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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Toasty Toast for the New Year

Happy New Year!

  Don't drink too much.  It's not a sin to drink. We're not Baptists.  It is a sin to get stewed to the gills.  It's not necessarily a terrible sin if you're sitting in your chair wondering where Dick Clark is this year (may he rest in peace), but it would be a sin if you passed out after you realized that Dick just isn't going to host anything anymore and your cigarette (also not a sin...I can't tell you how many priests used to have two orange finger tips from holding endless filtered cigarettes) falls from your limp fingers and burns down the house. Even that isn't the worst sin, really, as much as it is a miserable way to start the New Year with no roof over your head and only your feety pajamas to call clothes. But if there was anyone in the house with you, you've put them in harm's way and that would be a grave sin. So don't drink too much no matter where you are or what you're doing.  You never know when you'll be called upon to at least be alert enough to call the fire department when the guy next door passes out and burns down his house.

Like the Chinese, who have a whole different New Year's day, Mother Church already started the calendar year in our Life in Christ. We're well into our year, which began with Advent. We're already done with that and into Christmastide, which will last until the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. At the moment, we're still waiting on the Magi. It's a little confusing that we remember the feast of the Holy Innocents before we celebrate the Magi finally stopping for directions. Oh well.

But for the next day or two, we'll be sliding along with the rest of the world, except the Chinese, celebrating the beginning of 2013 and toasting and making resolutions.

New Year's resolutions have a hollow ring to me.  They tend to be about "something I want to do" or "something I want to be", revolve around money and weight loss, and don't do anything at all to improve the world save making the person in the middle seat in the airplane fit between the other two people more comfortably.

Oh, sure, resolutions can only be selfish. You can't change other people or make them do things. You can only mind your own garden, as any good nun will tell you, and make yourself a better person.

I would admonish everyone, therefore, to think long and hard about what would actually make you a better person.

Define "better person".  Less selfish.  More compassionate. Less judgmental.  More giving.

Not smarter or thinner, although if your humongous weight is keeping you from being able to help anyone, maybe thinner might be something you should consider.

I suggest you take a little time out and read the four Gospels of the New Testament. I know we read the entire Bible at Mass, but that takes three years and most of you don't go to Mass everyday. You may have missed something. A quick read of the New Testament will tell you all you need to know about how to improve yourself in a way that will be helpful to the world.

And don't worry about it being 20THIRTEEN.  We don't believe in bad luck or good luck or unlucky numbers. Happy New Year!  Merry Christmastide!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Little Christmas Cheer

I'm a little behind in answering questions and there are other questions ahead of this one in the queue, but it being Christmas and all, I thought maybe we should tackle this one now:

Dear Sister, I've just been fired from my job and feeling extremely low. We need some stability in our lives and for the past couple years my husband and I have strived so hard to make a better life for ourselves, and yet we seem to be met with disaster and upheavals. I'm just tired of having to fight every single step of the way, wondering if there will be food to eat this month, where we will find the money for this medication and that one (my health is not good). I just don't know what to do anymore. We need help, and I pray so hard to be able to accept whatever His will be, but I'm just at the end of my rope. I know we should just be thankful were alive and breathing, but its hard to look at the sky when it feels like there is a heavy boot crushing you. Who could I pray to?

  What horrible Grinchey Scrooge of a person fired you at Christmas time?

Poor thing.  You must be so worn out.  It's wonderful you have a little gratitude left in you.  That's admirable. Hang on to that and we'll try to do the rest.

Okay, readers. Let's see if we can prove a point. There is nothing like the power of prayer.  But it works a lot better if a lot of people do it together and even better if they do it together all at the same time. So let's pick a time and pray for this woman and her husband. Don't be afraid to throw in a prayer for yourselves or everyone else praying either, but let's focus ourselves and get down to business.

So today  at 5pm Central time...3pm on the West Coast and 6pm in the east, let's ask for some help and peace for this sister of ours. Set your devices...you all have them...set those alarms and cell phones to remind you.

Altogether.  Once, some sisters and I did this for snow.  I don't know why we were so interested in asking for  snow, but we did, altogether all at once.  We had the most giant snowfall on record.  Everyone got to stay home from work for a week and dogs could run all over without leashes because no cars could drive through the streets and hit them.

Let's make it snow for this lady.  Friday, December 21st at 5pm Central time.

Meanwhile, dear reader, I suggest you turn to St. Rita. Although St. Jude is the patron saint to whom we pray for impossible causes, your situation, however desperate, is not impossible.  It is difficult. St. Rite is the patron saint for difficult situations.  That is just the kind of hair the Catholic Church loves to split.

You know her story?  I'll just stick to the difficult part.  After her husband and sons were dead, Rita wanted to fulfill her lifelong desire to become a nun. But the convent was not interested in an old widow and mother of two. She was told in no uncertain terms to take a hike.  Rita persevered, however and finally, angels flew her over the convent walls.

Even that didn't impress whoever it was that wouldn't let her in.  Okay, she was in.  But she still wasn't "IN".  She was ridiculed and harassed and made to water a stick in the ground every day.  The stick turned into a tree. I believe it is still there.

Rita is still there, too.  Her incorrupt body is in a glass case and has been known to move around and scare everyone. I'm a bit dubious about that part of her story.  She's in a glass case alright, but looks all the worse for wear, corruptness-wise. She was incorrupt when they dug her up, but her incorruptness has worn off.  I have to wonder if her movements were due to the swoonings of folks who had been on their knees too long.  It happens.

St. Rita is the patron saint of difficult causes, of bad marriages and of infertility.  And sticks that turn into trees.

We'll all be together today at 5pm.  God Bless us every one.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our Swords to Plowshares

Sister, in light of the senseless killing of innocent little ones in CT...perhaps you might write a little about the Holy Innocents?

As our President so aptly stated, "Our hearts are broken."

The Holy Innocents, who gave their lives while Jesus escaped because an angel came to his stepfather in a dream and told Joseph to flee with his family.

