About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

God's Point of View

What about any tips on forgiving and loving our enemies, especially family members that harm us maybe even in a criminal way eg. outrage of modesty? Thanks!

A little, although I think it is extremely difficult to get our heads around it all. There is a name for people who successfully navigate the waters of forgiving the unforgivable: saints.

The first bit of confusion lies in the idea that when we forgive someone it somehow means we okay with their transgression.  Often accomplish this very simple form of forgiveness and we do employ it all the time when someone forgets our birthday or shows up two hours later for the Thanksgiving dinner with their contribution to the feast, the appetizer. The type of person who hangs onto these petty grievances is a sad soul indeed.

These are the moments when the phrase "love conquers all" seems to be true.

God's love conquers all. Ours is often found wanting.

The key word to your question is "enemies". Forgiveness is a very different task when we're no longer talking about the snippy remark your sister made about your new shoes or that person who shot into the parking space you spotted after they just pulling into the lot you've been circling for 20 minutes. An enemy is someone who is actively trying to harm you.

Do we have to forgive them? I sorry to tell you, yes.  In fact, Jesus went a step further and said we have to love them.

To be honest, I find it easier to love them than to forgive them.  I, too, get hung up in the barbed wire fence of forgiveness implying that I'm okay with the horror they're perpetrating. As far as I can tell, I have to forgive them over and over again.

Which sounds awful, until I imagine God saying to us all, "Welcome to my life."

The only way I've been able to keep my head above water in the forgiveness department is to try to see the person as God must see them. His beautiful child, his wonderful creation, all bent and twisted and run over by a bus. To try to have compassion for the tortured soul so removed from harmony with God's love.

I must add that if someone is doing you harm, or trying to do you harm, you don't have to forgive them from four feet away or sitting in a car with them. You can do it in another state or from across town (if the town is big enough to provide you a safe distance).

The first hermits were people who felt they could not connect with God strongly enough while hanging around with other human beings and so moved farther and farther away from people.  Some found it too difficult to live that austere lifet without the encouragement of other people who were also trying to do it and that's how monasteries were formed.  But I digress.

I just bring up the monks to point out that they went to extremes to keep their own souls safe and you must do the same. Like when you're a  plane and they tell you to make sure you have your own oxygen mask on first before you pass out trying to put one on someone else.

The only other encouragement I can give you is to tell you that forgiving and being forgiven has more power than just about anything else I can think of.

Forgive me for the dangling participle.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'll Get Around To It

Hi Sister I am a terrible procrastinator (actually no, I am a great procrastinator – but it is terrible!), in fact it has taken me weeks to get around to asking you for help! Everyone says just get started, or just set yourself a deadline which is easy for the non-procrastinator to say, but I am out of control! Do you have any suggestions for getting some discipline in my life? Many thanks! Sara 

I haven't been procrastinating in answering. I have had one computer related problem after another. Practically by the hour.  Even the eighth grade boys have been flummoxed.  I actually can't believe I finally am able to post. It seems like a miracle.

It is not a miracle. Miracles are spontaneous and unexplained. I don't know what the explanation is that things are suddenly working when for days they have not been working, but I'm sure there is one (who is probably called "Sister Mary Martha").  And the road back has been anything but spontaneous.

To your question: First off, of course we have a patron saint for procrastinators.  St. Expeditus.  Although, truth be told, poor Expeditus has little to do with procrastination, and his patronage of foot draggers, like St. Luke and his paintings, is giantly dubious.  If it weren't for the Church proclaiming him a saint, I'd go so far as to say his very sainthood is questionable.

It seems some nuns got their hands on a box of bones that they thought said, "St. Expeditus", when in fact the box said something that actually translates more along the lines of  "Priority Mail".  It's as though they got a box that said "Fragile" in a language they didn't understand and thought it said "St. Frageelly."  Nonetheless, St. Expeditus is the patron saint of the time challenged and postal workers.

And of course, Fed-Ex.

I do have suggestions.  Start by asking yourself some questions. Why aren't you doing what you need to do?  Is it tough to face? Even something like paying bills can be tough to face as you watch your hard earned money fly out the door. Jesus said, "Take no purse" on you path to follow Him. So grab a pen and smile.

Or is it just that you would rather watch "Real Housewives of AnyWhere" than do what you're supposed to do? What is it you're supposed to do, anyhow?  Clean the house? Take the dog for his shots? Call your mom?

