Monday, January 29, 2007

So what would you do?

So what would you do?

What would you do if you had been me? The situation is this – I was trained as a minister of care for a local Catholic church. For those of you who may not know what a “minister of care” does, simply put, they bring communion to those to sick to come to church. In my case I brought communion to a local nursing home. Each Sunday I would go, and do a small service with Mother Superior before distribution communion. Not long after a situation arose where the lay individual called me up to tell me that the church did not want “people like me” (and by this she mean someone who had once been a hermaphrodite) bringing communion – as if there were somehow something wrong with me. If this were not bad enough, the Sunday before this occurred, the head priest gave me a big hug and told me “If they reject you they reject the church.” (here he used the name of the church which I will not).

These are the same people who told me that I should not give communion to someone who is not Catholic, even if they ask for it – what would you do in that case? As for me, I was not about to deny communion to another human being to sought it and usually desperately needed it.

So I had been rejected as being unworthy of bringing communion to the sick because of how I look. Nothing more.

What would you do?

Would you forgive them? Christ said, “love one another as I have loved you” -- even if they fail the “God’s little dipstick test” (a reference to an earlier column I did).

But here is the big question…

Would you go back to the same church later? I didn’t – not at first. After all, this isn’t football. If someone treats me like I am a “thing” not even human, nothing says I have to put myself up against the same people for more hurt in the second half.

That was all before I was before a nun.

Things change. Years later, for whatever reason her reason may be, Mother Superior went back to the same church to sing in the choir. I don’t know what her reasons are, you would have to ask her. Did it bother me to go back to the same place where they treated me like a thing?

You bet – it cut like a razorblade with salt rubbed in to the wound.

Did I go with Mother Superior to hear her sing?

Yes. But here is the change. Then I was not a nun, now I am. I went back just to hear Mother Superior sing. Normally I go to a Carmellite convent for services. Did I get any of the looks as if someone had on their mind “why does this nun have a dead baby hanging out of her mouth?’ Sure.

Is there a lesson here? Certainly. But like the cartoon with Linus building a
Sandcastle on a beach – that soon gets washed away – “There is a lesson to be learned here somewhere but I don’t quite know what it is.”

Does it mean when someone goes out of their way to hurt you that you have to not only forgive them but give them the opportunity to do it again?

I don’t know.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Military invents a menopause ray...

The United States Air force has invited a menopause ray - yes, that’s right - a menopause ray. In an Associated Press Article in this morning’s paper entitled “It doesn’t fit under your belt, but it’s a ray gun nonetheless” the following was announced…

“The military calls its new weapon an ‘active denial system,' but that’s an understatement. It’s a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire. Apart from causing that terrifying sensation, the technology is supposed to be harmless -- a non-lethal way to get enemies to drop their weapons.”

First - I applaud the United States Air Force in it’s efforts to NOT take human lives.

Second, now more people will know how menopausal women feel - as if we are about to catch fire. Yes, the military has invented a menopause ray. All around the world male soldiers may one day understand exactly how a menopausal woman feels. The military has also accomplished something that a woman’s body is incapable of doing - having a hot flash on command. As any menopausal woman knows - it would be great if one could control the hot flashes. How convenient it would be if a menopausal woman who is cold could simply have a hot flash on command to warm her up. I am not saying that I have not had hot flashes in the dead of winter. Many is the time I have been driving down the street in January with my coat off and all of the windows rolled down. But to be able to control that hot flash? Now the military has managed to accomplish just that.

So I applaud the military in their invention of a non-lethal weapon. When a young male soldier suddenly feels like a woman in her fifties having a hot flash, the world will be a better place.

God Bless you all

Sister Julie

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Make me one with everything...

I am sure you have all heard the old joke about the Buddhist who talks to the hotdog vendor and says “Make me one with everything.” Buddhists talk about being “one with the Eternal Buddha.” Christians talk about being “one with God.” St. Paul wrote this, one of my favorite passages…

“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.” Galatians 2:20 NIV

The Good News version of this quote may shed a bit more light on the subject:

“so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me. “

But what does it mean to be one with God (by whatever name you call God)? Does it mean giving up who we are? Does it mean giving up our desires or following the path God sets for our lives? What does it mean and how do we accomplish it?

Some may have heard of St. Teresa of Avila and her work “The Interior Castle” of which I have spoke before. In this book she speaks of a spiritual union with God. She speaks of it in terms of being accomplished through prayer, meditation, and mostly through the grace of God.

Here, then, are some quotes to think about that discuss this subject:

“The drama of contemporary culture is the lack of interiority, the absence of contemplation. Without interiority culture has no content; it is like a body that has not yet found it’s soul. What can humanity do without interiority? Unfortunately7, we know the answer very well. When the contemplative spirit is missing, life is not protected and all that is human is denigrated. Without interiority, modern man p0uts his own integrity at risk.” – Pope John Paul II (Madrid, May 3, 2003)

“On Mount Horeb when God spoke to Elijah, God ‘was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still, small voice, like the whisper of a gentle breeze.’ (1 Kings 19:11-13)’” –James McCaffrey, Fire of Love

“Meditation – thinking deeply within, about a Bible Passage, a scene of Jesus or Mary or a saint, or even about a doctrine (Heaven, grace) of our faith, and then, thanking God for the graces received in the meditation, and thereby forming affections and sentiments (spiritual glues) to Him…the contemplative life, will help us spiritually…St. Paul says, “But all of us, with faces unveiled, reflecting as ina mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His very image, from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18) St. Paul implies that the life of interiority, prayer , conscious and deeper union with God will change us into God’s image and likeness more: precisely because it is God who is changing us. Therefore we will want to pray more, to meditate on His goodness and inner life…” – Why Prayer, Meditation and Contemplation?

“ Approach God with the humility of a small child yearning for her mother – approach Him with the pure heart of a child.” – Therese

“What joy to remember that our Lord is just; that He makes allowances for all short comings, and knows full well how weak we are. What have I to fear then? Surely the God of infinite justice who pardons the prodigal sone with such mercy will be just with me, who am always with him?” – Therese

“Their agitation and all their requests have so tired out the Good Master that He is only too glad to enjoy the rest I offer Him.” – Therese

Monday, January 22, 2007

Spitting into the wind...

When grandfather was still live, he had a habit that backfired for my mother one day when she tried to imitate it. Granddad had a habit of spitting, but the only time he did so was when he was driving. He would roll down the window of his car and spit out the window. Then came the day my mother tried to imitate the same habit. She rolled down the window and promptly forgot the old adage “don’t spit into the wind.” She spit out the window, into the wind, and the spit flew back and hit her right in the face.

That is what false pride is like – spitting in our own faces. That is also what today’s column is about.

