About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Its Own Punishment

So yesterday we waded into the the "what makes a mortal sin" part of a reader's question.  Since that's not rocket science, we pretty much got through it.

There were some follow up questions, which we'll also get to, but for now, we're moving on to the really difficult part:

I also remember back in school days learning that habits or addictions may not be sinful. Why?

Let's take a deep breath.  Which habits?  Biting your nails? Not a sin.  Internet porn? Sin.

The problem we are facing in talking about addiction and sin is that when we say we are addicted to something, we are saying we are utterly powerless against the need to do whatever we are addicted to. And if that is actually true, then we are not sinning anymore.  So the question comes down to: is that true?

And all addictions are not created equally.  Being addicted to gambling or shopping (either of which are not sinful in themselves) is not like being addicted to meth, heroin or booze.  Drugs and alcohol alter the brain's chemistry in a way that actually can make you helpless.  You can actually die if you stop suddenly with no help.

But eventually, so can gambling and shopping alter your brain's chemistry, because the thing that was once a habit now releases dopamine into your brain and makes you feel better. So now your own brain has caused an addiction by rewarding you with a drug it has produced itself.  You have made yourself into a drug addict.  Addiction always brings with it diminishing returns, meaning, you have to have more and more of the thing to feel good.

Until you're not whole anymore.  St. Augustine said, "Sin is its own punishment."  How true.

The problem in defining the difference between addiction and sin is that at some point the thing that became an addiction was a choice.  You don't have a martini and become an alcoholic.  You don't drop a nickel in a slot machine and become a gambler who can't stop.  Even if you spend that evening dropping in nickel after nickel, you still have a choice: Don't go back tomorrow.

Obviously, the best thing to do is to just eliminate all bad habits.  The strength it takes to stop biting your nails will pay off when you have to stand up to some harder problems.  That's why the nuns were always on your case.

Your soul and your body are connected. They are one thing, which is you.  If you kill your body, you kill your soul, and if you kill your soul, you can also kill your body.  If you are destroying yourself, you are sinning.  That would be a mortal sin.

But what about the helplessness of addiction?  This is my own take on it and I urge you to get on the internets or go the library and read what wiser people have to say on the subject, especially wise Catholics who deal with addiction or addicts.  My own thought is that there does seem to be some point where a person is helpless against the sin of say, drunkenness.  Whenever that is, the drunkenness is no longer a sin.  Does that mean the alcoholic is no longer sinning?  I don't think so.  I think maybe the failure to get help becomes the sin.  The willingness to destroy yourself and those around you with no attempt to get yourself in check becomes the sin.  

But don't go by me.  These are just the conclusions I've drawn from my thoughts on the matter based on my understanding of the nature of sin, God's loving forgiveness, having been around a surprising number of various addicts and the daily struggle they face, and listening to the thoughts of people smarter than me.

I truly don't believe I have a full handle on the situation.  The medical community tells us new things about our mind body connection every day.  There actually are people who can become physically addicted to a substance right away because of their genetic make up. 

I will say that people who suffer from addiction face hell on earth, often on a daily basis, and sometimes well into their recovery.  They have to battle the urges, which are physical and mental, give up friends and family who drag them down, face the judgment and condescension of society hour by hour, day by day.

Let's pray for all of them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Now You Know

It's spring and the world is as green as the priest's vestments at Mass. One of my very favorite things about the Catholic Church is that we don't have to flap around trying to figure out how to get closer to God.  We have a map all laid out for us called the calendar.  Where are we now. YOU ARE HERE.

In Ordinary Time.  Green days. Jesus has gone back to Heaven. The Disciples have been sent on their way. We are making our way through life with all the new information we've gained from living according to the map. A perfect day for this question:

Sister, My question is about sin. Someone told me recently that it is nearly impossible to mortally sin as three things have to be present. What is this person talking about? And in confession once the priest said that being angry isn't a sin. I kept on with my list and didn't think to ask why it isn't. And in that prayer during Mass we say we sin on thoughts, words, and deeds. How do you sin in thought? I also remember back in school days learning that habits or addictions may not be sinful. Why? Thanks.