Or is it that you can't make a choice about what to do next, so you do nothing? Like when you go to one of those restaurants with a six page menu and you can't decide what to have and finally, when the waitress comes, you panic and order a tuna melt and feel bad because it's not at all what you wanted.  This is easy to resolve. Choose.  Just one thing. It opens the door for the rest.  If someone says to you, "Oh, look, they serve breakfast all day" you suddenly realize you can have a blintz! If you decide you want something hot, you can skip the sandwich page!

Here is your conundrum. You need discipline in your life. In order to have discipline in your life you have to have some discipline.


I suggest you make a "to-do" list.  Prioritize it in the order in which it needs to get done. Do as much of it as you can every day, even if it is just one thing, but if you are going slowing and only doing one thing, then you'll have to add to the bottom of the list (or the top) as new tasks arrive.  If it takes you all week to clean the bathroom, the kitchen will need work by then.

Try to keep moving.  If you can get yourself going, you'll soon find you feel so much better about getting things done than you do having watched "Play Date" on the Lifetime Channel that your own sense of accomplishment will motivate you.

But you do need discipline, and only you can muster that.  For that I recommend St. John of God, who could never settle on anything until he literally drove himself crazy. Once he finally made a choice he was a human dynamo.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tell Me a Story

I love this blog :D I have a question as well--I work as a story person (writer & story artist) and I'm trying to pull together blogs that have the basic principles in their storywork of creation, learning, & teaching. I'd like to draw an illustration for blog sidebars in a "Secret of Kells" style. Is there a patron saint you would recommend that's very story & creation-centric to draw? (I hope this question isn't dumb)

No patron saint question is too dumb.  I was once asked who was the patron saint for tennis elbow. I can't remember what I came up with.  There's always the trusty fallback of St. Christopher, patron saint of athletes.

I digress.

The patron saint of artists is St. Luke. Frankly, I have always found this a bit lame, as they say.  St. Luke is the patron saint of artists because he supposedly painted a portrait  or two of Our Lady. There is no evidence of this or that St. Luke ever so much as picked up a pack of colored pencils.

He's always depicted with his easel and oils. I don't think oils were invented yet. I don't know much about art history. I'll have to look that up. Certainly people painted things with something. Not colored pencils.

But St. Luke is still a grand patron saint for you because he wrote not only the Gospel of Luke, but the Acts of the Apostles. He palled around with St. Paul and other disciples and apostles and Mary and he gathered their stories.

His Gospel is really the most personal story of Jesus, with the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Visitation, and Jesus getting lost at the Temple.  It depicts Jesus as a constant champion of the poor and downtrodden. It includes the story of the Good Thief.  Great stories all. All our favorite stories about Jesus are in the Gospel of Luke.

And all the great stories about the Apostles and the early church!

If St. Luke ever actually painted anything the painting did not survive. There are a couple of painting floating around out there that some folks seem to believe are his, but there is no good reason to believe they are his works. We hope your paintings fair better. At least they will actually exist.

I hope you'll come back and explain what &amp means or is or does.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Mummy

So funny and so sensible! It's kind of related, but I have to go stay with my cousin who is seriously ill. We've always been close - more like brother and sister. But the problem is with his wife. If I was charitable, I'd say she was "shy" (that's what my mother says. She is a good woman). I'm less charitable, I'd say she was unfriendly to her husband's family. She can't compromise on anything - it's all right or all wrong (mostly wrong!) and once she makes up her mind, that's it. However crazy, she sticks to her guns and won't budge. I am happy to help my cousin but I am really worried about coping with his wife while I'm there. And I am only staying with them so that she can keep going to work while he's ill and doesn't have to take unpaid leave. Any advice on being nice and keeping the peace, please?

Yes, keep the peace by being peaceful.  When a person is seriously ill, all bets are off. However cantankerous or pig headed that woman may or may not be, her husband is so sick that you have to come and stay with them.  Isn't that enough to just let everything else go? Get a grip.

When I was a little girl we spent Sunday's with my cousins. They were a big unruly family. We were a small quiet family.  We kept our toys nice. They hardly had any toys and the ones they had were cheap and torn up and rather uninteresting. We ran around outside and ate food I didn't care for very much. I ran too close to a rose bush and was raked across the forehead with a thorny branch. One of the boys laughed at me.

So every Sunday I whined about going there. One Sunday I believe my mother had had enough of my whining.

Me: Ugh to we have to go there! I hate going there!

Mom: Did it ever occur to you that right now as we speak they are all saying, "Ugh. Do they have to come here?  We hate it when they come here!" ?

It had not occurred to me. (I feel compelled to add that every week, after all that complaining, I always whined when it was time to go home as I was immersed in fun.)

