About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Out of Limbo

We only have two days to clean up any of our messes from 2013.  We don't have any giant messes, so that's good. We've been a little too full of cookies to think straight the last few days, but we're back on track now. It's a narrow window, because I believe more cookies may be happening for the New Year's Eve celebration. But not that narrow, because we have quite a few days before we have to dust off the Three Wise Men.  

So going back to this post about the good thief and where Jesus was when He was dead (you'll need a quick refresher to keep up)

The reason I thought that was that when Mary Magdalene saw Him risen, He told her not to touch Him as He had not yet been to His Father. Why say that, if He had been in Heaven already? I assumed From the Apostles Creed as well, that he had "descended into hell" or been with the souks in purgatory until then...oh well...I'm not that elderly and don't have a bladder infection as far as I know, just confused.

Glad to hear your health is not impaired.

I understand you're confusion. But it's actually not confusing.

Okay, it's confusing enough that St. Thomas Aquinas had to take time out and explain it. Thank goodness for that!

So....the "descended into hell" thing is about Jesus going to the Limbo of the Fathers and letting everyone out. 

He didn't say He had not yet been in Heaven. He said He had not yet ascended to the Father. When He ascended, He took his mortal body with Him. When He died on the cross, He didn't take His mortal body with Him.

Of course, this is a very important distinction, because we must believe that Jesus died and remained dead to believe the most important tenet of our faith, that Jesus rose again from the dead (and that He is God, that's really important, too).  Some people have been tempted to surmise that Jesus was pretty beat up, but didn't actually die. Then after a couple of days mending, He was able to get up again. That is not what happened.

St. Thomas Aquinas has a pretty mystical answer.

Also keep in mind that there are very good reasons that you should pay attention to what the Church says about what the Bible says, because if you go digging around in there on your own, you're liable to make some understandable but crucial mistakes. For example, the translation of the the word "touch".  The original word doesn't mean touch the way you and I would think of that. It means "cling".  It's more closely translated to say, "Do not cling to me", which indicates that Jesus didn't want a hug until everyone understood what was going on with His new glorified body.

Later, there are hugs all around.

I hope this finally clears it up for you.

Jesus wasn't lying or negating Himself.  Let's not miss the point of the story of the good thief. He was a believer and his belief was rewarded. Jesus died and opened Heaven so this man could enter.  That's what we need to know. That's what God wants us to remember. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Botched Baby Jesus Says Merry Christmas!

We're a little behind on responding to questions and follow ups because yesterday we discovered that the Baby Jesus, which has to be ready for tonight's midnight Mass, had a chip on his face. (I have not capitalized "his" in that sentence because I'm referring to the statue of Baby Jesus for the manger, so calm down. Baby Jesus does not have a chip on His face.)

It was a gouge, really. I didn't want to end up like that poor lady who botched Jesus on the pillar. I have to say, though, between you and me, that botched Jesus makes me laugh really hard. Not because of the ruined art work (well, that too, truth be told), but because I can just imagine that lady, with the best intentions, poking away at it with her paint brush, thinking all was going along swimmingly, and then stepping back and seeing....not so much. Going from touch ups to an unfixable mess. Haven't we all been there?

You think, "If I just pull this thread...."  "If I just put a dab of paint here...."  "If we just cut the dog's toe nails a little..."  "If I just stack a few more things in this pile..."

And then...an unfixable mess.

So we were nervous about how to fix the statue. At least we avoided any finger pointing as to how he became chipped. It remains a mystery, although not a Sacred Mystery. Just a "he was fine when we put him in the box last year" mystery.

At least for his "birth" tonight, he's looking rosy, with a patchwork of spackle and water color paint. The spackle absorbed more paint that anticipated, making one cheek more rosacia than rosy, so we had to rosy up the other cheek. Botched Jesus could have snow balled from there. But all is calm and his cheeks are especially bright. We'll leave it at that for this year.

Then we'll let the pros take over.

So Merry Christmas! I'll leave you with some nuns at Christmas for your holiday (holy day) enjoyment.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dead or Alive

I realize that it's all very mystical. But it's not too hard to make a timeline to track when Jesus died and what He did while He was dead.