It is one thing for someone like George W. to play God with other people’s lives. It is another for some to think they ARE God. Yet that is what has happened. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked. After all we live in a world where this has certainly happened before. It is just that it has never happened in a manner that it directly affected my life. But like the song said…

“Woop there it is…”

Oh no, it didn’t happen all at once to be sure. It happened slowly and insidiously. First, for those of you out there who may not quite understand what a saint is, let me offer a brief explanation. In the Catholic sense of the word, a saint is a special Heavenly being that serves God. You have heard of them I am sure – St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila are two I have written about in this column. When someone prays and asks a saint for help, it is not a matter or worshiping that saint. It is just a matter of asking that heavenly being for their intercession. One day someone walked up to me in the hallway at work and, seeing the rosary I had, said, “You don’t pray to Mary do you? She’s dead.” My reply was simply, that was the point. She is dead. Who better to ask to bring something to God’s attention than someone who can simply lean across the dinner table and say “Son, let me bring something to your attention.” An important point here is that no one EVER expects the saint to take the place of God, or stand between mankind and God. Think of it as nothing more than putting an octane booster in one’s prayer gas tank.

When I became a Buddhist I learned a lot about embracement – about celebrating other people’s path to God – about understanding there are many different paths to God. I learned about myself. I learned about prayer and meditation. Without an understanding of Buddhism, I never would have been able to understand the work on prayer by Teresa of Avila called “Interior Castle.” It is Buddhism that allowed me to understand it.

But in this case the silver cloud had a black lining in its future.

The founders of the Buddhist order or “church” (as I will call it through the remainder of the article) I belong to lived and died for embracement – acceptance of everyone’s path to God. But now that they have died, and their daughter has elevated to the position of head of the church, that embracement has eroded. It has changed so much that as a matter of dogma, the Buddhist church will NOT permit it’s members to pray directly to God. In a faith once based on embracement and acceptance, its members became required to pray to the founders of the church, now dead and considered the Buddhist equivalent of saints. It reached the point where members where told that if they did not pray to these individuals that God would not hear their prayers.

There is a difference between asking for someone’s help and putting yourself between mankind and God.

It reached the point where the focus of the church no longer became God, instead it became the “sainted” parents of the head of the church. In other words, it slowly became about ancestor worship – about worshiping someone else’s ancestors.

But this last weekend the other shoe dropped – and dear readers it is ONE BIG SHOE – say about size one million and a half.

The head of the Buddhist church to which I once belonged had announced over this last weekend, all over the world in a sermon that was taped and broadcast, that she is to be worshipped as a Buddha.

This, my friends is the zenith of false pride. It is the very pinnacle of lack of humility and it goes against everything that the Buddha taught. Someone who is truly saintly in their behavior will be the first one to say they are not. Marie of the Trinity, a novice of St. Therese of Lisieux, once came to Therese and fell down on her knees in front of the soon to be saint. “You are a saint,” she told Therese, “and one day people will pray, asking for your help.” Therese’s reaction was simple and immediate – she laughed. She told Marie to get up off her knees, quit being such a child and to quit making fun of her (Marie of the Trinity, however was serious).

But now this particular Buddhist church has asked its members to worship the head of the church as a Buddha.

My reply is also simply and immediate. Yes, there are many paths up the mountain, but they all lead to the summit. WHAT I EXPECT TO FIND WHEN I REACH THE SUMMIT IS GOD.

Not the long dead parents who founded the order…

And certainly not the current head of the church, a Japanese woman who is very much alive…

Some one who substitutes themselves for God not only spits in their own face, she spits in the faces of every member of the church, and shames her mother who lived and died to embrace everyone’s path to God.

The Sisters of Embracement will continue to embrace and celebrate (not just accept) everyone’s path to God – no matter what that path may be.

My prayer will continue to be the same as St. Francis of Assisi -that prayer will be prayed directly to the Lord God almighty….


Apologies and Updates

Apologies first dear readers, for not keeping the site updated every day as promised. Things have been a bit busy around the convent lately and one of the events I am writing about a bit later this morning. Next, for anyone who may be an animal lover out there, an update on the Brave Bunny of which I wrote. Brave Bunny is being fitted for a wheelchair. Mother Superior is making him a tiny little scooter. It has been built and needs to be modified to fit him properly. Some bunnies have the run of the house – Brave Bunny did not. Now that he is a handicapped bunny (and teaching others about the value of life) he is getting more attention than ever – and when his wheelchair works properly he will be free to wheel about the top floor of the convent as he chooses. (he has already done a bit of wheeling about the kitchen).

As to one of the troubling events that occurred over the weekend, I will post it a bit later this morning. In brief, it is one thing for someone like George W. to play god with others people lives. It is a whole other thing for someone to think they ARE God. That scary event is what I will be writing about today. See you later this morning.

Sister Julie

Friday, January 19, 2007

Brave Bunny

Brave Bunny…

This is the story of a brave bunny and a tiny little miracle. Some time ago I received a rabbit for a birthday gift from my Mother Superior. She knew that I had two other rabbits in my life, one recently, both of whom were taken away. This particular bunny came to us when he was young. He sleeps each night on my bed with the convent’s two dogs (It’s a good thing it is a good sized bed or there wouldn’t be room for me.) Like others, I too wonder at times, why bad things happen to small lives that don’t deserve them. If I had all the answers I would be enlightened and wouldn’t be here on this earth any more. But sometimes I can see a lesson in events….

Yes, we can and must call upon God and His angels to protect us. He will be there to protect us - It all depends on our faith and the depth of our love and compassion which dictates how harmful or not the evil will be. If our love, faith, and compassion are great; then we will have much effect on the evil. But what of small lives, little ones who can’t pray for themselves? Well, you don’t give up on a life, even if it is a little broken.

All life is precious.

God speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. Mother Mary told us this at Medjugorgie. The Blessed Teresa taught it when she was alive. Here are her words:

“Talk to God.
Just let Jesus pray in you.
To be able to pray we need silence –
Because God speaks to us in the silence of the heart,
And we reply in the fullness of our heart-
These two together make prayer.
The fruit of prayer is always deepening of faith,
It has to transform itself into love.”

Last night I was up very late, or very early in the morning, depending on how you look at it. I was sitting at the table in my room reading, and all was silent. From behind me I heard my rabbit, who was asleep on the bed, start to tear around the bed, hopping wildly and screaming. I ran to the bed and picked up my rabbit. Mother Superior ran into the room in a flash. A short while later found Mother Superior examining my rabbit and me crying loudly – my rabbit was paralyzed. He couldn’t move his back legs. “How can this happen to an innocent life? Doesn’t God care about rabbits?” I asked.

Sometimes events happen to make other events happen. It is called “dependant origination.”

So here is the answer to my prayer, from the silence of my heart.

God speaks to a small bunny. Don’t think God speaks to animals? St. Francis of Assisi would disagree with you.

“Little one, will you be willing to serve me with you life?”

The small bunny agrees without question.

“When you are born, God explains to the bunny, you will be born into a body that will one day cause you pain. Eventually your back legs will not work properly.”

The bunny, being innocent and pure, as animals are. Obeys without question. Although the bunny didn’t ask God why he would ask such a thing, God explains it to the bunny anyway.

“The woman that will care for you, will be a nun. She, and others like her, will need to be reminded of lessons I have taught her, and those who came before her – you don’t give up on a life, even if it is a little broken, for all life is precious to me.”

I went to sleep that night with a rabbit that couldn’t move his back legs. I prayed my way to sleep last night. I asked God to heal my rabbit. I held the bunny in my arms and told him I would never give up on him, even if he couldn’t ever move his back legs.

