About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Match Made in Heaven

I am always amazed when I'm asked for dating and relationship advice. 

Sister Mary Martha, Like you I also like terrorizing children and lucky for me I can do it 10 months out of the year! Haha! As a senior high teacher I do have the pleasure of working with young people and I absolutely love it. My only complaint is that I have many teacher friends who are all married and I wonder how I too can meet someone. I have been single for an awfully long time and I can't seem to meet anyone. I have tried classical routes and some new "on-line" routes. I am still struggling to meet someone who wants to get married and have a family. Any advice?

You get that I'm a nun, right?

Like that stops me from having advice or an opinion. I believe this question has come up before and many of our readers flew to the rescue with some good ideas. I'm sure they will once again don their angel wings and pipe in with links and lists.

Please keep in mind, when this happens, that they are not actually angels, or saints for that matter. Angels are not dead people or nice people. They are a completely different entity that God created. And  a saint is anyone who is dead and in Heaven. As saintly as someone may act, they are not actually a saint until they are not only dead, but in enjoying their Heavenly reward.

I digress.

I have two ideas for you. 

One, go out a lot. Go everywhere. No one is going come knocking on your door with a ring floating in a glass of champagne. Unless maybe....you have some plumbing that needs fixing and the plumber is a handsome Catholic man.  It would be great to marry a man who can fix things. I'll always remember Mrs. Gott chasing after her husband as he ran through the house with a hammer. In her girlish youth, she had imagined that all men were just like her father, who could not only fix a house, he could build one, from carpentry to electrical to plumbing. Alas, this is not the case and all these years later she had learned that her husband did not know how to fix anything, but it never stopped him from trying. "Hit it with a hammer" was his solution to any fix it need.  So if she saw him with a hammer, she knew she had to step in.

I digress.

Go out.  Lectures, meetings, plays, sports.  Find things to do where you meet lots of other people. 

Look your best.

Here is my other idea: a novena!  Good idea, right? Nine days or nine first Fridays, usually to ask the intercession of certain saint. Now, the patron saint for finding a husband (and the Girl Scouts of America) is St. Agnes. While I usually do recommend Agnes for the great husband safari, the truth is that Agnes herself was martyred for refusing to marry anyone. 

And then. of course, there is good old St. Valentine, whose box of chocolates day is just around the corner. He really didn't have to much to do with lovers either and we don't even know which St. Valentine is which. Maybe he delivered a love letter once or twice. He was no John Alden.

Speaking of angels, St. Raphael the Archangel is the patron of young lovers, because he stood up for a young couple. So he is a pretty good choice.

But I'm going to recommend the world's happiest bride, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She was married off at a very young age to a princely typed, but she was happy as a clam and loved her husband to pieces. Unfortunately for her, he didn't live a very long life and she spent the rest of her days missing him, but you get the picture. They were a great match.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Blabbermouth Saints

The masses have had plenty of ideas about how to bill St. Dymphna in the shop. Many think she should just stay crazy. I tend to agree. Look for me to come back to this again, next time someone sends me a scolding email. During the very helpful conversation in the comments section, this question popped up. 

 I tend to run my mouth and say more than I need to.....who is the patron Saint of those who talk too much.

Talking too much is a relative situation, is it not? If you're at Aunt Tillie's funeral and you just can't stop commenting on the mourning garb or lack thereof, you talk too much. If other people can't get a word in edgewise, you talk too much. If you're Chris Matthews, you talk too much. 

But some people talk a lot and it's a very good thing. With that in mind, I offer two patron saints for you, with the thought that if you have a tendency to run your mouth, you could at least not run it on empty.

First up, St. Anthony. Yes, I realize that most people think of good old St. Anthony when they can't find their glasses and keys. He is unfailing in this regard. You know what to say, right?  "Holy Tony, come on down, something's lost and must be found."  The story goes that a Brother "borrowed" St. Anthony's book. St. Anthony prayed and prayed that the book would be found and the Brother had an alarming vision of St. Anthony. I don't know what was alarming about it. Maybe having a vision is alarming enough. I would be alarmed if I had a vision, especially if it was a vision of the person whose book I "borrowed".  Maybe having a vision of an annoyed St. Anthony goes a long way. In any case, the book was returned.

But I think the whole "lost and found" thing has a much deeper root. St. Anthony was the best public speaker of his day. Apparently, he had a lovely voice and a compelling style. But on top of that, he had a photographic memory. He remembered everything he read, which made it possible for him to speak extemporaneously with great effect.  That's also why he can remember where you left your keys, I think.

