Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

I had originally planned to post a column for today entitled "Justice done?" which is about an issue that I had been discussing with Mother Superior. That issue is the ultimate fate of Sadam Hussein. However, New Years eve is supposed to be a happy occasion so I will save it until tommorow. Until then, from all of us at The Sisters of Embracement, Happy New Year to you and your family.

God Bless you all.

Sister Julie

New Year - New changes.

I seem to be one post behind today, so today will have to have two posts so I can catch up from yesterday. In any case, I thought I would share part of an email that was sent here to the convent. I found if very uplifting. See you later today with another post...

You are in your car driving home. Thoughts wander to
the game you want to see or meal you want to eat, when
suddenly a sound unlike any you've ever heard fills the air.
The sound is high above you.
A trumpet?
A choir?
A choir of trumpets?
You don't know, but you want to know.

So you pull over, get out of your car, and look up. As
you do, you see you aren't the only curious one. The
roadside has become a parking lot. Car doors are open,
and people are staring at the sky. Shoppers are racing
out of the grocery store.

The Little League baseball game across the street has
come to a halt. Players and parents are searching the
clouds. And what they see, and what you see, has never
before been seen.

As if the sky were a curtain, the drapes of the
atmosphere part. A brilliant light spills onto the
earth. There are no shadows. None. From whence came
the light begins to tumble a river of color spiking
crystals of every hue ever seen and a million more
never seen. Riding on the flow is an endless fleet of
angels. They pass through the curtains one myriad at a
time, until they occupy every square inch of the sky.

Thousands of silvery wings rise and fall in unison,
and over the sound of the trumpets, you can hear the
cherubim and seraphim chanting, Holy, holy, holy.
The final flank of angels is followed by twenty-four silver-bearded
elders and a multitude of souls who join the angels in worship.

Presently the movement stops and the trumpets are
silent, leaving only the triumphant triplet: Holy,
holy, holy. Between each word is a pause. With each
word, a profound reverence. You hear your voice join
in the chorus. You don't know why you say the words,
but you know you must.

Suddenly, the heavens are quiet. All is quiet.
The angels turn, you turn, the entire world turns and
there He is.
Through waves of light you see the silhouetted figure
of Christ the King.
He is atop a great stallion, and the stallion is atop
a billowing cloud.
He opens his mouth, and you are surrounded by his declaration:
I am the Alpha and the Omega.

The angels bow their heads.
The elders remove their crowns.
And before you is a Figure so consuming that you know,
instantly you know:
Nothing else matters.
Forget stock markets and school reports.
Sales meetings and football games.
Nothing is newsworthy..
All that mattered, matters no more....
for Christ has come.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Any Club That Would Have Me for a Member...

I wouldn’t join any club that would have me for a member…

…that is a quote by the late, great Groucho Marx. In my case, Mother Superior would tell you that I am wont to beat myself on the head with a club – sort of the same self-depreciating sentiment as Groucho had. The reason I missed a day in posting my column is that I had been going through my own little “mini dark night of the soul.” Today’s column is about this very subject:

St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century saint, and mystic, who wrote so much about prayer [The Interior Castle] is said to have needed nuns to sit on her during prayer from time to time to stop her from levitating off the floor. This same nun once said the following…

“If this is the way you treat your friends Lord, no wonder you have so few.”

What was she talking about? She was talking about what it takes to do the will of God.

St. Therese of Lisieux died of tuberculosis. She coughed blood and slowly suffocated to death. Her death was slow – in fact it took her months to die. Despite how anxious she became to see God, she still wished to do His will, even if it meant suffering further. On June 14, a few months before she died on September 30th, she was speaking to Mother Agnes of Jesus (her older sister Pauline whom she thought of as mother for she raised Therese for much of her life).

From Mother Agnes’ “yellow notebook”…

“I [Pauline] asked, ‘Are you tired out because of your present state that seems to be so prolonged? You must be suffering very much!’”

“Yes, but this pleases me”


“Because it pleases God.”

Even unto death Therese desired only to please God. She didn’t have any great miracles in her life. Mother Mary didn’t appear to her, like she did to St. Bernadette. Christ never spoke to her like He did to St. Gertrude.

A statue of Mother Mary smiled Therese – once.

That’s it.

Yet throughout her life and death, Christ was very real and personal to her. He was not some distant historical personage or some vague concept. He was here and now – and she loved him madly.

But what made it so easy for her to do the will of God?

Fortunately for Therese she wanted to follow the will of God “from the get go” as they say – and desperately so. She went all the way to the Pope to get into the cloistered convent of Carmel Liseux at such an early age as she did.

But what was it that enabled her to suffer for Christ? In fact she was anxious to do so. One of her fondest desires was to be a martyr for this Christ that she never met or spoke to, yet whom she loves do much.

What let her do that?

In a word – Trust.

Therese’s Little Way is usually thought of in terms of love. Yet a very large part of it is about trust. We would be right to all it…

“The Little way of Trust”

I will let Therese herself tell you about it.

“For example, if I were to say to myself, I have acquired a certain virtue, and I am certain I can practice it. For then, this would be relying on my own strength, and when we do this, we run the risk of falling into the abyss. However, I will have the right of doing stupid things up until my death, if I am humble and remain little. Look at little children. They never stop breaking things, tearing things, falling down, and they do this even while loving their parents very, very much. When I fall in this way, it makes me realize my nothingness more, and I say to myself, what would I do and what would I become if I were to rely on my own strength?”

I have asked myself that same question before. What would I do, and what would I become if I were to rely on my own strength?

