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Monday, April 26, 2010


It's been rainy and cold all day today. I'm not sure if we're in the middle of a high or low pressure system, or trapped somewhere in between the two.

All I know is that my sinuses feel heavy and a headache has been threatening all day.

To add injury to insult, I've been going for physical therapy on the rotator cuff of my left shoulder, three times a week for the past two weeks. The progress has been slow but steady.

On Friday, however, the doc got a little too aggressive and the manipulation hurt so bad it made me cry. It's been tender all weekend but last night, I went to pick up the cup of tea from my bedside table and, well, let's just say it wasn't pretty.

I had therapy again today, which has resulted in some improvement, but I had to come home and take some pain meds this afternoon which pretty much knocked me out of commission.

Not to worry. I'm gong to be fine. Really. These things just take a long time to heal. But, they do. Eventually.

I only told you all of that to tell you this:

As I was struggling to find a comfortable position this afternoon, I remembered an old meditative trick taught by the nuns of my youth.

When we went to the dentist or were going to have a medical procedure, we were advised to say the rosary. The praying of each decade is followed by a meditation on one of the 15 Mysteries of the Life of Christ.

The fifth decade, as I recall, was reserved for the Sorrowful Mysteries of Jesus. Meditate on this, the good sisters promised, and you would know pain relief. 

All we had to do was consider how Jesus suffered for us - The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning of Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion - and whatever pain we were feeling was guaranteed to lessen.

Yeah. Right.

But, the heating pad hadn't yet cranked up to it's maximum effectiveness and the pain med hadn't kicked in and I was pretty desperate.

So, I grabbed my rosary beads and began. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to get into the rhythm of saying ten Hail Mary's, one Our Father, and one 'Glory Be'. It's like any other chanting meditation, except there are more words. Funny thing is that, after a while, you don't even think about the words any more. You just get into the rhythm and let it carry you.

When I got to the fifth decade, it was time to meditate on the Five Sorrowful Mysteries and, as I had been carefully taught, remembered that my petition of prayer was to ask for mercy.

I don't know why this happened. I'm sure it's a sign of my wickedness. Proof positive that I am, as the Psalmist writes, "a sinner from my mother's womb."

The first thing I remember is getting an image of The Divine Mercy of Jesus. It's the image on the top of this post.

The next thing I remember was giggling.

We used to call this picture, "The Drag Queen Jesus."

None of us knew what a Drag Queen was, exactly, except it was something more than "Uncle Milty" (Milton Berle) who used to be on TV on "Your Show of Shows" and occasionally dress like a woman but talk like a man while smoking a cigar.

That was guaranteed to make you instantly dissolve into giggles.

That's not to be confused with "The High School Graduation Jesus."

The one that's him in a semi-profile, every hair carefully combed into place, his beard carefully trimmed, his best white tunic, and perfect back lighting to add that certain 'divine glow'.

You know, the one his mother hung over the fireplace in their little hovel in Bethlehem.

Yeah, that's the one. Over to your left.

I started giggling even more as I remembered some of the lunch room conversations we kids used to have about this - and other images of Jesus.

The nuns always had pictures of Jesus with children around the classroom. I got up, adjusted my heating pad, and started searching the internet for one of my favorite pictures of Jesus and children.

I found it!  It's "Jesus with Children of Many Nations."

Isn't it special?

It always made us wish we had been one of the children to have been lucky enough to be in that picture with Jesus.

I remember Sr. Mary Bucky (I think it was really 'Bernadette' but we called her 'Bucky' - not in her presence of course - because she had wicked splayed and bucked teeth) telling us that, if we contributed enough to 'save' ten Pagan Babies, we just might find ourselves invited to have our picture taken with Jesus, one day.

I think I actually saved five Pagan Babies (you had to bring in a dime a week to fill one card with 10 slots. The money would go "Missions" so Father could baptize a baby - in Africa or somewhere in Asia) who wouldn't otherwise be saved by the blood of Jesus.

That was five whole dollars - a lot of money back then, especially since I got $1.00 a week allowance and was expected to give $.25 per week to the church. Add a dime ever week for a Pagan Baby and well, you begin to get a basic, rudimentary meaning of the word 'sacrifice'.

I also remember this Holman Hunt version of Jesus knocking at the door.

We had our own version of Sr. Wendy who would interpret religious art to us, for our spiritual edification.

The door, she said, is your heart. She had us notice that there was no handle on the door. That's because Jesus can't open the door to your heart unless you open your heart to Him.

