the the blackboard like laundry on the line.  By the time I was in the fifth grade, the pagan baby program had gone the was of the Boy Saviour Club.

Because of the Boy Saviour Club I learned "Robert's Rules" in the second grade.  You just can't beat a Catholic education!

You'll never know what became of little Elvis and little Connie.  Let's pray that the baptism and Catholic upbringing you made possible helped them to live good lives, avoid Las Vegas and looking for where the boys are and get past the embarrassment of going through life with those names.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Swiss Army Phone

Hello Sister! 
today at work i overheard someone talking about a "confession app" for what i assume is some kind of portable electronic device.

have you heard of this? what do you think of it? i was shocked and dismayed. you can't go to confession over the internet, and you definitely cant do it just to your phone!!!

I'm shocked and dismayed at your lack of use of capital letters.

For those of you who are too lazy to just do a quick Google search of this new fangled way of approaching the Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation, let me first assure you that you can't phone in your confession. That's not what this does.

This is a application for your very fancy phone (that you could maybe do with a little less phone fanciness and offer it up to the Poor Souls in Purgatory or give the money you save by having something very basic to the Poor Souls on Earth) is a confession tool, meaning, it helps you prepare for making a good confession.

It lists the Ten Commandments, for example,  and asks questions about ways in which you may have broken them so you can figure out how you've sinned.  To which some people might respond, "I don't want my phone to tell me how I've sinned."  And to which we must reply, "As long as someone or something does, we're okay with it."

I really don't see a problem with it, except for the waste of money it is.

But then I don't understand why people join gyms.  That costs a lot of money and all you really need to do is find a nice flight of stairs and climb up and down them. Remember how Rocky didn't have any money? Upper body work? Carry something over your head. 

Walk down the street, jog. The weather's bad? Get on your living room floor and do some sit ups and push ups. Run in place in the garage. Make the kids lie stiffly and pick them up like dumb bells.

I am not calling your children dumb bells.  I am just suggesting they act like dumb bells.

That didn't help did it?

My point is, that you don't need this on your phone, as the tools that are in the app are already available on the internet, in books and in pamphlets. 

All you really need is a pencil and paper, then, to jot things down. Including your Penance after you're done applying your apps.

There is also a whole thing on there about how to go about making your confession. The "Bless Me, Father for I Have Sinned" drill.  You won't need that once you've done it a couple of time.

There are several versions of the "Act of Contrition" on there. Hooray! Pick one and memorize it.

Remember memorizing things?  Do you know anyone's phone number anymore?  If the answer is no, memorize some. Because some day, your fancy device will break or be beyond reach or drop in the dishwater and there you'll be, unable to call a soul.  

Don't make yourself so helpless!  These devices that make our lives so much easier can also make us oddly helpless.

The verdict: Useful, but not necessary.  Unlike Confession.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Little I Love You

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Notice I added the "Saint" part.  I think we should start doing that again, as a reminder that the day, dedicated to people in love and loving in general and letting people know we love them, isn't about the balloons that express the sentiment.  I haven't heard anyone complain about the "War on St. Valentine", either.  

Try as we may to control the way the human race responds to the stimulus around it, things go awry. St. Valentine's Day is yet another one of those holidays that the Catholic Church brilliantly grabbed and turned holy.  Until the 5th century, people enjoyed  Lupercalia, a fun fest that involved ritual animal sacrifice. The skins of the animals were they taken up by young men in goat who ran through the streets, slapping women with them.  What fun!  It was all about fertility, gods and superstition.

Pope Julius I finally put the kaboosh on that mess, substituting good St. Valentine. (Or, at least, some St. Valentine. We're not sure which one he had in mind.)

And here we are with roses, chocolate roses, little candies with all manner of messages, balloons, diamonds at the bottom of champagne glasses and moms struggling to make sure they have enough little paper valentines for each child in each class of each of her children. Yikes!

It's a lot of pressure.  St. Valentine feels your pain. He was under a lot of pressure, too, what with being a martyr and all.

I do embrace the little winter holiday of pink cupcakes and "I Love You".  As long as the "I love you" part is prominent, there is no down side.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Groundhog Crepes

What's today? Groundhog day!  The Groundhog did not see his shadow, which is excellent news for people in places like Chicago today.  On Monday I looked at this week's "extended forecast" for Chicago, which read: Monday, Snow; Tuesday, Snow/Wind; Wednesday/Blizzard.

We all know about the groundhog. Funny. I have yet to hear anyone complain about the War on Candlemas. You'd think the War on Christmas crowd would be all over this one.  I have heard that PETA protests every year. The groundhog looks fine to me.