This morning when I called the convent from work, I asked Mother Superior how my rabbit was. To her amazement, and mine, the bunny could now hop! Perhaps not as well as before, but he could hop – leaving a lesson, and providing me a chance to live it.

And here is that lesson from my childhood…

I was raised by a handicapped mother, who was born with cerebral palsy. When she was a child, mom was unable to walk. She needed braces up to her hips even to be able to stand. At this point in her life, my grandmother was raising mom on her own – she had been married to a very violent man. As a result grandmother had to work, while someone came over to watch mom. Even today, people tend to look down on someone who is handicapped, as if they are somehow less of a person. Children can be especially cruel when it comes to such behavior. As a result mom had no friends as a little girl. One day, out of the blue as they say, the neighbor girl came over and asked to play with mom while grandmother was away. She and mom played “dollies” – until the woman watching mom was out of sight for a bit. Then the little girl from next door locked my mother’s braces so she couldn’t stand up and stole all her dollies.

Mom lost a friend, she never had in the first place. She did get her dollies back. But what she had instead of friend in the girl next door was a loving mother who never gave up on a handicapped child. Grandmother paid for thirteen operations for my mother during the depression. As a result my mother not only could remove the braces but she could walk on her own. Grandmother didn’t give up there. She instilled in her daughter the importance of a good education; something that mom passed along to her daughters. As a result of grandmother not giving up on a life that was a little broken, mom could walk again, got a college education, got married and gave birth to a child who would one day be a nun – me.

All life is precious. You never give up on a life, even if it is a little broken, no matter how small that life is.

God Bless you all,

Sister Juliemarie

Thursday, January 18, 2007

George W. Bush - is there hope?

Bush…is there hope yet?

I thought so when I read the headline of the Associated Press article in yesterdays newspaper here at the convent…”Bush criticizes Iraqi hangings.”

Maybe George W. has seen the light.

I was wrong. The article quotes George W. as saying, “I was disappointed and felt like they fumbled the – particularly the Saddam Hussein execution.” The quote is from a PBS interview with Jim Lehrer. The article points out, “In his toughest assessment yet, Bush criticized the circumstances of Saddam’s hanging last month, as well as Monday’s execution of two top aides, including Saddam’s half brother.”

George W. isn’t upset that the leader of a foreign country, that he forcible removed from power, has been executed. HE IS JUST UPSET THAT THEY DIDN’T DO A BETTER JOB. Perhaps this is to be expected when we look at some of the statistics of people executed in his home state of Texas. As of yesterday, since 1976, more people have been executed in Texas than any other state – nearly 18 times more than the average of all the other states that have allowed capital punishment. In that time Texas executed 381 people, compared to the next leading state, Virginia, which executed 98.

Think for a moment, what has gone on in Iraq. The United States of America, as ordered by George W. Bush, invaded another country and removed that country's leader from power. What would happen if another country invaded the United State, removed the President of the United States from power, and put him in jail – and then executed him?

In an earlier article I spoke about a comedian from the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour.” One of the comedians was from Texas. He joked that Texas is speeding time spent on death row for capital punishment where there was three or more credible witnesses. The comedian joked, “some states are abolishing capital punishment, mine is putting in an express lane.”

How incredibly sad.

Has it reached the point in humanities regression, where the death of another human being is considered funny? We aren’t talking about a play or movie, but the death of another human being. How is this funny? When the death of another human being is funny we have not only regressed as a culture – I am surprised that we still manage to walk upright.

God Bless You All,

Sister Juliemarie

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's Just Wrong...

Its just not right…

Decapitated. Today the headlines shout of the execution by hanging of Sadam Husein’s half brother. When he was hung, we are told that his body was decapitated. This is just not right.

I struggled with the issue for quite some time. Many people have. The issue is capital punishment – the right that any given government body feels that they have to impose the punishment of death for particular crimes. There are times when we see acts that are so loathsome that we may temped to feel like we want to pull the switch, drop the floor on the gallows, or inject the needle ourselves. The headlines are filled with such incidents; such as unborn children being cut from their mother’s wombs. It is easy to point to the commandment in the old testament “You shall not kill.” Still some may point to books of the old testament where we are told that the Nation of Israel was led to victories in warfare by God.

First, consider the last two words in the last sentence – by God. Also consider how Christ told us to love those who hate us. To love one another as God loves us. As a Buddhist I have been taught that all life is precious. What then would make anyone feel they have the right to take the life of another human being?

While you are considering that, hold another event in your mind. That event is the death of a 10 year old child by hanging. How are they connected? The following event was reported in an Associated Press Article, here is an excerpt:

“Cairo, Egypt – The boys’ deaths – scattered in the United States, in Yemen, in Turkey and elsewhere in seemingly isolated horror – had one thing in common: they hanged themselves after watching televised images of Saddam Hussein’s execution.”

It goes on to tell of a particular death…

“A day after Saddam’s execution, a 10-year old boy in Texas hanged himself from a bunk bead after watching a news report on the execution.”

As tragic as this death of a young man is, it can teach us an important lesson. Imagine being the boys father or mother, coming in to the boy’s bedroom to talk to their son, only to find him hanging from the bedpost – dead. Fix that image firmly in your mind. Remember the horror of that death, and think of it the next time you consider whether it is right or not for one human being to take the life of another. The horror of death. Not pretend death in the movies. Real death.

That is just not right…

Yesterday I did a column about how George W. Bush has decided to send troops to Iraq to kill more people. He has decided whether we like it or not. Well Mr. Bush, I have a “whether you like it or not” for you.

Killing is wrong. Whether YOU like it or not. It is too easy to sit in an office in Washington D.C. and sent thousands of people to their deaths, civilians and military alike. George W. isn’t risking HIS life. So when you think of the thousands of troops sent to Iraq, and all of the resulting thousands of deaths, think of that young 10 year old boy dangling from his bedpost – dead. Remember the horror.

George W. hasn’t got the right to play God – whether HE likes it or not.

I can’t stop him. Maybe the congress can. He doesn’t have to worry about re-election. It is a great tragedy of our government that ONE MAN has the power to cause so many deaths. But one day, that same God he seems to think he is praying to that tells him it is ok to kill other human beings, will look George W. in the face. And God will tell him…

It is just not right.

So George W., I have made my decision as well. You have made yours. And you can quote me on that, in any of your reports. That’s “Sister Juliemarie” no hyphen.

God Bless You All,

Sister Juliemarie

Monday, January 15, 2007

The First American Dictator - George W. Bush

The First American Dictator…

That is what George W. Bush has become. For a fleeting moment I considered calling today’s column “Seig Heil” but I thought was too much…so far. This morning the newspaper’s headlines screams the words of the President of the United States, “I’ve made my decision.” According to George Bush he has made his decision and that is just it - whether the Congress, The American People, the World and God like it or not. Yes I said God. Remember back when the war started? George W. Bush said he prays to God every day about the war and what to do. He must not be listening too hard. Either that or he is praying to some God I am not aware of. No God that I know of tells people to kill each other.

Yet that is just what George W. is doing. The quote from today’s paper, an Associated Press article, is this:

“Washington- Digging in for confrontation, President Bush and Vice President dick Cheney say they will not budge from sending more U.S. troops to Iraq no matter how much Congress opposes it.”