In any case, word of St. Anthony's amazing gifts got back to St. Francis, himself. St. Francis sent St. Anthony a letter and told him that whatever St. Anthony wanted to go out and speak about was okay. "Please get on out there" is more or less said. "We need guys like you."

Now before you rush out with your mouth in gear, keep in mind that St. Anthony was very well educated in theology and, as I mentioned, remembered every word he ever read.

But he's a great patron saint for you. He was such an fantastic speaker that when his remains were exhumed, his well used tongue was still intact, moist and glistening. I believe it still resides in Padua.

You should be so blessed.

And the other patron saint for you is St,. Francis himself. All St. Francis did was run around preaching. On foot, with no shoes on. He heard a sermon that inspired him and off he went. He was joined by another guy, and at the end of the year there were eleven of them. In a few years, there were one hundred....thousand. Five hundred thousand if you also count the people in  the Third Order. That is some powerful blabbing.

So blab away, my dear. And remember the words of St. Francis "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ask Sister Mary Martha's Readers

Our readers are lovely people with great questions and even better responses. Sometimes I don't bother answering when someone Asks Sister Mary Martha, because someone in the comments section has covered it for me, and quite nicely. And often people write in with corrections and additions to whatever I've had to say.

So today, I turn to our readers to ask you all a question. I need help!

In the shop we sell St. Dymphna. St. Dymphna is the patron for the mentally unbalanced and sleepwalkers, but because she has that distinction, every kind of off kilter, 'you're not normal' issue a person can have has also been glommed onto her.

And St. Dymphna had no mental or neurological problems. Her father did. She didn't even sleepwalk.

So, I've never felt that St. Dymphna really was a good patron saint for mental illness, rather, she was the victim of someone who was mentally ill.

All this time in the shop, and the shop has been around for many years now, we've billed St. Dymphna as the "Crazy People, St. Dymphna".  She sells like hot cakes.  I went round and round with how to bill her, since she has so many patronages and came up with 'crazy people' because she is more the patron saint for the off kilter (in my opinion) than serious mental illness.

I never thought that calling someone crazy (in jest) was a bad thing. Or saying, "Well, that's just crazy."  Crazy is a useful word.

But from time to time I receive a diatribe from someone who is deeply offended that I would use that word in reference to the mentally ill. I don't, actually, since I actually don't recommend St. Dymphna for actual mental illness,  but it looks like a do.  'Crazy' is a good bucket word for the not normal,l given there really is no such thing as normal.  There is. But there isn't. We all understand this.

When I was a child, one of my favorite things to eat was sauerkraut on top of mashed potatoes with ketchup on top. If there was no ketchup, the whole thing was totally unappealing to me. Not normal.

I'm at a loss as to how to bill St. Dymphna.  I don't want to offend anyone and their points are well taken.  I also don't really agree with their well taken points.  So I come to you, dear readers. Any ideas for a new billing for good old St. Dymphna? Patron saint of the not normal isn't very catchy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't Tell ME What to Do!

I feel remiss in not keeping you posted on the calendar. It seems I am always behind the eight ball. It's puzzling because I love the Church calendar, which, if followed, will tell you what to do and think about every single day.

Some people don't like to be told anything. They bristle at the idea. But our path is that of humility and obedience. Following along the calendar days is the easiest breeziest way to figure out what to do.

It's like Weight Watchers!  They don't tell you what to eat. They just give all the food you might want points and you can decide how to eat your points. You can have a big old piece of cake. But not dinner. You can have a reasonable dinner and a little something sweet.  But you might have to walk more.

So every day, the Church gives you some points and you can figure out how to use them. There are reading from the Bible, Old Testament and New, to think over, several saints who have feast days to inspire us, which Mysteries of the Rosary to say, and a general overview, like Advent, Lent, etc.

We just got done with Christmastide. It's a long celebration that ends with the Baptism of Jesus. I can only hope you were following along, since I was no help whatsoever.

Now we're back in Ordinary Time.  It's not all that ordinary, since we're following the teachings of a very radical philosophy that asks us to have compassion and forgiveness at all times, even in heavy traffic at rush hour.  But we're not having any extra cake right now.

We all just did that. Right around the corner, we'll have the opportunity to walk it off, as Lent starts early this year, Easter coming at the end of March as it does. So there's a little heads up from me. IN the meantime, we've put away the lights and the Magi, written the thank you notes.