Referring to what Jesus said to the thief on the cross (also known as St. Dismas), a reader asks:

I thought Jesus went to Heaven on the 3rd day, so why did he say "today"?

What makes you think that? Jesus was running around visiting the disciples and whatnot on the 3rd day. Surely you remember that? He didn't go to Heaven on the 3rd day, He rose from the dead on the 3rd day. Unless you live in Opposite World.

Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday. So He was was indeed dead that day. While He was dead, He opened the Gates of Heaven which had been closed since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden.
Jesus not being dead on the third day.

On the third day, He was alive again and surprised Mary Magdelene. Later, He showed up where the disciples were still gathered in their post crucifixion cowering state. You may recall His famous encounter with Thomas. He spent the next 40 days running around in His Glorified Body, eating, appearing and disappearing, walking through walls, and going fishing with the gang.

Then he gathered them all on the beach, gave them some final instructions and ascended into Heaven. We call that the Ascension.  That's where the Gospels all end. We take up with the Acts of the Apostles to find out what happened next.
Jesus ascends into Heaven, still very much alive.

Fifty days later, the Holy Spirit descended on them and gave them the Gift of Tongues, while they were gathered together in "the upper room".  The disciples then dispersed to the four corners of the earth. We know what happened to Judas. Peter, Bartholomew, Thomas, Andrew, James and James and Philip, were all crucified, stoned, run through with poles, skinned alive and decapitated. John, Simon the Zealot, Matthew and Thaddeus lived to ripe old ages and "fell asleep", according to Hippolytus.

You seem to have the timeline completely backwards. You've just had a mental lapse that forgot that Jesus died on the cross. Perhaps you need a little coffee or a cookie.

Sometimes a bladder infection causes people to not quite be able to think.  Especially in the elderly. If an elderly person seems to suddenly have dementia, you can pretty much bet they have a bladder infection. Like clockwork.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Case for Christmas

In our local paper this morning, here in Brisbane, there is actually an
article written by an Anglican priest, in which he is exhorting Christians everywhere to step back from Christmas altogether; he says we should just leave it to the shops and the secular enjoyment of the day, and instead reclaim the Incarnation by turning our focus to Easter instead. Not such a bad idea, really - there is never going to be a widespread resurgence of the religious significance of Christmas,that is a losing battle, and it was a pagan festival in the first place,wasn't it - adopted by the Christians in about the 3rd or 4th Century.

Oh, let's not. Let's not do that.

I understand his feelings about Easter. As a child our nuns always told us that we should celebrate Easter above all, since the Resurrection is the most important event. But I just never have been able to muster the excitement for Easter that I have for Christmas.

I know exactly why.

Christmas, celebrated in the dead of winter, is a cozy holiday. It's full of warmth and pretty lights and delicious food. Stockings are stuffed and a jolly old elf visits while we sleep, if we've behaved ourselves. Children's eyes sparkle in front of the tree.

At the heart of it all is a poor little baby, born to a poor family in a lowly place. A brand new baby who brought a new way of thinking. A baby who asked only one thing, "Love one another".   

And this also warms the heart.

It's not that Easter isn't heart warming. It's just not heart warming the way Christmas is heartwarming. For one thing, it's spring, and usually, we're already warm.  We don't need comfort food in the spring.

Christmas is sweetly miraculous, fully joyful and nurturing. Easter is mystical and glorious.

With eggs.

There is a reason those pagans threw a winter festival. We still need to stop in the dead of winter and love one another. We just have a way better reason than the pagans have.

I do think people could calm down about Christmas. There's no need to stress out so much about it. But I think that the reason that we do is because we actually do take it seriously, that we want to leave no stone unturned to send out love and greetings and cookies and toys. We don't want to leave anyone out and we sincerely want to bring joy to each other.

That's not such a bad reason for all that shopping, really. The Magi brought gifts, the shepherds came over. It was all lovely.

A poor little baby will always be at the heart of it. We're not really pagans.

