Sunday, August 30, 2015



Yesterday I sat, horrified, through a supposed homily that was, instead, a comment on modern politics, in particular REPUBLICAN politics, and a complaint by our pastor that the moderator for the recent Republican debates overstepped her role by leading the questions in a direction that our pastor thought should not have been done.

Although he did not specifically reference Megyn Kelly's pointed questions to Donald Trump about his frequent and many instances in which he called women disgusting names, I got the point, loud and clear.  Our pastor is a Republican, thinks that our God is a Republican, thinks that Catholics are automatically Republican, and probably approves of Donald Trump's mysoginistic attitudes, or at least feels that they aren't important enough to call him on his actions during the debates, which is even worse when I think about it.

There is an insidious disease in the Catholic Church in America.  A great number of Catholics have become obsessed with politics, including our priests.  Instead of looking at the world through the eyes of Christ, they are looking at the world through Republican eyes and, in doing so, are perverting the faith.  Over and over again, I see "Catholics" posting in social media and all over the internet and being interviewed on television programs whose faith is being twisted to accommodate those aspects of the Republican platform that are the antithesis of the Catholic faith.  Hardly anyone talks about the words of Jesus any more, even when, as in the case of priests, they really ought to be focusing on Him.  It is unquestionably an aspect of their function to do so.

Catholic values have to be applied to our entire lives, of course.  This includes how we vote, no doubt, but a political party should not define us.  For some people, however, it does.  I call these people "Republicatholics."  They are all over social media and now in my parish, evidently, peddling a philosophy that is not Catholicism.  Hell, it isn't even Christian.  It is a political orientation.  Look at some of the Facebook pages of priests and laity and you will find nothing but political memes, cartoons, blog links and articles.  Some of these offerings are broadly vulgar and offensive.  Many of them are obviously intended to start rumors.  Some are just nasty comments about Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama.  Many cite "facts" that are not facts at all.  It is, for the most part, low brow stuff.

It isn't just that we are nearing an election year.  This situation has been building for years.  It has gotten worse and worse over time.

Jesus was not accepted by most Jews as the promised Messiah because he did not come as an earthly King.  Jews were expecting him to come and conquer their overlords.  They'd been under the tyrannical rule of so many despotic regimes in their history that they'd had just about enough of that, and their idea of a King was someone who would change the government.  He disappointed them by coming into our world as a poor person with no political clout whatsoever.  He didn't advocate the overthrow of the Roman government.  He mostly talked about love and taking care of the poor.

The Republican political platform, with the exception of their supposed "pro-life" plank, is in direct opposition to the Christian faith.  The Democratic platform is likewise in direct opposition to the Christian faith in the matters of morality and abortion.  This is the classic "no win" situation for the Christian.  We just have to do the best we can in that arena and then move on.

Political action is not going to save us and should not define us.  It didn't define Jesus, and we need to follow Him and be faithful to Him.  Jesus did not identify with any earthly power structure.  He was a man of the people...the poor...the sick...the needy.  He didn't stand on a box in the town square and advocate a change in government.

Before the steam starts coming out of your ears and you pounce on the keyboard to write me an hysterical note to the effect of "WHAT ABOUT ABORTION?" I will simply say that, had we done what Jesus told us to do, no one would be wanting an abortion.  Abortion is legal because a great number of people want it, and, although I favor making it illegal, I have the suspicion that it will never be illegal until the hearts of Americans are changed.  Jesus left us with instructions on how to do that.

When we have helped to transform the hearts of Americans into loving, generous, grace-filled Christian hearts, the government will naturally follow.  How this has escaped the notice of so many is a mystery to me, except that it is a heck of a lot easier to campaign against something with righteous indignation than it is to follow the commands of Jesus.

As for me, I will no longer have to endure civics and politics classes masquerading as homilies.  My physical condition has become so severe that I am no longer able to sit through mass and, unless something changes, I will not be able to attend.  Fortunately, no matter how far off the beam the priest becomes, his ability to confect the Eucharist is not affected.  A friend will bring me the body of Christ, and I am very grateful for that.  In the meantime, I pray for this priest and for all Christians who have become enamored of the political circus instead of their faith.  I pray they return to a Christian focus instead of a political one.

God bless us all.
Copyright (c) 2015, Silver Rose Parnell
All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


"Hermitage" garden feature on 
an English Country Estate

I just learned that, in the 18th century, wealthy European landowners would frequently build a model "hermitage" as a garden feature on their extensive land holdings.  They would then hire a man to play the part of a hermit, but they had to give him his pay at the end of the year, and it was often a goodly sum, because it was so hard to keep a good hermit on one's land!

