Saturday, August 16, 2014


Every hermitage needs a cat.  Mr. Fuzzy Pants was
given to me as a kitten by a friend about 11 years
ago.  He is holding up pretty well for an old, retired
fur person.

Twice a year I lobby for donations to help keep me afloat here at "Silver Cottage," usually around my birthday in the summer and during the Christmas season.  I worked for 33 years, but now I am disabled and living on my Social Security.  It is $120 a month too high to qualify for any government or charitable assistance, but it is not high enough to pay for all my needs, nor do I have a loving family around me, eager to help.  I do have a couple of very kind friends who have done a lot for me, but I risk straining those friendships if I do not try other avenues of support.

There is a lot of suspicion these days about poor people.  While it is true that some people do lie and cheat in order to get government assistance, their numbers are very small.  Most poor people are elderly (53%.)  Another 20% or so are disabled, non-elderly.  Another large percentage are the working poor.

Still, I feel it necessary to be forthcoming about my lifestyle in order to reassure the wary.  I do not have the bad habits that people typically attribute to the poor.  I do not gamble, fornicate, drink, smoke, get tattoos, or take illegal drugs.  (I used to smoke tobacco, but I quit 8 years ago.)  I do not travel, go to movies, go out to eat, or get my nails and hair "done."  (My hair is now down to my hips.)  Although it is very hard on me physically, I try to cook very healthy meals from scratch and not from prepared or boxed foods.  I do not typically buy deserts or junk food.  Very rarely will I buy 7-up, ginger ale and grenadine with which to make "Shirley Temple" fizzies for summer visitors.  Customarily, I drink water, tea or coffee.  Nothing fancy.

Given I have no bad habits, what do I do with my time?

Yes, I HAVE tried to find avenues with which to make a little extra money, which is a question that suspicious people will frequently ask.  I was part of's expert panel of professional genealogists for a short time.  JUST as I was starting to develop a client base, Ancestry eliminated their professional online genealogy experts in favor of a company they purchased in Utah which would only employ people who lived in Salt Lake City, unless you wanted to be a "go-fer" that would fetch documents from local city offices.  (I am not physically able to do that kind of thing.)  I subsequently attempted to be an independent genealogist, but I didn't have the necessary funds to advertise my services as well as maintain the NUMEROUS subscriptions to genealogy, newspaper, adoption and other sites that are necessary for the successful researcher.

Currently, I am producing some crocheted items for sale.  I won't make a lot of money from this because my carpal tunnel and my arthritis make me very slow, but if I can continue to get skeins of yarn donated to me, I can make a little pocket money.

I also crochet blankets for babies whose moms have decide not to abort them after all.  I give the blankets to Project Defending Life (the Gabriel Project) to be given to the wee ones when they are born.  Every baby should be greeted with joy and a hand-made baby blanket.

Also, I donate knit hats and scarves to the homeless during the winter.  We have a sizable homeless population here in Albuquerque, and our winters often get down into the single digits.

Winter in Albuquerque, December, 2013

Blogger Mark Shea has encouraged me to get a Writer's Market and do some writing for the Christian market.  (I have written professionally in the past.)  This is another avenue I plan to try.  The Writer's Market is on my birthday wish list.

In the past, I have sold many sketches and paintings.  I am developing a series of acrylic paintings for the local tourist market...mostly pictures of saints.

Prayer and meditation are my main "jobs," if you can call them that.  As a contemplative living at home as an "apartment hermit," I try to maintain a meditative atmosphere to encourage myself and any visitors that come my way.

My prayer corner, 2014

There are many projects in the works here at Silver Cottage.

The most immediate need has to do with my service dog.  She has cancer and will not be with me for too much longer.  I will need to get another service dog, and it has to be a pure-bred hypoallergenic puppy this time because my allergies and asthma have gotten very bad.  This is a very expensive proposition.  The purchase of the animal, veterinarian fees, spay or neuter costs, blood tests, a crate, and training costs add up to more than I receive in an entire month, but my doctor has certified that I need a service dog.  I need to find some way to do this.

First on the list, next to the immediate needs of a dying animal, is the need to inter my son's ashes in a mausoleum here in town.  He died in early December last year, and his ashes are still sitting in a drawer in my shrine cabinet in my prayer corner, which is not an appropriate disposition of the ashes of a human person.  Interment will cost a little more than a month's entire income for me.  I have no idea how I am going to afford it.