And why on earth does anyone who believes there is a War on Christmas not believe there isn't a War on Easter?  I think Easter seems much more secular than Christmas, with bunnies and eggs and plastic grass and fancy hats.  And least Christmas has a saint deliver the goods, not a giant invisible bunny. I have never heard a peep from the War on Christmas crowd about Easter. What's up with that?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Stubborn as a Lutheran

Hello Sister! I love your blog! I am a cradle Catholic, life long friends with a cradle Lutheran. She is very devout in her faith. Lately she has been bugging me about Purgatory - specifically, that it doesn't exist. Her reasoning? Jesus said on the cross to the man crucified next to him (the good one) "TODAY you will be with me in Paradise". Not tomorrow, nor the next day, or after you get out of purgatory; TODAY. Implying that there was no passing go, no stopping for gas, just zooming right into Heaven without a pesky stop in Purgatory. How can I respond to her? I can't use "it's a sacred mystery" because she's Lutheran and won't buy it.

Not everyone goes to Purgatory!  Some people go straight to Heaven. Martyrs, for example, go straight to Heaven. Children under the age of seven go straight to Heaven. Very holy people go straight to Heaven. And anyone Jesus says is going straight to Heaven, goes straight to Heaven. So if Jesus said this guy will go to Heaven that day, that's that. It doesn't mean Purgatory doesn't exist.

Ironically, before Jesus died on the cross, no one went to Heaven, let alone Purgatory. Everyone went to the Limbo of the Fathers, because the gates of Heaven were not open. 

There's nothing mysterious about it.

I wouldn't hold my breath with your Lutheran friend arguing over Purgatory, however. The belief that Purgatory does not exist is at the very heart of the Lutheran faith. There would have been no reason for Martin Luther (who was a Catholic priest) to break with the Church. Luther was rightfully angry that the Church was selling indulgences and said so. He actually wasn't trying to leave the Church or found a new religion. 

The Church got mad back and booted him out. THEN he started the Lutheran sect. Too bad, because right after that, the Church reformed in a little thing called the Reformation.  

As far a Purgatory is concerned, Luther threw the baby out with the bathwater. Selling indulgences was wrong, but that doesn't mean Purgatory does not exist.

The argument about Purgatory  goes like this:
1. Where in the Bible is Purgatory mentioned?
Answer: It's not mentioned. Not by name. There is this passage from Maccabees, however, that mentions praying for the dead. That begs the question, if there is only Heaven and Hell, why should we pray for the dead? Everyone is already where they are going, permanently. So if the Bible asks us to pray for the dead, where are these people? There must be some place where the dead need our prayers. We gave that place a name.

2. Maccabees is not in my Bible! 
Response: No, it's not in your Bible because Martin Luther took it upon himself to remove it. Apparently, he knew better than 1500 years of doctrine and dogma, which books should be included in the Bible, a matter that was settle in the 4th century. Your Bible has had some pretty major overhauls, as a matter of fact. Words have been changed to support Luther's arguments.  For example, what did the angels say to the shepherds on the night that Christ was born?  Luther changed it to read "Glory to God in the Highest, Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men".  What it actually says was "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace to Men of Good Will." Quite a difference.
Available only at Zazzle

So which church would we like to follow, the one founded by Jesus when He was alive on Earth, or the one based on the the one founded by Jesus was alive on earth with changes made by Martin Luther, ex-priest?  It seems a simple choice to me. But then....I'm me.

Which reminds me! Here's an item we have that will remind you try not to end up in Purgatory.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sister Mary Martha's Christmas Gift Guide

Now that I've aggravated people with my post from yesterday and have your attention, it's time to launch Sister Mary Martha's holiday gift guide.  Yes, I said holiday, which means holy day. (Always remember that!) Taking a tip from Oprah,  I found some of my favorite things.

For example. Here is a gift to please the whole family. Who wouldn't enjoy a little NUN BOWLING? Some of you might want to label them with nuns from your childhood. We know nuns these days are all hootenanny and peace signs, but that was not always the case. Bowl over Sister Marillia and then tells the kids about how it was "when I was a boy".
Twinkling LED saintliness

Of course, over at the shop, we can match you with your custom patron saints. We make a great stocking stuffer. But keep in mind that having a medal that reminds you of your saint is just a way to remind yourself to behave, so that some day you may make it to Heaven.