Evidently, the hermit was expected to refrain from cleaning himself or cutting his hair or nails during the entire time he lived in the hermitage.  His clothing was the imagined outfit of a druid, complete with a tall pointy hat.  Evidently, this is the origin of those weird garden gnomes with which people sometimes decorate their gardens!  I have always wondered why on earth anyone would want to have such a thing in their garden, and now I know where they came from!

Wikipedia suggests that Saint Francis of Paola may have been the first such "ornamental hermit" when he chose to live in a secluded cave on his father's property in the 15th century.  His parents were extremely pious people, however, and Saint Francis of Paola (named after St. Francis of Assisi) had shown sincere religious inclinations prior to the time he spent as a hermit in that cave.  Perhaps his sojourn there sparked the imagination of some nobleman who was charmed at the idea of a hermit on one's land and who didn't happen to have a religious son, so he hired someone to act the part!

Gordon Campbell, however, in his book The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to the Garden Gnome suggests that the live-in hermit as a fashion statement harkens back to the Roman Emperor Hadrian.  His villa at Tivoli contained a small lake with a small retreat house.  After it was unearthed in the 1500's, Pope Pius IV built one for himself at Casina Pio IV.  How it morphed from an opportunity for a isolated spiritual reflection into a paid profession in the 18th century is unknown.

Man made lake at Hadrian's Villa
in Tivoli

Land owners spent quite a lot of money to accomplish this charade, and I can't help feeling a bit wistful that, instead of supporting a real hermit or two, these people were spending a huge amount of money on a Disneyland sort of re-creation.  If THAT doesn't say something profound about human nature, and how we value an entertaining fantasy over a substantial reality, I don't know what would.

"Hermit in a Garden"
Hubert Robert (1733-1808)

For more information about this phenomena, check out Charlotte Brentwood's Blog, from whence I obtained the awesome picture of the hermitage at the top of this blog.  Sources at the bottom of this post will also lead you to some fascinating bits of history.

There are varying degrees and types of hermits, from the fake hermits of the 1700's in England, who looked and behaved genuinely the part but were, from all accounts, spiritually bankrupt, to the modern day hermit living in a city apartment who appears to be quite normal and ordinary to the casual eye, but whose daily life centers around a profound prayer life in the company of the Lord.

As they say, "looks can be deceiving," and one never knows what someone is about until you dig a bit and see.

Many of us modern women wish to follow in the footsteps of the hermits of old insofar as our lives are meant to center around God, we live a retired solitary life to the best degree possible, and we eschew most entertainments. This is another reason why the fake "hermit" of the 1700's is so ironic, because his life is completely about entertainment, though not for himself.  His sole function is to charm and entertain the guests of the lord of the manor and to act the part of a religious.

Carmelite nun in her hermitage cell

I am fascinated with other independent hermits and how they manage to maintain their tranquility in a life that is not supported by any structure or organization.  How do they remain other-worldly while staying very much in the world?  Any hermits out there who would like to respond, please do.  I would love to hear from you.

Carmelite nuns of the Byzantine Catholic Rite

While I would have loved to have become part of a contemplative order like the Carthusians, I came to the faith much too late to adjust my life path in that direction. Clearly, God intends that I travel alone with Him, otherwise He would have seen to it that I was introduced to Christianity much earlier, and my health would have been good enough to withstand the rigors of The Rule of Life that each order maintains.

Carthusian nun

The form that my "schedule" takes is still under construction, so to speak.  My numerous disabilities have presented many challenges to keeping a schedule anywhere near that of a vowed religious in a community of fellow hermits, and it is difficult to adhere to the spirit of the thing and not get lost in the flow of the logistics of daily life.  Vigilance is required.  With regard to the lack of support that a community would customarily provide, I rely upon the saints, and I lean heavily on reminders that I have placed here and there in my home.  My walls are full of reminders of God, our Blessed Mother, the saints and the angels. I have two prayer corners, one in the living room and one in the sleeping room.

Living Room prayer corner

Bedroom prayer corner

There is no television in my house.  It wasn't a deliberate omission.  I did have one for a while, but the it broke a few years ago and I just decided not to replace it.  I have a radio, and I keep it on a Catholic Channel.  I do have a computer and internet (obviously), and I admit to spending a lot of time on it, but most of that time is spent on research and writing that sometimes carries me away, it becomes so interesting.

Like most monastics, I have a number of service projects to which I devote some time.  One of them is this blog, where I am currently concentrating most of my space to stories of little-known saints that I have researched especially.  I usually provide links to additional web pages that go into more depth about each saint in question. Some of the saints are my ancestors.  I stray off the path now and then, as the days naturally bring things to my attention.