Of all the thoughts and tears we've had since this horrific event, the Holy Innocents did not spring to mind for me. But when asked to talk about this incident in the light of some long ago babies that no angels warned, I think about the soldiers who committed the act.

Why did no one say, "No." ?  Evil does not exist on its own. It needs perpetrators. Now we have to search our own souls.  Do we hold the sword?

We do.

As the discussion goes forward about gun laws and people with enormous and dangerous mental problems, we pray for the souls of both the innocents and the killers, for the sweet angels whose lives were taken and for the tortured soul that took them.

Those children are saints in Heaven now.  We pray for the soul of the gunman's mother and for the young man that was her son.

And we pray that everyone will put down their swords.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

St. Bede Crosses the Finish Line

I'm sorry for posting unrelated comments under this blog, but I couldn't find a more appropriate way to ask you. A group of friends and I decided to draw lots for a patron saint for a year, inspired by St. Faustina's account in her diary of the sisters doing so. St. Bede the Venerable chose me. It seems a bit ironic to be given a Doctor of the Church, patron of historians and English writers, when I've just dropped out of my Masters study in theology half-way through. (I just couldn't seem to make being a stay-at-home-mother to two toddlers and graduate study work.) I had to look him up, since I'd never heard of him before, and found he was made a doctor of the Church (1899) 36 years before he was made a saint in 1935. I didn't discover what the miracles were that proved his sainthood. Do you have any idea? I'm hoping he has something to do with getting insomniac children to sleep, or quelling sibling disputes, or suchlike!

This is the perfect place to place your question. There really isn't another place. Ask away! We do have the title "ASK Sister Mary Martha" after all.

I don't think it's ironic at all.  St. Bede obviously wants to prod you back in there. Just because you quit doesn't mean you can't finish. Maybe you're just taking a break.

Quite some time ago I happened to watch an episode of "Oprah" in which she had a man who didn't have an ounce of fat on him tell about how he lost hundreds of pounds. I think it was hundreds. Plural. He had been ginormus.  I know that's not a word, but it will be one of these days (we just have to settle on the spelling). It turned out this portion of the show was a flash back. After he had become the poster child for healthy weight lose and keeping the pounds off by exercise and eating sensibly for several years, he went out to celebrate his birthday by visiting Coney Island. There, he treated himself to a Coney Island dog.

He fell off the sensible eating and exercise to keep weight off bandwagon, poor thing. He had a dozen hot dogs and just kept going and going. He was huge again.

It made me so sad.  I get falling off the wagon. I don't get laying in the mud and never standing up again after the wagon takes off without you. Stand up, wash your clothes and get on the next wagon. So you've gained 12 pounds! You don't have to gain 60.

Your children won't always be toddlers and St. Bede is the perfect saint for you. We don't know what his miracles were. I suspect he was grandfathered in without miracles, as he was a Doctor of the Church. There was one miracle associated with him, but it wasn't a "pray for his intercession to prove he's in Heaven" miracle required for sainthood in more modern times. A historian was trying to describe Bede and had written "Bede...the..."  "uh" ,  "Bede...what a great...hmmm"..." "Bede, the very interesting, worthy of our...no, that's too long...."  Angels came and wrote in "the venerable", which stuck.

But Bede never stopped working. (Ring a bell?) He joined the monastery as a young boy and studied and worked and sang until he started writing the history of the Church in England (not the history of the Church OF England which was made up much later by King Henry the XIII). He wrote 60 books in his life.

On his death bed, on the day of his death, he was still dictating his last book. He was translating the Gospel of John into English to an assistant. When he finished, he asked the young man to help him into a position of prayer, and there he passed away peacefully. It seems to me, from what happened in his last days (shortness of breath and swelling feet) that he went from congestive heart failure.

How can you think that St. Bede isn't quite right for you? We have every sympathy with you not being able to muscle through toddlers and masters. Every child should have three parents. If it worked that way, parents wouldn't be so exhausted. But it doesn't.

Toddlerhood will pass. But the books and information you need to complete your masters are not going anywhere. That wagon will always be there, waiting for you to hop back on. St. Bede the Venerable will be there to help you aboard.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Four More!

We're on a roll! Our next set of four booklets is available! This time around we tackle Romance, Holy Water, the very useful St. Joseph and Novenas. We're getting very positive feedback on the first set, which flew out of the shop.

By all means let us know about other topics you'd like us to cover. We're burning the midnight oil to get the out!

Lean and Mean

Wasn't there some comedy character who used to rant on about something, only to find that she had misunderstood some words. Someone would patiently explain that no one was asking for "Whirled peas" but rather "World Peace" and she would say, "Oh...never mind..."  Cut to me, a few posts back.

A reader patiently explains:"Meanest" in the original question meant "lowest, poorest, or most humble.


Never mind.

I thought I was the champion of archaic word use, thanks to my mother who would say things like "busier than a cranberry merchant" if someone was frantic or "gone to where the woodbine twineth" when someone died. I have had to explain quite a number of times that "woodbine" is tree roots and going to where the tree roots intertwine just means you're dead and buried.

Meanest. Yes, of course.  The lowest, poorest or most humble. When we're talking saints, it's a long, long list. St. Rosalia who was so low and humble that when she went off to live in a cave, no one noticed. St. Anthony, not the fella who finds your keys, but the original St. Anthony,  the hermit. The first hermit. He lived on the desert by himself and didn't eat much at all. I think he ate rocks.

I exaggerate.

Or how about an anchoress? You know, one of those holy people who lives in a shed and has food passed through a hole in the wall (infrequently, because they don't eat much, either) like they were Hannibal Lecter or something. But they weren't, of course, they were very holy people who others came to for advice and counsel. The room in which they lived was often attached to a church and had three windows. One that opened into the church so the person could receive Communion, one for food and one to talk to the people who came for advice. I don't know why the people who came for advice couldn't talk through the food window, but I'm willing to bet they really wanted three windows, because three is a great mystical number of balance (as in the Holy Trinity). Juliana of Norwich springs to mind. We don't even remember her by whatever her name was, because she lived on the back end of St. Julian's Church and that's why she's called Juliana. Pretty mean that one.