Therese had a very young, very emotional novice she trained. Her name was Marie of the Trinity. Marie was wont to cry at the drop of a hat and would often come to Therese filled with grief and tears. Marie would often feel that she was no longer called to be the nun that she had struggled so long to become. It became a running joke between the two women. Each time Therese would simply say…

“I suppose you don’t have a vocation any more?”

Then both women would laugh.

Bu there are even more ways to die than bodily. Sometimes, when we decide to follow Christ and give him our all…

“My God an my all” as St. Francis of Assisi used to pray

…we have to let part of ourselves die. Sometimes our dreams have to die, and that can be just as painful as any physical death. So I ask myself “What would I do, and what would I become if I were to rely on my own strength?”

Even now I can turn on the television and see someone who went to the same high school as I did; who went to the same college as I did; who graduated with the same degree as I did. What if I followed that same path? Would I be famous?

The other option is to follow Gods dreams – His plans. If I followed my own dreams and relied on my own strength I might find fleeting glory – the vanity of man.

If I follow God dreams I would find eternal glory.

St. Paul said it best…

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

God Bless You All,

Sister Julie

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

You Can't Take it With You...

You can’t take it with you…

…but that doesn’t stop most of the world’s population from spending most of their lives trying. "Carpe Pecunia" (seize the money) instead of Carpe Diem seems to be the operative phrase of our day.

Case in point…

In today’s news, James Brown, died just this last Christmas day. It was very characteristic of such a showman as one of his friends pointed out - it all but guaranteed that all of the papers would be filled with news of his death. He left behind a wife named Tomi Rae Hynie. No matter how you may feel about her marriage to Mr. Brown, the fact remains is that she is raising Mr. Browns child. An associated press article is quoted as saying “James Browns lawyer said the later singer and his partner weren’t legally married and that she was locked out of his South Carolina home for estate legal reasons.”

The same article quotes Mr. Brown’s wife as saying “This is my home, she told a reporter outside the house. I don’t have any money. I don’t have anywhere to go.”

It never ceases to amaze me, how often people will spend their lives, and their souls, in pursuit of material wealth. Sadder still is how often so many of these same people will hurt others around them, ruin other lives and their own, all for money - and then die with it.

There is an adage that says, “I death we are all equal”

The thought here being that when a wealthy person dies, he is then equal with the poorest person. But is this really so? Think about it for a moment.

When you leave this earth what will you leave behind? If atheists are to be believed, the only thing you will be leaving behind is a dead body rotting in the ground. The sort of “live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse” mentality. Yes, there are many cases of wealthy people donating money to charity. But I have already discussed the doctor I met who made sure everyone he met found out how much money he donated to charity. Grandmother, God rest her soul, used to have a phrase to describe this. She would call it “old people trying to work their way into heaven.”

When YOU die what will YOU leave behind?

As those who have read this column before know, Mother Superior and I care for an elderly woman (who I will call Agnes) who needs round the clock care, 24-7. The last few years, the woman we care for has despaired of her condition and still having to remain on this earth while carrying such a burden. All three of us where in a car late in the evening of December 25th. I was half asleep in the back seat. I heard Agnes from the front seat, once again questioning her very existence, claiming her life served no purpose. Without even thinking about it, still have asleep I heard myself say, “You allow to nuns the chance to serve God.”

When Agnes dies she will leave behind the many life lessons she taught me - lessons on how to serve others, and do so cheerfully. It is one thing to talk about serving others. The idea is easy to conceive of and hold in our minds. But carrying that out - putting it into practice. Aye there lays the rub. Some can be an usher in church on Sunday mornings. They may mow their neighbor’s lawn. But to live a life in service to others…that is another matter altogether. Even when one lives a life in service to others, harder still is to always do it cheerfully…emphasis on the word ALWAYS. Serving others cheerfully when you are tired, when you simply don’t feel like doing it, or when you are hurting yourself - that is another matter altogether.

One of the people that was able to do this, who comes to mind instantly, every time I think of this, is the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. When she was awarded the Medal of Freedom by then President Ronald Regan in 1985, he said she was the only person he ever awarded the medal to, who was likely to melt it down and sell it, so she could use the money to feed others.

Yes it is true that God loves us all equally. But think of this.

When someone who has lived all their lives filled with hatred, greed and hording wealth like a miser dies what do they leave behind and what do they take with them? What they take with them is the same greedy hateful attitudes and the bad karma of having put those attitudes into practice.

Now what do you think happened when the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta died? What did she leave behind? Many, many people whose lives were enriched by her presence. She left behind the many of the worlds poor that she took care of when no one else would. She and her sisters lived the same lives that those whom they served did. What did she take with her? The gratitude and love of all those she left behind.

Now imagine the miser and the Blessed Mother Teresa standing before God for judgment. What do you think will happen? Do you still think they will be equal in the eyes of God? Or will God think that Mother Teresa had been a good and faithful servant and used her life as God willed?

So I leave you today with one final question.

What will you leave behind?

God bless you all,

Sister Julie

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Twas the night after Christmas

Twas the night after Christmas, and all through the house
Not a nun was there stirring, twas quiet as a mouse.
The dishes were all washed, stacked in cupboards now bare,
The guests had all gone, sent packing with care

The nuns were nestled all snug in each bed,
While two dogs and a rabbit, crowded one nun instead…
Each dog had a doghouse, all their own they could keep
But instead settled down, somewhere else for their sleep

”Sister Julie is a softie,” they thought, “It won’t matter”,
”if we sleep in her bed, and make quite a clatter.”
Up on her bed, the big dog flew like a flash,
But one was too short, to make such a dash

Still the small one found a way to let sister know,
that he wanted a lift, from the floor down below.
He whined and he cried, his eye shed a tear,
and his tail, wagged like lightening at the end of his rear.