Meanwhile the Congress, God Bless their collective hearts, is trying to stop this madness by cutting off George Bush’s war efforts at the pockets. The same article quotes Senator Barack Obama of Illinois as saying, “We need to look at what options we have available to constrain the president.”

It’s a good thing Senator Obama is senator. He shows remarkable restrained in simply using the word “restrain.”

Think about what has happened. George Bush has invaded a foreign country, over non-existent weapons of mass destruction, a country that had nothing to do with the tragic events of 9-11, captured their leader, and now the same leader has been put to death.

This sounds dangerously close to war crimes of our own to me.

And on the home front, the vice president seems to have lost his mind as well. Another associated press article quotes the vice president as saying the following:

“Washington - Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday the Pentagon and CIA are not violating rights by examining the banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage.”

Lets look at one of the important phrases there….


So just who are the people who’s banking records they are examining who ARE NOT suspected of terrorism or espionage? Anyone who doesn’t agree with him? Anyone who doesn’t want any more people to die in Iraq? Anyone who doesn’t want an American President to dictate who will run the worlds nations and how?

…or maybe nuns and convents who have seen enough death.


A nun who is also a veteran of the United States Army
Sister Julie Marie

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Words of Wisdom...

Today I offer you some words of wisdom from Therese of Lisieux. Therese are some of the things that she taught her sisters in the last months that she was alive. They are from the prayerbook that I have been assembling for the convent.

On always seeing the good side of things..."I always see the good side of things. There are some who set about giving themselves the most trouble. for me, it's just the opposite. If I have nothing but pure suffering, if the heavens are so black that I see no break in the clouds, well, I make this my joy! I revel in it! I did this during Papa's trials which made me more glorious than a queen"

On not seeing 'signs'...said to Celine
"Don't be astonished if I don't appear to you after my death, and if you see nothing extraordinary as a sign of my happiness. You will remember that it's 'my little way' not to desire to see anything. You know well what I've said so often to God, to the angels, and to the saints: My desire is not to seem them here on earth."

On going to purgatory...
"I don't know whether I'll go to purgatory or not, but I'm not in the least bit disturbed about it; however, if I do go there, I'll not regret having done nothing to avoid it. I shall not be sorry for having worked solely for the salvation of souls. How happy I was to learn that holy Mother, St. Teresa, thought the same way!"

On going to Heaven to be with Therese...(said to Marie of the Trinity when Marie asked Therese to remember her in Heaven)
"Very soon you will come with me; it won't be long, you'll see! Thus far you've only seen the shell; soon you'll see the little chick."

On trials and suffering...
"I'm reminded of a piece of cloth stretched over a frame to be embroidered; then nobody shows up to embroider it! I wait and wait! It's useless!...However, this isn't really surprising since little children don't know what they want! I'm saying this because I am thinking of little Jesus; He is the one who stretched me over a frame of sufferings in order to have the pleasure of embroidering me; then He loosens me so that He can go up to Heaven and show them His beautiful work."

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Staircase

There is a story that our dear Sister Therese of the Holy Face and Child Jesus used to tell. It was a story about a staircase - an analogy if you will. It went far to explain what was really the heart of "The Little Way" that she taught and asked to have passed on. Christ told us to "be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect" but THAT my friends is one tall order. Therese explained it this way. She described it as climbing the staircase to perfection with Jesus at the top. She realized how hard, and nearly impossible that climb would be. I will let Therese herself tell you the rest...

"You make me think of the very little child who starts to hold herself up but does not yet know how to walk," she said to me. "Wanting absolutely to climb to the top of the stairs to find her mother again, she lifts her little foot to finally climb the first step. Useless labor! She always falls without making any advance. Okay! Consent to be this little child. Through practicing all the virtues, keep lifting up your little foot in order to clamber up the stairs of holiness. You will not even get to the first fun, but God asks nothing of you except your good will. From the top of the stairs he looks down at you with love "Soon, won over by your ineffective efforts, he will come down Himself and, taking you in His arms, He will take you away into His kingdom forever, where you will never have to depart from Him. but if you give up lifting your little foot, He will leave you an earth for a very long time."

"Then the happy day will come when Jesus Himself will come down to carry you away in His arms,will you be more advanced by having clambered up five or six steps by your own strength? Is it more difficult for Jesus to take you from the bottom rather than from the middle of the stairs? There is yet another advantage for you not being able to climb the stairs: that is, to remain your whole life in humility, whereas if your own efforts were crowned by success you would not get any compassion from Jesus. he would let you climb up all by yourself and He would have to fear all the time lest you fall, because of your self-complacency."

God Bless you all,

Sister Julie

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pursuit of Happiness

Purfuit of Happiness…(in honor of Stan Freberg…see the current “Big Salute”)

Last night was one of the rare occasions that Mother Superior and I can actually get out of the convent at the same time. Most of the times our duties mean one or the others of us has to be in the convent 24-7. We took the opportunity to go see a movie called “Pursuit of Happiness” starring Will Smith and his real son Jaden.

Will Smith is certainly a versatile entertainer. He has done everything from rap, to comedy to serious acting. This time it is serious acting and he is good in the roll – to good in fact. If you are in need of a movie to lift your spirits, this isn’t the movie for you. It doesn’t lift your spirits until about the last five minutes of the movie. If on the other hand you are in the mood for a movie that will grateful for your life if you are living just about anywhere but in a box under a bridge, then this is DEFINITELY, a movie for you.

You thought YOU had a tough life?

…and I thought I had a tough life. This movie, based on the life of a real person, is about a man whose life was so tough I wanted to hang myself half way through the movie. Rest assured however, the movie does end up “happily ever after.” One of the more poignant parts of the film is where the main character points out that in the declaration of independence, Thomas Jefferson only wrote the everyone has a right to the PURSUIT of happiness. Finding it, as we almost all know, is quite another matter.

Will Smith’s character (Chris Gardner) is a salesman that is so down on his luck he ends up giving new meaning to the phrase “Death of a Salesman.” In trying to make a good life for himself and his son, he even ends up homeless at one point. He goes from humiliation to humiliation in pursuit of happiness for he and his son.

Our dear sister Therese once said that the occasional humiliation is good for us, as it reminds us of our nothingness before God. Here is the advice that Therese gave to her dear sister Marie of the Trinity:

“If you are nothing, you must not forget that Jesus is all. so you must lose your little nothingness in his infinite all and think only of his uniquely lovable all…when we see ourselves so miserable, then we no longer wish to consider ourselves, and we look only on the unique Beloved!…Dear little Marie, I know no other means of reaching perfection but love, how well our heart is made for that.”

I won’t bore you with the many humiliations I have gone through in my life. Suffice it to say that there is a large difference between humility and humiliation. There is an even bigger difference between the occasional humiliation and living a life of humiliation.

The words of St. Paul, as he tells us what God tells us, sheds additional light on this subject:

“My [God’s] grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak: I am most happy then to be proud of my [St. Paul’s] weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak I am strong.”

God was certainly watching over Chris Gardner, even in his most difficult moments. Therese tells us the best way to get through the most difficult of times. That is simple. One word – Trust.