My only child, Jason Beasley, who died from 
complications of diabetes in December, 2013.  
This picture was taken earlier that year when he
 last visited me.

Secondly, the place is a mess because I do not have the proper storage furniture to organize and store business and art project papers and supplies.  For example, I desperately need a desk with a hutch to organize all the business stuff.  Right now, I am using two rickety, swaying "tv tables" as a writing desk.

My yarn supplies, office supplies and magazines are just littered around the apartment, with no home to which they can be consigned:

Both my kitchen table and my kitchen island are made from folding tables, one of which I bought when I was still working, 11 or 12 years ago, the other was discarded by a previous tenant:

My microwave, which was discarded by yet another tenant, has a large portion of paint peeling away from the inside of the door, exposing the rusty metal underneath.  I really need a new microwave.  You will find it on one of my Amazon wish lists.

The brown portion inside this microwave is RUST,
not dirt.

My garden area is looking tacky.  The apartment manager will let the landscapers dig a trench for me, following the wall, but I need to purchase two large shrubs to plant.  It would be nice to have a statue of Mary in my little meditation garden.  A comfortable Adirondack bench would be a good replacement for the spider magnets I am currently using on my porch.  Some of these items can be found on my Garden and Patio list.

I could use a good coir rug in front of the door to get the dirt off my shoes before walking into the apartment.

My car needs some work.  I love my car.  It has more than 150,000 miles on it, and it is 20 years old, but a dear friend gave it to me and it is a great car.  Even so, it needs some work on the power steering fluid system.  It is missing a hub cap.  It needs to be smogged.  The registration is due.  You know the drill.

Food is also a constant issue in the household.  I have stomach problems and cannot digest many foods.  I am also allergic to some things.  The price of nutritious food has skyrocketed.  I have a separate wish list for food.

If you would like to contribute financially, please use the DONATE button.  Keep in mind that Paypal retains a small percentage of anything you contribute.  The other option is to follow the links to my Amazon wish lists.

I am grateful for any and all assistance.





God bless you.

Silver Rose Parnell

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Saint Rose of Lima

I have had a sweet little service dog for the last 6 years.  Her name is Coco, and she is dying of cancer.  Every day she sleeps more and more.  Our evening walks have become little jaunts, once around the building, and then she is straining to get into the back door so she can lay down again.  Soon, I will have to take her to the veterinarian's office, and then I will have to get another service dog.

I realize it may sound a little abrupt, that I will get another dog so soon, but I am not sleeping throughout the night, just like I did before Coco came into my life.  Without a dog to stand guard and hear the noises of the boogey man, I am vigilant, alert, waiting.  I have post traumatic stress disorder.  Sleep disturbances are common for people like me.  Often, I am awake all night, despite taking all kinds of sleep medication.  Finally, at 6 a.m., I go to sleep.  The vigil is over.

I pray for healing, but it does not come - not yet - maybe never.  I am not unhappy about that.  I trust in the Lord to do what is right.  Faith in the Lord does not necessarily erase all the difficulties.  If anything, they can sometimes increase because Satan is afoot and he hates people who have serene faith in the Lord.  He tries to shake us up, as he tried with Job.

People become confused and think that if we, as disabled people, have so many difficulties, physical, mental and financial, that we must be terribly unhappy, but this is not necessarily so.  As contemplatives, moving through our day, through our problems, our pains and our sadness, we are walking with Jesus and Mary, the saints and the angels.  If we keep our mind on the Lord and our heart open to Him all day, we are at prayer no matter what we are doing, whether we are caring for a sick dog, washing dishes, or sitting quietly by a window.

Spiritual life is full of contradictions.  How I can be grieving for my dog and full of joy at the same time is a mystery.  I don't understand the mechanism of this condition, but I accept it gratefully and hope that it continues.  But I still need your prayers, so please pray for my dog, that she has no pain, no distress and no fear, but that she will slip away peacefully and naturally in her sleep.  Please pray that I have the strength to get through this traumatic event, yet another death in the litany of death that has been chanted in my life over the last few years when my father and then my only child died.  I, in turn, also pray for you, because I know that you are going through your own versions of the trials of Job and, like me, you are quietly joining yourself with the Lord to get you through the trauma.