Julie picked up the small one, who was lively and quick,
and said, “I need sleep or I’m going to get sick”.
”Settle down” she yelled, and she called them by name,
but they ignored her, and wrestled and played all the same!

"Stop dashing, stop dancing!” she started to call
but they both kept it up, in spite of it all.
”Oh come on!” Julie shouted, “don’t be stupid, I am missin’
all the sleep you both know I should be now be gettin’”

Both dogs ran around like wild hurricanes fly,
When one saw an obstacle, out of the corner of his eye.
Sister picked up the small one, and grabbed big one too,
and grabbed both by the collar and each dog now knew.

Sister Julie meant business, her look was now proof
Still the small one protested with one tiny ‘woof’
”If you want to sleep on my bed, stop turning around”
”Stop leaping and jumping,” she said to each hound.

She stroked both their fur, from their head to their foot
And saw all the bed clothes now grimy with soot.
The small one she set at the top of the bed,
And said to the big one, “lay down your wild head”

His eyes-how they twinkled! He wanted to play!
He wouldn’t sleep! He wouldn’t stay!
Sister gave him a frown, a furrow on her brow,
Then the big dog knew, that Julie meant now!

With part of a pillow held tight in his teeth
The big one lay down, laid curled like a wreath
At the other end of the bed, laying down on his belly
the small one slept, just a little bit smelly

He was chubby and short, but never a git,
that little old dog that she loved quite a bit!
she stroked his small head, as she lay on the bed,
and started to think of the next day with dread.

She spoke not a word, but still thought of work,
outside of the convent, and turned with a jerk
But just couldn’t sleep, she thought “who knows”.
”Maybe one day I’ll sleep,” and so up she rose

And back on the bed, two happy dogs smile,
Knowing the plan, they had all the while,
Had finally worked, as Sister Julie disappeared from sight,
To have the bed to themselves, and they slept through the night.

© 2006 Sister Juliemarie WhiteFeather

Monday, December 25, 2006



There are many places in the world with many Christmas traditions. To some it is Christmas movies, Christmas Trees, and houses lighted with bright Christmas lights. To others it means families gathered around a dinner table, celebrating Christmas together. Still others remember Christmas morning as a child, knee deep in wrapping paper, and playing with new toys. Whether or not we are still with the families that we shared these things with, we still remember them - I know I do. Such are the words in a song, “I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams.” It may be that the members of those families have gone their separate ways, or gone home to heaven. It may be that a person is far away from home during family holidays. I have experienced bittersweet holidays being thousands of miles away from any family, overseas in the military. Like many, I still think of Christmas in terms of family traditions, but Christmas has come to mean so much more to me.

I did not grow up with a spiritual sense of Christmas. Certainly, I heard the story of the Nativity. Until I was an adult I never had any deep spiritual connection with Christmas. It is one thing to understand something with your mind, it is a far cry different to hold it in your heart.

Now there is something very, very special about Christmas for me. Something that happens every year. That special something special is Midnight Mass. Each Christmas Eve the local Carmelite Convent has midnight mass. The sisters there are cloistered. I have never met any of them, and only seen them from the other side of the grill that divides their half of the chapel from the public half. Still, it is a very deeply moving moment for me, each year.

Music moves the spirit and soothes the soul.

At the midnight mass each Christmas, the sisters in the convent sing. What beautiful voices they have. It is as if, for a brief moment, the firmament opens up and Heaven and Earth are connected. I go early, at least an hour, so I can sit in the peace of the chapel and listen to the sisters sing. As I close my eyes and pray, with the Carmelite sisters singing in the background, it is very much like being swept away body and soul to Carmel Lisieux - back to France in 1895, seen below.

When Therese reached the point in her life where God was nearly ready to call her home to heaven, she was visited by her sister Pauline one evening. Pauline told Therese that she should get some rest. Therese told her that she was too busy praying. When Pauline asked her sister what she said to Jesus, Therese replied simply “Nothing, I just love Him.”

At Medjugorgie Mother Mary talks about coming to Jesus in silence. The most efficacious prayer can be simple silence. And so I come to God in the silence of the Chapel. The sisters sing in the background and it is as if I am there in Lisieux, at Midnight Mass, with some very special sisters, Therese among them.

It is moments in my life - moments like these - that have lead me to understand some very special words spoken by Therese. Those words are these:

“Life is a moment between two eternities.”

God bless you all.
Sister Julie

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hey Baby!

Hey baby…

When was the last time you saw an evil baby? Ridiculous movies like “The Omen” aside (which are little more than absurd fantasies) have you ever seen or even heard of an evil newborn?

You haven’t have you? Of course not. No one has.

Newborn babies are pure innocent beings. This is the time of year when the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which I have mentioned before in this column, is often viewed. That’s the movie where George Bailey’s angel, Clarence Oddbody AS2 (angel second class as he tells us) gives George Bailey his wish - he changes the world so George Bailey had never been born. But think about that for a moment..

George Bailey doesn’t wish he was never born until some time later in his life. Not so when he was born. As a newborn, we are all God’s innocents. God is glad we are born. He always loves us. But what happens between when that same baby is born and later on when George Bailey, or anyone like George Bailey wishes he or she had never been born?

A few days ago I made one of my extremely rare excursions to a shopping mall. Not by choice, merely by happenstance. I hate shopping. It is sort of a by product of being a nun I guess. So there I was in my habit and veil, as you see me above. I was there with two other women, one of them being an elderly woman whom we take care of. I have a habit (pun intended) of wearing white socks with my black habit and black veil. I will get into how that particular habit started at a later time. The elderly woman notices my white socks and offers to buy me some black socks. She tells me I should wear them so “I look official.” Mind you, I am used to getting questions like “are you a recognized convent?” My answer is usually something along the lines of, “Yes, I recognize the convent every time I come home” or “Yes, God knows who we are.” This time I merely replied, “God hears my prayers no matter what color socks I am wearing.”

