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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

It's the Heat

I thought I should probably write a little something today, but my mind is a blank. As I sat down to try anyhow, I said a little prayer that maybe someone had left a question and I could just answer it and feel like I've accomplished my goal. I opened up the blog and there was this:

Thank you so much for your post answering my question sister. Next question if you are up for it :) What did Jesus mean when he said: "Ask and you shall receive." Was he talking about spiritual gifts?


Yes, he was talking about spiritual gifts.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pray to the Baby Jesus

I have fallen behind in question answering. If I've missed your question please repost it in the comments section and I'll take another run at it.

Meanwhile someone at some point asked about how to say the "Infant of Prague Rosary".  There really isn't an Infant of Prague Rosary that of which I am aware. There is an Infant of Prague Chaplet.

The word chaplet means "a crown or a wreath". And that's why we call these circular sets of beads chaplets, because our prayers form our Heavenly crown and bring greater glory to the devotions (Sacred Heart, Immaculate Heart, for example) and saints for which they are said.

The rosary is a chaplet. But a chaplet is not a rosary. Once we get into chaplet territory all bets are off. Beads.  A set of beads, prayers said in a certain order, a certain number of them, a set of colors that symbolize something (purity, the Precious Blood, etc.).  There are as many chaplets as there are orders, needs for prayer and saints. The chaplet for St. Therese the Little Flower has 24 beads, the number of years she lived. The Blessed Sacrament chaplet has 33 beads, the number of years Jesus lived on earth.

The beads are there to keep count. The colors are there to focus your prayer. The rest is up to you.

There is an Infant of Prague chaplet. It has 15 beads and an Infant of Prague medallion at one end. You say three Our Fathers in honor of the Holy Family and 12 Hail Marys  in honor of the 12 years of Jesus' infancy and childhood. Starting on the medallion you say this prayer:

"Divine Infant Jesus,
I adore Thy Cross
and I accept all the cross
Thou wilt be pleased to send me.
Adorable Trinity,
I offer Thee
for the glory of Thy Holy Name of God,
all the adorations of the Sacred Heart
of the Holy Infant Jesus."

And then before each Our Father and each Hail Mary you say this prayer:
"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us."
And then when you're done you say this:
"Holy Infant Jesus, help and protect us."

So, it's not rocket science.

A whole separate discussion could be had on devotion to the infant Jesus, which is also not rocket science. I think it's brilliant, whoever came up with the Infant of Prague chaplet, to have added before each prayer, "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us."

That's the essence of devotion to the infant/child Jesus: that He was a human being who was born and played with blocks and ate His peas. There are whole orders who do nothing but meditate on points like this. So it certainly doesn't hurt the rest of us to contemplate what that really means to us, for us. If you really pay attention to the words of the prayers in this chaplet it's all there for you.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Other Archangels

Perhaps not related but sister could you explain Saint Selaphiel, patron saint of prayer? I found out about this archangel today and would like to know if he features in the Catholic tradition?

Funny you should mention "I found out about this today".  I have had a similar archangel experience. I would wish us both luck in unraveling who reveres who and who suppressed who, but Catholics eschew luck. Eschew is the perfect word for what we, as Catholics, do about luck.

My angel appeared in the catalog where we find the medals for our shop. There in the Catholic catalog was Zadkiel, the archangel of mercy and forgiveness. This tickled me no end. Who doesn't need more mercy and forgiveness?  Keep in mind that not only are these angels the patrons of whatever, their job description is to bring human beings to God through that patronage. So not only do need more mercy and more forgiveness, I need to be more merciful and more forgiving.

All covered by Zadkiel. He'll be in the shop soon!

But hold on...the Catholic church really only names three archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The rest were suppressed at the Council of Nicaea, as far as I can find out at least.