So here's another good way to remind yourself or your loved ones of your saintly goals.

We know a lot of people need reminding, so the price is right on this item.

Okay,okay, these items are a little...not serious. But here is an item I've found at the local religious goods store. Every once in a while I pick up a couple and whoever they've landed with has been delighted to get one. And you'll get six! And if you look around, you'll see that there are other types, from the 12 Steps to inspirational quotes, the various names of Jesus! There are a lot of different types.  Every time you click your pen you get a different step or Commandment or Beatitude or name of Jesus.  Fantastic!

We have a few more, but for today, we'll end with a a gift for all those people who are concerning themselves with the War on Christmas.  Jesus is the reason for the season, after all.

This has been so much fun! If you have some gift ideas, we'll be happy to pass them on. And we'll keep surfing.

The War on the War on Christmas

Of course, the war on the war on Christmas rages on:

Pity you do not understand the war on Christianity in this country. Just keep those fingers in your ears and singing LA LA LA LA.

Although my fingers are not in my ears (my wimple makes that impossible), I clearly do not understand the war on Christianity in the country. I am wondering if you live in some pocket of the United States where your church was burned to the ground?

Was your family arrested? Anyone shot by a firing squad?

Were you marched into a town hall and asked to renounce your faith on penalty of death or imprisonment? And when this happened, you and the other Christians took up arms? Because that would be WAR. That would be what an actual WAR looks like. We've seen enough of it to recognize it when it happens.

Or is the possibility of violence just growing because the neighbors asked you to take your manger off your lawn? Oh, no one asked you to remove your manger? From your own lawn?
No?  Because in the United States, you have the freedom of religious choice and no one can take that away from you.


Which is why, while you can have your manger on your lawn, we maybe don't have a manger in the town square.  But we VERY OFTEN do. Because we are still actually mostly tolerant of the beliefs of others. And comically, if anyone tried to only put up secular Christmas decorations, they'd fail, because practically all Christmas decorations are symbolic of Christ and the Faith. Except the reindeer. And maybe the Nutcracker. (But he was a Christmas present, commemorating the Birthday of Jesus, so....)

There is no war on religious beliefs in this country. The President and the Congress pray publicly on a regular basis. They actually shouldn't do that, but no one has stormed the halls with machetes to make them stop. Some people have merely complained about it, which is their right as a citizen, not an act of war.

Perhaps you are merely referring to the notion that because abortion and gay marriage (in a growing number of states) are legal, your religious tenets are being trampled.

But they are not. Unless you have been forced to have an abortion or marrying someone of the same sex, your beliefs are safe and sound. The rest is hyperbole. People disagreeing with you is not an act of aggression.

And, if I may be honest, comes off as a little whiney. What warlike thing has happened? I'm having trouble seeing the gunsmoke through the Christmas lights.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Golden Rosary

Hello Sister Mary Martha, I love your blog! It's opened my eyes to a lot about the Catholic faith, especially how practical it really is, even wrapped in the richness of mysticism (a la Teresa of Avila, not a seance) and holy mysteries. I have a question about a practice I've heard about, but only in bits and pieces. It has to do with saying a rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. Of course a daily rosary helps everyone, but from what I've heard this is something additional. Can you tell me more about what this practice is for, if there are special graces obtained, and what may be involved other than just saying the rosary on these five Saturdays? Thanks for your help! A faithful reader

Yes! How lovely! I don't think anyone has ever asked me about this, even in the non-cyber world. 

Here's the thinking behind this one. We like to honor Mary. So Saturday has traditionally been the day of choice because of Mary's vigil on Holy Saturday, while Jesus was in the tomb.

We really leave no stone unturned in the Catholic Church. What's the best day of the week to honor Mary?  Who would even think to ask that question?  Why not just honor Mary any day of the week? No, someone had to sit down and figure out which day would be best. Of course we did.
So that was already going on. But in 1925, the Virgin Mary appeared to Sister Lucia  at her convent in Portugal. You remember Sister Lucia! She was one of the three children of Fatima, who lived to a ripe old age as a Dorothean sister. Mary revealed a heart encircled in thorns, explaining the Jesus' heart is constantly pierced by "ungrateful men". (I'm sure she meant women, too, and children over the age of seven....)