The elderly woman, whom I will call Agnes, takes this as a cue to mean that God speaks to me personally and answers all my prayers as if I had a hotline to God and could simply pick up the phone and dial up Heaven. I assured her that God hears my prayers, but the answers aren’t always what I want - good thing too. I can think back on all of the earlier times in my life when I too wished that I had “never been born” (or “never existed” as I put it). God never answered that prayer. My guardian angel, what ever his or her name may be, simply chuckled a bit, and went back to the business of protecting a rather clumsy woman who would one day be a nun.

Agnes has quite a few illnesses - she survived tuberculosis. She has emphysema, one lung doesn’t work, the other has cancer. She has also had a stroke. She is now in a wheel chair. This is the point at which Agnes turns to me and says, “well then ask God why I have all these things wrong with me.”

At this point I mentioned that I don’t have a hot line to God but she certainly could ask Him herself. “But you said he answers all your prayers,” Agnes said.

There lays the rub, as Shakespeare would have said. God may hear all my prayers but the answer isn’t always what I wanted it to be. Again, good thing too. What I didn’t mention was the obvious. God didn’t make Agnes smoke for 52 years. She did that one on her own, and caused much of the problems her self. This brings me to the second point.

Agnes certainly wasn’t born with a cigarette in her mouth. We are all born innocent babies. But a lot of what happens to us in between the time when someone is born, and the time someone may wish they had never been born is up to us. We are born innocent, but after that, even if God has a plan for our lives we are all free to “give God the finger” and go our own way. And that, my friends, is where the trouble starts.

Notice I said “a lot” above. There are times when we all say “How can God let that happen?” Well the operative word there is what ever the “that” is. The reasons are as myriad and varied as the number of people to which “that” occurs. Some times bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, they happen for a reason. My own mother was born with cerebral palsy. She told me once that she thought she would not have become the warm person everyone loved if she had not been born with cerebral palsy. As the result of mom’s “that” I also learned. To me mom’s cerebral palsy was just part of mom. It meant she needed a bit of extra help some times but it taught me a lot. On the face of it mom’s cerebral palsy might have been considered a tragedy by some. But not by mom, and not by me. We are both better people today because of it.

But what about those times when we have made a mess of our lives ourselves? When my life was a shambles and I wished “I had never been born” I did it to my self. But even if I wasn’t glad I had been born, God WAS glad that I had been born. Not only that he still had a plan for my life.

Remember the article I wrote about life not coming with a contract? Well it may not come with a contract, but it DOES come with promises. The great thing about those promises is that the ones that life comes with - the ones that are “installed at the factory” before we are born - is that they are made by God. The great thing about promises made by God is that, even if we don’t live up to what God expects of us, He ALWAYS lives up to His end of the deal. God always keeps His promises. Even if we have spent part of our lives giving God the finger. He always forgives us. He always takes us back.

So why is God so generous? Why does He do all this? Because my friends, of one very special baby…

The baby Jesus.

Merry Christmas everyone

Saturday, December 23, 2006

There are no divisions in Heaven!

Today’s column starts with a small story…

A man died and went to heaven. St. Peter met him at the gate to heaven and showed him around. Half way through the tour of heaven they pass a locked door. St. Peter points at the door and says, “Don’t bother them, that’s (insert name of religion here) they think they’re alone up here.

How true, how true. Also how incredible.

Last night I watched a television show hosted by Barbara Walters. It purported to be all about heaven. What amazed me was how little of it was about heaven and how much of it was about hate.

Yes I said hate.

Here is why…

The Christian couple who were broadcasting to millions (7 million per the broadcast) where dead certain that anyone who wanted to go to heaven had to be a Christian. No exceptions. No Christian, no heaven. I guess we will all have to wait and see if the gate to heaven has a very large sign on it that says in letters 64 feet high “CHRISTIANS ONLY. ALL OTHERS TAKE THE ELEVATOR TO YOUR LEFT DOWN TO HELL.”

Remarkably enough , I later listened to a Muslim tell Barabara Walters the same thing about everyone who wasn’t a Muslim. Barabara looked at the man and said, “What about me. I am sitting here across from you and I am not a Muslim. Do you want me to go to hell?” Again, ironically, this same man was certain that Allah would reward people for being suicide bombers and killing other human beings. He was right about one thing - whatever God he was worshiping that rewarded people for killing other people, for whatever the reason, wasn’t any God I know. Sadly enough, whatever God he was worshipping it certainly wasn’t Allah. In fact a Muslim Scholar was interviewed shortly after the man and he indicated that no where in the Koran does it allow people to kill other people. I will take the Scholars word on this one. I have never read the entire Koran. Just part of it. Just prior to the interview, Barbara said of the Muslim that thought suicide bombers would be rewarded, “Ironically he may be the one going to hell.”

How true, how true.

One thing is also true. We live in a world where….

Most Christians think everyone who isn’t a Christian is going to hell…

There are Muslims who think people who aren’t Muslim are going to hell…

There are Jews who think people who aren’t Jews are going to hell..

The current Pope (keep in mind here that I am Catholic) seems to feel for some bizarre reason that all Jews must become Christian to be saved. No denying this one folks. I heard it come out of the mans own mouth. He may have been misquoted in the press about saying the Muslim faith was evil, but he can’t deny the anti-Semitic attitudes.

If this is true my friends, hell is going to be one crowded place and heaven will be completely empty.