We certainly can't leave St. Francis of Assisi out of this discussion for showing the rest of us how it's done. He took Jesus' admonition to "take no shoes, take no purse (meaning "money" not a handbag or a sassy clutch) at His word. Francis begged for every morsel of food he ate and so did his Brothers. He had really nice clothes, Francis did, because his father was a cloth merchant. But Francis gave them away to a beggar and ran around in that brown thing that Franciscans still wear.

We might also call to mind St. Simon Stylites, who lived on top of a tall pole. Yes, he was on a pedestal, but it was a super humiliating way to life. He often stood on one foot and all his food had to be brought up to him in a basket on a rope. And without going into too much detail, there wasn't a bathroom up there. Very, very mean.

Then, just multiply by hundreds and hundreds of hermits who had followers and monks who founded whole monasteries and Francis who had many, many brothers. Nuns in cloisters, the list goes on.

I think they all fill the bill, living in sheds and caves and on poles, eating almost nothing, wearing clothes until they fall apart and getting other people to follow that plan for living They've gone to where the woodbine twineth, but their souls are most certainly in Heaven.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Do It Yourself Blessings

Hello Sister Mary Martha. Thank you for your blog. I have been wondering about something. When my rosary and Miraculous medal were blessed the priest had me go to a water font and "seal the deal" as he said and put the water on myself. Do I need to have them blessed again so it really counts?

You know what is the most asked question about having items blessed? When should I ask Father to do it? Before Mass? After Mass? Make an appointment? At the Ladies of Charity Card Party? Try to time showing up at the rectory after dinner and dessert?

If you do that, bring the coffee.

And the No. 1 answer is (SURVEY SAYS!) "Before Mass".  This is because Father has a couple of minutes there where no one  is pestering him about the gas bill or complaining about the Eucharistic Ministers, or who is holding hands during which part of the Mass or that a Liturgical dancer has fallen and can't get up. The blessing only takes a moment.

After Mass there are probably a lot of people talking to him. And just about any other time, he's busy.

Although, you really can do it any time, because it only takes a moment.

It also doesn't take Holy Water to "seal the deal".  He can just "wave his hand over it" as the separated brethren say and that's enough. But sometimes, when Father blesses an item, he'll sprinkle it with Holy Water.

So it wasn't "a water font", but the Holy Water font. You knew that, right?

The deed is done, water or no.

My question to you is, when did you ask? Father must have been busy for him to send you off to the Holy Water font on your own. It's a little odd.  He may not have had enough sleep.  Or me, standing off to the side looking over my glasses at him with a patented nun stare.

Our next booklet is about holy water! It's not done yet. I'm trying to untangle the Christmas lights and we're dusting off the Nativity statues in the rectory basement. They're looking a little chipped in the paint here and there. We were considering touching them up but we don't want this to happen:

That poor lady. She was trying to do the church a favor, bless her heart. Father shouldn't have left her alone, either.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Like Rivals, Too

Normally, I would let this argument go by now, but I can't bear half baked history passing as truth. From our reader:
Lincoln "freed the slaves" in order to bankrupt the South. Period. Great man. Sheesh! Politicians always sell us their ideas by convincing us that it's good for us (or good for someone). We fought in Kuwait to free the people - a noble, humanitarian cause. Right. There just happened to be oil there, too. Lucky us! Men and women BOTH have a fallen, sinful nature in need of redemption. We cannot do this by ourselves, folks. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Let's swallow our pride, bury the hatchet, get to confession, and begin anew!

I used to believe that about Lincoln, too. Then I read books. History and humans are much more complex than than. Lincoln the man was an intensely complex creature, capable of growth, change and evolution in his beliefs. Thus it was for him on the question of slavery

He did free the slaves to bankrupt the South. It was indeed a move to end the war when the South would not give up. But he did not do it for that sole purpose. Do you know why the Civil War was fought in the first place? It had a lot to to with Western expansion and whether or not the new states would be allowed to have slavery. Individual states had already abolished slavery, but slaves owners desperately wanted to expand their wealth by buying land and having slaves to work it. The argument in the election (the one in which Lincoln ran and won), was whether or not slavery would continue to be a states rights issue, with states deciding for themselves to be slave or free states. The party that won said no. War ensued.

Lincoln could have simply put an end to slavery in the South (just the South) by Executive Order. He got rid of the right of Habeas Corpus during the war that way. But he didn't. He went for a Constitutional Amendment that would abolish slavery once and for all in the United States. It wasn't easy. You have to get  lot of people on board.

Before we look at how that happened, let's read up on what Mr. Lincoln thought about the institution of slavery.

Lincoln on slavery.

Please take note of the dates of his comments. Some are while he was running for office, some while in office, some before. They are complex thoughts that sometimes contradict each other. That's politics. That's humanity. That's a man who had to hold a country that was torn apart together, who toyed with the idea that the intensely grim civil war was a punishment for a country that refused to abolish slavery for over 100 years. If you read a lot of his writings, you'll find a man who felt that we deserved the civil war and all its horrors. It didn't make him any less determined to end it.

He said he would to anything to keep the country together, including keep slavery. He also said that the war's end would end slavery once and for all. And this is how it all went down. They didn't have enough votes to amend the Constitution, so they made Nevada a state:

      In order thus to amend the Constitution, it was necessary first to have the proposed amendment approved by three-fourths of the States. When that question came to be considered, the issue was seen to be so close that one State more was necessary. The State of Nevada was organized and admitted into the Union to answer that purpose.

In March, 1864, the question of allowing Nevada to form a State government finally came up in the House of Representatives. There was strong opposition to it. For a long time beforehand the question had been canvassed anxiously. At last, late one afternoon, the President came into my office, in the third story of the War Department. He used to come there sometimes rather than send for me, because he was fond of walking and liked to get away from the crowds in the White House. He came in and shut the door.

'Dana,' he said, 'I am very anxious about this vote. It was got to be taken next week. The time is very short. It is going to be a great deal closer than I wish it was.'