The Little Way was originally intended on being called the “Little Way of Trust” for that trust, which will in turn bring love, is the central aspect of The Little Way. Trust in God. Yes, it is easier said that done in difficult circumstances, but THAT, my friends, is what faith is all about.

As far as my own pursuit of happiness is concerned – well let me just reiterate that I would certainly have been voted “Least likely to become a nun” back in high school – but here I am.

In my case true happiness didn’t come until I stopped pursuing my path to happiness, and pursued God’s path for my life.

God Bless you all,

Sister Julie

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This little light of mine...

I remember a song from my childhood that had words in it, "this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine." Our dear sister Therese had a story to tell about a little light that shared its light with others. This is that story...

On being a small light that lights other lights...

"sister marie of the Eucharist wanted to light the candles for a procession; she had no matches; however, seeing the little lamp which was burning in front of the relics, she approached it. Alas, it was half out; there remained only a feeble glimmer on its blackened wick. She succeeded in lighting her candle from it, and with this candle, she lighted those of the whole community. It was, therefore, the half extinguished little lamp which had produced all these beautiful flames which, in their turn, could produce an infinity of others and even light the whole universe. nevertheless, it would always be the little lamp which would be first cause of all this light. How could the beautiful flames boast of having produced this fire, when they themselves were lighted with such a small spark?"

"It is the same with the Communion of Saints. Very often, without our knowing it, the graces and lights that we receive are due to a hidden soul, for God wills that the saints communicate grace to each other through prayer with great love, with a love much greater than that of a family, and even the most perfect family on earth. How often have I thought that I may owe all the graces I've received to the prayers of a person who begged them from God for me, and whom I shall know only in Heaven."

"Yes, a very little spark will be capable of giving birth to great lights in the Church, like the Doctors and the Martyrs, who will undoubtedly be higher in heaven than the spark; but how could anyone think that their glory will not become his?"

"In Heaven, we shall not meet with indifferent glancers, because all the elect will discover that they owe to each other the graces that merited the crown for them."

God Bless you all,

Sister Julie

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dream On...

Dream on…

The nation will soon celebrate the birthday of one of our nations greatest leaders…Dr. Martin Luther King. Perhaps he was never president, he may not have held any high political office, but he was a leader nonetheless. His dreams of peace, for which he died, still lead the ideals of a nation – a world – that has not yet achieved them. On August 28, 1963 he delivered his “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It is one of the single most moving speeches I have ever heard – and being a drama major in undergraduate school, I have heard A LOT of speeches. I have spoken of his dream before. Here are yet a few of the words from this amazing speech.

“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”

A bit later on is one of my favorite passages from this speech…

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

Yet the same paper that features the full text of this moving speech, has some of the following headlines:

“Alderman busted – when the FBI came for Ald. Arenda Troutman early yesterday morning, she didn’t answer the door-so they broke a window to get in. The South Side alderman is charged with taking thousands of dollars in bribes.”

“Woman who killed husband gets 45 years”

“U.S. blasts targets in Somalia”

…and oddly enough, what didn’t make the headlines in the paper, was that George Bush intends to escalate America’s involvement in Iraq by sending more troops. We may not be living Dr. King’s dream, but we are certainly living a nightmare. Greed, corruption, and global violence are the words of the day.

There is a scene in the animated version of “The Hobbit” by JRR Tolkein two nations are camped on the doorstep of a third. The wood elves, the men and the dwarves are all arguing over money - Greed, plain and simple just like today. All of a sudden they are faced with mutual destruction by a common enemy – the orcs. Suddenly the former enemies are friends. The wood elves that were ready to kill the humans over money now say to them “Your people have always been like brothers unto mine.”

That’s were the similarity to today’s world stops. Yes we do have a common enemy. Want a good look at the enemy? Go find a mirror. To quote Walt Kelly’s “Pogo”

”I have met the enemy and it is us.”

No we are still not living Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream – but it is time to wake up and smell the roses.

God Bless you all,

Sister Julie

Monday, January 08, 2007

Full to the brim...

Full to the Brim…

Towards the end of Therese’s life, when her suffering was at its worst, it was an expression that she used… “The cup is full to the brim.” The modern term that might be applied is to be at the end of one’s rope.

When Therese was young, as we all know, she went to Italy to speak to the pope himself to get permission to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen. The impression is sometimes that she never had any doubts. Yet, long before she knew here life was ending, she did have doubts. She had what St. John of the Cross called a “dark night of the soul.” For myself, there have been times in my life when I thought I heard the voice of God, calling me to His service. There have also been times when I was certain that God “had the wrong woman for the job.” It is easy for us to reach this point in our own lives; and not necessarily for religious reasons.

What do you do when you feel you have had enough?

I don’t mean when you are just “fed up” with things and go home and take a long hot bath, have a beer, watch a movie – whatever you do to “get away from it all.” I mean when you have gone way past that, for whatever reason, to the absolute and proverbial “it” the ultimate end. I mean something to make you feel, as Woody Allen once said, that his only regret in life was not having been born someone else.

What do you do?

I can tell you what Therese did and said.

What she did, was continue to have faith, even in her darkest moments. She realized that times like this are when she needed her faith the most. Marie of the Trinity tells us of some of these moments in Therese’s life:

“Three days before she died, I saw her in such pain that I was heartbroken. When I drew near to her bed, she tried to smile, and, in a strangled sort of voice, she said: ‘If I didn’t have faith, I could never bear such suffering.’”

Earlier in her life, Therese gave us these words as a solution:

“The more our heart is in Heaven, the less we feel pinpricks…for then our life is a martyrdom, and one day Jesus will give us the palm. To suffer and be despised…what bitterness but what glory.”

Therese new what it was like to be despised. In fact, even when it was known that she was dieing, even when she had reached the point where she was coughing up blood, there were still some sister in the convent that didn’t believe she was even sick. Still she had faith. What allowed her to have faith is one of the cornerstones of the Little Way – absolute trust. Therese had originally intended for the Little Way to be known as the Little Way of Trust. Why trust? Simple. In the words of Therese herself:

“It is trust and only trust that must lead us to Love.”

St. Paul put it this way:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”
- 1 Corinthians 13:13
God bless you all,

Sister Julie

Sunday, January 07, 2007

True Charity...

True Charity…

Yesterday I told you about what Therese considered true charity, fulfilling God’s New Commandment fully. She not only taught her novices about service to others, she taught them about gratitude.

One of the young novices, Marie of the Trinity, has a difficult time from the time she had been a postulant saying thank you for anything. Here is the advice Therese gave her young student…

“You must get used to letting your gratitude be seen, to say thank you with an open heart for the least little thing.” Therese told Marie of the Trinity, “This is the practice of Charity, to act this way; otherwise, it is indifference which, even if it is only exterior, freezes the heart and destroys the cordiality that is necessary in community.”

This is important for more than just the community the sisters lived in. It is important for one other community as well - the global community. What Therese was ultimately teaching her novices was not just to be of service to others but to be grateful while doing it.


You bet. Not just to help others with joy in your heart while doing it, but to be grateful for the opportunity as well. Remember when Our Dear Lord was on this earth he said, “Whatever you have done to the least of my brethren you have done also to me.” Think of it as the person you are helping giving you a chance to wait hand and foot on Jesus.

