The Adventures of Sister Scream

sister scream

“Sister Scream” made an appearance at Ave Maria Press today …. Well, she was there in spirit (Skype wasn’t working.) I had tried to find my “old hag” mask, and it must have been mis-sorted during the move (my “Fall” container had nothing but my wok and a fruit juicer). So . . . “skeletor” mask was all they had left at K-Mart, and I went with it.

Now, some might find this a bit tasteless: mixing the costume of a nun (my original costume is based on the Carmelite habit, because Teresa of Avila is one of my heroes) and a skeleton. And perhaps they would be right. And yet, I think you could also argue that it could be regarded as a kind of … “secular sacramental.” (The sacramental principle, the cornerstone of the Catholic life, is that God reaches out to us through the “stuff” of the physical world.) 

“Memento mori” (remember death) was one of the themes of the early Church. During those first four centuries, martyrdom was commonplace, and there were times when “Christian” was a truly dangerous association. And yet, the Church continued to grow because, in the words of 2nd century Tertullian, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

On All-Saints and All-Souls Day, we remember that life and death are inextricably entwined. For the Christian, to experience life to the full, is to die to self; to die is to experience life in its sweetest perfection. Not because life isn’t a beautiful gift — it is. But because it is a prelude to something infinitely better.

And so, I think Sister Scream … is a comic figure. She reminds me to live with heaven in view, but not to be afraid of death. It has no lasting power over us, for Christ has already conquered …

And that is something to scream about!

 

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Girlfriends . . . from Heaven

My friend Anne Marie poked her head in my office the other day. “Did you lose a medal, Heidi? Corinne [a mutual friend and coworker] found one in the parking lot, and thought of you.”

I examined my “medal pin” and discovered the clasp for St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was broken, and the medal gone. “Yes! I’m missing Edith Stein.”  The next day, Corinne returned my “girlfriend” to me. “I found it in the parking lot, and thought of you right away. I didn’t know it was yours … but something told me to pray for you right then.”

I smiled and thanked her. My girls were at work again.

Since January, I have carried over my heart five religious medals: My favorite saint is St. Scholastica, St. Benedict’s lesser-known twin sister, who used her powers of intercession to move the stubborn heart of her brother. St. Teresa Benedicta, the Jewish convert and philosopher who died at Auschwitz, understands what it is to be forced apart from loved ones. St. Teresa of Avila, patroness of migraines and strong-willed women, I had recently replaced when the original medal (I had picked it up at her childhood home in Avila, Spain) disappeared during my move. No sooner did I  replace it, I found the original – and so had a spare to give a young woman who has been taking care of Sarah. She recently decided to being RCIA – and is also a migraine sufferer.

These three “heavenly girlfriends” have always been close to my heart, and in the past I’ve worn them – along with a Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Mother – anytime I’ve done any serious writing, asking for their intercession. But since Christopher left us in January, I’ve taken to wearing them over my heart, along with a fifth medal, St. Christopher’s. It seems only appropriate to add him to the group.

Now, not all Christians – not even all Catholics – wear religious medals. To some, this kind of thing borders on superstition.  In reality, these kinds of tangible faith signs are at the very heart of the Catholic sacramental worldview: because we are by nature embodied souls, God reveals the hidden mysteries of our faith through the “stuff” of the physical world. These small bits of precious medal remind me in a powerful way of my faithful intercessors in heaven, who radiate the kind of perfect love that is at the very heart of the most blessed Trinity.

At the end of this month we will be celebrating All Saints Day, when we remember the communion of saints that is all around us, interceding on our behalf.  How do you keep the saints close to your heart?