'There are plenty of Democrats who will vote for it,' I replied. 'There is James E. English, of Connecticut; I think he is sure, isn't he?'

'Oh, yes; he is sure on the merits of the question.'

'Then,' said I, 'there's 'Sunset' Cox, of Ohio. How is he?'

'He is sure and fearless. But there are some others that I am not clear about. There are three that you can deal with better than anybody else, perhaps, as you know them all. I wish you would send for them.'

He told me who they were; it isn't necessary to repeat the names here. One man was from New Jersey and two from New York.

'What will they be likely to want?' I asked.

'I don't know,' said the President; 'I don't know. It makes no difference, though, what they want. Here is the alternative: that we carry this vote, or be compelled to raise another million, and I don't know how many more, men, and fight no one knows how long. It is a question of three votes or new armies.'

'Well, sir,' said I, 'what shall I say to these gentlemen?'

'I don't know,' said he; 'but whatever promise you make to them I will perform.'

I sent for the men and saw them one by one. I found that they were afraid of their party They said that some fellows in the party would be down on them. Two of them wanted internal revenue collector's appointments. 'You shall have it,' I said. Another one wanted a very important appointment about the custom house of New York. I knew the man well whom he wanted to have appointed. He was a Republican, though a congressman was a Democrat. I had served with him in the Republican county committee of New York. The office was worth perhaps twenty thousand dollars a year. When the congressman stated the case, I asked him, 'Do you want that?'

'Yes,' said he.

'Well,' I answered, 'you shall have it.'

'I understand, of course,' said he, 'that you are not saying this on your own authority?'

'Oh, no,' said I; 'I am saying it on the authority of the President.'

Well, these men voted that Nevada be allowed to form a State government, and thus they helped secure the vote which was required. The next October the President signed the proclamation admitting the State. In the February following, Nevada was one of the States which ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, by which slavery was abolished by constitutional prohibition in all of the United States. I have always felt that this little piece of side politics was one of the most judicious, humane, and wise uses of executive authority that I have ever assisted in or witnessed. --War Department Official Charles A. Dana
Historian Fawn M. Brodie wrote: "The Radicals were greatly encouraged when in October, 1864, Maryland by popular vote amended her constitution and abolished slavery. Lincoln, elated said to a friend, "It is worth many victories in the field. It clears up a piece of ground.'" The President's reelection in November 1864 further laid the groundwork for its final passage. Rather than waiting for a new Congress to take their seats, President Lincoln appealed to the Congress that had already rejected the amendment. In his last message to that Congress in December 1864, President Lincoln wrote:
 "At the last session of Congress a proposed amendment of the Constitution abolishing slavery throughout the United States, passed the Senate, but failed for lack of the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives. Although the present is the same Congress, and nearly the same members, and without questioning the wisdom or patriotism of those who stood in opposition, I venture to recommend the reconsideration and passage of the measure at the present session. Of course the abstract question is not changed; but an intervening election shows, almost certainly, that the next Congress will pass the measure if this does not. Hence there is only a question of time as to when the proposed amendment will go to the States for their action. And as it is to so go, at all events, may we not agree that the sooner the better? It is not claimed that the election has imposed a duty on members to change their views or their votes, any further than, as an additional element to be considered, their judgment may be affected by it. It is the voice of the people now, for the first time, heard upon the question. In a great national crisis, like ours, unanimity of action among those seeking a common end is very desirable almost indispensable. And yet no approach to such unanimity is attainable, unless some deference shall be paid to the will of the majority, simply because it is the will of the majority. In this case the common end is the maintenance of the Union; and, among the means to secure that end, such will, through the election, is most clearly declared in favor of such constitutional amendment."

He knew what he was doing. He was crippling the South, bringing the war to a swifter end. He was adding soldiers to the Union Army by allowing the now freed men to fight. And he was ending slavery once and for all in the United States.  All of these things are part of the same equation. One thing can't be separated from the rest, especially when you understand the history leading up to the conflict itself. And Lincoln.

When he ran for office, if you read some of what he said in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, you'll meet a man who doesn't believe in slavery, but one who also doesn't believe that black people are equal to white people. When you meet Lincoln days before his death, you'll meet a man who believed in equal rights for black men and urged suffrage for blacks. John Wilkes Booth, a white supremest and Southern sympathizer, was in the crowd listening to that speech and  was so incensed by Lincoln's embrace of equal rights for all he said, "That is the last speech he will ever make." Booth went and bought a fast little mare.

Three days later, he shot Lincoln dead. Because of what Lincoln believed about slavery and equality.

 I highly recommend Doris Kearns Goodman's "Team of Rivals", which follows Lincoln and his cabinet members through all their lives and beliefs.

Lincoln evolved. I hope the same for you, dear reader.

Hey! Our next set of booklets are almost done! Maybe by tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Can't We All Just...Change for the Better?

IN the words of the infamous Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along before we end up drunk and drown in the pool?"  He didn't say all of that. But that's what happened.The battle of the sexes rages on in the comment section.  The original poster returned:

That was me. I appreciate many individual men. It's masculinity I have come to hate. Three main mechanisms: 1. The nine times higher level of testosterone in men makes them feel inferior when they cannot feel superior (either subtle or overt). 2. Masculine men rather leave the scene as a loser than stay as an equal, due to their deeply rooted and cultivated hierarchic style. 3. Men - much more than women - define themselves by their sex. Any evolutionary biologist will indeed confirm that conception (the act of sex) is the only reason nature has for males of any species to be around. The surplus of males is useful to have them compete for reasons of selection. Voila. A recipe for suppression of women who see relationships in terms of equality. Many equalitythinkers faultily start to see hierarchic thinking as equal to equal thinking ('well, as a man he has his pride'), and end up as winners or losers themselves - against her will. This is a clear mass case of the Stockholm syndrome.

And some thoughtful follow up comments:

Why is anonymous here when she is obviously just a troll here to bash the Catholic Church and promote atheist agenda?