Mary said there was no one to make reparation.

The Golden Prayer is a little more complicated than just saying a rosary on the first Saturday for five consequetive months.  First of all, you have to say a whole rosary. That means you go through your beads four times and all four sets of mysteries: Glorious, Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous.

And that's not all! You have to go to Confession and Holy Communion and you have to keep company with Mary for fifteen minutes. Because this devotion is all about comforting Mary and defending her.

I'm not sure why Mary picked fifteen minutes. But Sister Lucia has confirmed that it does not count the time you've spent saying the full rosary (all four sets of mysteries). You pick one mystery and meditate on that for fifteen minutes. 

I don't know why she picked fifteen minutes. But I do now why there are five first Saturdays as opposed to nine (like a novena) or any other number.  Jesus appeared to Sister Lucia in 1930 and told her it was because there were five ways in which Mary was particularly offended: blasphemies against her Immaculate Conception, against her perpetual virginity, against the divine and spiritual maternity of Mary, blasphemies involving the rejection and dishonoring of her images, and the neglect of implanting in the hearts of children a knowledge and love of this Immaculate Mother.

Also keep in mind that no one has to pay any attention to anything that is a private revelation, which includes Fatima, anything Sister Lucia has to say or that Mary appeared to Sister Lucia and asked for this. Your feeling about private revelations are entirely up to you. The Church does give some of them Her blessing, and this is one of those.

It would be good to keep these things in mind during your time spent with Mary.
And here's a little Christmas bonus for you! Since I missed St. Nicholas day here on the blog, let's pretend there is a loud knock coming through your computer.  


CLICK THIS LINK!  (it's not a virus, I promise)
You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Sister Mary Martha Wins the War on Christmas

There! I believe I have answered all the questions in our queue.

It's Advent! My favorite time of year! And time to address, once again, the ridiculous notion that there is a "War on Christmas".  If you actually think there is a war on Christmas, you clearly stay in your house from September until  mid-January. The Walgreen's has shoved the sand pails and swim noodles to the sale aisle to make room for Christmas items even while they're trying to find a little room for some orange and black items for Halloween. It wouldn't surprise me if "Happy Holidays", which now include Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas and New Year's Eve and day, roped in Halloween as well.

The basis of the idea of the war on Christmas is driven by some sort of persecution complex that some people seem to get when they are reminded that not everyone in the world, or the country, or the town, is Christian.  We'd love it if everyone was a Catholic, but welcome to reality.

Let me point out two things:

1. What persecution actually looks like.

2.  Why is everyone so worried that Christmas is becoming too secular, too commercial? Christmas really was originally a pagan holiday (as was Halloween). And the Church at first tried to ban the holidays ( a word, by the way, that means HOLY DAY..those days were holy for pagans, too). But then the Church figured out (as the United States eventually did with Prohibition) that people are not going to stand for grim winters with no turkey leftovers and warm yule logs and not a single party. The Church actually passed an edict stating that the festivals were not to be banned, suppressed or burned to the ground. The Church instructed, in a stroke of brilliance, that the festivals should be incorporated by simply changing the symbolism and focus of the outward manifestations of the party.

So the big evergreen tree became a symbol of everlasting life and hope. The candle and yule logs became the Light to the world brought by Jesus. If gift giving was good enough for the Magi, it's good enough for us. The snow itself is a white blanket of purity. The holly is the evergreen of life and the red blood of Jesus' sacrifice. A candy cane is purity and martyrdom.

If you're concerned about secularization, just...incorporate. We did it once. Why can't we do it again?  I challenge you to find me something I can't turn into Christmas and Jesus and the Church.

Okay...between you and me, I can't figure out the reindeers. Santa is covered, since he's actually a saint who loved children. But the reindeers have me stumped.

We don't have to worry about Frosty the Snowman. He's just a winter story. Although he is...white. Pure as the driven snow.  But he has a magic hat. That won't do.  If you are a long time reader, you know I don't have a problem with children learning magic stories. But if you're trying to incorporate Frosty, the hat would have to go. Otherwise the hat can stay.