Freeform baby blanket, loosely styled
after a Navajo blanket

Warm knitted hats for the homeless in winter, as well as baby blankets for poor mothers that are crocheted in a beautiful pattern with a sturdy stitch, are two other endeavors at which I toil on a somewhat regular basis.  Kind benefactors donate yarn for the purpose.

Hand-made lace has become a passion of mine as of late, and I will make baptismal blankets for this purpose and for church veils.  I hope to turn this into a money-making venture at some point, but my carpal tunnel and my arthritis will prevent me from make more than an occasional item for sale.

A Wish list for yarn and crochet thread appears among my Amazon wish lists on the right side of this blog.

Over the years, I have sold many paintings and, though it has been quite some time since I marketed any of my work, I do have a painting project waiting for me; the painting of miniature icon-style paintings.  I say "icon style" because a true icon is painted on wood with egg tempera paints that have been made by the artist themselves.  This is not a format that interests me at the moment, preferring acrylic paints and gessoed canvas.  Still, the brushes wait for me on my work table, their bristles pristine, if not a little dusty, as they have never touched paint.

Sunflower I grew in a large pot outside my apartment

Another project that awaits funding is the meditation garden.  While I do live in the heart of the city, and I am fortunate that I can spy a bit of greenery and wildlife on the other side of the fence from the apartment complex, the apartment grounds have been covered over with artificially died crushed cement ("crusher fines') and nearly all of the plant life that used to live here has been allowed to die of thirst.

There is a ditch that runs the back of the property, and the many-treed golf course beyond.  They're all cottonwoods, however, and I am wildly allergic.  Anyway, they look pretty, especially with the Sandia Mountains behind them.

Plenty of pots - no plants

In the ditch, we have hawks, beavers, skunks, racoons, ground squirrels, herons, egrets, sandhill cranes, Canadian geese, wood ducks, mallards, owls, diamond back water snakes, bats, hummingbirds and a wretched infestation of June bugs that, for some reason, come to my front door to die every year.  Sweeping them from the door is a daily chore that makes me sad for them.  If they are still alive, they cling to my broom and make a type of hissing sound, poor things.  Anyway, it makes me feel as if I am living in a hermit's cottage.  I just need to do some planting and improvements in the little yard in back of my place in order to complete the requisite atmosphere and give myself more usable space and a buffer between me and the large number of people that travel back and forth by my apartment each day.  When I get organized, I will create a GARDEN wish list on Amazon.

Hawk on my back fence

While I am unsuited to the rigors of any established convent, I do my best to create my own convent atmosphere and habits, to the degree I am able.  It is a work in progress.  I practice the presence of God and pray throughout the day, but I do want to join the the Body of Christ in chanting at least a small version of the Liturgy of the Hours, so I am currently learning the Little Office of The Blessed Virgin Mary, which many orders still use, rather than the much more lengthy (and complicated!) Liturgy of the Hours.  I've gotten my hands on a small book that contains both English and Latin, as well as the actual music notations for the Gregorian chant.

Although I read music well enough to pick out the notes on a piano, I do not sight read enough to sing the proper note without having an instrument to guide me.  I have found a simple 61 key piano keyboard online at Amazon, which will be ideal for my purposes, since I have no one to help train me and I must do it myself.  I would also like to learn some of the traditional hymns that most everyone else at church seems to know.  Being a late convert to the Christian faith, I missed out on learning the songs that come so readily to the lips of my cradle-Catholic friends.  The keyboard that will work for me is very simple, without a lot of extra buttons for other instruments and drums and that sort of thing.  The keyboard is on my birthday wish list in the links to the right.

If anyone knows of a CD that contains all of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, please contact me and let me know.

I did not finish college and missed learning Latin, which is another project I would like to undertake. Language is an interest of mine anyway, and Latin is the key to the romance languages on which I would like to improve.  Spanish is a MUST in New Mexico.  Many people here do not speak English at all.  The native New Mexicans have English as their first language, most of them, whereas the immigrant population which originates from many different countries of South America, speak various dialects of Spanish.  These people are typically the ones with whom I have to communicate at the checkout counter in the stores, etc.  A Rosetta Stone language learning CD for Spanish would be helpful.  That is on my wish life.

I also have the idea in mind to see if there is ANYONE in this apartment complex who is Catholic and who may like to recite at least one hour of the office with me on days we are both available.  I know we have one nun on the property who has a very busy ministry with the homeless, but she has made it obvious that she is not interested in forming friendships or religious associations in this apartment complex.  No doubt, her ministry is an exhausting one and, like me, she is no spring chicken.  She's probably at the end of her rope as it is.