Ok…say it with me…


There are several aspects I am just incredulous about when it comes to all this. First on the list is the Popes idea that all Jews must become Christian to be saved.

Message to His Holiness…

“Hello *knocks on Papal Crown* is anyone home! Christ is JEWISH! His mother is Jewish, all of the apostles where Jewish. “

None of them gave up their faith as Jews to be Christians. In fact in the early Christian church, St. Paul and the rest of the apostles had a running argument about whether or not you first had to be Jewish to be Christian. St. Paul was against - the rest of the apostles for awhile were for.

What I also find so incredulous is all of the Muslims, Christians and Jews who all think they seem to be worshiping different Gods.

“Hello!! Fellas! You all have the same progenitor! Father Abraham. He worshiped the One God. You are all worship the same God people.!!!!”

As for Buddhists. I can only speak for the Buddhists in this convent. We believe in God and in Heaven.

Friends. There are so many names and paths to God - pick one and find God at the end of it. Which brings me to the next point. The atheist in the interview. This woman thought death was the end. That was it. After that, no more existence and lay there and rot. Wow, how futile. What was incredible was one of her reasons. It allowed her to concentrate on making her own life better in this life. Wow. At least she admitted that it allowed her to be self centered.

Here is the big but (no not my big butt).

I would like to see an interview with her at the other end of her life and see how she feels. Let me tell you a quick story about a doctor I once met. He was a veterinarian. Within five minutes of meeting this man, I noticed that he told everyone how much money he gave to Charity. He did this to impress people. I hope everyone was duly impressed because that was how he got his reward. As I got to know this man, I got to see how his bank account became his soul. How many people I have met that spend there entire lives in pursuit of material wealth.

Message to said people, “HELLO! YOU CAN’T TAKE ANY OF THE WEALTH WITH YOU!!!”

The sad end to this story is when said doctor developed cancer. As he lay dieing in his hospital bed he was heard to say “If only he had done…” here insert al the things he should have done instead of pursue wealth.

So if you remember nothing else about this forum or this article, remember what follows:

Repeat after me…

There are no divisions in heaven!!

There is no Christian Heaven; There is no Muslim Heaven, there is no Jewish Heaven, there is no Buddhist Heaven. There is only Heaven. No locked doors where you can conveniently hide away from someone who had a different name for God than you.

Don’t believe me? That’s ok. I have been called a heretic before. The important thing is, if you are reading these words you have been told. By me. I have given you the truth that God has given me. What you do with that truth is up to you.

Friday, December 22, 2006

There is no sanity clause...

There is no sanity clause…

Life doesn’t come with a contract. God doesn’t make us sign one. It is perhaps a good thing too – for many of us would run afoul of the sanity clause – myself included. If there were such a clause, mankind, taken as a whole, and many of its individual members as well, would have had to give life back to its creator long ago. But such is not the case.

Despite the holiday traditions portrayed in movies such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” - many people seem show “peace on earth good will toward men” by taking out nasty attitudes and strutting them around the block for all to see. The convent subscribes to the local paper. When I opened it to the back page, I saw an article that very vividly portrayed the “good will” that some of our fellow human beings hold in their heart. Let me quote part of the article for you:

Associated Press 12/22/2006

Rosie & The Donald

Things got even uglier Thursday in the bitter war of words between Donald Trump and Rosie O’ Donnell.
The Donald called the Los Angles-based morning show “Good Day L.A.” to sound off on O’Donnells’s remarks about the near-firing of Miss USA. Tara Conner.
“Maybe she wanted to put the crown back on Miss USA’s head,” the real-estate mogul said of the openly gay O’Donnell, who has four children with her partner, Kelli. “I think she’s very attracted to Miss USA so she probably wanted to put the crown on her head herself.”
Insult No. 2: “She is a very, very unattractive woman who really is a bully”
Insult No. 3: “Ultimately Rosie is a loser, and ultimately (“The View”) will fail because of Rosie…”

No matter how one may feel about Rosie O’Donnell or Donald Trump, if life had a sanity clause, Donald Trump just violated his contract. At this point it would be good to remember the words of Christ “Love one another as I have loved you.” (side note to Donald Trump, no exceptions Donald, love one another whether the person is a lesbian or not). If you are Buddhist, as I am, and read the above words, I would say that whoever uttered those words in the associated press article may be destined to come back as a lesbian woman with a very disfiguring disease.

Let me say it again. “Love one another as I have loved you”…

…even if that person irritates the hell out of you.

Loving someone who is busy hurling insults at us is one tall order, but no exceptions means no exceptions. But just how are we to go about trying to love someone who treats us like that?

Well fortunately for you and I, I know a little French nun who can tell us how. Dear Sister Therese. The Little Flower. But let me let Therese tell you in her own words.

“There was at that time a certain nun who managed to irritate me in everything she did!…I prayed for her whenever we met, and offered all her virtues and merits to God…and when tempted to answer her sharply I hastened to giver her a friendly smile, and talk about something else; for as it says in Imitation [The Imitation of Christ], it is better to leave everyone to their own way of thinking than begin an argument…She said to me one day, her face radiant, ‘What do you find so attractive in me? Whenever we meet you give me such a gracious smile; what attracted me?’ It was Jesus hidden in the depths of her soul; Jesus who makes attractive even what is most bitter.”

Another way Therese once put it was simply, “Let God love them through you.”

So who ever the Donald Trump may be in your life, give them a big smile, and offer all of their virtues up to God. If you can’t find any virtues, leave it up to God to find them. It may be hard to smile at someone like that at first. Eventually the smile will be genuine. If nothing else, use an old adage as a starting point: “smile-everyone will wonder what you are up to.”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Christmas Wish...