Yet, if Therese where here, she would tell you the same thing that the Dali Lama teaches.

For those of you who are not aware of it, there was a certain sister who seemed to irritate Therese in everything she did. Instead of getting upset and avoiding the person as many others would have done, Therese went out of her way to be nice to her the sister who irritated her so. She always greeted her with a smile. Not only that, she would present all of the nuns good qualities to God. What is the lesson here?

The lesson is the same one that the Dali Lama teaches. We should even be grateful to those people who anger and upset us. Believe me I have had plenty of people in my life who have done there best to make me feel my worst. Why would I be grateful to such an individual? For the same reason that both Christianity and Buddhism teach - it is important to be grateful for the opportunity to practice patience and love.

And that, my friends, is the Olympics of Christian Love.

God Bless You all.

Sister Julie

Make Yourself Available

Make yourself available…

Mother superior has a wonderful little dog…well…not SO little. Like me, he too had been abandoned by his family at one point. Perhaps that is why when he came to the convent to live, he took so well to me. Birds of the feather, or at least, beings who had been abandoned, flock together. I guess he and I understand one another. And so we get along famously. It is a great relationship with one small problem. Every morning, rain or shine, winter or summer, day in and day out, no matter how many other people are here in our convent, he comes to MY room to get me to take him out every morning bright and early. And when his “bladder-larm” goes off before nuns wake up you KNOW that is early. Long before the sun ever gets up, this little dog gets up. I turn over when I feel him jump on the bed - open my eyes - to the sight of a very large, very wet dog nose about 2 inches from my face. His tail is wagging so hard, it is as if he is trying to embody the old “tail wagging the dog” adage.

At this point, if I may indulge in a bit of anthropomorphism for a moment, Mother Superior’s dog looks at me and says, “Ok. Time for a walk Sister. Your choice, in your bed or on the front lawn. Take your pick.” Now, I am not nuts and I am not Doctor Doolittle. He doesn’t actually talk to me. How do I know what he is thinking then? Simple. He has made good on said threat a number of times. There is nothing to launch you out of bed like a intercontinental ballistic missile like discovering a dog has used your blanket as a tree substitute.

At first , to say the least, I was not happy. As time went on, I allowed the little fella to depend on me, and I got a wonderful reward in return - unconditional love.

It seems, sometimes that God’s greatest commandment, though seemingly the most simple, is often the most difficult to fulfill - “Love one another as I have loved you.” Yet when our dear Sister Therese fulfilled God’s “New Commandment” she did so with joy in her heart.

One of the insights concerning this commandment, or charity as she often called it, was one that she taught to all over her novices. That is to make yourself available to people.

One of the great talents our dear sister had was painting. It was often that the other sisters would bring objects to Therese to decorate - and she always obliged them. She did so happily, even when they brought them to her at odd hours, during work hours, or all at once (as had happened when everyone got presents on a holiday). Even though some of the sisters would complain that Therese had done one better than the other, she still taught her novices this lesson…

“To make a service wait,” she said, “to promise it for later, means not to fulfill perfect charity.”

Before I became a nun, a sign hung over my desk for years. It read, “She who expects no gratitude shall not be disappointed.” Therese taught her novices this same lesson.

“When you work for God.” she said, “you don’t expect gratitude from a creature, and her reproaches can’t take away the souls peace.”

In other words, what she was teaching her novices, was that truly fulfilling Gods New Commandment means being of service to others. Interestingly enough, this is also one of the central lessons of Buddhism. During the day at Carmel, there would be a period called “Recreation” during which all of the sisters got together to share activities. What she taught her novices, was not to make sure they had fun during recreation, but rather to make sure all of the other sisters had fun at recreation. She taught them to do so with something very important in their heart…


Which is what we will talk about tomorrow.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Do unto others...unless

Do unto others unless…

It’s called “the golden rule.” Just about everyone has heard it. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..” It turns out there are many versions of this same principle throughout the world. Christ put it this way, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 niv). Here are some others I found at

Buddhism: "...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353

Confucianism: "Tse-kung asked, 'Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?' Confucius replied, 'It is the word 'shu' -- reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.'" Doctrine of the Mean 13.3

Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517

Islam: "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths."

Lakota spirituality: "All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One." Black Elk

Socrates: "Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you." (Greece; 5th century BC)

21st Century United States:“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – unless it somehow affects your income, your lifestyle, your free time, or is otherwise inconvenient"

Never heard of the last one from 21st Century United States? Let me introduce it to you by example. There was an article in yesterdays Daily Herald entitled “Strangers in a strange land.” The article is about a shelter for children who have been found abandoned crossing into our nations boarders. These are children who have no home in a strange land – a land with something called “The Statue of Liberty” that has a famous poem by Emma Lazarus on it:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This home for abandoned, homeless children is run by Heartland Human Care Services, Inc., a not for profit human rights agency, according to the article. The children range from infants to 17 years old. The average stay is from 60 to 90 days while their immigration status is determined. Good so far? Sure.

Until Heartland Human Care Services wanted to open a center in the suburbs of Naperville.

They propose to buy a four level house on 3.5 acres near Hobson Road and Route 53 to accommodate 30 Children. Now the people who live in the area are up in arms. Comments range from the “Why do they have to put them here?” type to the “I agree with what they are doing but just don’t do it here” type. An article in the same paper, the following day (today) contains the following: “About 70 people came to the hearing, many of whom opposed the plan and said they are concerned about property values and density.”

Property values?


I am not sure about lowered property values, but I can say one thing for sure…

…the density of the neighborhood has already gone up, but it has nothing to do with the number of people living in the area.

God Bless you all,

Sister Julie

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Just Kill Me Now...

The stockings are no longer hung by the chimney with care, the last Auld Lang Sung. The holidays are official over and it is time to go back to work…

…so just kill me now.

The common misconception, for those of you who don’t know me well, are that nuns only pray all day, and when they do work anywhere they are teachers. Oh contraire; times change. I work in bureaucracy every day, steeped snorkel deep in it. “Snorkel deep? I hear you ask. Yes. Have you ever seen someone say “I have had it up to here” as they bring their hand level with their throat? Many of you have probably made this gesture yourself. In my case make a fist. Extend your little finger and your thumb. Now hold your hand up next to your head as if you are breathing through your thumb. That is snorkel deep – already way over your head. Douglas Adams said it best…

“Bureaucracy is a parasite that preys on free thought and suffocates free spirit.”
- Douglas Adams

Now imagine being part of bureaucracy for 23 years. Mind you if you did anything for 23 years it would probably get old. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad to have the job and it certainly stands head and shoulders above many of the other jobs I have done. Some examples:

I have been an animal caretaker in a genetics lab. 1200 rabbits create A LOT of rabbit poop. It was, also, a genetics lab, so maybe that is what happened to me. But I doubt it.

I worked in a factory. Wow. That was like working in a dungeon. I burnt my eyes twice in that job.

I painted for a living, and I don’t mean canvases. I bagged groceries. I cleaned houses. I worked in a gas station when there was no such thing as “self-serve.” I even wore Olive Drab green to work every morning – when the United States Army says “We do more before 9:00 am then most people do all day” (remember that slogan) believe it. But in the end, it is the bureaucratic mindset that is tough to deal with for so incredibly long. I could write a book – well actually I have.