To answer that point, this is exactly where she needs to be, troll or not. I had to go ask the eighth grade boys what that meant.  A troll is still a person, thinking and typing. This is a great place to engage in this argument. She didn't make this claptrap up, after all. She must have read it somewhere on the internets.

Men define themselves by their sex more than women? Really? Women, who have a monthly period, nine times as much estrogen as men,  bear children inside their bodies,  and breast feed them, and bear more children and then go through menopause. I think women are equally defined by their sex, if hormones are the issue.  You're points about men can be thrown to the wolves along with the idea that you are so cranky because it's that time of the month for you. I don't buy that argument either.

Men are more prideful than women? Come with me some evening and visit a ladies' room on a Friday night in Los Angeles. There are women whose haircuts and fingernails cost more than my rent. Fingernails.

I have no clue what NO. 2 means.

And if men are only good for procreation, I suppose we should gas all the menopausal women along with those useless boys. 

In any case, we have to leave behind arguments that begin with things like "It's masculinity I have come to hate."  Would you accept it, dear reader, if I said, "It is femininity I have come to hate?" and then blabbed on about female hormones and why a woman can't be president? Of course you wouldn't. Your premise lands your argument dead in the water.

It is the Republicans I have come to hate. The Democrats. The Congress. The United States. Egypt. The Jews. Black people, brown people, The Daughters of the America Republic, The Baptists, Walmart.

Perhaps you just haven't been on the planet long enough to realize that every single thing that happens happens because of individual people, like yourself, and the choices they make. You can choose love and forgiveness and compassion. You can choose vitriol and divisiveness and hate. You. Not your hormones or your genes.

To that end, when you look at the world and see things you'd like to change, please do so with the vigor you possess in showing up here to argue. But remove the hate, because it's really not going to get you very far in affecting that change.

You can change the world for the better, like Abe Lincoln (male) because of his understanding and compassion, who kept the country together and set men and women and children free. You can change the world like Hitler, through hate, and leave it a worse place than you found it, full grief and loss.

It's a great time of year to give it a whirl.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Next Sunday we begin such a lovely time of year, as we pave the way for Jesus' birthday. And every year we have to hear about the war on Christmas (which starts in August, if what is on store shelves is any indication of how society is trying to rid us of the holiday).  I like to look toward what we have in common. If I could sum up this season as succinctly as the angels did, I would say, "Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will!" 

How are we doing with that?  Not so hot. The Middle East has re exploded and people trying to grab bargains on prepaid phones have trampled each other. But strife and anguish are not just the children of a mob mentality. Case in point from our comments section:

Confession! Where sexually frustrated males get to learn the most private issues of both men AND women they weekly encounter! Where the confessor can enjoy the violence-monopoly-based male exclusivity of his angelic calling, as the wounded souls of both sexes reveal their full vulnerability unto his anointed ears. Where the typically male power-strategy of keeping ears open and mouth closed, suddenly disguises as availability and trustworthiness! Where the male illusion concerning the elevated nature of masculinity comes to a heavenly climax! No, thanks. I want to reconcile, but through a female confessor. Men almost ruined me, and now I hate them. That's exactly my issue.

I'm not sure what's violence based about the priesthood, or why you would assume celibacy equals frustration. Do you feel that way about Buddhist nuns and monks, too? Are they also a violence monopoly?

But it is the latter part of this comment that is most disturbing. "Them."   "Hate."

So goes the individual, so goes the world.

Have you met all the men in the world? I'm guessing that no matter how terrible the men in your life have been, you've only actually encountered less than 100 men in any way that is up close and personal.

Let's apply your standards to everyone else and see how that flies. I met 100 white peopole and they were terrible, now I hate white people. I met 100 Italians and they were terrible, now I hate Italians.  I met 100 black people and they were terrible, now I hate black people. I met 100 women and they were terrible, now I hate women.  I met 100 Jews and there were terrible, now I hate Jews.

Even if you multiple your number by 100, you're still on thin ice. I retract that. No ice. No ice at all.

You're going to have a problem with a female confessor, too, even if there was one, she would tell you first and foremost, all that hate has to go. Jesus said to love your enemies. LOVE your ENEMIES.

That's why so many people don't like Him. He was a man, by the way.

Your issue is not men. It is your hate. And no one can absolve you of that mortal sin unless you reconcile it in your heart.

This would be an excellent time to begin that healing. Advent. The coming of the hope of peace.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holy Moley

Sister, which water (Holy or Lourdes) is best for sprinkling the home - and the people in it (especially if there are some real "issues" that need Confession)?

I hope you're not confused that sprinkling any kind of water will take the place of working on the issues that need Confession. Confession is the only thing that will get rid of those "issues". We generally call them "sins". They stick there on your soul until you go to Confession--which, by the way, is now called "Reconciliation". And even then, if you're not truly sorry for your "issues", the forgiveness doesn't stick either.

I used to have a little problem with the idea that we changed the name of our beloved sacrament, but I'm finally warming up to it, years later. Years and years and years, later. I felt that we shouldn't abandon the notion that we had to confess, which involves some humility.

But so does reconciliation, and that really is a more accurate description of what happens in the confessional. The reconciliational.  That's a mouthful. Good thing we mostly go face to face now.

I do have a small problem with that. While I think it's really an excellent idea, I think it keeps a lot of people away. It's the whole reason we had "the box" in the first place. Some people really need anonymity.  I'm not just whistling "Dixie".

The name was changed to drive home the fact that God never turns from you. When you sin, you turn from God. Since God is always there for you, it's up to you to reconcile with Him.  He's just waiting for you.

Is there a difference between Holy Water and Lourdes water? Yes and no.  Holy water is just regular water that has been blessed by a priest. Lourdes water is holy water that was blessed by Our Lady when she designated to Bernadette that the water would be a healing spring. Lourdes water is considered to have miraculous properties, while Holy Water is a sacramental through which grace flows.

To that end, for your purposes, I'd go with regular Holy Water for your house and the people in it. How does that work?

Holy Water 101:

Water cleanses.
Water sustains life.

God cleanses.
God sustains life.

Holy water cleanses and sustains the life of the soul, as it is blessed with the Grace of God.