That poor person.  Yikes!  She's right about the three things, but it's FAR from impossible to sin anyhow.

So let's do the easy one first: What the priest said.  Being angry is not a sin.  Staying angry is a sin. Harboring anger is a sin.  So, when you hear the statement that anger is a sin, being angry, as the priest said, is not a sin.  You are human and you will react as a human being and you will feel angry.  I once heard a psychologist say that anger is unexpressed hurt.  I felt that that was quite a revelation.

I thought about when I have been angry, the normal everyday flashes of irritation or slow boils. I've been cut off in traffic!  Yes, actually, you' there, cutting me off, you've been rude there and that kind of hurt my feelings if you get right down to it, that you would treat me that way, but I can't do anything about it but honk as you cheerily wave to me to indicate that you had to do that because you were on your phone and not as your best, driving-wise.  So now I'm angry.

If I stay angry, if I don't say a prayer and forgive you, I will be sinning.  I have to get my emotions in check and pull myself together.  And get your license plate number.

I'm kidding.  I'm not going to stoop to revenge. That would also be a sin.

It would not be a sin, however, if the reason you cut me off is that you were swirling around traffic, drunk as a skunk.  Then it would be my duty to call.

I hope that clears that all up.

Now onto what you need to do to commit a mortal sin.

1. The sin is a grave sin. Some of these are obvious, like murder. Some are not so obvious. We'll get to that.

2. You have to know it's a sin.

3. You have to do it anyhow.

My guess is that your friend thinks that #2 will get her off the hook.  You may commit a mortal sin, but you don't know it's a mortal sin.  But I'll bet her thinking takes her to the next step: "I don't believe this is a mortal sin." My guess is that she thinks that she gets to decide for herself what is and is not a grave sin. That's not the case.

Here is a perfect example. The Church has deemed it a mortal sin to miss your Sunday Obligation to attend Mass. Did you know that?  If you didn't, and you've missed Mass because you didn't feel like going or anything short of being very sick or buried alive, then none of your Mass missing, no matter what the cause was a mortal sin.

But I JUST TOLD YOU.  So now when you miss Mass, you are committing a mortal sin. It doesn't matter if you don't think it's a grave sin. The Church says it is.  It's not me making this up. You can look it up for yourself.

Now you are choosing to ignore what the Church to which you have pledged your faith has told you is a grave sin.

And since it's pretty easy to choose the Superbowl party over Mass....it's also pretty easy to commit a mortal sin.

Drunk driving is a mortal sin.  Premarital sex is a mortal sin.  Looking at dirty pictures is a mortal sin. Lust is a mortal sin.  In fact, the Vatican added some new sins to the list in 2008: polluting, genetic engineering, being obscenely rich, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia and causing social injustice.

I can't imagine why abortion and pedophilia are on this list.  Those aren't new mortal sins. Those have always been mortal sins.  Frankly, although there has been plenty of argument to the contrary, so has being obscenely rich and causing social injustice.  That just leave polluting, drug dealing and genetic engineering.
 Bishop Girotti elaborated by saying that mortal sins also included taking or dealing in drugs, and social injustice which caused poverty or “the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few.”

To which I reply, "Since when is this news?"  Although I have read some pretty tortured explanations of why Jesus didn't mind if you don't share your money.  I think He was pretty clear on the topic of poverty and money. I have, in fact, staked my life on it.

