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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Toasty Toast for the New Year

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Little Christmas Cheer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our Swords to Plowshares

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

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

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

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

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

We do.

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

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

And we pray that everyone will put down their swords.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

St. Bede Crosses the Finish Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Four More!

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

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

Lean and Mean

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

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


Never mind.

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

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

I exaggerate.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 03, 2012

Do It Yourself Blessings

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

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

If you do that, bring the coffee.

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

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

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

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

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

The deed is done, water or no.

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

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

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