Me - sitting with the swami (in the back ground)
 when I was in the Hindu convent

When I was in the Hindu convent, prior to my conversion, I had far fewer possessions that belonged to me personally, but much more comfort and security than I have now.  Buying the furniture and other accoutrements that contribute to a spiritually inspiring and tranquil atmosphere used to be someone else's job, and now it falls to me, along with everything else.  Gone are the days when I could live and sleep on the floor like a real acetic or hermit.  My aging body has rebelled against my former austerities.  These days, when I get down on the floor, I cannot get up by myself.  A sturdy bed and a recliner have become mandatory.  Thus, my apartment is probably less believable as a hermit's cottage from outside appearances, but is somewhat more authentic in nature than the perfect looking hermit in the garden cottage on that big estate in England.

In any case, I am doing the best I can, between God's grace, my own efforts, and the kind and loving assistance of my devoted Catholic friends.  I wouldn't mind if someone were to pay me to be a hermit, though, like that 18th century garden hermit.  In my case, I would actually be praying and devoting all my actions to God.  So far, there are no takers on that idea!

God bless us all

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015
All rights reserved


Ornamental Hermits of Eccentric Modern England

Before the Garden Gnome, the Ornamental Hermit: a Real Person Paid to Dress Like a Druid

The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to the Garden Gnome - by Gordon Campbell - AMAZON Link for purchase

Friday, August 7, 2015


Saint Albert of Trapani
( Albert degli Abbati )
Feast Day - August 7

I was delighted to learn about today's saint, since my love of the Carmelite Order began as a young girl (long story) and I further took Teresa of Avila as my patron saint when I was baptized at age 38 by the Episcopalians (again, a long story.)  Saint Teresa, a doctor of the church and another Carmelite, was very devoted to Albert of Trapani, and I am surprised that I had not recalled learning anything of him before today.  He is one of those saints that had a profound effect on the Church as a whole, as well as the Carmelite Order of which he was a part, but whose public popularity is somewhat dimmed in this country.  I do not know why.

Albert degli Abbati was born in Trapani, Sicily in the 13th century.  More than one of my sources claims that his parents dedicated him to the Catholic Church prior to his birth.  It is also said that his parents were unable to have children for the first 26 years of their marriage, until he was born.  There is some evidence that this is a factual account.

A collection of legends that grew up around him appears on the St. Joseph's Carmelite Monastery of Kilmacud website (link at bottom of page.)  The oldest biography was written shortly after 1385, a copy of which is preserved in the Vatican, thus we are fairly sure of the basic facts of his life.

Albert was very young when he entered the Carmelite house in Trapani, which was only one of about fifteen friaries in Sicily at that time.  Later, he transferred to a house in Messina.  His mission was primarily that of preaching to the Sicilian people, and he is known both for his inspired oratory and many miracles and cures, both physical and spiritual, among them exorcisms.  He was known in his time as a "wonder worker," and the miraculous healings attributed to his intercession occurred even after his death.

It is said that Albert had many converts among the Jews that lived near Messina and that he also wrote books, but none are extant.  He spent some time as the provincial superior at the house in Messina, as late as 1297, but lived as a hermit for the last few years of his life, until his death in 1307. By about 1317, his relics were "translated" and there are pieces of that saint all over the place, mostly in Sicily. Trapani has his skull.  In Sicily there are many reminders of the Saint's life.  In Agrigento is a well, the waters of which were purified by the saint.

In the 16th Century, it was established that every Carmelite Church should have an altar dedicated to him.

Ancient Prayer for healing attributed to Saint Albert:

"O my God, you have created the human race by your wonderful power.  It is an act of your clemency that has called us to share your glory and eternal life.  When the first sin condemned us to suffer death, out of your goodness you wished to redeem us through the blood of your Son, to unite us to you through our faith and your great mercy.  You have brought us back from the shame of your sign; you have veiled our dishonour in the brightness of your glory.  Look now and see that what you have created, giving it subtle limbs and joints and made beautiful through its immortal soul, is now subject to the attack of Satan.  Be pleased Lord to reconstitute your work and heal it.  May your power be glorified and may the malice of the enemy be stunned."

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Carmelite Prayer:

"Lord God, you made Saint Albert of Trapani a
model of purity and prayer, and a devoted
servant of Our Lady. May we practice these
same virtues and so be worthy always to share
the banquet of your grace. Grant this through
our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holly Spirit, one
God, forever and ever."

