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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

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.