As part of the body of Christ, I am with you also.

Silver Rose Parnell

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

If you are like me, and you are disabled, poor and trying to lead a holy life in the midst of your sufferings and pains in a world that discounts you because you do not appear to be productive, you need some inspiring words to keep you going on the contemplative path.  In the case of today's saint, Jane de Chantal, you may find a lot to bolster your prayer life and your resolve.  The letters between her and her spiritual director, Saint Francis de Sales, would be helpful to you, and there are several other books, as I remember, about these two saints.  It has been a while since I read them.  I was in a Hindu convent at the time, but I recall feeling strengthened by this saint's attitude toward spiritual life.

Here is a great quote about her:

“She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself...But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth” ~ St. Vincent de Paul.

Just google her name or look her up on, and you will find many books about her and St. Francis de Sales.  The library may also have some things.

It seems to me that most saints suffered greatly, in one fashion or another.  A few were sickly or disabled, like Blessed Margaret of Castello, and some were depressed, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta who had a dark night of the soul for 30 years.  Others were tormented by demons.  Most were afflicted with doubts and other temptations.  If anyone can relate to them in their sufferings, it is the disabled and frail elderly, many of whom endure chronic pain that does not leave them for a minute.  Depression and mental illnesses like post traumatic stress disorder are very common these days because the world has become a mean and violent place.  All of these things can interfere in a person's spiritual life if we let it get to us or if we imagine for a moment that we cannot possibly become saints if we are so messed up.

It is precisely BECAUSE we are messed up that we have a chance of becoming saints if we use our sufferings and humiliations to our advantage, offering it all up to God while maintaining a joyous visage.  We needn't pretend the suffering doesn't exist.  We aren't stoics or automatons!  We wrestle with our struggles, whatever they are, and we will notice them and occasionally give voice to the frustration, and we will certainly feel the pain, but our primary focus is on God and the beauty and joy of Him.  But never let anyone tell you that you "shouldn't feel" this or that emotion.  The saints feel plenty.  That is how they have a heart for the poor and suffering, and a heart for Jesus, Mary and the other saints.

Don't forget that God is great and has no problem using broken instruments such as ourselves.  Ignore what the worldly have to say about you and, whatever you do, don't let it get you down.  God will use us in the way he wishes to use us in the time in which he wishes to use us, and all we have to do is be open to him in our hearts.

I have been getting down on myself because of my inability to keep a strict schedule.  That was stupid.  One of the reasons I am disabled is because my illnesses prevent me from maintaining a schedule.  Somehow I had internalized the criticisms of the world.  I am learning to ignore the critical lady who frequently tells me, "I don't understand why you're not working.  You should be working.  Surely there is SOMETHING you can do.  You're so INTELLIGENT."  (As if one can only be disabled if one is a moron!)  Then there is the nosy neighbor who quizzes my apartment manager and asks her for a list of my disabilities because I do not "look" disabled. (Most illnesses, no matter how grave, cannot be detected by simply looking at someone.)

Quite a few people ask me how much money I get in Social Security.  I have made the mistake, in the past, of actually telling them the amount, only to be told that I am not really poor because some other able-bodied person with a temporary financial problem has a lower income than I do.  People do not understand that being disabled is MUCH more expensive than being able-bodied and, while an able-bodied person can actually do something to alleviate their situation, like taking a second job, a disabled person is pretty much stuck.  Occasionally, some of us can find a little something we can do to increase our income, but it is very difficult.  The solution for any financial privation is usually tightening our belts and doing without.  I will write a blog about that one day.

None of these people have the right to the information they ask about income or health conditions, and, these days, when pressed, I simply say that I have a collection of illness which, put together, make it impossible for me to work.  It does not satisfy them, but if I say it enough times, they stop asking.  Hostility and criticism toward the disabled and the poor are rampant in our society today, and we can fall into the trap of trying to defend ourselves at every turn.  Don't do it!  If someone is quizzing you about your disabilities or your income, it is not out of concern for you.  They want to judge for themselves whether you are poor or sick and your word is not good enough.  If you give in to this type of interrogation, you will lose your dignity like I did, and no amount of explanation will change a person's mind about you and all the other "lowlife" poor people who are faking disability (supposedly.)

