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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bright Yellow

Welcome back everyone who gave up the internet for Lent! I imagine everyone is having a swell time doing whatever they didn't do, eating whatever they didn't eat.

I heard from a number of people who do what I call "Reverse Lent", where they strive to do something that is difficult for them, rather than giving something up. As my long time readers will attest, I do not ascribe to this philosophy since it does not align us in any particular way with the suffering of Jesus. Lent is like one long "Sorrowful Mysteries" of the Rosary, where we dwell on one aspect of the life of Christ. Let's not make them into the "Luminous Mysteries" or the "Glorious Mysteries".

Okay. I'll leave it alone.

But then, when Lent is over...do you stop doing the thing your were striving to do? What if you didn't achieve it?  What if you haven't assimilated the new behavior?  Lent is over, you're done. You don't have to keep trying if it's difficult (and it at least should have been difficult!). You should be celebrating! You see my problem with this.

We're having some leftover ham. Ham was a favorite of Sister Mary Fiacre, so we're enjoying it for her. We rarely have ham. I'm not supposed to have so much salt. But one of the ladies of the Catholic Charities brought a little of that Honey Baked Ham over and that is such a treat. Perhaps my feet will become enormous. It's only for a day or two.

And someone made the most wonderful baked beans! I'm not a baked bean lover. I can take them or leave them. They always look so good and then they turn out to be ...beans. Dry on the inside, not that great on the outside.  But if I had to live the rest of my life eating nothing but these baked beans...well, I'd definitely have to give them up for Lent.

The secret ingredient, I was told, was a squirt of mustard. I find this difficult to believe. Not because of the mustard. I am a huge mustard fan. There is no such thing as too much mustard where I'm concerned. You can tell when I've had a sandwich because my fingers are yellow. A sandwich should squirt mustard when you bite it. No, I find it hard to believe because my mother always used mustard in her baked beans, too, but they didn't rise to the level of these baked beans. And my mother is a wonderful, wonderful cook.  I think the secret must be in what brand these beans were to begin with. Because we always doctor the baked beans, no matter what that dog and his owner have done with them when the beans went in the can.

And deviled eggs! It's the mustard that makes them delicious. But the woman that made them added some sort of red seasoning to the tops that was scrumptious. Not paprika. This was some brand name "salad seasoning". I believe that is what it was called. She didn't add it herself but set the little shaker out so people could add it if they liked. So I looked it over but good.  For you! Because we can't afford those little luxuries. Those things are stupidly expensive. I'm always disgruntled when we run out of any kind of basic spice because it it such a hole in our little budget.

We've also had two desserts. Wonderful bread pudding with rum sauce and terrific strawberry rhubarb pie. So my feet, after they blow up from the ham, will actually be proportionate with the rest of me.

We'll be walking to the store this week. And everywhere else.

The weather is beautiful! But then, the weather is always beautiful here. Happy Easter! It's a joyous time!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Saturday

Now I know why I never really tackled Holy Saturday.  For one thing, the faithful tend to just kind of ignore it. Everyone is cleaning the house for Easter, buying a ham and preparing casseroles and Easter baskets, and looking forward to doing whatever is was they gave up doing for Lent.  I realize that many people do observe this holy day (it IS called HOLY Saturday), but really, I think there is some confusion about how we're supposed to feel.  And therefore some ambivalence.

Are we supposed to be sad? Or sad with joyful anticipation because we know how this story ends? Do we align ourselves with how the Apostles must have felt on this day, the confusion and grief they must have been experiencing? Or, since we know we've now been redeemed, are we joyfully picking an Easter hat? Yesterday I mentioned that many things have evolved, changed and been revisited by the Church. Holy Saturday traditions have changed over and over again.

In the early Church, the whole day was a sad vigil for the joy to come. It was the only Saturday where the faithful could (and did) fast all day. The service began in the evening and went on all night. The catechumens were baptized.  The "Alleluia" which has not been sung all during Lent, was timed to be be sung as Easter dawned. Every one broke their day long fast with Holy Communion, including the new folks who were receiving it for the first time.  That's quite a big deal of a day and night.

But then the vigil was moved back to the afternoon and finally it was moved to the morning. The fasting stopped. The tone of the vigil itself changed from sadness with joyful anticipation to just joyful anticipation (and they weren't even headed over to pick up a Honey Baked Ham back then).

Speaking of food and fasting (and Honey Baked Ham), during the middle ages meat, milk and eggs were forbidden throughout Lent. So on Holy Saturday, these foods were about to be back on the table (perhaps the true origin of the splendid Easter egg). They were being prepared for the Easter feast but they were brought to be blessed by the priest first. This tradition still goes on in some places around the globe.

That was then. So now?

Holy Saturday is the final day of Lent.  There is no Mass offered. There is a Mass in the evening, so don't be confused. The on the liturgical clock the new day begins at sundown on the previous day. So while you may believe you're going to Mass on Holy Saturday, you're actually attending the Easter Vigil Mass. Just to confuse you more...it's not Easter until dawn, so there is no Communion at the Easter Vigil Mass (except for those in danger of death).