But all this gives me a chance to bring up a very good point about “The Little Way” – St. Therese’s way to heaven. I have spoken of it in these pages before. That is this: God doesn’t always need someone to perform great tasks. Not everyone is destined to part the Red Sea, stand up against the Roman Empire and become a martyr, or lead French armies against England. Sometimes God just needs someone to clean houses, take care of the elderly, and wipe the occasional butt. Whatever little thing you do, you can still dedicate it to the Glory of God. You can still serve God, by whatever name, in Little Ways. When the sky rolls back, and there sits the Son of Man in all His Divine Glory – you too will hear the words “though good and faithful servant,” even if what you did was help an elderly person wipe there butt, just so long as you did it with the joy of serving God in your heart.

God Bless you all

Sister Julie

*I have no idea where the little avatar at the head of today’s column came from, except to say “author unknown.”

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Do we deserve our leaders?

The headline in the local paper today reads THE BEST OF AMERICA. It is all about the funeral of the former president Gerald Ford. It is ironic that now that he is dead, he is considered as having been “The Best of America.” When he was alive, like all American presidents it seems, the media could not say enough bad things about him. I remember when Gerald Ford was learning to ski. Johnny Carson had this to say about that:

“Gerald Ford is learning to go down hill with the rest of the country”

Gerald Ford, as most people know, was never actually elected president - almost like another president - George W. Bush who actually LOST the first popular election but was elected president by the electoral college anyway. In case of Gerald Ford, he was appointed to be Vice President, after Richard Nixon’s first vice president, Spiro Agnew, was forced to resign. When Richard Nixon resigned, rather than be impeached and removed from office, Gerald Ford pardoned him. This prompted another Johnny Carson comment that was a popular sentiment at the time:

“I don’t know why everyone complains about Gerald Ford, after all, you voted for him.”

I realize all this may be going into a bit of a controversial territory, but at the risk of incurring the wrath of my readers, I will simply quote Mae West who once said people could say whatever they wanted about her as long as they spelled the name right.

Where this is all going, is another issue that has been debated here at the convent off and on. I also do not have an answer to this one, so feel free to chime in, in the comments section. That issue is this:

Do a people get the kind of leader they deserve?

A few leaders come to mind. The first one that leaps to mind is Mahatma Gandhi. The site has this to say about Mahatma Gandhi:

“Gandhi encouraged Indians to boycott British goods and buy Indian goods instead. This helped to revitalize local economies in India and it also hit home at the British by undermining their economy in the country. Gandhi preached passive resistance, believing that acts of violence against the British only provoked a negative reaction whereas passive resistance provoked the British into doing something which invariably pushed more people into supporting the Indian National Congress movement.”

Ironically, the reason Mahatma Gandhi was killed was for the very reason our convent exists. Religious tolerance, or embracement if you will. He was killed in January 1948, . by a Hindu assassin that detested Mahatma Gandhi’s tolerance of Muslims. His death, like his life, ushered in an era of stability.

This brings to mind another national leader - Abraham Lincoln…
Abraham Lincoln, as it is commonly known, was the 16th president of the United States, during one of America’s most violent and bloody eras - the Civil War. Most people remember him as the author of the Emancipation Proclamation, the document that abolished slavery. Lincoln believed that the President of the United States could abolish slavery as a military necessity. This is exactly what he did, and it caused a war. Lincoln was not without his contentious issues. For example, on September 24, 1862, after suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus in areas of the country, the administration made over 13,000 arrests (source: This is but one of other controversial issues. Lincoln too was assassinated for his views, by a man who blamed Lincoln for all of the ills that “the south” faced at the time. He was assassinated by a man named John Wilkes Booth, who, like his brother Edwin, was a noted Shakespearian actor at the time. (As a brief aside, this fact prompted one of my favorite lines by Burgess Meredith in any of his movies. In a movie where he plays a theatrical agent one of his lines is “Never forget, an actor killed Lincoln”)

But let us not forget the old adage, “one mans traitor is another mans patriot”

George Washington, the first president of the United States, as we all know, was one of the key figures in founding the United States of America. On July 3, 1776, he took command of an untrained 14,000 man army. Ultimately he lead America to victory over the British, and won the United States of America its freedom from Britain. Washington did not actually take office until April 30, 1789 when he helped shape a stable government. But George Washington was also a slave owner. Ironically while he thought that he deserved freedom, there were 184 slaves that worked at his Mount Vernon home. It is said that he did not work toward freedom of slaves because he thought the issue would tear a new nation apart. Yes, he did arrange for the freedom of his slaves, but only, as his will stipulated, after the death of his wife.

Let us consider then, another George - George W. Bush. Aside from the issues how he got elected, let us consider Americas attitude toward George shortly after what has become known as “9-11.” I remember that day simply staring at the live picture on the television as the second tower of the world trade center collapsed. My words were simply, “Oh my God. It’s gone. It just gone.”

American’s cried out for blood and George W. Bush gave it to them - by the bucket.

Since the war in Iraq began on March 19, 2003 3003 Americans have died, and 22,565 have been wounded (Source: This doesn’t consider the 12,000 civilians that were killed in Iraq, last year alone. This morning, the Daily Herald News Services reported that George W. Bush “will call for sending more troops there [Iraq] in an effort to quell violence, rather than the current strategy of training more Iraqi troops…” If this is so, a war that is becoming increasingly unsupported by the American people is about to escalate. I remember seeing a picture of American Soldiers that had spelled out “9-11” in the sands of Iraq, just after the war there started. Now ask yourselves this. What do you think made those soldiers think that Sadam Hussein was responsible for the tragedy that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York City?

When I was in the military in 1985 as part of my graduate studies then, I took a course on the causes of terrorism. In fact I did my graduate thesis on that very subject. My instructor and the head of my thesis review committee was a consultant to the United States Air Force on terrorism. He described terrorism as “a war in the shadows” and such it is. How do you strike back at a shadow?

So this is another one of those times, when I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t know if anyone can truly say they have an answer to this one -

Does a nation get a leader it deserves?

God bless you all,

Sister Julie

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris

Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris - If Caesar were alive, you'd be chained to an oar

What, you may ask yourselves, and rightly so, would make a nun so hopping mad that it would cause her to want someone chained to an oar? The answer to that question is simple:

Someone who leads another human being away from God.

It is one thing to hate God yourself. Back in the day, as they say, when Mother Superior was first considering being a nun, she took a class for people who were considering whether or not they had a vocation. One day at the class, Mother Superior mentioned that she was very mad at God all week long. She even hollered at Him. The nuns conducting the class told her that it was good that she had a close enough relationship with God to holler at Him.

I had to think about that one for awhile when I first heard it.

Think of it this way. My sister (who is also my Mother Superior) sometimes gets quite angry with me. Think of it in terms of the idea of a “whipping boy” only this time make it a “whipping nun.” Yes Virginia, nuns are human beings too and sometimes we get mad - I don’t have my halo quite yet but I am working on it. If you ask Mother Superior why she yells at me (I did) aside from the times when I have deserved it (I sometimes have) she will explain it this way. She would tell you, as she did me, that Sister Julie is one of the people she trusts enough to yell at. Huh?