Don't make the mistake I made and internalize the world's garbage until you are so down on yourself your spiritual life goes down the tubes.  There are plenty of people in the world for whom all the explanations and information in the world would not be enough to gift them with a sense of compassion and understanding for your trials or appreciation for your contemplative strivings.  In fact, most people won't "get you" in any real way.  If you're lucky, like me, there are a few dear friends who respect you and trust you.  Ignore the rest of the nattering world and hold onto the Lord.  Think of the rest of us who are in your same position (and there are quite a lot of us!)  We are your community.  We get you.  We support you.  We pray for you.  Don't give up.

Silver Rose Parnell


My Prayer Corner
August, 2014

A few years ago I started this blog, thinking that I would educate the public about what it was like to be disabled and, consequently, struggling, if not downright poor.  There were so many nasty rumors being circulated about poor people, in general, and such a lot of misunderstanding about disabled people and their needs, that I thought I would be doing a good service by disseminating factual information to counteract the meanness.

What I did not realize is that my target audience was not the slightest bit interested in having the real information or in learning anything.  There are many people with strong opinions in this world for whom their opinion is God.  Their opinions arise out of a few anecdotal stories, or a feeling or a philosophy, but they are rarely based on hard facts or statistics.  The harsher the opinion, the less likely that the person has done any real research into the area of his or her strong opinion.

Because I am disabled and poor, people with harsh opinions about the poor and disabled are not the slightest bit interested in what I have to say.  After all, they think all the disabled people are just faking it and that the poor people are somehow cheating the system.  How could they possibly learn anything from me?  It was arrogant of me to think they would listen.

The people who ARE interested are those who are in the same position in which I find myself.  I have been hearing from them that my blog has, on occasion, helped them.  I have been asked to start again, and I think I will...this time with a different focus, a different audience, and a different perspective.  I want to be a supporter and encourager of other disabled and poor people.

We can commiserate with one another and find a way to take the frustrations and limitations of our lives and transform them into a vehicle of holiness.  We can be a community for one another.  To this end, I am thinking of establishing a Facebook page or group for the disabled contemplative.  I will try to focus on inspiring saints, such as blessed Margaret of Castello, who was terribly disabled but still managed to become a third order Dominican renowned for her saintliness and devotion to other poor people.  I will post encouraging articles on the Facebook page, along with notices of the occasional posts I make to this blog.

I still plan to spend more time praying and meditating, so I will not be putting lots of time into perfecting the blog posts, as I used to do.  The posts will be shorter.  The pictures will be fewer.  I might miss a grammatical error or a misspelling.

If you are disabled and you wish to follow the contemplative life, or if you are already following that life and would like some encouragement and inspiration, please join us.  There are a lot of disabled folks and retired elderly folks, for that matter, who are naturally turning toward contemplation as their life has slowed.  We can help one another on our spiritual path.

God bless you all.

Silver Rose Parnell

Saturday, July 19, 2014


I have been praying and asking our Lord for some guidance as to his plan for me and what it is, exactly that he wishes for me to do with my life, given that I am disabled and somewhat isolated.  For some time, I believed that I was meant to write a blog advocating for the poor, and I did so for the last few years.  Gradually, however, I came to understand that the blog was not accomplishing what I had hoped and that it was sucking time away that could be better spent in prayer and meditation.  I have erased the entries, except for this one.

When I left the Hindu convent many years ago, I imagined that I may become a Catholic nun or sister, continuing in the community life I enjoyed while a Hindu nun, but numerous obstacles were laid in my path, until no other life but what I am living now seems feasible.

Sometimes God shows you His plan for you by putting you in the position of having nothing else to do!  This is particularly good for hard-headed people like me.  God has arranged it so that I have the inclination, the time and the private space in which to live a contemplative life dedicated to Him.

To this end, I am working on establishing a better monastic schedule and routine, as much as my disabilities and mundane logistics will allow.  I will try to pray always, either among the pots and pans in the kitchen or in front of my personal altar.  I ask that you pray for me that I will have the strength to do this.

When I was a nun in the convent, we lived on donations as well as the income from a book catalogue.  Similarly, I live on a small disability income, donations, and the occasional sale of a painting or baby blanket.  If you are interested in purchasing a painting or a baby blanket, they will be displayed on  In addition, a donation button is included on this page.

If you would like me to include you in my prayers, please write me with your intentions and I will pray for you.  In the meantime, God bless you all.