Well, that, in my 7 year old estimation, was just flat out silly. If Jesus is all powerful and all knowing, he doesn't need a handle. He would be able to know how to open the door of your heart without even breaking a sweat. And, six times before breakfast!

Which, of course, only inspired classic Roman Catholic kid questions like, "Sister, if God is all powerful, would he ever create a rock He, Himself couldn't lift?"

Which would lead Sister to point out that the weeds in the portrait were symbolic of the clutter and accumulation of sloth in the human mind and the bat flying around in the darkness was symbolic of human ignorance.

Yup. That's what I remember hearing her say. And she thought I wasn't paying attention. I do remember her saying, once, "Young lady, if you roll your eyes once more I'm going to knock them back into your head so they never stop rolling."

I never worried about that. What I did worry about was the stories some of the nuns told us to get us to behave in church.

"There was once a little girl, just about your age, who once chewed into the host in her mouth rather than allow it to melt at the roof of your mouth. And do you know what happened to her?"

"No, what sister?"

"Jesus CRIED OUT in AGONY and BLOOD came flying from her mouth!"


"True story, children. Now, you don't want to have that happen to you, do you?"

"No, sister."

"Good! Then never EVER chew the host. Understand?"

"Yes, sister."

"Always . . . what, children?"

"Let it melt in your mouth, sister."

"That's right. Very good."

Besides, as comedian Kate Clinton points out, years of practice getting a melted host off the roof of your mouth with your tongue is excellent practice for other, future, adult 'divine joyful mysteries'.

As I explored all the many varied images of Jesus on the internet, what I began to realize was that I hadn't been paying attention the pain in my arm. Suddenly, it was much more bearable.

I'm thinking of writing a new meditation for former Roman Catholic kids using our childhood images of Jesus.

These would be "The New Joyful Mysteries of Jesus: Or, how I learned to relax and finally enjoy my RC childhood."

Or, maybe I'll just call it "Mercy!"

It's one of the best analgesics around, leading you to a place in the middle of a high or low pressure system, or trapped somewhere in between the two. .


Jeffri Harre said...

Oh, Elizabeth! it's a good thing I'd finished my tea before reading this. It wasn't just giggles I got! Absolutely priceless. Thanks for brightening up my evening.

whiteycat said...

You just brought back a ton of memories of my RC childhood! Priceless! Thanks for all the laughs.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jeffri - I didn't know you were former RC!!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Whitecat - Well, at least we can laugh, right?

JCF said...

The praying of each decade is followed by a meditation on one of the 15 Mysteries of the Life of Christ.

It's 20 now: JP2 added 5 more, "The Luminous Mysteries" [Basically, because maybe you might be MISSING SOMETHING of Jesus's life, if you jump from the 5th Joyful Mystery (the "Finding in the Temple" of Jesus at age 12), and the 1st Sorrowful Mystery (the Agony in the Garden, as you mentioned)?].

Ergo, the Luminous Mysteries are

1) Jesus's Baptism in the Jordan

2) The Wedding at Cana

3) Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (to cover those 3 years of active mission!)

4) Transfiguration

5) Institution of the Holy Eucharist

One can have problems w/ the Rosary (4th & 5th Glorious Mysteries, Mary's Assumption and Crowning in Heaven, respectively, certainly ain't in the Bible!), but you can't argue w/ adding those 5 new ones above.

FWIW, while I rarely say the Rosary---came to it as an adult, as I'm a Cradle 'Piskie---I find that just hangin' onto it (esp. during a sleepless night) can be very comforting.

IT said...

*i"M* former RC, baptised and confirmed. Explains quite a lot, don't you think....?

Catherine said...

Hmmph. Well, that's what you REAL RC's were laughing about while us "heathen" RC's (who had to go to public school and only graced the hallowed halls of Holy Trinity Elementary School one afternoon a week) cowered in fear of the nuns.

"Drag Queen Jesus"? Certainly not the Jersey variety. Love the outfit, hair needs work.

Magdalene6127 said...

Elizabeth, I have a whole series of posts about my RC childhood and spiritual formation-- not nearly as fabulous as this, but... if you're in this kind of a mood!

Fran said...

I love this post!! All the Jesus images of my own childhood - and the childhood of many, as we can already see.

As for the rosary, you know I pray it almost daily. The beads I use were made with great love for me by none other than Kirkespiscatoid!!

As it is First Eucharist season in these parts, I have had many flashbacks to my own host-stuck-on-the-roof of my mouth moments. To chew the host - my Jesus mercy indeed!!!