And the tone? Well, remember the day long fast of the first 7 centuries? That got moved back along with the Mass. Then the Mass went away. But for a very long time, the fast stayed. It also got moved to the morning and stayed that way until 1956.  It is no longer required, but many people still fast all morning on Holy Saturday to commemorate and contemplate the sadness of the day, leaving the rest of the day for joyful anticipation of Easter and macaroni and cheese.

And that salad with tiny little marshmallows in it.

Here is what to expect for Holy Saturday. The altar, stripped bare for Good Friday, remains that way as we, the faithful, wait at the door of the tomb, contemplating Christ's suffering and death. It should be the most calm and quiet day of the Church year. Jesus is in His grave and we mourn. During the rest of Lent we align ourselves with the suffering of Jesus. On Holy Saturday, we align ourselves with the suffering of Our Mother Mary.

And while you are melting cheese in a saucepan, we'll be lining up the Easter lilies around the altar for Easter morning. The pews are done. The carpet is vacuumed. Chocolate bunnies are welcome.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On the Home Stretch

It's Holy Week! Thank goodness we've covered everything you need to know in past posts.
Holy Thursday
Good Friday.

Okay, not everything. I haven't had much to say about Holy Saturday. Perhaps we'll cover that tomorrow, at last. Plus, the Catholic Church is 2,014 years old so a lot of things have been added, streamlined, edited, expounded upon, re-visited, re re visited and ritualized. But at least we've provided a tutorial about what goes on and why over the next 4 days.

And by now, whatever you gave up, you've slogged through. I hope it was difficult. It was supposed to be difficult. Not ridiculously difficult, like having a broken leg or shingles or getting hit by a bus. But difficult enough to have had some growth down there in your soul. Like having an annoying old Auntie park herself at your house and hint that you do everything wrong and then tell you how much she loves you. That kind of difficult. Something that bothered you every single day of Lent. Something that you had to think about every single day of Lent.

You're now a better person for it. Congratulations! And you have this opportunity every year! (Or every day, if you're a nun.)

Here's what I gave up for Lent: using two spaces after a period while typing. Using two spaces was beaten into me by Sister Mary Teresa, the high school typing nun. Typing away on ancient typewriters that you had to have the fingers of Thor and the dexterity of a Vegas card dealer  to manipulate. I can still hear the clunk, clunk, clunk of the keys all going down in unison as we all typed and the grind of the carriage.

"What's a carriage?" at least half of you ask.  "What's a typewriter?" your children query.

Of course, that is not what I gave up for Lent. It it, however, an example of the minutia with which we now occupy our minds. This is precisely why we have to challenge ourselves and shake things up.

So I hope you gave up something good. Made it count. Because you were trying to align yourself with the suffering of Jesus and He certainly made it count.

And you still have until Saturday to do it. Hooray for you!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Back from the Dead. Literally.

I can't believe so much time has passed. It's seems like years since I've visited you all. It also seems like yesterday. I'm glad at least you could comb through some of our old posts for Lenten guidance. Heaven knows we've been prolific on the subject through our years here.

It's just the two of us now, Sister St. Aloysuis and I. Sister Mary Fiacre has gone to Jesus.

One never knows how one is going to react to the death of a loved one, a sister, a Sister, a person for whom we cared intimately. She seemed to be our reason for living for such a long time, our schedule was built around her for many years now. What we ate or didn't eat, fashioned to interest her appetite. Whether we were awake or asleep, depended on her. And finally, we slept with one eye open for many weeks.

I had an idea of how I would react. That feeling of emptiness when the person is no longer there to take up every waking thought. The sweet preciousness of caring for someone who needs so much care. At first there was a sense of relief, since we spent so much time on high alert, lest she be in distress. And then that hole that is left in your world.

But I didn't expect this.

I'm jealous.  Jealous!  She's in Heaven! Or at least in Purgatory, where Heaven is guaranteed!

I find myself saying things that jealous people say. "I'm happy for her!" That sort of thing. I'm not lying. I do feel that way. But always with that tinge of jealousy for what she now has and I do not.

Jealousy is, of course, a sin. It doesn't feel sinful. I'd better beware.

There is so much to do after a person goes, that you don't really think about. Forms to fill out, things to mail and places and people to call, arrangements to be made. So that's why we haven't been visiting with you here.

Our little household is up in the air a bit. We're not sure yet whether someone new will join us or we will have to move ourselves, or whether things will just stay the same.

Well...not the same.

And here we are in Holy Week! It will seem so strange to get the church ready without Sister Mary Fiacre standing by...sitting by...in her wheelchair. Packing her snacks. Just the other day we realized when we went to the clinic that we could park far away! We always had to park as close as possible to the doors. No longer.

We're packing up the Murphy's Oil Soap. And just us two.