Has it occurred to you the your cousin's wife is not looking forward to having to deal with not only a seriously ill husband and all that stress and worry and pain and expense, but relatives who will stink after 3 days (as the saying goes) moving in for extensive stays?  She can be grateful and horrified at the same time, you know.

Here is my advice, which I actually lifted from some lady whose name I cannot recall. She was some sort of "life coach" who was yammering on TV.  She was talking to a client who had to face her mean old sister and was dreading the encounter.  "See her wrapped in bandages, " the life coach said.

What a wise thought! See her the way she really is, in pain and worried sick and trying to cope as best she can. Wrapped in bandages.

You're the healthy one here. Your job is to be nothing but loving, no matter what.

I hope you make good soup.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Damage Control

Hi, Sister, Do you know a patron saint I can invoke for strength and perseverance and against being discouraged? My house and most of my hometown were just flooded by a hurricane. On a less drastic note, I'm struggling to complete my master's thesis, and it feels like I'll never finish.

Oh you poor thing! Our prayers are with you.

At least you can offering your own suffering for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. We can't speak for your poor neighbors.

Of course there are many saints who have weathered storms and saints who are invoked against storms.  There are saints who were trying to head off to be missionaries or trying to escape God's plan for them (by boat) and were dashed against the rocks before they headed on the right path.

St. Barbara is the official saint against lightening and storms, but I'm going with St. Scholastica for you! St. Scholastic was the sister of the famous St. Benedict of the Rule of Benedict fame.  In fact, they were fraternal twins. She was visiting her brother in a little house just outside his monastery walls (because she couldn't go into the monastery).  They were having a wonderful engaging conversation about philsophy and life and theology that went on all day and into the evening, when Benedict announced that he had to vamoosh before evening prayers. Scholastica begged him to stay but he insisted he must leave.

Not surprising for a man who made up a strict list of rules for everyone to follow.

Having lost this round, Scholastica bowed her head in prayer. I'm sure her brother thought that she was just praying for him, but she wasn't. She was praying to God to keep Benedict from leaving. A violent storm arose. Benedict was trapped. For the night.

Their conversation continued until morning when the storm broke and the siblings parted, never to see each other again. Scholastica headed back to the house in which she was staying for her visit and died. 

I think she's your girl for a little storm control.

You will, by the way, finish your master's thesis. Unless you don't. That will be up to you.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

A Little Discipline

Sister, Who is the appropriate patron saint for teachers who are tiny and diminutive compared to their large high school students and are scared of mutiny? Thanks, and many blessings!

You don't need a patron saint. You need a habit. Everyone is afraid of a nun in a habit. Young and old, large and small. People are so afraid of nuns, either that one is going to crack them with a ruler or simply that they might say something inappropriate of offensive, that they just shut up.

That makes for an orderly classroom.

Anyone from the dog whisperer to those TV nannies will tell you that the key to discipline is follow through. No empty threats must pass your lips.  If you tell them they must be quiet and they are not, you have to kick them out or send them to the principle one by one and two by two until you are left with no one.

And no negotiating!

A student is talking to another student. "Bob!" you say to the talker in a calm voice.  "Go sit over there."

"But..., " Bob begins.

"I'm not going to discuss this with you. Go sit over there."

Bob moves.  After ten minutes, tell Bob he can go back to his usual seat.

Discipline is not about size. It is about discipline. Your own.
Like this, only in a habit

The teacher I most feared in grade school was about 4'2". Granted she was a nun and,  as if that wasn't enough, she had a face that could stop a train. Like an old witch, really, where the nose and chin look as though they are about to meet at some  point in not so distant the future. So she had all that going for her, too. We had over 50 children in our classroom. No one dared misbehave. Or  misspeel misspell anything.

We don't really want our students to fear us. Not really. We want to create an atmosphere of mutual respect.  That can't happen without discipline. 

I'll get off the soapbox atop my high horse now and recommend the newly minted saint, St. Andre of Montreal.  He was teeny.  Under five feet.  His job was behind the reception desk there at the monastery.  It could be he had to face some scary types there behind the counter.  Or not.

He was a little nothing of a nobody little man.  But he thought there should be a giant Oratory built to honor St. Joseph and he put his little mind to that. The St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal literally looks like you've reached the top of the beanstalk and found where the giant lives, magic harp and magic chicken and all. Brother Andre did that through the sheer power of his will and prayer.

That's discipline!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Thank you, Please

We have gotten a cavalcade of questions but I wanted to take a moment and say, "Thank you." Thanks for reading, writing in, answering each other's questions sometimes more quickly and succinctly that I ever could. And thanks for being understanding when I don't keep up as well as I should.