The Christmas Wish…

Oddly enough the story of this Christmas wish starts with a dead body.

Bear with me. This Christmas wish may not start out pretty, but like so many paths to God, it ends up gloriously.

There was a time in my life when the only way anyone would have known I died was when the body started to smell out in the hallway. For reasons which I will not get in to, but which many people who are born like I was will understand, there was a time in my life when my relatives where either dead or had disowned me. I will leave out of the equation the relative who threatened me bodily harm.


There are many people who are alone during the holidays. Walk down the streets of the average city. Look for the heating grates, and the underground streets. You will find plenty of them. But they aren’t all in the streets. Some of them may be the people you work with. Case in point. God rest his soul, Gerald Johnson.

I worked with Gerald for many years until he transferred to a different department. I didn’t know him as well as others did. Now it is too late. Gerald hadn’t shown up for work for at least a week. One of his co-workers finally went up to Gerald’s department head and asked where Gerald was. Sadly enough the department head didn’t know. So the co-worker and one of his friends went over to Gerald’s house.

No Answer.

They called the fire department. One thing lead to another and the fire departmentwent in to the house. Gerald was there, dead on his bathroom floor. He had been there for a week. The fireman simply came out and told Gerald’s co-workers “You don’t want to go in there.”

So often people don’t appreciate God’s greatest gifts until they are gone. Many is the morning that Grandmother would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to make grandfather breakfast, when he had to be at work at 6:00 am. A cheerful voice would shout up the stairs of their house “It’s on the table Mabel” This happened even after grandfather retired. All the same, my grandfather had a little ditty he would sing in off moments, when both he and grandmother where still alive. He would sing, “It’s a great life with a wife, it’s a great wife without a wife – who the hell wants a wife.”

He did.

When grandmother died and her voice no longer called up the staircase “it’s on the table Mabel” then he began to appreciate the voice.

So that brings me to my Christmas wish. I learned to appreciate God’s gifts because there were times in my life when they were taken away. God was merciful in my case. He gave them back in wonderful ways I never dreamed possible. So let me go through my list of what I want for Christmas.

Top of the list – I want a family.

What a wonderful gift. I have a family again. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night and I am not alone. I have my convent. Mother Superior, though she doesn’t have to, gets up on those mornings I work outside the convent and makes breakfast for me. Hot Swedish coffee and some of the best food you have ever tasted. That brings me to my second wish.

Lord, I want food to eat.

There was a time, long before I became a nun, that people would ask me how I lost so much weight. My answer was always the same. Suicidal depression and starvation - at the time I was so thin I looked like I had just escaped from a death camp. Now? Wow! What food! Mother Superior’s cooking is rarely outdone. When her brother comes to visit on the holidays I find out that it is occasionally possible to out do her cooking! What a cook he is as well! But always, I remember, whenever I eat – that in order for me to eat, something had to give it’s life so I can live. And so I thank God for the gift of that life, whether it is simply a plant life or an animal life. I thank God for the gift of that life so I can live. That brings me to my next wish.

A life – Lord I want a life.

Many is the time we have all heard someone say “Get a life” Yes I have a life, and what a life it is! True, in order to get this wonderful life, I had to be willing to give up a few dreams of my own. The world may never have another actress it doesn’t need. The other side of the bed is taken up with two dogs and a rabbit each time I go to sleep. Ever heard of the group or expression “Three dog night”? Well when it is cold in our neck of the woods (and even when it is not) for me it is always a “two dog and one rabbit night” When my life had hit bottom (see the above paragraph about people only knowing I was dead when the body started to stink) I finally gave my life to God with no reservations – and He gave me my life back. He gave me a wonderful life. If you have ever seen the movie “The Blues Brothers” you will have seen the parts of the movie when they say “We are on a mission from God.” Well, in my case, that is truly the case.

So my Christmas wish list consists of a family, food to eat, and a wonderful life. Looks to me like I already have everything I could ever want. The best thing is, I didn’t even have to ask for any of it. God already knew. I gave my life to Him and he gave me all these wonderful things.

There is one more small wish. Well perhaps not too small. It is a big one – a real biggie in fact. I will admit, this particular Christmas wish has yet to be fulfilled. Some may think that God is falling down on the job. The odd thing is, He keeps trying to give us this gift and as a whole, mankind seems to keep telling Him we don’t want it. But I do, and so I will keep praying for it. In fact, that same prayer that God asks for is really why He threw in the answer to the other Christmas wishes as sort of a bonus gift. That’s because He cares. So I will keep praying, not for God to grant this Christmas wish, but for a time when mankind is finally willing to accept this last Christmas wish of mine. It is a doozie. My last Christmas wish? Simple.

Peace on Earth.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Good guys wear black (veils)

“Is that you?”

These were the words that greeted me one day, some time ago, in the early days of my being a novice. They were spoken to me as I was clearing out my old apartment in the city for the last time. There I stood with my key in the door, for perhaps the last time. From behind me I heard the words again.

“Julie is that you?” asked a former neighbor.

“Yes it is”, I replied.

“The only way I knew it was you was because you had a key to the door.”, she exclaimed.

I hadn’t notice the change in myself in those days, but apparently some of the people around me did.

Black clothes (in fact I still wear black but now the style of the clothes has certainly changed). Stark white makeup. Black out sunglasses. Dark clothes and a dark attitude toward life. That was me all over. I hadn’t quite realized it all until one day, as a nun, someone who had met me then told me they thought I was quite “Goth” People began to speak to me who hadn’t before. When I asked a woman at work why she hadn’t ever spoken to me before, she said simply, “I was afraid to”.

How times change, and sometimes change us for the better.