All of that said- many prayers for you my sister and my friend, I hope that you are feeling better soon.

Fran said...

@JCF... As an almost daily rosary prayer I have *never* *never-ever* said a luminous rosary.

Never have and probably never will.


Leaving well enough alone!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - My, my, my! Leave the RC church for a couple of decades and they start adding stuff w/o keeping you in the loop.

I pray the Rosary often at night or when I'm keeping vigil with someone who is in surgery or very ill or at a death bed. Not the meditation, just the 'chanting' of prayers, "silently, in my heart" as one of the sisters taught.

These are Anglican prayer beads, however, made by some Anglican nuns in Mendham. I find them a great source of comfort.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - I knew that. Part of why I love you so much, m'dear.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Catherine - there were some nuns and priests who were most worthy of fear. Not all my memories are good.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Fran. I'm still a bit tender this morning but it felt much better after my exercise and a steaming hot shower.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

My best friends growing up were RC--a family of six kids--so I ended up going to Mass with them on Saturday evening and being assimilated into RC family culture. I particularly remember trying to gross each other out with "gruesome saint deaths." It seemed like a radical and exciting, dangerous thing to do since I was LCMS Lutheran and Lutherans avoid at all costs being mistaken for anything "Catholic."

As for the pics, the one I had in my bedroom as a child was a variation of this one:

I was always a little concerned that the sheep were all too clean by local standards, and wondered if there was not as much mud in the Holy Land.

Jeffri Harre said...

Elizabeth, I was baptized an Episcopalian but grew up unchurched. However, I grew up in a predominantly RC neighborhood.

keith nethery said...

Okay, I first have to confess that I own one of those pictures of Jesus - the back lit perfect one. I also suffer from terrible shoulder pain (some of it from my rotator cuff even though I never played baseball) I have never been an RC, but I have spent 15 years as an Anglican priest trying to explain RC traditions to former RC's who never "got it." As a young boy in an Anglican Church in Canada I too was told that it was sinful to "crunch" the host, but never had the squirting blood story. Be careful with the "Mercy" title cause Canadians will think you are honing in on our Little Mosque on the Prairie show, which has a Mosque in space rented from an Anglican Church in Mercy Saskatchewan. That's it from north of the border

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jeffri - The embrace of the arms of Mother Church is wide - and her teeth are long and sharp.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Magdalene - I'll have to check out your blog. Thanks

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Keith - well, I don't know how many of our Anglican Sisters and Brothers from Canada I get as visitors to this Blog so something may get lost in the translation. I will have to check out the "Little Mosque" series. Sounds very funny.

keith nethery said...

Well there are at least two of us great white northerners as I found your blog through a Canadian blog half way cross the country. A good bit of what you share resonates well with me. Little Mosque on the Prairie has been on CBC for four or five years now. They changed the Anglican priest character this year and the show isn't nearly as funny. After the espisode "The Archdeacon is coming" it took me two weeks to stop laughing!

Muthah+ said...

Ahhhh our RC childhoods! But at my age getting the giggles while waiting for the pain killers to kick in can produce some adverse effects especially with the loo is too far away!

rivendellbrother said...

The Divine Mercy devotion is a real spiritual treasure that has deeply enriched my own spiritual life and journey.
The Divine Mercy is a Roman Catholic devotion focused on the mercy of God and its power, particularly as a form of thanksgiving and entrusting of oneself to God's mercy.

The devotion as known today can be traced to Polish nun and canonized saint, Sister Faustyna Kowalska, known as the "Apostle of Mercy", who lived from 1905-1938. It is based upon the biblical verse: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you in that anyone who seeks God's mercy will not be turned away. According to Kowalska, Jesus, in inner speakings to her, requested her to commission a picture of him with the words Jezu Ufam Tobie (Jesus I Trust In You) inscribed on the bottom.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II officially instituted the Feast of the Divine Mercy universally for the Catholic Church on the same day that he also canonized St. Faustina.

The Divine Mercy is also recognized and celebrated by the Universal Anglican Church. The UAC has adapted the chaplet and the rosary.

To learn more about the Divine Mercy devotiion:

Br. Christopher OSL
Rochester, NY
ELCA member

Catherine said...