But if you go digging a little you'll find the names of the seven archangels. We all agree there are seven archangels.  But there are several traditions of who they are and what there names are.  We'll all cry if I try to name them all within the traditions in which they are found.There is the Catholic Tradition, The Eastern Orthodox Tradition, the Coptic Orthodox Tradition and the Judaic Tradition.  The Episcopals (and their granddaddies the Anglicans) like adding Uriel.  Suffice to say that we all agree on Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.  Next is Uriel, who also appears in all the traditions but is skipped more or less by the Catholic Tradition.  The names of the seven are differ from each other in each tradition.

So your angel is from the Eastern Orthodox church, named as one of the seven archangels who stand before God. He is the patron saint of prayer and is almost always depicted with his hands folded and his head bowed. His name means "Prayer of God".  He stands bowed before God in prayer and he is the primary teacher of prayer.

But, just like there are various names of angels on various names of angels lists, Selaphiel has spelling variations and one of those spellings means "God's Command".  He is the angel that will lead you before God to be judged.

According to tradition.

My new pal Zadkiel is the angel who stopped the hand of Abraham when Abraham was following God's order to sacrifice Isaac.

Or it was Selaphiel. Depends on your tradition.

It's a little hard to have a tradition if you're new to it. Sort of flies in the face of the meaning of tradition.

Oh well.

We know there are seven archangels so I see no problem with Selaphiel, Zadkiel, Jehudiel, Barachiel, Jeremiel, Jophiel, Chamuel,, Simiel, Oriphiel, Ananiel... there are more.  And there are alternate spellings for everyone. Wheeeeeee!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Great Minds and Little People

I am remiss in getting to some questions. Since the school year is about to start, I thought this one would be a good choice:

Sister, thank you for your blog and your time. I love reading,learning and being scolded at times :) I have a toddler whose speech is very delayed for unknown reasons. He is perfectly fine other than that. Do you have any patron saint suggestions?

St. Albert Einstien.  Okay....Albert Einstein is not a saint. Or, maybe he is in Heaven, which means he is a saint. He has certainly never been canonized. But that great genius of our time did not speak until he was four years old. That is some delay. I guess he had a lot to think about. He was also considered sloppy and lazy as a boy.  How that made him different from other children, I'm not sure.

But we do have the perfect patron saint for you, of course. St. Thomas Aquinas, also one of the great minds of his time. Of all time, really, as a lot of what we believe as Catholics was due to his massive intellect.

Our favorite topic of late, for example: angels.  If you click on this link you will be AMAZED at all the things you forgot to think about while you were thinking about angels.  When were angels created? Before the earth and us or after? Is there a hierarchy of fallen angels as there is a hierarchy of angels in Heaven? Can angels act directly on human will? Do some angels just hang around in Heaven? How can angels have bodies and no bodies at the same time?

What St. Thomas Aquinas has to say about guardian angels alone is worth scrolling down for a read. One of his many monikers is "The Angelic Doctor". 

At his canonization hearing, the Devil's Advocate pointed out that there had been no miracles to prove that Thomas was in Heaven and the response was, in essence, his thoughts were miraculous enough.

But St. Thomas Aquinas was an inarticulate oaf as a youth, so much so that he was dubbed "The Dumb Ox" by his teachers. "Dumb" because he never talked and "ox" because he was huge. One of those things never changed.

And, by the way, here's a good read for the Separated Brethren on the relationship of an angel who spoke to Mary.  Keep in mind that angels are much smarter than we are.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Angels Not Among Us

In regard to the mystery priest not being a mystery or an angel:

Now, now. I know that you know that people are not angels; not even dead people are angels. Angels are angels, dead people in heaven are saints, and live people on Earth are the body of Christ, the children of God, His hands and feet.

I'm so glad you pointed this out! It's everything I can do sometimes, just to contain myself when some sweet little old lady or some sad young man shakes their head mournfully and says about the recently departed, "Well, now they're an angel in Heaven."  I have clamp my mouth shut so as not to pipe, "No, he isn't. If he made it to Heaven, let's hope, he's a saint. Angels are a separate entity created by God. People can never be angels."  If my mouth started to say this, my finger would also wag. It's directly connected to my mouth.

Worst case scenario, I would be escorted out, still eating some brie on a cracker. Best case scenario, I would be judged as appallingly inconsiderate.