When I was a young teenager I had a nun who was our theology teacher. This was at an all girl Catholic school. She never taught what you might think of when you think of "theology"--the study of God. There was no catechism, that was all in grade school.  There was no Bible reading or study of the New Testament. We actually did a lot of that in grade school, too.

But she did give massive week long assignments. Assignments that actually took an entire week to complete. Two of them have stayed with me, and one, in particular, has been rather a lifelong assignment.

For one week we had to thank everyone for everything, no matter how large or small, no matter who it was. We were to be relentless and diligent. She must have been surprised at the end of the class when no one thanked her for giving out the assignment. That would have right in the spirit of the thing.

But I loved theology and all its many thoughts and prayers and meanings, and I was always game to take on a challenge.  No big deal, to thank people constantly. Maybe a little silly. Who really needs to be thanked all the time, anyhow? I really don't.

Off I went.  I really didn't realize how many people actually were doing things for me all the time. I'm not sure I really covered everyone and everything. I certainly hadn't thanked her for the assignment. Nonetheless, I was extremely busy all week thanking people.  It was eye opening and thought provoking.

And it felt really good.

You know, at first, you might not really mean it.  You say, "thanks" but you don't actually feel any gratitude. But it sneaks up on you.  By the end of the week I was very grateful for the people in my life and all the things they did for me. It made me want to do more for them.

And I still do it.  Once I started, I never stopped.  It's as automatic to me as a smile or a hand shake can be.  But not so automatic that I don't actually feel the gratitude.

So, I'm passing it off to you.  Try it.  Have your kids try it. One week.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Please and Thank You

Dear Sister, I'm a little new to learning about the Saints, so I'm hoping you can direct me here...is there a patron saint for unappreciated homemakers? (I thought that sounded better than "Who should I pray to when I want to throttle my husband?") I'm trying SO hard to be a loving, gentle, *sigh* obedient wife and mother, but it sure isn't easy when I feel taken for granted all the time. Thanks for any guidance you can give me.

You don't need a patron saint. You need a cast iron skillet. Hide behind the door and clong him with it.

I'm joking.  Although everyone should have a cast iron skillet. It's great for both cooking and attractive biceps.

I have two recommendations. The first is St. Zita, who is the patron saint of homemakers. Little Zita was a maid (so right there, you should feel a kinship).  She was actually greatly appreciated as such, but her boss didn't care for her giving out bread to beggars at the back door and running off to Mass everyday. At one point he told her she couldn't go to Mass until her work was done. She went anyhow, with the bread unbaked and the kitchen uncleaned. When she returned everything was done.

The angels did it. Kind of like the shoemaker and the elves.  Wouldn't that be the best thing in the world? To come back expecting your messy house and all that work to do to clean and tidy up and make dinner and find it all sparkling and clean and dinner in the oven?

Perhaps you should just pick up a copy of The Shoemaker and the Elves and sit around in front of your husband and cry every time you reach the end and all the shoes are made. Eventually he'll want to know why you're crying and you can explain.

There's a word for this type of behavior: passive aggressive.

You have three choices. You can continue as you are, suffering in silence.
You can continue as you are but suffer cheerfully, offering up your suffering to the Poor Souls in Purgatory. (And for that, you'll want to turn to St. Therese the Little Flower who spent her brief life doing exactly that.)

Or you can man up, as they say, and sit that fellow down and have a frank talk with him.

I believe when people do this they tend to approach it the wrong way. They approach these things in an accusatory fashion, "You make me feel terrible and unappreciated all the time."  Have you ever noticed that when you accuse someone of something, even if they are actually 100% guilty, their first response is, "No...that's not what happened", or something to that effect? When people are accused they go on the defensive, even if a couple of moments later they realize you are correct.

Human nature. Flawed.

I propose that you take a tip from people who handle interventions. They actually don't talk about the other person, exactly. It's the first step in understanding that you are not responsible for their actions or reactions.  What they do is talk about how much they love the person, how valuable the person is to them in their lives. Then they talk about how the person's behavior--the behavior--is impacting them. There is a clear distinction between the behavior and the person. Jesus understood this very, very well.

That's my suggestion to you. Tell your husband how much you love and appreciate him. But explain to him that you aren't feeling that from him and it's making you feel bad and it's making your work as a homemaker into difficult drudgery.  Tell him you're willing to tell him thank you a lot more often. Ask him if he'll do the same for you.

The angels won't do it for you. But they will be there to help.