The priest at Mass will be wearing his everyday green. The Rosary is Glorious. We're making a big pot of chili with chicken and apple sausage.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Ashes of a Thirty Year Old

The Peanut Gallery has weighed in with some useful thoughts and information on the issue of burial vs. cremation and the laws of the Church. I can always rely on our dear readers to fill in the blanks and put in the two cents I need to pay the bill. Here's a lovely anecdote to start us off:

 I once had an interesting discuss about the Church's view of cremation with my youngest son, then 18. In response to his question as to why it was forbidden at on time, I launched into a detailed history of early Roman practices, the various issues since and finally ended up by telling him that it is now permitted with the caveat you mentioned. He thought about all that for a moment and then said: "Dad, that's pretty stupid thinking. I think if God can make everything out of nothing than putting me back together out of ash isn't a problem." It was probably the best reasoning I've heard about the subject.

Which was followed by this very important information that I neglected to mention.

...also, spreading ones ashes anywhere is forbidden too. I, unfortunately, have a sister in law who was cremated and she "remains" a little bit here and a little bit there. ew. 

That is correct! You still have to bury the ashes or put them in a vault. Not to be confused with vaulting them (into space or anywhere else)or wearing them in a locket around your neck. Also, burial at sea is okay, because it is sometimes a necessity. God may well be able to gather your ashes from the four corners of the universe, but please don't make Him have to do that much work.  He would need such a giant dustpan.

Speaking of giant dustpans...we just found ours. It has been lost for almost 2 years. We lost it when we were battling the morning glories that grew all over the front of house and down the neighbor's fence and out over the sidewalk. It was so massive that the neighbors on the other side of the house came and helped and when it was all over, the giant dustpan was gone.  We looked high and low for it and even St. Anthony could not find it. We assumed it had gotten tossed out with the two enormous cans work of clippings. And the, lo and behold! it turned up buried in a closet over this weekend.  We would call it a miracle but it was not instantaneous and unexplained, although we have no explanation.

I digress.

It was Thomas Aquinas, right? And he thought we'd be 33 because Jesus was 33
when he died.

You may have something there! As much as I love St. Thomas Aquinas, I am in over my head
 trying to slog through his writings.  I  thought it was because that is when you are at your peak
 as a human and was more or less correct about that , from a scientific standpoint.  We're living 
longer, but it's all downhill from there.  

Here is what he actually said:
Man will rise again without any defect of human nature, because as God founded human 
nature without a defect, even so will He restore it without defect. Now human nature has a
 twofold defect. First, because it has not yet attained to its ultimate perfection. Secondly, 
because it has already gone back from its ultimate perfection. The first defect is found in 
children, the second in the aged: and consequently in each of these human nature will be
 brought by the resurrection to the state of its ultimate perfection which is in the youthful 
age, at which the movement of growth terminates, and from which the movement of 
decrease begins. (Supl Q. 81.1)

I think it was actually St. Augustine that mentioned that Jesus' age at the time of His death 
would be the perfect age. Whatever. It's kind of useless speculation.

Much more interesting is another notion of
 St.Thomas Aquinas, that we can finally have
perfect body in Heaven, because when we 
are in Heaven we have perfect souls and our
 body and souls are going to match. The body 
conforms to the soul.  That's a relief, isn't it?
 Get that soul in shape! Jack LaLanne can go
 sit down.

Well, let's remember, the original reason that you weren't allowed to be 
cremated was because people WERE running around thumbing their noses at 
the Churches teachings. In order to draw a clear line against this heresy, the 
Church put a kabosh on cremation, but considering that plenty of saints were 
burned to death, I don't think anyone thought you wouldn't be able to get to 
heaven if you had been burned to ash.  It was more of a "Let's not encourage 
the heretics" type of thing.

This is news to me. I must have been absent the day this was covered.

Honestly, not that much was covered. I just read a lot.  

on 1/13/13

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Vaulted to Heaven

 I have a question in regards to Christian burial of the deceased. Upon showing my Protestant Grandmother a picture of a crypt Church where all the deceased (nuns) were buried in vaults above ground, with their feet still facing East, she asked, "So they're not buried underground?" I didn't find anything in Church history that specifically says we have to be buried underground, so I'm wondering where she, and our separated brethren, got this conviction that we should only be buried underground? Your response is much appreciated! :)

I don't know. It seems she's also never heard of New Orleans, where there are lots of Catholics. People have to go into vaults there because underground is a wet mess. 

Perhaps she's confusing "underground" with "buried", because for a very long time cremation was a no-no. It is a matter of dogma that after the world finally ends and time finally stops, we will be reunited with our bodies and spend eternity as you were on earth.  A great incentive to get in shape now, because you don't want to spend eternity in a Hoveround.

It works like this, you die tomorrow (in good shape, we hope), and your soul goes to Heaven (we hope). Then when the world ends, you are reunited with your body.  If you're missing a leg, you get it back. If you go to Hell, you also get your missing leg back so as not to miss out on any suffering. Both legs will be on fire.