I'm sure the readers will weigh in on our thoughts so far.  You question has a whole slippery slope second half.  So we'll digest part one before we move on.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Great Unwashed

So, trying to be a good organist, I actually read Musica Sacra, the encyclical on Magisterium of Music at the Mass(on the web). Changing words to anything at the Mass is not ok--but lots of parish musicians don't know it, as they figure the selections in the missalette are approved by the Church--they aren't. They are just selections that the publishing company thinks will sell. If a congregation claps, it's a signal to the musicians that they are putting on a show instead of serving the congregation's music needs. Holding hands for the Our Father is Pentacostal--and many Charismatics have picked it up since it "feels good". Not a Catholic practice. Makes lots of folks feel creepy. And while we're talking about creepy, what about couples kissing at the sign of peace? 

Is there a question here somewhere?

I'm sorry that the great unwashed don't actually read the Musica Sacra.  I've also found they don't read books or newspapers.  We can't be too unhappy when they show up at Mass, like they're supposed to, and clap their little hands.

They're supposed to not to do this and definitely do that.  They can't keep track of it all.

 We can't throw tomatoes at people when they hold hands during the Our Father.  We can't keep a bang of empty tin cans to hurl at folks if they mistakenly do things because they feel good, like those misguided Pentacostals.

We also can't judge, look down our noses at other faiths, or feel superior to others.

It makes me feel creepy that people feel so creepy about other people.  Remember when Jesus hugged that leper?  Everyone thought that was creepy, too.  Why did he do that? Because nothing matters but souls.

I would prefer it, I suppose, if people didn't kiss in lieu of a handshake of Peace.  It does seem to take the focus away from the Mass.  Or it could.  But I'm really not going to get my wimple in a twist about it, because a really big Miracle is about to happen and if two people want to express their hope of peace for each other with a kiss, I'm not going to shout, "Get a room!" across the pews at them.

If the congregation is getting too loosey goosey with the Solemnity of the Mass, that's Father's call to ask everyone to get a grip.  Meanwhile the nuns have some long standing advice, "Mind your own garden."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rockin' Rita

I simply must know about the painting of the nun in the rocker...there has to be a great story to that! 

It's just St. Rita.  You can tell which saint is which, to a large degree, by what's going on on the medal or the painting or the holy card.  You'll notice she has a red mark on her head there.  That's because St. Rita received the Stigmata.  Not the whole Stigmata. Just the Crown of Thorns. And not the whole Crown of Thorns, just the one thorn there in the middle of her forehead, which just stuck there and festered.  It smelled terrible and the other nuns couldn't stand to be around her, so she had to spend the rest of her life in her room by herself.  But after she died, her room forever afterward smelled like roses, which you see in the picture.  That's how you know it's St. Rita in the picture.  A nun with a forehead stigmata surrounded by roses.
Here's how St. Rita usually looks.

I can say with absolute certainty, however, that St. Rita did not have a rocking chair. The rocking chair is the whimsy of the artist, as is St. Rita's jolly demeanor.  St. Rita wasn't a particularly jolly type.  She had a rough time of it.  She had managed to talk him into to converting from his rotten ways, but for a long time her husband was a terrible man.  His evil ways caused him to be bumped off by the Mafia even though he had tried to make amends. Her sons, who had been good boys, became bent on avenging their father's death when they were older. Rita prayed they would not doom themselves to Hell by succeeding, and her prayers were answered when they both died of illness.  She wanted to be a nun, but the convent wouldn't let her in because she had been married and had children.  When she finally did get in because angels flew her over the convent wall, the nuns didn't really want her there and tested her continually, like with the watering a stick routine.  You would think that angels flying her in there would have given them pause, but apparently the nuns weren't impressed.  Maybe angels flew people in there a lot.  I can't think why they would have been so distrusting of Rita, otherwise.  Maybe the angels dropped her off and said, "This one could use some more suffering, have at her."  The nuns did pay some attention, because they let her in.

And then she got the Stigmata thorn and had to be stinky and stay by herself.  I can't imagine that she was sitting in a rocker like a drunken sailor, laughing to herself all day.  And whatever she sat on, it definitely was not a rocker, because the rocking chair was not invented until the early 18th century, 300 years after Rita went to her reward.