. . . and I found out today you can pray 3 decades of the rosary (silently, in your heart/counting on fingers) while proctoring a standardized test for 7th graders, walking constantly and NEVER reading what is in the student test booklet or answer sheet BUT making sure they are working in the correct section and putting answers in the right place. Kept me focused and hope it helped them. Thanks for the prompting.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love this post. you have flooded me with so many childhood memories of modified names for the Sisters and Father. I love the picture of Jesus's sacred heart. I still think about the body of Christ when I take it. Sometimes I feel the bones breaking. I seldom take the wine because I still think of the blood of christ. Really not a nice thought.
I love the idea of the new mysteries. I still pray the rosary too when I am scared or need to know God is close to me.
I'll say a prayer for your recovery tonight.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for the information, Br. Christopher.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Catherine, and I'm sure you felt much more relaxed after saying the rosary in that situation. Blessed Be the One.

Priscilla said...

Elizabeth, I too pray the Anglican rosary nightly as an aide for my chronic insomnia. It is a lovely little thing that I preserved from my RC past and my rosary was made for me by a Mormon woman in Utah and it is lovely -- she does a mail order business. I know all the pictures well! Peace and healing to you!

IT said...

You can watch little mosque on Youtube, it's charming.

I definitely got the "don't chew Jesus" message but not the "blood will come out!" part.

And then there was confession. What do kids have to confess? I hated that little room and the musty smell and the click as you knelt on the kneeler and it turned on the OCCUPIED light.

my brother , then aged 12, once decided to liven up Monsignor's day and confessed to robbery, graft, and murder, with predictable outcome....

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - I was, at the age of 9 or so, taken with the proscription by the nuns and priests never to "abuse ourselves". I had no idea whatever that meant, but I thought I could make BIG POINTS with Father in the confessional by confessing it.

Well, if you're going to confess to "abusing" yourself, you might as well make it good, right.

I can't imagine what the poor man thought when he heard a 9 year old piously confess to "abusing" herself every day - several times a day, Father.

I was 16 when I learned that it meant 'masterbation'.

At least, after that, my confession was real.

JCF said...

@ Fran: 'fraid I don't get your distaste for the Luminous Mysteries (perhaps the word "Luminous" is a little New Age-y and jargonesque). I think it's just nice, if you're gonna meditate on the key moments of Christ's life, that they actually include his ministry BEFORE the Passion? O_o

Or is it just that, being new, they seem "untraditional" and/or hard to remember? [For "Days of the Week" rosaries, they've picked out Thursday for the Luminous Mysteries---I'm sure for the link to the final one, the Last Supper]


I'm of two minds re the "Divine Mercy" cultus. On the one hand, I've got no problems w/ it, theologically. On the other, like so many recent Vatican innovations (by which I mean post--post-Vatican II!), it seems to partake of the whole Reactionary Wave (and the link of the Polish visionary to the Polish Pope).

It seems awfully convenient to me, that RC "visionaries" of the past 200 years, have NEVER seen Jesus or Mary call the Church to work MORE for social justice (much less, justice IN the Church!). It's always about "Penance" and "Obey the Holy Father" and "The World/Culture is Going to Hell in a Hand-basket": conveniently agreeing w/ the Vatical Official Line!

Now, of course, a believer would say "That's because the Vatican Official Line IS The these mystics confirm!"

I remain skeptical. ;-/

Fran said...

@Elizabeth - I love where this thread has gone. I do hope you are feeling better each day.

@JCF... I guess my dislike stems from the fact that JPII instituted this.

While everyone can - rightly so in many cases - go on and on about B16, I reserve my fury for JPII. There is more to say here than a comment box can hold. Essentially he did some great things but he also I also see the handiwork of his papacy at the heart and soul of the structure of the church today.

I am not a big Divine Mercy person.

As for RC "visionaries" of the past 200 years... Maybe it is my own myopic view but when I think of those I would define that way I end up with a list that includes Oscar Romero, Blessed John XXII, Dom Helder Carrera, Leonardo Boff, Nathan Mitchell, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Thea Bowman, Cesar Chavez, Pedro Arupe, Peter Maurin, Flannery O'Connor...I am sure that I am leaving out all sorts of good names in my early-morning-just-having-coffee-haze.

I **know** that you meant those that the Church pushes but these names that tend to bubble up and remain in the fabric of the church.

Does this all sound like I am defensive? Perhaps it does - perhaps I am, but I hope not. I remain where I am, for the moment anyway, standing on the shoulders of these giants, so your invocation of the word NEVER was, in my way of seeing it, simply a loving invitation for me to reply.

Sadly I could create a long list, without much thought, of those you likely meant by the same word.