When I was growing up (in fact I still think I am in the process of growing up) the last thing I thought I would be is a nun. I wanted to be an FBI agent, an oceanographer and then an actress. In that order. When I wanted to be an oceanographer I wanted to go to a college I was later told that Jacques Cousteau would have had trouble getting in to. I actually did earn a degree in theater. I got paid for acting for all of one summer. But hey, at least I can say I acted professionally. Some would say I am still acting – just now I am “acting up”.

But God had other ideas for my life.

I look back on some of the painful times I have had in my life and I can see how they made me who I am today. Without them I would never have become a nun. The difference between myself and other nuns is diverse to say the least. A large part of those differences come from the many painful experiences that it took me a lifetime to face up to. What other nun can say that before she became a nun she had relationships three out of the four possible ways? Can say that she has been both a husband and a wife? Can say that she has been the other woman and has been “other womaned” (I was ran out on for another woman at one point).

After all that, God showed me who I truly was. Who I had been (from a Buddhist point of view) and who I will be.

Now I can’t imagine being anything else but a nun. I did, in fact, try and get away from it once. For a brief period of 24 hours I tried to wrap my mind around leaving the convent and not being a nun (I was a novice at the time). I couldn’t do it. I found I had a deep seated need to be a nun in this particular order. At the time I had no idea why.

As it has been said before… “The prophets longed for these days”.

Oddly enough (at least to me originally) material possessions have become meaningless. I once heard a line in a movie where one character asks another “how many yachts can you water ski behind.” Too true. When I moved from the city to the suburbs in preparation for the process necessary to enter the convent I filled up the building’s garbage chute to the fourth floor, four times. Not with garbage, with material possessions. Someone who helped me move said, “How can you throw all those things away.” My reply was simple. “If you want them you can have them.”

So these days I find myself inexorably drawn, like Marie-Louise Castel to follow in the footsteps of my dear Sister Therese Martin. I have learned something very important about myself – “Good guys wear black (veils)”

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Gorilla Walks Into a Bar...

There is an old joke that goes something like this (in fact it goes exactly like this)…

“A gorilla walks into a bar. He orders a beer. The bartender gives the gorilla a beer and says, “That will be 20 dollars. You know, we don’t get many gorilla’s in here.” The gorilla replies, “At prices like these I’m not surprised.”

I had an experience today that reminded me of “old times” and in my case that is NOT a good thing. For me, the life I live now is “the good old days”. My past is another matter.
As my readers know, I was born a hermaphrodite. I have spent much of my life suffering insults as a result. The hardest part has been learning to not only endure the treatment but to offer it up to God. Why offer it up to God? Here is why…

About a month before my dear sister Therese (St. Therese of Lisieux) died, one of her young novices, Marie of the Trinity went to visit her. We shall discuss more of this visit in a future blog. What is important are the words with which Therese ended the conversation with her novice. These are those words:

“When I am in heaven, you will have to fill my little hands with prayer and sacrifices to give me the pleasure of casting these as a shower of graces upon souls.”

My dear friends, God doesn’t always need someone to perform great deeds to serve him. Not everyone is called to be a martyr or a prophet. Only Moses parted the Red Sea. Sometimes God just needs someone to offer up a small bit of suffering to Him, to his dear daughter Therese, so she can use it to “shower graces upon souls.”

Today I went to visit a book store owned and operated by a local convent. Obviously I do not intent to tell you the name. There is no point in telling tales out of school. What is significant is how I was treated. Keep in mind, I was dressed in my habit and veil, as you see me in my picture. I have visited this convent and store before. A dear friend, who is also on our board of directors used to work there (she has since gone on to teaching). I used to go there all the time to pray in their little chapel. I loved to buy spiritual books there when my funds allowed. In fact during my noviate, I bought many of the books I studied there.

But times change and so, it seems, have all the sisters in this particular convent. None of the nuns I knew (pun intended) are there any more. When I went into the store I was followed like a hawk from the moment I set foot in the store. The poor little nuns apparently thought I wouldn’t notice that one of them just “happened” to be straightening up the shelves where ever I went as I walked around the store. This behavior even persisted to the point where I was followed and watched when I prayed in the chapel – with the door which I left open so they could still see me. I was treated like I am a criminal.

How terribly said.

I bought my book. I stopped to pray. As I was leaving, I stopped to put on my coat. One of the nuns just “happened” to need to read a book next to where I was standing. After all this time, she works up the courage to ask me – as I am standing there in my habit and veil – “are you a nun”?

I politely assured her I was.

Now my dear friends, I know I am not the cutest little nun ever to cross a threshold. But God does not go for “good looks” when he chooses a bride. He goes for a pure soul.

So in the end, my little story comes back to the gorilla in the joke I started out with. Let me change it a bit. “A nun walks into a book store. She is followed around the store, every inch of her movements being followed. As the clerk behind the counter sells her a book she says, “you know we don’t get many ex-hermaphrodite nuns in here.” The nun replies, “with treatment like this, I am not surprised.”

I will leave you, readers, by sharing the thanks I owe the people in the book store who treated me like a criminal based only on my looks. I address this to the sisters who followed me around:

“Thank you sisters for allowing me the opportunity to offer up just a small bit of suffering to God and my sister Therese.”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

65 Roses CAN'T be wrong!

65 roses CANT be wrong.