The propers for the Carmelite Office of Blesseds and Saints can be found HERE, if you would like to include those in today's prayers.

Having learned a bit about this saint, I plan to add him to my personal "committee" of intercessors I call upon for help.  Perhaps he can help you also.  This blog represents a slight sketch about Saint Albert.  If it has piqued your curiosity, please refer to the source links I have included below my by-line.

In the meantime, please pray for me as I pray for you.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015
All rights reserved



ALBERT OF TRAPANI: a saint of yesterday for today Giovanni Grosso, O.Carm. translated by Paul Chandler, O.Carm.



Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Saint Begga of Landen
615 - 17 December 693
Great Great Great Grandmother of Emperor Charlemagne
My 38th Great Grandmother

As with many saints from whom I descend, the family of Saint Begga is rife with other saints, both ancestrally and among their descendants.  I am fervently praying that some of this sanctity will rub off on me! Begga's mother was Saint Itta (Saint Ida) and her older sister was Saint Gertrude of Nivelle. Mother and sister established a monastery of Benedictine nuns at Nivelles, which is now in Belgium.  Saint Gertrude was Abbess.  She is the patron saint of travelers, gardeners and cats.  If you have a rat infestation, she's the saint to call upon, and she is also invoked for intercession in cases of mental illness.   Gertrude died at a young age, no doubt due to illnesses induced by exhaustion from too rigorous a program of austerities such as long vigils and short rations.  This aspect of a saint's life has no appeal for me whatsoever.  I would like to live for a long time so I have a chance to make up for all the mistakes in the early years, before I became a Christian and when I was lost in my sin.

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, Begga's sister
Photograph of the statue at Nivelles 
by Jean-Pol Grandmont

Begga's father was Pepin of Landen, who was mayor of the palace of Austrasia, which was in the northeastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks in the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries.  The Frankish tribes occupied this territory until Clovis I unified them.  During the Carolingian Empire, the territorial character of the region dissipated.  (For more information about the time period in question, and a rather good dissertation on the main historical events and personages of the area of Austrasia, see the Wikipedia page HERE)

Begga also married into a saintly family when she took Ansegise as husband, who was the son of Saint Arnulf (sometimes "Arnoul" or "Arnold," depending on the language of the person referring to him.)

Painting by an anonymous artist who loosely 
copied a Reubens painting of the saint and
her husband. It is in the Royal Museum of 
Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium

Begga's son, Pepin of Herstal, was the founder of the Carolingian dynasty of the rulers of France, also my ancestors.

When her husband was killed by his enemy Gundewin during a feud, Begga made a pilgrimage to Rome, then took the veil, rapidly founded seven churches and built a convent at Andenne on the Meuse River.  Her sister supplied her with a small number of nuns who laid the foundation of the monastic observance in that institution.  Begga was abbess there for the rest of her life, dying in 693 at the age of 78, which was quite an advanced age at that time.  The Monastery was thereafter converted into a "collegiate church"  of thirty two canonesses from the noble families.  According to the definitions I have been able to find, a "collegiate church" is a church in which the daily office and worship is maintained by a college of canons.  It is a lay institution presided over by a dean or provost.  I will have to research it some more because it doesn't sound quite Catholic, does it?

Convent at Andenne

Collegiate Church at Andenne,
Where Saint Begga is buried.

Saint Begga has two feast days: September 6 and December 17.  Some people attribute the founding of the Beguines to Saint Begga, but this is almost certainly myth.  The Beguines are thought to have gotten their name from Father Lambert le Begue, whose protection they enjoyed.

The thing that impresses me about these saints is that they joyfully abandon prestige, money, fame and comfort to pursue what was usually an extremely hard life of monastic penance. I wonder if the certainty of judgment day and the possibility of hell was more real to them than it is to many of us. Did they have more faith, or were the austerities and penances a fad of the time?

Bust in the entrance gate of the beguinage in the Turnhout
District, Antwerp.  Stone bust is in a large round niche in
the gate of the Begijnhof (beguine house.)  Bust was donated 
by J.B. Cleeren in 1768
Image found on "Statues - Hither & Thither"



Catholic Online

National Society of Saints and Sinners

Saints and Blesseds who Left Descendants

Find a Grave Memorial Page

Satues - Hither & Thither

Emerson Kent - World History for the Relaxed Historian

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Saint Margaret of Hungary on her death bed
Sister of Saint Kinga of Poland

Saint Margaret of Hungary was the sister of Saint Kinga of Poland, about whom I wrote a few days ago.  (See previous post.)  Like her sister, she is vaguely related to me.