She trusts me enough to yell at because she knows I will always forgive her, whether she was justified in yelling at me or not. No matter how I may feel at the time, I will always forgive her and she knows that. That my friends, takes a whopping big load of trust.

Think also in these terms, if someone is angry with you, be it a relative or a friend, would you rather have that person angry with you and shouting at you - or angry with you and giving you “the silent treatment.” As for me, I had two great aunts who gave each other the silent treatment for over 20 years - and the anger died with them both. But at least if you are shouting at someone you are still talking, eh?

But what of those people who give God, by whatever name they call Him, the silent treatment? Those people who get so angry they walk away from God entirely. If someone wants to walk away from God, they certainly can. As a nation we have done so - we tell God to get out of our schools, and our work places. Where I work to help support the convent an official memo came out banning God from the office. It is a government office, and all discussions about God where prohibited. I wonder if God got the memo? I am sure He did.

It is one thing to walk away from God, to abandon Him. It is another thing entirely to lead someone else in the same direction - and THAT is what gets me hopping mad.

God has saved my life. His love has changed my life. Before I was going to kill myself. When I reached the point of my life where I was willing to end it all I gave my life to God. Unconditionally. I woke up the next morning with the burning desire to be a nun, and a Buddhist nun at that. The thing is, at the time, I wasn’t even a Buddhist. So here I am, a changed woman. Of all the people in my high school, I certainly would have been voted “least likely to become a nun” - at the time the world didn’t even consider me the right gender (I guess I could have become half a nun then).

God saved my life.

St. Teresa of Avila once said she would give a thousand lives to save one soul.

The son of the founder of the school of Buddhism I follow said very much the same thing.

Yet from time to time, I meet someone who blames God for their woes and walks away from Him; and also leads other people away from God as well.

Misery doesn’t just love company, it demands it.

Sometimes we are wont to shake our fist at the sky and say “You did this to me God.” In the case of the woman we care for in the convent, no one stuck the cigarette in her mouth and made her smoke for 52 years. In fact a lot of people tried to get her to quit. (Before any smokers go on about how hard it is to quit, I used to smoke and I quit). But very few times does anyone, after they blame God, ever ask WHY something happened.

I said, “God you did this to me. You made me born the way I am!”

God said, “Yes I did it.”

At this point God could have said, “But I am God and what are you going to do about it?” But God, being the gentleman and loving father that He is explained WHY He did it. When I finally understood (it took me awhile) and realized not only how much I have learned from it, but that it also gave me a chance to suffer for God, I had one response for God…

“Thanks Dad.”

But that doesn’t always happen. When something happens of our own making, or just HAPPENS, people don’t always turn to God in response. That person is free to walk away from God.

The woman who was one of the founders of the school of Buddhism I follow LIVED embracement. She lived her life for it, and died for it. There are many paths to God, and she was willing to accept everyone’s path. That is a rare quality, even now. So many times as a race, human beings are too busy telling others that they have the only real path to God. In the school of Buddhism to which I belong the founders TOLD people to keep whatever faith they had before they came to Buddhism.

But the founders are gone, and things change.

There is a woman in my temple I will call “Buddhist X”. She has walked away from God. Any discussion of Jesus and the Holy Family seems to offend her. She has had shouting matches in the temple with Christians telling them they can’t pray to God. Yet, like Thomas Merton, there are many people in my temple who are both Christian and Buddhist. Remember, the founders of this school of Buddhism lived and died to provide a place where people like Thomas Merton and I would be accepted with open arms. Yet Buddhist X and others have tried to lead others away from Christianity. They have told them they are forbidden to pray directly to God. They spend their time trying to drive a wedge between God and mankind. Buddhist X even tried to drive a wedge between Mother Superior and I. She tried to destroy our convent when it was in it’s infancy. If the founders of the school of Buddhism I follow were alive today, they would die of shock again to see what Buddhist X and those like her are trying to do to the path to God they founded - Buddhist X and those like her try to use it to separate God and Mankind.

Do I think Buddhist X deserves to be chained to an oar? You bet, but that is not my decision to make. God can handle it on his own. My reaction will always be the same. I will continue to pray for Buddhist X every day.

God Bless You All,

Sister Julie

Monday, January 01, 2007

Was Justice Done?

Was Justice Done?

Just before the end of 2006, the headlines rang out with the death by hanging of Sadam Hussein. There were headlines like…


But the Chicago Tribune also had a headline the following day “Was Justice too Swift”? The local paper here had an article from the Daily Herald Wire Services. It was entitled “Many Condemn Execution.” In it there is the following quote:

“God will give him his punishment,” said Laila Nagi Habib, 42, a Shiite and homemaker who lives outside Sadr City.”

But think about that for a moment. God didn’t hang Sadam Husein, one human (a judge) sentenced him to death and another human being hung him - not God. The same local paper that featured the headline “Executed” also featured an article from the associated press that was entitled “Karma Doesn’t Always Strike” It had some astounding statistics which put a few things in perspective and certainly gives one pause to think. Here they are:

Joesph Stalin - Soviet Leader 1929-1953. Started the Great Famine which killed 10 million Ukrainians

Adolf Hitler - German Nazi Party Leader 1933-45. Regime killed some 6 million Jews in the World War II Holocaust; committed suicide in 1945

Pol Pot - Khmer Rouge Leader 1975-early 1990s. Responsible for the deaths of up to 2 million Cambodians from 1975-1979. Died 1998.

Idi Amin - Uganda president 1971-1979. Ordered thousands massacred; regime overthrown in 1979; died in 2003, Saudi Arabia.

Slobodan Milosevic - Serbia President 1989-1997, Yugoslavia 1997-2000. Responsible for deaths of more than 200,000 people in 1992-1995; died in March.

Ask the average Christian whether it is right to kill someone or not, and immediately one thing comes to mind…Exodus 20:13 (KJV)

“Thou shalt not kill”

Yet if we look in the very next book of the old testament, Leviticus we find something different….

"'If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.” Leviticus 20:9 (NIV)

Chapter 20 continues on like this for several versus, giving a punishment of death for various acts. Yet when Christ Himself was on earth He told us, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17) Christ took this further…

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

If this is not specific enough Christ told us this:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

As we have discussed before, Christ made no exceptions. Christ said love EVERYONE. No exceptions. Even your enemies. Even people who persecute you. Consider St. Paul. His chief mission in life, before he had his epiphany was to kill Christians. God obviously loved him. He is a saint.

But how far does this go? Love Everyone?

Do we have the right to kill a mass murderer kill like Sadam Husein? What about someone like Adolf Hitler? Do we have to love even them?

Mother Superior gave me a exercise once. She said try to find something good about everyone. “Everyone?” I asked. “Everyone” was my answer.

My father had a secretary who escaped the death camps during world war II. She had a number tattooed on her arm and we all know what that means. She would tell of having to carry a grocery bag full of money to the store just to buy one loaf of bread. Adolph Hitler brought Germany out of what was a great world wide depression. If there is anything else good about him, I could never find it. Okay, the truth of the matter, is after his fall, Germany ended up in an even worse depression. That and he is one of histories worst mass murders.

But if Hitler hadn’t committed suicide would we have the right to put him to death?

Or would we be obligated to love even him?