She probably does look like that now, in Heaven. Rocker and all.

I can't find out any information about the painting.  It appears that her mean dead husband is haunting her.  That's my guess of who that is with the cane. St. Rita is the patron saint of bad marriages, so that makes sense.

That thing that looks like a brain hanging from the ceiling is probably a beehive.  The day St. Rita was baptized as an infant, her family noticed a swarm of bees around her crib.  But the bees just buzzed around, harmlessly flying in and out of her mouth.

St. Rita today.
She also seems to be holding something in her fingers.  My thought here is that she is eating a fig.  When Rita was on her deathbed, one here cousins asked her if there was anything she they could bring Rita from her former home.  Rita asked for a rose and a fig.  There shouldn't have been any roses or figs there in the winter snow, but the cousin found the roses blooming and the fig tree with a single ripe fig.  The rose bush is still here, blooming, as is St. Rita herself.  She's still here, too.  She is incorrupt.  She doesn't look all that incorrupt to me, but she looked better when they first dug her up years after her death.

People who have visited her there in her glass case have said she sometimes moves around in there, up and down, or turns her head or that her eyes open and close.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


It's that time of year again. We have yet to find Amelia Earhart or Jimmy Hoffa, but this might be the year we unearth both of them in our garden.  I can't think why, every single year, we find ourselves entangled in thorns and vines, but we do.

We don't completely neglect our garden.  It doesn't rain much here, so we do water it. Sometimes.  Miraculously, most everything survives.  You know I don't just toss the word "miraculous" around.  Miracles are instantaneous and unexplained.  So, our garden is half miraculous, if that is possible.  It's not instantaneous, but the fact that everything is alive and not shriveled sticks calling out to St. Rita is certainly unexplained.

Why isn't St. Rita the patron saint of people with green thumbs?  I digress.

Watering is about all we have time for.  I was compelled to start writing this blog because I thought it would be of interest for people to understand what often happens to people with a calling these days. Three of us live in this little house. I have a salary and we live on that.  As a result, in many ways, my life here is just like your life. I have to navigate the same world in largely the same way as you do.

What is the calling of a nun?  It's really very simple. My job is to get myself to Heaven and to drag you with me.  It's like when you are on an airplane and the stewardess explains that should that oxygen contraption drop, you should put it on your own face before you try to get it over your child.  It seems counter intuitive, but the truth is, if you pass out while you're fumbling around there, everyone's in trouble.

That's really not all that different from what Jesus is asking of you, either.  The difference is that it's all we do.  I remember listening to a man give a lecture about composers.  He was telling composers that they should not worry about whether or not someone would actually be able to play what they had written, because there were people in the world who would be able to play it no matter what because "that's all they do", meaning, there were pianists who spend all day every day doing nothing but playing the piano and it would be their job to figure out how in the world to play the composition.

Because that's all they do.

Is this my excuse for my messy garden?  No, it is not.

I turn once again to my original intention in taking up the blog, and confess that, I can't keep up with everything.  I do keep up with almost everything.  The garden is on the receiving end of my failure.

I also like to talk about it a little because it illustrates another point of which people are not aware.  Some nuns are messy.  I think people have this illusion that all nuns are neat little people with very clean finger nails, tidy and composed, organized and collated.

That's not untrue.  But it's not because all nuns are orderly and well groomed.  It has more to do with not having much in the first place in the way of clothing and clutter and with the early nun training in obedience and scheduling.

The garden has simply dropped off our schedule.  Back on it goes.  It's worse than ever this year. A great opportunity for suffering, lacerations, sweating and dirty fingernails.

While we're out there, offer a little prayer for that nun you had who always looked a little askew, with her wimple a little crooked or a wisp of hair that would never stay under her habit giving away that she was a redhead.  She had an especially hard road with her calling.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mass Mush

Hi Sister,
When the priest says "we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts", I assume the sacrifice he's talking about is Jesus' sacrifice for us, so I don't understand how we're offering it, or why we're asking God to be pleased with it, which we already know He is.