And calm down if someone wishes you "Happy Holidays".  Three things: They are actually saying "Happy Holy Days" whether they realize it or not.  They are trying not to offend you, so why be offended by someone who is trying to be nice? And there are more days of celebration during the season than Christmas and they just want you to be happy during all of them.


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Professional Professing

Hi Sister -

I hope you and your Sisters had a very nice Thanksgiving.

I am a candidate for the Secular Franciscans, and I have been discerning since March. I am beginning to think about my profession, which should be in spring of 2015.

Before I profess, I want to be very sure I have a true vocation as a Secular since I will be making a solemn promise to God. I am considering what draws me to the Franciscans, and I am not sure it is of God. I need to be sure, you see.

I am in an area with no First or Second Order Franciscans - they are all at least an hour away. My pastor is a former Franciscan, but is now a Diocesan priest. He refuses to help me. My fault, not his - I have offended him in the past.

I have begged his forgiveness, I have prayed countless novenas and rosaries for him, and have asked Jesus to direct the graces I receive at Holy Communion to my pastor so we can be on a friendly basis again. I really feel terribly about this. Father says he forgives me, but he will not speak to me, and as I said, he refuses to advise me spiritually.

My fraternity's spiritual advisor is a fine Franciscan friar, but he is over an hour away. He also has a very heavy workload. He is the guardian of a shrine with a parish, he is the chaplain of four Franciscan fraternities spread over two states, and he is a concert cellist. At this time of the year, his time is especially spread thin, so I do not want to trouble him.

To whom can I pray for guidance with my discernment of my vocation? And would you please pray very hard for me?

Well now look here, this is way too much for me to try to straighten out. The only person who can discern if you have a vocation or not is you.

I could go out on a limb and point out that if a priest won't talk with you about it, he might be leaning toward telling you, if he would talk to you, that you are not a good candidate.

But that is one shaky limb, because the truth is, we don't know what you did to offend him so thoroughly. We don't know that he hasn't forgiven you. We don't know that he has.  Priests are human beings first. Maybe he's struggling with forgiving you. Maybe he has actually forgiven you, but needs, for the sake of his own battles of the soul, to not be around you. Maybe you are for him, a near occasion of sin. 

It's a shaky limb because human beings can be wrong about the sincerity or motivations of others. St. Rita tried over and over to get into the convent and was told repeatedly to take a hike. Angels finally flew her over the convent wall. Even that didn't cause the nuns inside to embrace her. St. Therese the Little Flower was endlessly harassed by her mother superior, who refused to attend Therese's funeral. St. Joseph of Cupertino was tossed out of the monastery.

You have until spring. Actually, you have the rest of your life, but you have set your goals for spring. The Christmas season will end and the other spiritual adviser will put down his cello. Contact him now and set aside some time in February with him.

One last question, not for you to answer here publicly, but for yourself for clarity.
"I'm not sure what draws me to the Franciscans and I'm not sure if it is of God."  That's the whole Magilla right there.  Figure out what it is that draws you. What are the things that draw you? The sandals?  

The answer should be, giving myself to God in this way, in the life of a Franciscan, is the best way for me unite my soul to God.

Meanwhile, who could be better to guide you with intercession but St. Rita herself?  She did not give up and is the patron saint of impossible causes. That's how bad it got for her. Of course, she had no doubts about her calling. Talk to her while you peruse this.

I hope this helps you in some small way. Let us know how you're doing!

Meanwhile, it's Advent and we haven't even talked about that!

Monday, December 02, 2013


I count on my readers to point out when I've made a mistake. Or mistakes.  Always remember, dear readers, that nuns are sometimes wrong.  

Because I'm well aware that nuns are sometimes wrong, please take note that I don't make things up. I will never tell you that a woman had an ants nest between her scalp and her skull, for example. But sometimes my own errors flop right out there. Apparently, I've been on a tear.

My mother told me that the patron saint of test-takers was St. Joseph Cupertino. I've been asking for his intercession for years on tests. Is it actually St. John Cupertino?