The importance of piety and corporate devotions of a family is never more obvious to me than when I am reading about saints such as this one, in which the number of saints in the family is large.  This is why I am astonished when young mothers tell me that they are going to let their children decide what religion they want to be when they become adults and, therefore, they do not need religious education as children!

Instilling spiritual values in a person is never so efficacious as when they are children, especially if the parents communicate a clear vision of the blessed life of holiness, devotion to the Lord, obedience to the faith and to Jesus' Holy Church.   Sometimes, the child exceeds the parents in faithfulness, as I suspect this woman did.

There is quite a bit of information about Saint Margaret of Hungary because, shortly after her death, there began the effort to have her canonized by friends, relations and acquaintances.  Because of the testimony of these people who were close to her and witnessed her holiness, we get a good picture of her temperament, habits and character.

Margaret, the daughter of King Bela IV (who was sometimes referred to as "the champion of Christendom") was promised to God by her parents before she was born.  In exchange for the gift of their child, the royal couple begged God to liberate their land from the Mongols of "the Golden Horde" that had invaded Hungary in 1241/1242.  Margaret went to the Dominican monastery at Veszprem when she was 3 or 4 years old and quickly took to the life, imitating the nuns in all they did and demanding the habit at an early age.  This was not anticipated, as the children of noble families were often given special care, after which, they would leave the convent in order to make an advantageous marriage for their family.  Margaret was having none of that.

Despite having gifted the child to God, King Bela attempted to reneg on his vow by special dispensation several times so that he could marry her off to one of several important suitors who had learned of her beauty and purity.  When she was about 12, there was serious pressure for her to leave the convent and marry someone that would bring great advantage for her father, but she was resolute in her determination to remain in the convent as a nun, which is rather remarkable grit, considering her young age.  Again, when she was 18, King Ottokar of Bohemia pursued a marriage with her, and her father even went so far as to actually procure the dispensation from the Pope.  Margaret would not agree.  Of the proposed marriage, she is said to have replied:

"I esteem infinitely more the King of Heaven and the
inconceivable happiness of possessing Jesus Christ
than the crown offered me by the King of Bohemia."

Margaret evolved into a serious and fervent pursuer of Christ.  Some say that she became a bit fanatical with her mortifications: wearing a hair shirt; choosing the dirtiest of jobs in the monastery, though her rank would customarily have preserved her from those duties; long fasts; scourgings; nails inside her shoes, and other penitential practices more common in that era than our own.

One might suspect that all these self-inflicted punishments might have made her into a dour and long-faced spinsters, but she was much in evidence in the infirmary where the nuns she ministered were very fond of her.  All reports seem to present an image of a very happy young woman, grateful to be in religious life.  It is a peculiar work of God that, while the parents could have had no knowledge of the suitability of the unborn child they promised to give to the monastery, she turned out to be ideal, thanks be to God.

Margaret lived in a monastery that was situated on an island in the middle of the Danube River.  It had always been a religious center. Prior to the 14th century, it had been called Island of Rabbits! Now, it is "Margaret's Island."  It is quite built up along the coastline, with restaurants, hotels, and a large sports pool, but the ruins of Margaret's old monastery and some other structures remain.

Ruins of old church on Margaret's Island

Dozens, if not hundreds, of miracles are attributed to Saint Margaret of Hungary.

Prayers / Commemorations for this saint:
(She wasn't canonized as saint until 1943, and it is possible that these prayers were written prior to that time, as she is referred to as "blessed.")

First Vespers:
Ant. Blessed Margaret emulating the purity of the angels, dedicated herself as the bride of Him who is the spouse of perpetual virginity and the son of the perpetual virgin.
V.  Pray for us, Blessed Margaret
R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

Ant.  O most holy spouse of Christ, adorned with the diadem of virgins, honored with the grace of healing, endowed with the heavenly gift of reading hearts, consumed with the fire of divine love!
V.  Virgins shall be lead to the King after her.
R.  Her companions shall be presented to thee.

Second Vespers:
Ant. O blessed Margaret, who here on earth didst give to all the afflicted the solace of charity, help us from heaven in our miseries and obtain for us life with the saint sin heaven.
V.  Pray for us, Blessed Margaret
R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:  O God, the lover and guardian of chastity, by whose gifts they handmaid Margaret united the beauty of virginity and the merit of good works, grant we pray, that through the spirit of salutary penance we may be able to recover integrity of soul Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Saint Margaret of Hungary is yet another example of a woman who had great personal beauty, power, wealth, connections and prestige but gave it all up to live a life of discomfort, humility, poverty, chastity and obedience for the sake of Christ.  When one considers that it is harder for a rich person to enter heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, Margaret's witness is a beacon of holy light.