You have what we call a 'glorified body' and this is based on what happened to Jesus when He rose from the dead. He had a body that St. Thomas could poke, but Jesus could walk through walls. He could eat, but He didn't have to eat and so on.

St. Augustine thought that everyone would be 35 in Heaven. Or maybe it was St. Thomas Aquinas...one of those two...because 35 is the peak age of being human. So if you die at age 9 or age 90 you will be 35 in Heaven.

All of this meant that you couldn't be cremated because you had to have a body with which to be reunited. It does seem a bit....not thought out. But we obey.  The only people who would have a body with which to be reunited are the recently deceased and the incorrupt saints. And let's face it, a lot of those incorrupt saints aren't so incorrupt. I'd hate to spend eternity looking like the Mummy unwrapped.

So if you're buried you turn to dust, eventually. And if you're cremated, you turn to ashes, really fast. Fast dust, slow ashes....the Church now allows cremation.  Except...

..with this caveat: you can't be cremated if the reason you're being cremated is to prove to the Church that all of this is hooey or to otherwise thumb your nose at Church teachings. Then your cremation would be a mortal sin, which would be terrible, because unlike all other mortal sins you couldn't have a deathbed recant. Maybe you could, put you'd better hope the undertaker or the funeral planner or that relative that is taking charge of the after death festivities is around to hear you.

I'm betting that this is why your Grandmother thinks that Catholics have to be buried.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Mr. Amazing

Dear Sister, I love your blog. I really really really do. You cover tough topics with humor and grace and for that, God bless you. As for my question.. I grew up with an amazing boy whom I dated when I was 14. We continued dating until college separated us. lately I've been talking to him again and we are becoming very close again. Unfortunately he's made some (as he called them) mistakes in his first year of school. Sadly he fell into the trap of partying hard, sleeping around, and slacking off. I asked him to go to confession, but he says he would like to, but he can't if he feels forced, or unless it's on his terms and he feels ready. He doesn't feel ready now. Ok, I have two questions. 1. Is it wrong for me to be so persistent? I'm always bugging him about it, getting upset when he says no, and I've practically dragged him to church. I'm afraid it's selfish of me to want him to come back to God to make me feel better. If that makes sense..

Amazing is a good enough word for this fellow, I suppose.

Yes, it's wrong of you to be so persistent. Does that surprise you that the old nun would say stop nagging this guy?  Nagging never works. Unless you're St. Monica.  She prayed more than she nagged, I think.

 What's the second question? I have one for you. What's so amazing about this guy?

It is amazing that he would do all of that stuff, mortal sins included, and not "feel ready" to go to confession or Mass or anyplace else but on a date with you. Did you ever hear this old chestnut, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"?  Your horse is not thirsty. 

If it didn't bother you so much, you could ride off into the sunset with him, two happy pagans, destined for Hell.  But you're on the right track and he isn't. No amount of pleading and cajoling is going to get him past the dragging stage. And if you're dragging him, it means he really doesn't want to be there, is probably thinking of last night's football game while he's there and wondering what kind of sandwich you'll make him when you get home.

How is wanting what's best for someone else selfish? You lost me there.

But then, I'm lost altogether on what makes this fellow so amazing.  Amazing in a good way, at least. Not seeing it.

If your life with God is important to you, but his life with God is not important to him, you are never going to be happy with Mr. Amazing.  And if he just goes through the motions to make you happy, he will never be happy. Unless you make great sandwiches.

All is not lost, however!

We have ways of dealing with this type of thing. We have the wonderful GREEN SCAPULAR.  This is just the ticket for you two lovebirds.  Get your hands on one of these.  It's purpose is to bring people back to the Church.

May I be so bold as to suggest that you take a breather from Mr. Amazing?  Think of him as a addiction. To break an addiction you have to have 90 days away from the drug. That will stop the chemical reaction your brain is having to being with him, just like it does for cocaine and heroine.  A total break. No communication of any kind. Nophone calls, letters, bathroom wall writings,  emails, talking, letters, tweets or texting. No facebook.  You can tell him you're taking a break for 90 days. Count the days.

Then when you're clear headed you can decide how amazing he actually is. Plant the green scapular on him before you go!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Obligated to Obligations

Got a question for you, sister. We just moved to the states from Canada and expected to have Jan. 1st as a Holy Day of Obligation. Well, we were surprised to find out our bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah "abrogated the requirement as a holy day of obligation". We thought that was weird. My sister, who has recently come back into the Catholic Church after many, many years and is struggling with accepting some of the teachings of the church questioned me as to how it could be this way. Where she lives in California, it is a H.D.o.O. but not where I live? She said, "So. If I don't go to Mass it is a mortal sin, but not if you don't go?" I stumbled over that one. It is bothering me. I didn't know the answer for her. I just told her that the Church was divinely instituted but humanly run and humans can make mistakes. (Which is what I think our bishop did - and went to Mass anyways this morning.) 