So we cleanse and bless objects that help us to sustain the lives of our souls by calling on the Grace of God.

I'm working on another booklet about sacramentals, so I'll be sure and make one about Holy Water. Meanwhile, the first four are available! We've sold quite a few already!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Look Out for Santa Claus

First, a little business! Our booklets are now available. At the moment there are four from which to choose.  The Poor Souls in Purgatory (and how to suffer for them), Suffer the Children (suffer is sometimes the operative word), Modern Dilemmas #1 (Harry Potter, tattoos and the Modesty Pyramid) and finally, Sacramentals #1 Scapulars (our own terror Alert System).  We're so excited!

Someone asked this a couple of weeks ago and I just saw it:
going to a Pamplona party - do you have a st Fermin? 

Not a s a medal, but we can put any saint you'd like on a glass pendant. Also, the first letter of the first word in a sentence is supposed to be capitalized.

So enough of that.

I have been obsessed with this story since our post the other day on mean saints:

        Didn't St. Nicholas punch somebody?

Yes, Santa Claus punched Arius the heretic right in the head at the Council of Nicaea. Or so the story goes.

Santa Claus had a rough time of it in the years preceding whapping Arius, so we can cut him a little slack. He had spent years in prison during years of Christian persecution, during which he had been tortured. He was saintly that whole time, giving other people his gruel and going without himself, for example. He didn't get out until Constantine became the Emperor and made everyone leave the Christians alone.

St. Nick was a bishop with a lot of clout, pun intended. When Arius started running around saying that Jesus wasn't divine all a big meeting was called by the Emperor Constantine.  (You are familiar with this meeting because you recite the result of it at every Mass.) St. Nicholas was invited because of his stature in the community.

Way back in the 325 AD all the bishops gathered in Nicaea because Christianity was growing so fast that all kinds of crazy notions and half baked writings were being taken as gospel. Pun intended.  Writings like the Book of Thomas, which includes the sadly hilarious "Killer Baby Jesus" stories, where Jesus childishly cripples people who aggravate Him. No wonder Arius didn't think Jesus was divine.

The leaders of the Church were particularly upset by the spread of Arianism and took on Arius and his heresy at the Council.  When they were done, they wrote up the "Apostle's Creed" in a direct response to what is known as the "Arian Heresy" to slam the lid on that nonsense once an for all. But before they slammed the lid, St. Nicholas slammed Arius upside the head.

Don't think for a second that St. Nick punched Arius and everyone applauded and wrote a prayer and that was the end of it as the angels sang in Heaven. No.  St. Nick was demoted and censored. At least until Jesus himself had a talk with the other bishops. Then Nicholas was reinstated.

Lucky for all the little children on Christmas morning. And on Easter morning for that matter, because the other thing they decided at the Council of Nicaea was when we would celebrate Easter.

If only Arius had straightened himself out, perhaps he would have been the one flying around with a sleigh full of toys in the wee hours of Christmas. As it is,, he gets a lump of coal and a black eye.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mean Saints

Dear Sister, you look stunning with the glasses! Unlike me, you must have read a lot. Now that you're going into saints. Are there saints that you know of who had to sacrifice their good manners and charitable appearance many times for the greater good of love? I'd like to learn about the meanest of them. But mind this: nasty bishops, popes and the like don't count, because it's cheap and easy to be edgy when you have connections, academic knowledge, a title, money and/or other means of gained power.

Stunning might be one way to put it. Some people do seem stunned when they see me.

I can't imagine what you're getting at. If someone was mean and uncharitable, then they are not saintly. There are saints who were mean and uncharitable, but they changed their ways.

And when they changed their ways, they carried tremendous guilt for their nastiness which made them all the more zealous for the good.

Case in point: St. Peregrine.  He is the patron saint of cancer because he had cancer on his foot. On the night before his foot was to be amputated, he dragged himself to the chapel and spent the night in prayer. He finally fell asleep. While he was asleep, Jesus came and touched Peregrine's foot. When Peregrine awoke, his foot was completely healed.

But if you back that truck up, you'll find that the reason Peregrine ended up with cancer on his foot was because he never sat down unless he absolutely had to. Like, say, to have his foot cut off.  He spent his life standing, which caused varicose veins and all manner of problems, included the aforementioned foot.

Why did he do that? Penance for his pre-saintly nastiness. In his youth, Peregrine had been part of an anti-clerical movement in Italy.  The Pope sent St. Philip to preach the anti-clerics back to the fold. His sermon was going well until Peregrine and his pals showed up an caused a ruckus. A ruckus wasn't enough for Peregrine, however. He marched up to St. Philip and slapped him.

He immediately felt horrible, became a cleric himself and stopped sitting down.

Or how about St. Paul, persecutor of Christians? There's some high nastiness for you. He held the coats for the people who were stoning St. Stephen to death so they had a better range of motion. After being knocked off his high horse, literally, he ran around blind for a while until he mended his ways.
A raven flies off with poisoned bread. 

St. Benedict was so strict with his rules that the other monks tried to kill him. A couple of times.  Ironic as his rules are based on balance, moderation and reasonableness. On top of that, the monks that tried to poison him (twice) had begged him to be their abbot and he had refused over and over again until he finally said yes.

Be careful what you wish for, monks, you might have a saint on your hands.

Perhaps you are confusing discipline with meanness, a common modern practice.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Balancing Act

We're having a run on patron saint questions so hold onto your hats if you've asked one. We'll get to it. Since I actually tripped over my own foot and fell all the way to the floor the other day, I thought I'd kick off (you should pardon the pun) with this one.

(I'm fine, by the way. If I wasn't fine I'd offer it up. I did stay on all fours for a moment or two assessing if there was any damage. And since no one saw me, I didn't have to offer up the indignity, either.)

 Which saints were clumsy? I know of one, whose name was Joseph of Copertino, but he was intellectually challenged.

Yes, he was clumsy, among other things. I'll bet he was on the autism "spectrum".  But he could fly.