Nope.  The sacrifice he's talking about is not Jesus' sacrifice for us.  This little prayer happens at the Offertory, when we offer our humble gifts to God.

The Mass is in three parts:

1. Getting our heads together for what's about to happen.

2. Offer some humble gifts to God.

3. A Miracle.

Then everyone shuffles out, grumbling because the people in front of them are walking so slowly or because someone held hands when they shouldn't have.  Or because someone should have held hands but they didn't.

We didn't always have such a fancy Mass.  The early Church just prayed and broke the bread.  They just had two parts to their ritual: Pray/Miracle. Eventually, they realized that that wasn't really enough to separate the Miracle from just having dinner together, so they began making it a little more formal.  By the middle ages, it was so formal that no one could see it,  separated from the congregation who no longer spoke Latin by a wall or a railing, the priest with his back to everyone.  So we dialed it back.

I think it was a very good change. Many people disagree.

In any case, we spend the first third of the Mass worshiping, asking for forgiveness, praying for the living and the dead, listening to scripture and getting some encouragement from our priest. We profess our faith and the priest forgives all our venial sins.

Then the altar servers represent us and bring the bread and water and wine up to the altar. We ask that God accept our humble gift. Then the priest washes his hands.

Ever wonder why his hands are so dirty that he has to wash them?  I always thought it was because he wanted to to super clean because he was about to handle the Body of Christ.  Then again, it is rather a symbolic washing, just dippy dipping his fingertips in the water.  He doesn't haul out a bar of Lava or squirt himself with hand sanitizer.

But in the early Church the Offertory was also the 'collection' time.  Not the tidy basket of tithing we have today, but chickens and pigs and grapes and corn, gathered for the poor.  So there was a time when the priest really did have to wash his hands before he continued with part three.

Part three is when God turns our humble offering into the Body and Blood of Christ.  A Miracle.

Then everyone starts jockeying to get to the parking lot first, often vexed by the fact that if there are going to be any announcements, this is where they go.  Sometimes they bolt right after Communion, zipping out before the final hymn strikes its first chord.

I am continually amazing that 2000 years of streamlining and nit picking to make the Mass 100% understandable to the community still falls short.  But...

...that's why I'm here!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Winning the Race

Dear Sr.Mary Martha,
Now that we are on a lighter topic, I would like to ask who is the patron saint of runners? I have been saying a quick prayer to St Sebastian to help me run like the wind, and he does seem to intercede on my behalf. However, I was hoping you might give us some more "meat" around this question please - especially anyone who can help with speed AND endurance....:-)

St. Sebastian certainly had endurance.  You are not going to find a depiction of St. Sebastian where he is not shot full of arrows, tied to a tree. The people who did that intended to kill him. He did not die. St. Irene came along and nursed him back to health.  Then St. Sebastian back to those people and said, "Ha! Look here!  You didn't kill me!"  So they clubbed him to death.

Before all of this St. Sebastian had been a soldier.  Hearing the words of Jesus made him decide not to wage war any more, but Sebastian was still out there with his battalion,  telling them to lay down their arms.  That went over like a lead balloon, which is why, eventually, everyone wanted him to just shut up and they tied him to a tree.

Where he was shot full of arrows and didn't die. I'd call that endurance.

I have a hair brained notion about speed. How about St. Peter?  Bear with me here.  As far as I know, St. Peter didn't run anywhere, unless he was in a hurry, to say, get up some stairs.  But he did walk all over the known world, spreading the Word of Jesus.

These were just people walking around talking to anyone who would listen.  They didn't have advance publicity and posters on phone poles. They didn't have a Facebook page or event listings.  They didn't have cell phones, or regular phones or email.  They didn't have a stage, or a hall or a dinner in a hotel ballroom with a podium.  They didn't have a church.  They didn't have loud speakers, microphones or bull horns.