God bless us all, and may we follow her as much as we are able.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

For further information about Saint Margaret of Hungary, please have a look at the following links. Willing Shepherds seems to be the most comprehensive.

Catholic Exchange


New Advent

Willing Shepherds

Sunday, July 26, 2015


St. Anna of Novgorod
My 30th great grandmother!
(Ingegerd Olafsdatter, prior to religious life)
Oldest daughter of the Swedish King, St. Olaf Skotkonung

In the above icon, we can see that my 30th great grandmother, Saint Anna of Novgorod, is holding the St. Sophia Catheral of Novgorod in her hand.  Anna, the daughter of a saint, Olaf Skotkonung ("the All Christian King") was a member of an extremely pious royal family.

One of the Frescoes in the Cathedral of St. Sophia
Saint Anna, the youngest, is probably the daugher
furthest on the left.

 As the wife of Yaroslav I "the wise" of Kiev, she initiated the construction of the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev, which her husband supervised, and she also commenced the building of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod.  It was primarily for this that she was sainted, in addition to her pious and holy life.

Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod

Like many of her era, she has many names.  She was born Ingegerd Olafsdatter, took the Greek version of her name, "Irene," after her marriage and subsequent move to Kiev, and was given the name "Anna" when she entered religious life.  Thus, she is styled "Saint Anna of Novgorod" by the Orthodox Christian church.  Some times, the name is embellished, such as "Right Believing Princess Anna of Novgorod."

Irene and her husband had ten children in all, six sons and four daughters.  The daughters married very well, becoming queens of France, Hungary, Norway and England.  It appears as if I am descended from at least two of her daughters.  If you go back far enough in your royal family genealogy, there is so much close relationship between the royal families that you find that you are a cousin to yourself many times over!

For instance, Anne of Kiev, wife of King Henry I of France, is my 29th great grandmother.

Anne of Kiev, wife of King Henry I of France
(My 29ths great grandmother)
Daughter of Saint Anna of Novgorod

When the Orthodox Church sainted Anna of Novgorod, they issued this statement:

"St. Anna, Grand Duchess of Novgorod, She was the
daughter of Swedish King Olaf Sketktung, the "All
Christian King," who did much to spread Orthodoxy
in Scandinavia, and the pious Queen Astrida.

In Sweden she was known as Princess Ingegard;
She married Yaroslav I "the Wise", Grand Prince
of Kiev, who was the founder of the Saint Sophia
Cathedral in 1016, taking the name Irene.

She gave shelter to the outcast sons of British
King Edmund, Edwin and Edward, as well
as the Norwegian prince Magnus, who later
returned to Norway.

She is perhaps best known as the mother of 
Vsevolod, himself the father of Vladimir
Monomakh and progenitor of the Princes
of Moscow.

Her daughters were Anna, Queen of France;
Queen Anastasia of Hungary, and Queen
Elizabeth (Elisiv) of Norway.  The whole
family was profoundly devout and pious.

She reposed in 1050 in the Cathedral of
Holy Wisdom (St. Sophia) in Kiev, having
been tonsured a monastic with the name
of Anna."

I was delighted to find my great great grandmother's hymn on the Wikipedia page devoted to her. Knowing that I may sing the praises of a saint in heaven from whom I am descended gives me a special feeling of protection, safety and guidance.

4 stichera
Tone 1
Special Melody: "Joy of the ranks of heaven"

"O joy of the Swedish people, thou didst gladden the
Russian realm, filling it with grace and purity,
adorning its throne with majesty, lustrous in piety
like a priceless gem set in a splendid royal crown.

Named Ingegerd in the baptismal waters, O
venerable one, thou wast called Irene by thy
Russian subjects, who perceived in thee the divine
and ineffable peace; but when thou didst submit to
monastic obedience, thou didst take the new name,
Anna, after the honoured ancestor of Christ, the
King of kings.

Wed in honourable matrimony, O holy anna, thou
didst live in concord with thy royal spouse, the right-
believing and most wise Prince Yaroslav; and
having born him holy offspring, after his repose
thou didst betroth thyself unto the Lord as thy
heavenly Bridegroom.

Disdaining all the allurements of vanity and donning
the coarse robes of a monastic, O wondrous and
sacred Anna, thou gavest thyself over to fasting
and prayer, ever entreating Christ they Master, that
He deliver thy people from the all want and

There are two feast days for Saint Anna of Novgorod; February 10 and October 4.  I hope to get one of her icons before the October feast date.