Silver Rose Parnell

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I have had one too many conversations with Christians who want to eliminate America's social service programs.  They claim that (a) they shouldn't be "forced" to support the poor via taxes; and (b) there is "massive fraud" in the system.  Often, they mention someone they "knew" who was either faking an illness or who was deliberately having lots of children out of wedlock so they could collect money from the government.

The solution proposed by these good Christians is that all the social welfare programs should be abolished and that charitable giving should be left to the individuals and to the churches.

There are so many gross errors in this way of thinking, that I hardly know where to start, so I have decided to start at the beginning, with the history of life before social security, before social welfare programs were even a glint in the eye of a kind society.

Prior to the Middle Ages, there was no concept of organized charity.  Various methods were employed to insure one’s own economic security, but nothing was in place to help others.  The ancient Greeks, for instance, used to stockpile olive oil as a form of economic security.  It was a nutritious staple item that lasted a long time and kept its value. 

Other cultures invested in and wore their fortune on their bodies in the form of jewelry.

Financial insecurity was a fact of life for most people throughout history.  The poor suffered greatly.

Many ancient civilizations practiced some form of “arranged” marriages to ensure the financial security of all the parties.  Extended families were the norm, rather than the nuclear families of parents and children that is the standard of the developed world today.  Until recently, ones elderly parents and/or aunts and uncles lived with you or one of your siblings until their death.  Young women did not live alone, generally speaking, with the possible exception of prostitutes in some cultures.  Family was of paramount importance, and family included a lot of people.

In Medieval Europe, feudalism was the system people relied upon for a modicum of security.  The Lord of the property was assured of financial security because of the serfs that worked his land, while the serfs themselves were secure only so long as they were healthy enough to perform hard manual labor.  Life was hard, and life expectancy was about age 40.

The agrarian societies began to give way to a more complicated system that included villages and cities.  Family cohesiveness first began to disintegrate as individuals moved away from the land and into cities, looking for employment.

In the middle ages, guilds of merchants or craftsmen were formed, and these guilds provided many benefits to their members, including what we would call price fixing today.  Charitable contributions from these guilds for the benefit of their sick members and their families formed a rudimentary safety net for some situations, but not for extended periods of time.  The assistance was meant as a stop-gap to get members over a difficult patch.  Often, the guild would help pay funeral expenses of its deceased members.  Although the guilds were helpful to the lives of their members, long term illnesses or permanent disabilities were beyond the scope of what they could address.

Sometime around the 17th century, the guilds gave way to what were called “friendly societies,” then, eventually, “fraternal organizations.”  Modern trade unions are the descendants of these organizations.

The concept of life insurance was born in the friendly societies.  The Industrial revolution expanded it considerably.  By the year 1800, one out of every nine Englishmen belonged to a friendly society or fraternal organization.  Again, there were benefits to membership, but the scope was limited.

Some of these organizations were:

The Freemason
The Odd Fellows
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
Loyal Order of Moose
Fraternal Order of Eagles


These organizations persist into modern times.  Many of my close ancestors were Freemasons, and my mother belonged to Eastern Star.  I remember attending a beautiful concert at the Odd Fellows Hall in little Georgetown in the foothills of the Sierras in California about 20 years ago, and, here in New Mexico, I used to live across the street from an Elks Lodge. 

As the people moved off the land and into the cities, families were split up and the feudal system was no more, “poor laws” began to be developed.  The first, in 1601, provided for taxation to provide relief to suffering people.  The distribution was locally and community controlled.  Soon, the poor houses, with all their horrors, were established to house the poor who were accepting relief.  Laws were harsh and punitive.  Think of “Oliver Twist.”

When the pilgrims came to America, they brought with them these harsh and judgmental attitudes toward the poor.  Only those deemed “worthy” of assistance would receive it, and the local town elders would be the ones to decide who was worthy and in what kind and manner the charity would be distributed to them.  Poverty was a grisly, dehumanizing experience.  Some people were deemed unworthy to receive charity and were reduced to begging in the streets.

The provision of charity was made as unpleasant as possible, with the idea that this would discourage dependency.  If you were receiving relief, you could lose all your personal property, the right to vote or move, and you were often made to wear a large “P” on your clothing!