I'm assuming that you're looking for a patron saint for clumsiness because you feel you are clumsy. Or know someone who is two left feet challenged.  But instead of looking for someone in Heaven who was similarly blessed here on this early coil (which would trip up anyone), how about someone to guard you against clumsiness, the way St. Barbara guards against lightening?

I offer for your consideration an old favorite of mine, St. Christina the Astonishing. Christina died a young girl and everyone was so sad. The church was crowded for her funeral, during which she suddenly sat up. Since her return trip from the great beyond, everyone smelled rotten to her and after she sat up, she flew up into the church rafters.

This upset everyone and they fled the  proceedings. Christina's sister stayed behind with the parish priest to try and talk her down. She spent the rest of her days balancing on rooftops and fences and climbing up trees, among other things.

I'd say that was pretty surefooted, wouldn't you?

By the way, remember our discussion from the other day where a reader was asking about how come we never hear of anyone who had a near death experience having gone to Purgatory? I beg to differ.

Quoting St. Christina the Astonishing:
"As soon as my soul was separated from my body it was received by angels who conducted it to a very gloomy place, entirely filled with souls" where the torments there that they endured "appeared so excessive" that it was "impossible to give an idea of their rigor." And more:
"I saw among them many of my acquaintances" and, touched deeply by their sad condition, asked if this was Hell, but was told that it was Purgatory. Her angel guides brought her to Hell where again she recognized those she had formerly known. Next she was transported to Heaven, "even to the Throne of Divine Majesty" where she was "regarded with a favorable eye" and she experienced extreme joy and these words were spoken to her, 'Assuredly, My dear daughter, you will one day be with Me. Now, however, I allow you to choose, either to remain with Me henceforth from this time, or to return again to Earth to accomplish a mission of charity and suffering. In order to deliver from the flames of Purgatory those souls which have inspired you with so much compassion, you shall suffer for them upon Earth: you shall endure great torments, without however dying from their effects. And not only will you relieve the departed, but the example which you will give to the living, and your continual suffering, will lead sinners to be converted and to expiate their crimes. After having ended this new life, you shall return here laden with merits.' "
 Christina lived to the ripe old age of 74, more remarkable when you consider that she spent her whole life on rooftops and trees, flinging herself into furnaces and plunging herself into icy waters and letting dogs chase her through the woods and rip at her flesh. She always came out untouched, unburned and unbloody.  Like Wolverine in the X-men.

I think she makes a great protector for you! And if you do fall...offer it up!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Awkward Saints

I'm excited about the booklets!!!! Also, I have a saint question. I know there are patrons saints of mental illness, and saints we could pray to for shyness (or living in caves :) ), but is there a patron saint for social anxiety? Who you can pray to when you make a faux pas and agonize over it for the rest of the day, or when yo don't want to talk even to people you know on the phone, or when you simply feel exceedingly awkward around other people. Did any saints ever have these problems?

I'm glad your excited. I have two completed and a third almost done. The layout takes forever, but it's going faster now that I've done a couple. The first one is "Modern Dilemmas NO. 1" (because there are many more modern dilemmas) which includes our take on tattoos, Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Modesty Pyramid. The other one is "Offer It Up" which is about the Poor Souls in Purgatory and how to suffer for them. The third one is going to be about sacramentals and will include what became one of our most circulated entries here on the blog, "What Brown Can Do For You".  It's one of my favorites as well.

We've also gotten some wonderful feedback from our dear readers. Thank you all so much, keep it coming!

And now, your saint question! Listen, we have a saint for...well let's just say for that ailment for which you purchase Preparation H and leave it at that. So of course we have saints that suffered social anxiety.

There are so many saints who really wanted to go live in a cave and were put upon and called upon and pressed upon to take on the role of bishop or cardinal or lead a religious order. They all came through, despite their protests.

The saint that springs to mind is St. Thomas Aquinas, one of truly great Church leaders and a Doctor of the Church. As a boy in school, he was called "The Dumb Ox", not because he was stupid, but because he never spoke. He was a big fatso, too, which probably didn't make him feel more confident.

And while we all know that St. Anthony will find your car keys and your glasses (they were on your head anyhow), not many people know that Anthony wanted to follow in the footsteps of five Franciscans who he met while being the greeter at the abbey. All five were martyred. Anthony was "Fernando" back then and he set off to martyrdom glory, changing his name to Anthony (after Anthony the Great, the first hermit). But as soon as he left for his self proclaimed mission to Monacco he became very ill and had to turn back. His boat was caught in a storm and  he was ship wrecked, washing up on the shores of Sicily. He somehow made his way to Tuscany, where he was supposed to run a convent, but he was such a mess he was stuck out in the sticks instead, running a hospice where he wouldn't scare anyone. He lived as a hermit there and worked in the kitchen.

Until one fine day some Dominicans were visiting the Franciscans. When it came time for the homily an embarrassing problem arose. The Franciscans had assumed that the Dominicans would grace them with some words of wisdom because they were so well known as preachers.  And the Dominicans had assumed that the Franciscans would handle it, because it was their house. Somehow, St. Anthony was pushed out into the pulpit.

Whatever he had to say that day was so brilliant that he came to the immediate attention of St. Francis himself. Francis sent Anthony everywhere.

St. Anthony only lived to the ripe old age of 36. He died in a cell his brothers built for him under the branches of a walnut tree. Ironic, because what caused his final demise was hitting his head on a tree branch.

And lastly, St. Teresa of Avila, who did not have social anxiety, but who did indeed agonize over everything constantly. I have always thought of her as the patron saint for perfectionist who are, of course, never perfect.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Dark Light

There's something that has been puzzling me and I would love to hear how the church would explain the following: you can read numerous stories of after death experiences from all types of people (faith, agnostics, atheists...) having similar experiences: a bright light, feeling of extreme peace, seeing loved ones who had gone before them... Everyone mentions how they didn't want to come back, but was told it wasn't their time. Where does purgatory fit into this? Purgatory is described as a burning, purifying, suffering place to be. Can all these people be going straight to heaven? I hope you can address this one day. Thanks! Keep up the great work!