I think you might be mistaken about Jan. 1st being abrogated by the Bishop. But let's back this truck up and see just what goes on with Holy Days of Obligation altogether. That beeping sound you hear is us backing up.

Holy Days of Obligation are special days set aside by the Church that are to be treated like a Sunday. Mass is the "obligation" part and you're supposed to take the day off and put your feet up or putter in the garden or read a good book.

In Europe, there were no less than 34 Holy Days of Obligation throughout the Liturgical year (which begins with Advent). Eventually, they were whittled down to 11.  But when all the immigrants flooded into the United States in the 18th century, it was very difficult for Catholics to make it to all 11 due to persecution and the distance folks had to travel to get to church and such.  So in the US, the Holy Days of Obligation were whittled down to 10 and then to 6. Two were moved to a Sunday, when you're in church anyhow and two were removed altogether.

They are:
Jan. 1st Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven
Aug. 15th The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
Nov.1st  All Saints Day
Dec. 8th The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary
Dec. 25th Christmas

As simple as this seems, it's not so simple. The Ascension, for one, is not on the same day every year as it lands 40 days after Easter, which is a movable feast. On top of that, in many places, it has been moved to whatever Sunday is after the 40 day mark.

Which also happens with any other Holy Day of Obligation that lands on a Saturday or a Monday.

So my question to you is: did the Bishop of Utah really abrogate Jan. 1st for this year? He has done it in other years because it landed on a Monday or a Saturday, but you may have read an old posting of some sort because, since it's today, it should still be a Holy Day of Obligation.

Did you commit a mortal sin by not going to Mass? No.  Will your sister commit a mortal sin by not going to Mass? Yes.

Which brings us to your initial question: How on earth does that work? In a word, "obedience".  We have to follow the laws of the Church and the Bishop and the Cardinals and the Pope decide what those laws are. Like the meat of Friday thing.  Many people were told if they ate meat on Friday they would go to Hell. (I was never told that. I was told that was a venial sin, not a mortal sin, but I am in a minority.) It would be a fine how do you do to find yourself in Hell for eating meat on Friday and then get the news that that's not even any kind of sin anymore.  I don't worry about it. God can do whatever He wants.  The Bishops and the Pope and the Cardinals determine what that is.

They don't just make things up willy nilly.  They have your soul's best interest at heart and fuss and argue and read and pray and ponder to figure out the best way to drag you to Heaven. It's their whole job. It's my whole job.

I'm glad you gave yourself and the Bishop the benefit of the doubt and hopped off to Mass. We did that and had one of our favorite dinners, sauerkraut and perogi mixed up together.  We'll soon be fat as toads.  Good thing Lent is up next.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Our Slogan for 2013

Yesterday we talked about New Year's resolutions. I was thinking about all of that some more and I thought it might be a good idea to have a catch phrase. Catch phrases are so memorable! We still remember "Where's the beef!" That was 30 years ago. Maybe if you're under 30 you don't remember. But all the rest of you do.  If we have a catch phrase for how we want to improve ourselves we'll be able to remind ourselves quickly and efficiently how to behave.

Clara Peller instantly reminded us that Wendy's had meatier hamburgers and my catch phrase will instantly remind you what to do next.

I didn't come up with the catch phrase. I heard it at Mass on Christmas Eve. Old Father Tom has a slow cadence to his speech and I was having a difficult time following what he was getting at until he launched into a little story.

The story was about the traditional Mexican Christmas pageant, the Posada (Spanish for "lodging"), which involves re-enacting the Miraculous Birth of Our Savior.  During this extravaganza with lots of little children acting out all the parts, there are four inns at which Mary and Joseph seek refuge when they arrive in Bethlehem. The first three innkeepers turn the couple away and the fourth lets them into the stable.

But in this story, during one such dramatization, the actors playing Mary and Joseph must have been particularly great, because after they had been sadly turned away from The Bethlehem Arms and the Holy Land Motel, little innkeeper #3 broke down. When the weary Joseph asked if there was any room at the Inn, Innkeeper #3 blurted out, "Oh, what the heck, come on in!"

Isn't that a great catch phrase? It covers everything! From the Good News of Salvation itself, to charitable works to opening your heart, "Oh, what the heck, come on in!"

We should have T-shirts and coffee mugs made for the gift shop.