Your mother was one hundred per cent correct! I was 50% wrong. I suffer from a malady I call, "stuckonthat".  If you tell me your name and for whatever reason I misremember that your name is Alice when it is actually Alise, or Agnes or Agatha or any other name that begins with "A" that my feeble brain has substituted for the correct information, you will forever be whatever I have landed on, facts notwithstanding.  

At least I got the Cupertino part right, which is a miracle, since my full befuddlement involves constantly confusing St. John of the Cross with St. Joseph Cupertino.  I don't know why. Perhaps it's all the depictions of St. Joseph Cupertino with his arms out flying up to Jesus on the Cross. Perhaps I'm just not the brightest bulb. Perhaps my elevator can no longer make it to the top floor.

While we're on the subject, I make two consistent typing errors every single time I type these two words: Joseph and Bernadette.  I ALWAYS first type Jospeh and Bernadetter.  Even just now when I typed Joseph and Bernadette (and again just now). Wait....there's another one: hospital.  I usually type hosiptal or something first.

And while we are making corrections, it is not a miracle that I got the Cupertino part right. It is remarkable, given that I really erroneously think of him as John of the Cross, but it is not a miracle. We have high standards for miracles, and me getting a saint's name partially right really doesn't cut it.

Is Hildegarde of Bingen a Doctor, too?

Yes, she is! I forgot about that! You'd think it would be easy for me to remember to no longer say "There are three women Doctors of the Church (but am stuckonthat), when in fact there are now four. Two Teresa's ( a Teresa and a Theresa) and Catherine and now a Hildegarde.

And what a fascinating person she was! I think I'll put together a Sister Mary Martha gift list for Christmas! Because you can buy St. Hildegarde's album. I believe I still have the link over there in the side bar.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Proclamation
[New York, 3 October 1789]
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Unhappy Thanksgiving

Hi Sister Mary Martha, I love your blog! I've been following for a long time, but never commented before. I'm writing to ask for your prayers and for a patron saint suggestion. I have been outcast from my family and so the holidays are a difficult time for me. You see, my father molested me when I was little. At the time, my mother knew, but she refused to help me or protect me. I told my siblings and husband about it only after my father died. It seems they all blame me for what happened. It doesn't make sense; as if a little girl was supposed to be able to fight off a grown man. My husband left me because he thought, if we had children, that I would abuse them. (I know first hand the horrors of abuse and would never do that to anyone!) Anyway, I am kicked out of the family, written out of the will, and not welcome at any Thanksgiving or Christmas gatherings. Please pray for my family, that they can some day realize their mistake. And please pray for me, that I might some day be at peace about all this. Do you have a patron saint you can suggest for me? Thank you SO much!

It might be that they don't so much blame you as they simply don't believe you. They can't deal with the idea that what they think to be true about their father and the life they lived in your family is not true.  If they let the truth in even for a second, they cannot blame their beloved father.

All of this is a tragedy.  For you and for them. But tragedy cannot be the prevailing wind of our lives. They may never come around. You need to forgive them, which I think is extremely difficult to do when they aren't trying their best.

So for now, don't try. Put them on the back burner, but don't let them simmer. Turn the heat off of those pans back there. Concentrate on the front burners. Your life. What it is going to be, how to be fulfilled in life. When you eyes float to the back burners, pull them back to the front.

You CAN do that. There are people who need you. People who also, for a wide variety of reasons, have a difficult time over the holidays. They need your help and your love. They already have your understanding, don't they. They are surprising easy to find.

Start by volunteering. A soup kitchen, the Catholic Charities, a nursing home. Cook, visit, help.  The gratitude you will receive will fill the empty spaces.

Find a support group. If you can afford therapy, get some, but at least find a support group and go.

And, of course, I have a patron saint for you! She is so perfect for you! And only recently canonized. Mother Mary MacKillop, founder of the  Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart (also known as the Josephites).

Kicked out of your family?  She was excommunicated (and still made it to canonization).

Why was she kicked out of the church? For exposing a sexual abuser.