What's today? Candlemas!  Why do we even have Groundhog day? Because of Candlemas! When we light the candles for the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple it may or may not cast a shadow on the hedgehog, according to the Germans, and if the hedgehog sees his shadow, he gets frightened and burrows back underground, thus signaling six more weeks of winter.  Guess where these people settled in America?  If you guessed "Pennsylvania", Grover Groundhog will give you a dollar. (Less than ten people in the whole world might catch that reference to Grover's famous line to Mandrake, the hunting dog of Porky Pig. Thank the Lord for blogs where one can relieve the brain of these burdens.)

Those crazy Germans.  First the Christmas pickle and now this.

It's a lovely feast day. Mary and Joseph bring the Baby Jesus to the Temple, Mary for purification forty days after childbirth.  They bring the poor man's sacrifice of two turtle doves and on the way in they encounter Simeon. He mentions that God promised him that he would live to see the Messiah.  The celebration (the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary) focuses on Simeon's remarks:

Now you are releasing your servant, Master, according to your word, in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples; a light for revelation to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel  (Luke 2:29-32).
Simeon then prophesied to Mary: "Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).

The "light to the nations" part is why we have Candlemas, a day we celebrate Jesus' first entrance into His Father's House, blessing the candles we will use all year long.
And unfortunately, adding superstitions as we go.  
St. Aloysius is thrilled to have found Catholic Cuisine and I'm thrilled that she did. Feast your eyes on recipes for feasts for this feast day!  Crepes!

In France, each member of the family prepares a crepe (which is not pronounced CRAPE, by the way, but CREP) and while they do so, they hold a coin in their hand in the hope of financial stability until next Candlemas.  Superstitious.  They may as well hold a rabbit's foot for luck.

Still, some delicious crepes and some edible candles would be lovely.  I have had dinner crepes with chicken and mushrooms that had to be sinful to eat.  We can say a prayer for financial security without any cooking while coin holding.

And don't put your candle cookies away after today! Make a double batch!  Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Blaise.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Return of the Chapel Veil

Since we are on the topic of Mass etiquette, what about Chapel Veils? I see them becoming more common at my church and I am curious if anyone else has considered wearing them.

Whether we're talking about Mass etiquette or mass etiquette, things have certainly gone downhill.  Seen anyone texting at Mass yet?  I'll bet you have.

I haven't.  But that's only because I'm sure I haven't been sneaky enough. I've lost my nun "suddenly appear behind you with no warning" powers in my old age.  Guess my bones creak too loudly. They always know I'm coming these days and behave accordingly. No one has had the nerve to text right in my face at Mass.  That day will come, I am certain.

What were we talking about?  Oh, yes!  Chapel Veils!  To answer your question, yes, they do seem to be making a comeback. I used to care.  Now I can't get up any steam on the issue. For one thing, the Chapel "Veil" has a curious history.  And for another, the lone person wearing a chapel veil has a tendency to look "holier than thou", which is unfortunate, since it's really no one's beeswax.

Women didn't used to have to be told to wear a hat in church, because women always had their heads covered when they left the house.  Have you ever seen a picture of little St. Bernadette without that thing on her head?  No, you haven't, because she wouldn't have left the house without it. There was never a rule in the church that women had to wear a hat, because women were already wearing  hats.  You won't find a rule that says you have to wear clothing to church, because everyone already does that.

What clothing is worn is entirely another matter.  A rulebook would be handy.  I digress.

And then hats slowly went away.  The Catholic Church did actually make a rule that women have their heads covered. That was 1917.  After Vatican II, the rule disappeared, but wasn't officially announced.  There is no rule now.

Vatican II was in the 1960's, the era of big hair.  I contend that the Chapel Veil was born to save big hair from being squashed. I can only back that up with empirical evidence: before the Chapel Veil, we all either wore a hat or a bandanna, St. Bernadette scarf to Mass.  So we all looked like Polish cleaning ladies, except around Easter, when we all had our new hats.  When 60's big hair arrived, so did the Chapel Veil.

I don't know how we ended up with Grandma's doilies on our heads. How many times did you get to Mass, realize you didn't have your doily had have to grab a Kleenex, or a place mat, or the church bulletin and stick it up there? At that point, we can all agree that the whole hat issue has turned to mush.

I am not anxious for the return of hats in church.  Are you surprised?  I am.  I am very old fashioned and was very sad to see the hats go.  But they did go, so to have them come back now seems to me just to be one more pointlessly divisive thing to use to sit around and judge each other at Mass. Either way, hat or no hat, once people start in on them again, along with the hand holders against the non-hand holders, the opinions will begin, the teeth will grind, the blood pressure will rise.

We'll have great reason to put on our judges robes, too, as hat wearers cover their heads and nothing else and non hat wearers don their Little House on the Prairie garb.  It won't be pretty.

You know what secretly tickles me about that cell phone picture at the top of the page?  Someone had to take out their phone to take it.

Maybe I'll write a rule book.  Would that help?