The experiences I've read about are similar, but not alike. Some people claim to have met Jesus, for example.

And please remember that not one of these people died. So there was no opportunity to go to Purgatory. The other thing that these stories all have in common is that they all say they wanted to stay, but were told they couldn't stay.

I'll tell you my very favorite story. I heard it on the car radio one evening during a long drive. There was a lady who had died several times and been "brought back".  She was a "frequent flyer" due to some rare illness she had.  She had been to the bright light, the peaceful place and shaken hands with Grandma more than once.

But she didn't always go there. On some occasions she went the other way. On one such journey she found herself on a high catwalk over a vast desert. In the desert, there were countless, endless people, digging pointless holes in the sand that filled in over and over again.

She she said that she was made aware that she was only being shown this and would not be staying. But she was also made aware...and this is that part that stuck with me...that any of these people could leave at any time. They just didn't.

Whatever that means about the afterlife or Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, what truly struck me about it was that this is so often how we live our lives. We so often create our own misery. We could leave. But we just don't.

I'm not talking about packing up the kids and taking them to a shelter. Or checking into rehab or telling the boss what he can do with his job, although certainly all of these things apply. 

I'm really talking about how we are aware that if we changed our thinking, had a different attitude, dropped what we were doing to become more compassionate, more understanding, more loving, not only would our lives improve, so would the lives of everyone around us.

But we just don't.

You will have to change your thinking when you're in Purgatory, however. 

I think of Purgatory the way I think of obese people who have to get their stomachs stapled. They don't lose weight because they have their stomachs stapled. They lose weight because after they have their stomachs stapled they have to eat the way they should have been eating in the first place. They just didn't. Clearly they can, because once they have to, they do.

I'm not pointing fingers. I fully expect to be in Purgatory, because try as I might to stay on a sin free diet, I just don't.

So don't go counting our Purgatory because people who didn't die, didn't go there. Some people did.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Best of Sister Mary Martha

I've taken to writing booklets. I thought it might be a nice idea to compile the shockingly long list of topics and questions, answers and adventures from the blog into categories, print them up and sell them in the shop.

Holy cow is it overwhelming! There are almost 900 different posts. Which means there are hundreds of topics and questions and stories. I began working on it last evening when the house was settled in for the night. The next thing I knew it was 3am! I am offering up my sleep deprived suffering for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Which reminds me to put the Poor Souls in Purgatory and how our suffering benefits them and what it means to offer up our suffering on the list of booklet topics.

I have one completed. Not fully completed with all the "I's" dotted and the "T's" crossed. But compiled into booklet form. It's called "Modern Dilemmas #1".  Number one because there are no end of modern dilemmas that we've tackled here on the blog.  We're writing from the intersection of common sense and theology. And, of course, humor.  You really can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. I'm not sure you can catch any flies with vinegar. Although once in a while, you do need to catch them with a sobering boot to the head. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

"Modern Dilemmas #1" covers whether or not you can read "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" (yes, with caveats, and no), tattoos and fashion. Yes, fashion.

I have a booklet on sacramentals almost done. It's being held up because when I wrote about them I kind of just waded in as though everyone knew what I was talking about in the first place. So I still need to write an "Sacramentals 101" primer to kick it off.

I'm hoping to have "The Best of Sister Mary Martha" available soon. I will also include some compilations of our various "life in our (what passes for a) convent" adventures.

I surely could use your help. Let me know what topics you'd like to see discussed, because, you know, we've discussed just about everything. Groups of saints? The Afterlife? Confession?

I'll have to adjust my schedule to get the work done. I'm happy to do my part to help the Poor Souls in Purgatory, but they don't have to live with me. I suppose I'm giving them the opportunity to offer up even more suffering, but I don't want to push it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Menu of Patron Saints

The elephant honeysuckle has grown so huge that it obscures the pathway to our front door. Before all the little ghosts and princesses and Hulks come for candy tonight, we have to get out the clippers. The candy is in the big yellow bowl and I am keeping my mitts out of it.

For now.

Today's question from a reader:
Sister, Is there a patron saint for eating disorders?

There are quite a number of food related patron saints. I suppose it depends on which direction the eating disorder lies.  Too much food? Or not enough food?

I think we can cross off the patron saints of cooks (because he was famously roasted on a grill), St. Lawrence,  (and famously said, "Turn me over, I'm done on this side!") and St. Martha, the patron saint of waitresses, cooks and hostesses because of her famous "Dinner with Jesus" where Jesus admonished her for being irritated with her sister who wasn't helping in the kitchen when the Apostles descended upon her home one fine day. They don't have anything to do with actually eating a lot or a little.

We could go with St. Charles Borromeo. He actually has nothing to do with eating disorders, but he is the patron saint of stomach and intestinal woes. But not because he had any. There is no real link between him belly pain, except that he probably caused stomach aches to the folks around him with his strict discipline.
A little strict discipline might help an eating disorder.

His name always reminds me of "Bromo Seltzer". St. Charles Bromoseltzer.
That leaves us with St. Thomas Aquinas, on the "eat too much" side.  He was famously weight endowed and many people believe he had some sort of eating disorder beyond, "Wow! I sure do like deep fried macaroni and cheese wrapped in bacon!" Or perhaps some sort of chemical imbalance.
But then, a lot of people who are weight challenged like to believe they have a glandular problem they don't. Almost no one has glandular problem that causes them to remain obese.

On the other side I offer for your consideration St. Catherine of Sienna. St. Catherine fasted almost continually, surviving for very long periods on only the Holy Host.

I hope I won't upset people by saying that I don't think this is a good idea. St. Catherine was truly one of our greatest saints, but as they say, "Don't try this at home." She also died at age 33.

Whatever you do, while you pray for the intercession of our great saints to help you (or whoever it is that you have in mind that needs help), make sure therapy is sought and followed. We are not Christian Scientists here. We believe in science and medicine and seeking appropriate help when we're in too deep to help ourselves. The saints can pray for us to have the grace and strength to survive our serious problems, but we'll leave it for them to survive on only the Holy Host.