I am not, as a rule, inconsiderate.  I am a stickler for details and facts, though.

So I just choke down some brie and nod sweetly. 

I was referring to the latter thought in your response, that we often function as angels and we don't even realize we've done it. Just like the mystery priest at the accident cite, from the perspective of a person in need, we appear out of nowhere and disappear again, with a comforting word, a dollar, a helping hand. Everyone thought for a while there that an angel had come from Heaven.

An "angel" did come from Heaven. Perhaps we need a new word for those times when people become momentary angels, because we all know it happens all the time. Pangels, maybe, for "people as angels". 

There is a need for this kind of thinking, because we call people saints only when they are good all the time (even thought they are not, technically, saints until they are dead and in Heaven...please pass the crackers....).  But most of us are not good all the time. We do, however, shine once in a while. Sometimes we never know the impact we've had at a critical moment in someone else's life, because we are not even aware that the situation was critical.

You've been on the receiving end of this phenomenon, I'm sure.  That moment when you've given up, sagging with the weight of it all, and the nurse is standing there with a cup of tea and a compassionate smile. Pangel. When you've decided you're unlovable and a friend calls out of the blue .Pangel.  When your car stalls in the left turn lane and you sit there helpless while everyone honks and honks and drives around you, when, suddenly, a group of migrant workers in the beat up truck behind you jumps out and pushes your car to the side of the road into a safe spot. Pangels.   Heaven sent? As far as you're concerned, yes.

And the only requirement to become a pangel is to stop. Just stop for a moment for someone else.

You don't even have to be human.  You know "dog" spelled backwards.....

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Angels Among Us

I glad I didn't write about what I wanted to write about when I wanted to write about it.

I wanted to write and tell you all about the amazing miracle angel sighting that took place very near where I grew up and was reported on the same channel I sat in front of to watch Ed Sullivan as a child.

Don't you love a good angel/miracle story? I sure do.  This is one of the best ones because it meets all the criteria of a bona fide miracle: instantaneous and unexplained. Plus, for this one, there were tons of witnesses and no pictures. The no pictures part was the best part.

Here is what happened. My favorite part of the story was that more than 80 photographs of the scene were taken and no priest appeared in even one of them, even though everyone at the scene saw and heard him. Not to mention the girl lived.

I meant to write about this all yesterday, I was so tickled with it.

And then yesterday.

Oh well.

A lot of people would still claim this was a miracle, that the priest worked a miracle. Maybe some day when he's dead and in Heaven we'll think of this as a miracle on earth. But our standards for miracles are very strict. Instantaneous and unexplained. And this has been explained. So that's that.

Although...no one expected Katie to live.  And there was that thing about the equipment not working.

Now my favorite part of the story is the one where (before the priest was identified) the mystery priest was none other than St. John Vianney, as the whole thing happened on his feast day and the person who wrote up the story had an artist's rendering of the mystery priest and a portrait of St. John Vianney so we could all see the amazing resemblance.

I failed to see any resemblance whatsoever, let alone an amazing one. Even more amusing, Father Dowling looks nothing like the artist's rendering. At all.

Still, we are buoyed at the story of a priest bringing peace to a suffering accident victim and to the paramedics and police who were serving her. Angels don't always come from Heaven.

Remember that. Because the next angel might be you.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Easy, Medium, Hard

Some questions are so easy to answer. Regarding Blessed Salt:
Where can I get some?

You can't get any. It's a sin to sell blessed objects, even if the object is a grain of salt.  You can have  some blessed salt by taking some salt to a priest and asking him to bless it. Glad we cleared that up.