Yes, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. You know what else it is? Thursday.  A great day to find those people who need you. You need them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Patron Saint of Exam Acers

 I work at a Catholic high school and 1st exams will be upon us in a few weeks.I would like to have some holy cards available for the students so they know who to ask for help with their exams. Who are the saints for the major school subjects: Math, English, Social Studies and Science...ooh and Theology too?

You need look no farther than St. Albert the Great for all you scholarly patron saintage. He was the teacher of the patron saint of teachers and students, St. Thomas Aquinas. Both saints are Doctors of the Church.  ohh and the that makes them particularly good choices for theology patronage.

And while we're on the subject of Doctors of the Church you might want to introduce your girls to three girls in Heaven who are Doctors of the Church: St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Catherine of Sienna, and St. Teresa of Avila. I think of them as the patron saint for people who are annoyed by the annoying habits of other, the patron saint of dieters, and the patron saint of perfectionists, respectively, But obviously they are all good choices for theology. I'll bet St. Catherine would be good for penmanship, too. She wrote a  lot of letters.

Is penmanship even a subject anymore? It should be.  Although the Palmer Method? That was for the birds.

I think outside the box, patron saint-wise, as my readers well know. If you're looking for someone to help you with your exams, I'd also turn to St. John Cupertino. He really could barely read or understand anything, but when it came time to take his priestly exam, the bishop asked him one question about one particular passage of Scripture. It was a passage that John was obsessed with...the ONLY one. So he aced his exam. That would make him the patron saint of exam acers.

I had a similar experience once in college. I was taking philosophy in summer school but I had missed the first day of class.  One evening I watched a documentary about Washoe, the chimp who had been taught sign language. The chimp using sign language proved that this animal was able to use symbolic thought by signing, when presented with a  doll in a cup, "Baby in my drink."  She also made jokes. 

The next day in class we covered a chapter in our book about what separates people from animals and there was a list of things. One of them was that animals were incapable of symbolic thought and another humor (which involves a lot of symbolic thought, when you think about it). So I explained what I had seen this chimp do and was able to knock three or fours things off that list in the book. Making and using tools was on there, too. Chimps also make and use tools and use some types of deductive reasoning.

Unbeknownst to me, because I had missed the first day of class, we had each been assigned a chapter of the book. I was supposed to lead the discussion of that chapter. That was the chapter I had been assigned. I had no clue until I was told I got an A on "my chapter".  I didn't even know I was leading the discussion.

I digress.

Another saint who believed in the power of education was St. Thomas More, who believed that boys and girls should be educated equally, a radical idea for his time. 

I'm sure our readers will pile on with some more wonderful ideas. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rote Prayer

Dear Sister, Lately I have been trying to start my spiritual journey with God, but when I pray I often find myself just repeating empty words and I feel disconnected. Or I feel like I'm just going through the motions. Can you tell me how to actually feel God during prayer?

Whose words are they? Are they your empty words or are you saying prayers from the backs of holy cards and novenas, rosaries, litanies?

I don't think we're in any real trouble here if that's the case.

If they are YOUR OWN WORDS, then you really have a problem.

It's easy to disconnect from what become rote prayers. When I'm teaching children to memorize something I tell them to work on it until their mouth knows it, until they can say the words without thinking, and the example I use for that is saying a Hail Mary or the Pledge of Allegiance. Your mouth knows that. You can say it without thinking.

Which is a good thing when you're saying a rosary, because while your mouth says the Hail Mary, your mind is mediating on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary. Some forms of mediation empty the mind. The rosary fills the mind.

So if this is the case with you, stop saying rote prayers for a bit and just talk to God. Start with gratitude. That will make you feel better and much more connected right away for all the gifts you have.Did you ever stop to think that it was very smart of God to make you waterproof? What if, when you got wet, you got all soaked and had to run around or stand dripping so the sun and wind could dry you out again? Be thankful that you're waterproof.

Think outside the box.

It's okay to ask God to find ways to connect with you.  Be sure and wake up that His answers will astound you. You may not recognize them until after the fact. Terrible things can become blessings. Blessings can become wake up calls. Pay attention!

Let us know how you're doing. It's a great week to be thankful.