I realize there are those of you who may have not met my dear Sister Therese. The world knows her as “St. Therese of Lisieux” She is a dear sweet sister who lived 24 short remarkable years. She was a cloistered Carmelite nun in Liseux, France. For those who have not met her, she has written a remarkable account of her life and her soul in a book called simply “The Story of a Soul” There is also a remarkable movie about her called “Therese” What can I say about such a dear wonderful woman. For those of you who have come to know her, you will have seen, as I found, a woman who, like all of us, went through her own troubled times – her “dark night of the soul" Yet she learned to love God with every fiber of her being. She rose above her troubled soul to become a saint. There is a story I would like to share with you all that tells much about this remarkable sister. It is the story of a last smile.

For those of you who may not be nuns, and I will bet there are a lot of you, in a cloistered convent, there is a part of the convent where visitors can go that is traditionally much like a grill, a latticed “window” if you will, where people can visit with the cloistered sisters.

Again, for those of you who may not be nuns, I can tell you, when you are in a convent with someone, they become your family. Like the modern expression “My brother from another mother” the sisters in the convent with you are truly that – your sisters. It doesn’t matter if you shared the same mother or not.

And so to the story of a last smile….I will let Marie of the Trinity tell you herself.

“When Therese died, the body was laid out in front of the grill so that visitors could come and pay their respects. Often people would pass rosaries through the grill to the sister in attendance so that was she could touch the rosary to the body. During the time I spent with Therese, there at the grill, I couldn’t stop crying. I was very close to Therese. She was my best friend. She was my sister. She taught me how to love God. My tears fell and would not stop. It was just as a visitor passed a rosary through the grill to me that it happened. I reached down to touch the visitor’s rosary to Therese’s body and it got caught in her fingers! No matter what I did I couldn’t get it loose! There I was, pulling and crying and nothing I could do would free the rosary. As I was struggling I heard Therese say to me interiorly ‘I am not going to let go until you give me a smile.’ I said to myself, ‘No I feel like crying. I’m not going to smile.’ Soon the visitor started getting impatient with me and said, ‘what is taking so long.’ Then the humor of the situation struck me and I started laughing. As I did the fingers let go and there I had the rosary back again. Therese got her smile.”

Therese was a woman of remarkable humor. She can make you laugh and make you cry. She brought everyone who knew her, and who gets to know her closer to God. She has taught me how to love God. How to feel loved by God. She has even taught me to love everyone who hates me right back. Like everyone who has ever met her, or come to know her, I miss Therese terribly and long to be with her. Before God called her home she said would “spend her heaven doing good on earth” and said, “After my death I will let fall a shower of roses.” That has become the way that Therese lets you know she has heard your prayer – with a rose.

There came a time when my life had hit bottom. I was ready to kill myself. Instead of killing myself, I admitted to God that I couldn’t handle my own life any more. It was only when I was willing to give my entire life to God, with no conditions, that He turned my entire life around. Where there was misery, there is now joy.

In those dark days, before I even considered being a nun, I went to the convent I now call home. I had met the sister who is now my Mother Superior, very briefly, years ago. I am not sure, to this day, why I went there, other than to say, God guided me there. I was welcomed with open arms. Mother Superior hid my keys so I could not leave and watched over me. In those days when I first gave my life to God, no one knew I was at the convent. I felt worthless. I felt alone. Yet Therese let me know I was loved, and that she was watching over me in a very special way. I had just begun praying. I asked Therese a very special question in prayer. To this day only Mother Superior and I know what that question is. I got the answer to my question. I found a new life that is wonderful. I walked into the kitchen for an evening meal and there they were, delivered to me – 65 roses. Therese was watching over me. She has always been there for me.

Thank you Sister Therese for showing me the way, and believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Thank you for finding me again.

65 roses can’t be wrong.

50,000 Frenchmen CAN be wrong...

50,000 Frenchmen CAN be wrong…

For those of you who may have not heard it, there is an old adage that says “50,000 Frenchman can’t be wrong”. I can’t be sure, but it certainly sounds like a mustard commercial to me. Perhaps it was before my time (as hard as it seems to be). The point is this – we live in a world where the person in the mirror rarely considers themselves to be wrong. It must be the other person’s fault.

I have seen and experienced this over and over again in my life. The world is full of people who consider themselves “good Christians” who are dead set certain that God hates gay men and lesbian women. The average person who feels this way has learned or been taught hatred or distrust of people who are gay or lesbian. If you ask them about their unreasoning hatred, many people will point you in the direction of Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination”. Yet the same person will conveniently stop reading before they reach Leviticus 25:44 to 46 “As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.” If you use the first scripture to justify your hatred, you must therefore accept the second. The question then becomes “How many Canadians can I own”? The truth of the matter is there is a term for this. It is called “Displaced Hostility”.

Time and time again I have gone through my life facing people who are sure that there is something wrong with me. To this day there are people where I work who will not get on an elevator with me. There are people who will not speak to me. Why? Because of how I was born – a hermaphrodite. These people, in many cases, have known me for 20 plus years. They are certain that I am some sort of an abomination.

There are people who, to this day, walk up to my sister and say “Why is she always angry”? For those people I have a little story. It was told by Leo Buscaglia, who spent so much of his life lecturing and writing about love and life. Dr. Buscaglia tells of the time he was on an airplane and the passenger in the seat next to him spent much of the flight being rude and nasty to the stewardess. When the passenger asked Dr. Buscaglia what he did for a living, he responded that he lectured about love. The man in the seat next to Leo said “Well thank got someone feels about life like I do.”

Displaced Hostility. Many is the time that people are just downright nasty, yet rather than admit to themselves that THEY are the ones who are angry, they are certain that it is everyone around them.

So if you go through your life, as I have, the subject of unreasoning hatred and anger. Remember…50,000 Frenchmen CAN be wrong. Just tell all those Frenchman to calm down, take a long hard look in the mirror, and keep their anger to themselves.

Then read about how 65 roses CANT be wrong.