St. Peter had to walk to a town and stand up on a hill or a berm and talk.  Shout, probably.  He walked and talked and led by example.

Within 50 years, everyone knew about this Christian idea. People were joining in droves. 150 years later, the spread of Christianity was causing kings and emperors to try to squelch the tide. People died rather than give up their new found faith.   150 after that, the known world was predominately Christian.
That's fast.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Ruled by Rules

So happy you feel better, Sister! Now for my question: Why is it that people genuflect after the priest, and not with the priest, at the stations of the cross? We genuflect together during the Angelus. We make the sign of the cross together all through the mass. I can't think of a single gesture (words, yes, but gestures, no) that we do separately. (Please, dear readers, do not volunteer that we gesture back and forth when the priest extends his arms and says, "The Lord be with you" and then people in the pew gesture back at him. We are not supposed to do that. Check your GIRM!) Anyway, the words, "We ADORE you, O Christ" are the words to which we should be genuflecting, correct? They are the words of adoration. Why would you genuflect while saying, "because by your cross..." ?? Hopefully, we can do a better job of it next year.

You are correct! We are supposed to genuflect on the words "We Adore you, O Christ".

Perhaps the people you were doing the Stations with didn't really know the customs and didn't really know when to genuflect and were just trying to follow along.

That is, after all, one of the main comments from people who aren't Catholic, or are newly Catholic.  They just can't get over all the up and down and down and up, sitting, standing, kneeling, standing again, kneeling again and so on.  Better just to follow along.

Here's another rule for the Stations of the Cross: you are supposed to be meditating on the Passion of Christ.  You don't have to meditate even on each individual station at all.  You can.  It's up to you.  You can just meditate on the whole event in general.

There are fourteen stations, each, as Mel Gibson so graphically showed us, with plenty of horror and pain to mull over, not to mention that Jesus is doing all of this for us, for me individually.  That is a lot to take in.

We're not meditating on when we're supposed to genuflect, is my point, or if everyone but me is doing it wrong.  Ironically, you're complaining that people get with the program, while you're not with the program.

That's like being at your daughter's wedding and stewing the whole time about the hemline of her wedding dress being uneven.  It's like taking that Carnival Cruise you've been saving for for years and spending the whole time clocking who was late for dinner.  It's like receiving the Stigmata and obsessing over whether to wear cloth gloves or leather.

There are only four rules to the Stations:

1. They must be properly erected.

2. There fourteen stations.

3. You have to walk from Station to Station.

4.  You meditate on the Passion.

It is customary to genuflect on the word "Adore", as you said.  But it's just a hemline.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Get Thee to a Monastery!

After my last post, a reader asked if there was a patron saint of pickles. What a card! (as my mother would say).  There's an expression you don't hear any more.  It means "cut up".  You don't hear that, either.

Of course, there is a patron saint of pickles.  I do believe there is a patron saint for everything.  Saints were people and there are thousands and thousands of saints, which means they did everything and experienced everything that everyone else does, including pickles (St. Nicolas), knitting (St. Blaise), dog breeding (St. Hubert), car fixing (Mother Frances Cabrini) and crocheted Kleenex box covers (St. Rose of Lima).

Some saints, however, tried to get as far away from this earthly life as possible, or at least boil it all down to its most basic components.

When you are caught up can you spend some time discussing the different kind of monastics? I know that Benedictines are, but are there others? What do they do? Are they allowed to leave the monastery? Can women live in a monastery? Thank you.

Monastics 101

People who give up worldly pursuits to live a life of pure spirituality are called monastics.  The practice goes way, way back to early Christian life, as many people found it was impossible to follow Christ completely and still live in the hedonistic world around them.  They tromped off into the desert to live alone in caves, but soon found it was also too difficult to keep that up without some camaraderie and encouragement.  They moved to caves a little closer to one another, and finally formed walled communities.