And some questions are slightly more complex (regarding the hundreds of orders of  nuns and clergy):

And yet another question on the same topic: my mom told me when I was little that habits (the kind that Julie Andrews wore in The Sound of Music) looked the way they did because in the Middle Ages, it was not uncommon for widows to become nuns, and that was what widows wore. Is this totally bogus? And, how did Mother Theresa come up with the habit for her Sisters of Charity (I think that's what they're called)? I noticed some sisters walked around dressed in white-with-blue saris in a picture of Pope Francis' visit to Brazil, and at first I thought, "Gosh, I thought he was in Brazil, not India!" and then I felt dumb because, oh yeah, Sisters of Charity can be in Brazil, too. But it make me think of it. And I think they're beautiful. And they remind me of Mother Theresa, so even if I hadn't thought they were beautiful to start with, I would love them for her sake
Your mother is more or less correct about habits. It is what women wore. Completely covered from head to toe, head always covered with a veil, relatively drab colors. Most, however, did not have monkeys. Does she have a rosary AND a monkey? I can't tell.

This is why I have an issue with people who believe that nuns should have stayed in those elaborate old habits. Nuns can blend in if they want. You need to behave yourself.

Here is an explanation of how Mother Teresa designed her habits.

And some questions....are doozies:

Sister, I’m hoping you can help match my family to an appropriate saint; we are looking to start a novena on behalf of my sister. She is a practicing Catholic and has been in a romantic relationship for around 9 years with a non-Catholic who has expressed discomfort with even discussing marriage. She knows she is in a bad situation but cannot bring herself to end the relationship; she genuinely loves him, he does not have many friends, or a close connection to his family and she believes if she leaves he will do something to himself. She has also struggled for the past two years with finding another full time job. Her life seems to be on pause and we wish to unite our prayers for her guidance. Who would you recommend? Many blessings! A faithful reader.

So you sister is committing suicide because her boyfriend who can't commit might commit suicide. Is that about right? Yes, a novena is in order. The number nine figures prominently in the novena, too.

He doesn't need help (he has everything just the way he wants it) but your sister does. She loves him. But he doesn't love her. He is a selfish man who uses emotional blackmail to continue the relationship. She is the one who is tortured.

Of course, you novena prayers are aware of this.  Very, very well aware. She needs a job. Better, a career. Something she could really sink her teeth into so she can engage in life instead of her bleak and pathetic '"relationship".  

He has no friends or family? Not surprising. He won't create one with her either. He's not a boyfriend, he's an anchor that keeps her ship from setting sail. If he actually loved her, he would at least discuss something that would make her happy. That isn't love. That's manipulation.

She should love him. Jesus commanded us to love everyone.  But He did not command us to play nursemaids to  manipulative selfish people.  She can love him just fine and keep him in her prayers always, while she moves on to have a happy fulfilling life.

There are saints who have had some pretty awful husbands and who managed to pray said husbands into the light. St. Monica, for example.  But St. Monica also engaged herself in a life of prayer and education and usefulness during her tribulation.

So, maybe St. Monica is your novena girl.  And for finding a fulfilling job there is no better Church Triumphant member than Pope John Paull II.  He's going to be a saint any second. He's a saint now, we just haven't made it official.

By the way, I have his new "I'm a saint now" medal available in the shop. I don't have it listed, but I have it. I'll try to put it up there.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Salt of the Earth

Hello Sister, I'm not sure if I submitted my question properly or in the right place some days ago so I thought I'd give it another go. I recently obtained some salt blessed as a sacramental by a priest, and I want to know how it should be used. I can't imagine putting it in a salt shaker on the table, but I've read that some people do that. Is that proper? Or do you have other suggestions for how I might use the salt respectfully? Thanks! A faithful reader

Thanks for being a faithful reader!  Don't put your salt in a salt shaker on the table. You can do that with it, but you might get it confused with the table salt. Or maybe you could get something like this.

Given that people put their blessed salt in sandwich bags and mint tins and candy boxes, the problem isn't with the salt shaker, it's only with not realizing you're putting blessed salt on your hamburger.

It's actually okay to put blessed salt on your hamburger, by the way. As long as you know you're doing it. 

So what's the deal with blessed salt? Is it like having magic beans and a voodoo doll? No.  The salt has no power. Remember when Jesus put mud in a blind man's eye?  Did the mud heal that guy? No. Jesus did. The salt is the same way. Once it's blessed it brings with the power of Jesus through your faith in Him.