In the meantime, I pray to become more like her and her pious family.  Please pray for me.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015


Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church

Wikipedia link for Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden

Uncut Mountain Supply - where you can buy her icon

Friday, July 24, 2015


Saint Kinga of Poland
Feast day: July 24, 2015

Saint Kinga of Poland, Patroness of Poland and Lithuania, was born 5 March 1224 In Esztergom, Hungary.  princess daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary.  She was a niece of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and the great niece of Saint Hedwig.  An illustrious and pious family, her sisters were Saint Margaret of Hungary and Blessed Jolenta of Poland.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, washing a poor sick man
Aunt of Saint Kinga

Saint Kinga's name appears in various forms and spellings, including: Kunegunda, Cunegunda, Kioga, and Zinga.

Statue of Saint Kinga

Both Kinga and her husband, Boleslaw V "the Chaste" embarked upon a marriage in which both parties were vowed to perpetual chastity.  Boleslaw's family was similarly pious and sincere.  His sister was blessed Salome of Cracow.  When he ascended to the throne as Prince of Cracow, Kinga became his princess.  Kinga soon began to devote herself to the care of the poor and the lepers and was known, both for her deep concern for the people, and her obedience and devotion to Christ and His Church.

Boleslaw "the Chaste"
June 21, 1226 - December 1279
High Duke of Poland 1243-1279
Husband of Saint Kinga

There is a popular legend about this beloved saint in which she is said to have thrown her engagement ring into the Maramures salt mine in Hungary and that the ring miraculously traveled through the mine, following the trail of salt deposits, and was discovered at Wieliczka, where additional salt deposits were revealed, and where a salt mine now stands.

Saint Kinga

Kinga is patron saint of the salt miners, and the salt mine of Wieliczka in Poland has a large chapel dedicated to her that is 101 meters under ground.  It is a remarkably beautiful Cathedral that is able to accommodate about 400 people.

When her husband died in 1279, Kinga sold all her possessions and gave the money to the poor.  Not long after that, she joined the Poor Clares monastery at Sandec (Stary Sacz).  Matters of state, and the prestige of her royal position, held no interest for her.  She was too modest and humble to have any taste for such power. Her heart belonged to Christ alone.  In fact, she would allow no one to call her by her official title of Grand Duchess of Poland.

Saint Kinga, abandoning her crown and scepter
for the veil of a nun

While her life with the prince had been characterized by charitable works and service, her time in the monastery was spent in silent contemplation.  In 1292, at the age of 68, she passed from this world. In 1690, she was beatified, and in 1999 she was sainted.

Saint Kinga's convent, the Monastery of the Poor Clares, in Stary Sacz, Poland, remains a much-beloved landmark in the oldest section of this historic little town.

Stary Sacz, Poland

The Sanctuary of Saint Kinga still towers over the town of Stary Sacz.  In the entire history of the town, the nuns have left that convent only 3 times.

Poor Clare Monastery in Stary Sacz,
Where Saint Kinga lived out the remainder of her life

On June 16, 1999, Pope John Paul II visited Stary Sacz, the town of his birth, for the proclamation of the canonization of beloved Saint Kinga.  A papal altar was erected on the common outside of the monastery that Kinga and created and in which she had died.

Papal altar, erected for John Paul II and the
canonization of Saint Kinga

It was decided that the "Papal Altar" would remain as a visible remembrance of this special event. 700,000 people came to see the Pope on that day and to hear him speak, but he was too ill to read his own homily, which Cardinal Macharski of Poland read for him.  The event had great personal significance for the Pope and, as time went on, he appeared refreshed by the memories and the loving people and was able to reminisce a bit.

Hungary's Gate - a gift in honor of the visit of
Pope John Paul II and the canonization of
Saint Kinga

Saint Kinga had every sought-after pleasure that exists in the world - money, prestige, power, glamour, luxurious possessions and properties - yet for her, Christ was the only jewel in her crown. We can learn a lot from her example, particularly Americans, who have at their disposal an excellent standard of living and the availability of many types of pleasures.  Serving the poor and suffering while at the same time eschewing earthly pleasure in favor of the bliss of the Lord, Kinga became a saint.

Let us pray that we may do likewise.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015



Catholic Saints Info web site

Saint Kinga Facebook page

Wikipedia page on Saint Kinga

Stary Sącz, Poland - Wikipedia information

Poland's Official Website for Stary Sacz

Stary Sacz, Poland - historical information and photos

Information on the Papal Altar of Stary Sacz in Poland

Pope Visits his Birthplace and Memories Energize Him - NY Times

Pope, Still Ailing, Pays a Sentimental Visit - L.A. Times