Within these communities, it was still difficult to stay true to the purely spiritual path.  In time, the rules were bent and broken and various monasteries had become cushy and complacent.  At some point, someone would enter, look around and say, "What's with you people?!  Get it together!  Here is a list of rules you need to follow!"  And when that happened a new group would often form.  Benedictines too soft for you? Try the Carthusians!

St. Benedict was not the first to draw a list of rules, but his rules are the most famous and still at the basis of all of the other lists of rules.  We also have a list from St. Augustine for the Augustinians.  By the 12th century we see the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites and Servites.

We also see many orders who don't wall themselves up, but choose to live just outside the mainstream and come and go so they can serve the public, because that's what it means to them to serve Christ.  The Augustinians went that way, as did the Franciscans.

Now there are dozens of orders. Let's not forget the Trappists! The Salesians!

There are both men and women monastics, but women are called nuns or sisters and men are called monks or brothers.  Women can't live with men in a monastery or vice versa.  They live in separate communities, although they may be from the same order.

I imagine there are still some hermit monks out there somewhere.

It isn't prison, so you can leave whenever you like, vow to God notwithstanding. 

What to they do?  Many of them live a contemplative life of prayer.  But they have to eat, even if they do fast a lot.  So they also farm, and make bread and beer and fancy embroidery and all kinds of things like that.  Each order has a different mission statement, although they are not wildly different from each other.  The rules by which they live may differ greatly, from vows of silence to running a hospital.

To find out about each order, you'd have to read about each one.  It will take some time!  I'll leave that to you.

If you find out which order is famous for their pickles, I'd rather not know.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Whale Island

What with our last two posts being such heavy lifting, let's have a easy breezy question for today.

But before we get to that, I must share with you my latest opportunity for suffering.  Yo may recall my Lenten dilemma with the McDonald's fish sandwich and my subsequent food poisoning erasing the problem for a long time to come.  Like the lead character in "A Clockwork Orange", whose new aversion to violence came with an inadvertent aversion to the music of Beethoven, my new aversion to all things McDonald's  has sadly left me unable to enjoy another thing I like a lot: dill pickles. 

How sad.

My love of dill pickles goes a long way back, from always eating a giant dill pickle after a day of swimming with friends and cousins in the summer, to sloppy joes piled with pickles. If someone was putting pickles on my sandwich, they could not overdo it. 

Some day I'll enjoy them again.  Meanwhile, the souls in purgatory are getting a reprieve whenever the condiments are passed out.

My daughter is a big fan of marine mammals and loves to visit aquariums, zoos and parks like Seaworld so she can watch the animal trainers there. Who would the saint of marine mammal trainers be?

We don't have far to look. St. Brendan of Ireland is the patron saint of whales. Since the whales themselves don't need a patron saint, as they are not human beings whose souls need our prayers, it stands to reason that St. Brendan is the patron saint of people who care about whales, although there is a lot a argument about whether or not anyone should be trying to train them.

I won't enter that debate.  I have been to SeaWorld and I had a very, very good time.  I did not sit in the splash zone.

St. Brendan was an Irish monk who set sail with 60 (or 14) pilgrims and 3 non-believers looking for the Garden of Eden.  According to legend, he made 7 such journeys, earning him the moniker "Brendan the Voyager".  His exploits call to mind "Sinbad the Sailor" if Sinbad had been a follower of Jesus.

At any rate, on one of his voyages, he landed on an island, which turned out not to be an island at all but a whale.  Or a sea serpent, depending of which translation you're reading.  I believe this also happened to Sinbad, except that is St. Brendan's case, Easter Mass was celebrated on Whale Island.

As fanciful as all of this sounds, there really was a St. Brendan who did travel around quite a bit. He established monasteries in Ireland and Wales and traveled to Great Britain.

But as per his patronage of whale lovers, he returned to the Whale Island several times, so they must have gotten on like gangbusters.