Or think of it this way: does the American flag have power? No. Yes.  It has power only through your belief in the country for which it stands. And thank goodness the Pledge of Alliance is stated with good grammar.

So what can you do with your salt?

 Drive out the those neighbors with the yard full of pit bulls who blast heavy metal all day, for one. Yes! I've heard several stories of people who sprinkled blessed salt all around their property, or down the common area of their apartment building, across their own threshold and wherever else they could think to sprinkle it, and next thing they knew the horrifying neighbors were gone.

Ward off the devil.

You can sprinkle it around the house to prevent burglary.

Put a few grains in what you eat or drink for good physical health and/or spiritual health.

You can use it in your car for safety. You could sprinkle it out the car window at a dangerous intersection.

You can use it to break bad habits, too.

Don't worry about a blessed salt mess. Your not supposed to dump salt all over, like you would with boric acid to get rid of fleas.  You just use a few grains everywhere. That way, by the time you vacuum, you won't have to worry about sucking up a lot of blessed salt in your vacuum cleaner bags and how you're going to dispose of  the bag now that it's become a blessed object.

Thursday, August 01, 2013


Sister, I've discovered many new religious orders are springing up in the Church. It's so wonderful! I'm curious though, how is a religious order started?

This is probably my favorite question ever. I can't answer it. 

Yes I can. It's just so much. There's just .....so much.   St. Ignatius, St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Frances Cabrini, Carol Gerhardinger..hundreds of founders of hundreds of orders .Like babies, the stories of their births are completely unique and utterly the same.

So let's say you want to start a religious order. You have to make some choices. Habit? or no.  

Habit?  You'll need to design one. Or get a habit designer.  If so many new orders are springing up, it seems to me someone is missing out on a fine niche career opportunity.

What is your order going to do? If you just want everyone to lock themselves into a house and prayer all day, then just go join an order that is already doing that.  If you want everyone to do something that no one else is doing, in terms of meeting the needs of human beings on the planet, write that down.

How is your order going to sustain itself financially? The Church is not responsible for the financial well being of your group. You're on your own with several mouths to feed and bodies to house.  But not necessarily. St. Francis of Assisi had a group of followers that just roamed all around and begged while they preached.  But then, he really wasn't trying to start an order. He started doing something, some people started doing it with him, and making it an order was foisted on him. He didn't even want to be a priest (he thought he was unworthy). That was foisted on him, too.

But I digress. As the founder, you will responsible for your community. Right now you have three people and you. Is that enough? Sure.

Your new idea and little group is called a "Charism".  A gift to the Church and to the world.  Get your mission statement ducks in a row and deal with that habit question and figure out how you will carry out your mission financially speaking (most of us still beg, one way or another).

So far so good. Love your habits!  And look, now you have another person joining! You can take some vows among yourselves to dedicate yourself to Christ through your Charism.  Are you an order? No.

You have to gather you habit patterns and mission statement and talk to the bishop. He might tell you to go home and join some other order. He might tell you that he wouldn't approve of your order if all the other hundreds of orders disappeared in a puff of smoke. He might tell you that you habit design needs work.

(I'm not joking.  A community of men who were all wearing the same T-shirt were reprimanded because it looked to much like a habit and they weren't a religious order. I cannot picture this.  I've never seen the T-shirt habit,  but I think more people would consider religious life if the T-shirt habit was more widely employed.)

It the bishop thinks you've got something there he will give you his blessing, but that's just step one. Like canonization, approving an order goes on for years and there are many steps that lead all the way to Rome.

As your group grows, so do your chances of getting full approval. Ditto for longevity.

If this is all too much for you, you might consider starting a lay order. All you have to do to start a lay order is start a lay order. Done and done.

If you like we can come back and talk about how various orders were founded. Who was Carol Gerhardinger?  Now know as Blessed Theresa, she founded the School Sisters of Notre Dame. She was a German girl who gathered a group of women to teach. They taught me and wore this habit until I was in high school.  I particularly love this rendition of her. Someone truly captured the facial expression of a lifelong teacher.