As horrific and demeaning as the system became, it did nothing to ‘discourage’ poverty because the cause of poverty was not and is not laziness.  The English, and then the Colonial Americans, were operating under a false and untested premise, and therefore, their systems failed.  Eventually, the poor houses became too expensive to maintain, even though they were the most miserly of establishments.  Some modern Americans still hold the erroneous belief that people are poor because they are lazy and that a great number of people accepting charity are doing so under false pretenses.  They are just as wrong as the Colonials were.


Modern social insurance in America had its birth in the mind of the Revolutionary War figure, Thomas Paine.  His system called for a 10% inheritance tax to create a fund that would pay a one-time stipend to every person at age 21.  The thinking was that this sum would give them a start in life and that, with prudent use and investment, would help keep the hard working person afloat.  Another amount was to be paid to anyone 50 and older, so that poverty would not be the companion of everyone’s old age.

After the Civil War in America, there was a system of Civil War Pensions.  Several of my ancestors received these pensions while they still lived, and their wives received it when they died.  My 5th great grandfather was receiving $11 a month when he died in the early 1920's.  Civil War pension records, in fact, are very valuable in genealogy research, providing a wealth of information about the soldier…but I digress.

In the late 1800’s, pension plans were introduced.  Typically, a certain percentage of each worker’s pay would be withheld and kept in the pension fund, to which the company would also often contribute.  This was a cumbersome and ultimately unsuccessful program, since it did not allow for worker mobility, nor were these pension plans widely available.  Most Americans had nothing on which to rely for their old age needs.

In the economic collapse of the 1840’s, and then the depression of the 1890’s there was widespread unemployment.  People began to realize that even those who were able and willing to work could be struck low by the vagaries of the economy and that something needed to be done to protect them.  Once again, it was proven that poverty is not caused by laziness.  Concern for the welfare of the poor began to grow.  None of the relief systems to date had worked.


In the Great Depression of the 1930’s (which was our third major depression here in America), poverty among the elderly became the worst problem.  “[I]n 1934, over half of the elderly in America lacked sufficient income to be self-supporting.” (  Many different types of pension legislation were passed, but none of the resulting programs was successful in alleviating the suffering of even 3% of the poor population.

The Industrial Revolution, the urbanization of America, the disappearance of the extended family, and a marked increase in life expectancy destabilized the economic security of the majority of the population.  By the year 1920, more people were living in cities than on farms.  A tipping point had been reached.

During the great depression of the 1930’s, there were two million hobos riding the rails and wandering the land.  Most elderly people lived in a dependent situation of some type.  Some of the letters written to the president during that era are heart breaking.  For a sample of a typical heart rending letter, see:

Photo by Dorothea Lange for the Resettlement

Many social insurance plans were tried and abandoned during the depression.  Huey Long, a radical populist, wanted the government to confiscate the wealth of the nation’s rich.  Then came the “Townsend Plan,” courtesy of Francis E. Townsend, who devised this Old Age Revolving Pension Plan.  His plan called for a 2% national sales tax to fund a pension for everyone age 60 and older.  The author Upton Sinclair had a pension plan scheme for California.  California was rife with plans like this, such as the “ham and eggs movement” and the “Bigelow Plan.”  None were successful in adequately supporting everyone who needed aid.

When the Social Security Act passed in 1935, most of these schemes disappeared, with the exception of the Townsend plan, which limped along until the 1950 amendments to the Social Security plan made the benefits more livable.

Social Security is the most successful, most popular plan ever invented by man, yet many Americans resent it and the other social programs because they are being ‘forced’ to contribute to it!  They don’t mind being forced to pay for police, fire, schools and the like, but being taxed to help the poor is somehow a horrible thing.  Theirs is a selfish and materialistic world view.  Police, firemen and schools help the taxpayer, while giving to the poor does not, except in a broader spiritual sense.

They ignore the fact that, prior to our present social welfare programs, individual charity and church-driven programs did very little toward addressing the real problems of the poor and, in most cases, the poor were treated with contempt.

Given that our modern-day Politico-Christians are witheringly critical of the poor, it is further unlikely that a miraculous generosity of spirit is going to spring forth in their hearts as soon as the taxes for the social welfare programs are removed!

In our current financial crisis, eliminating taxes that fund the social welfare programs would result in the same dire conditions that caused us to institute those programs to begin with.  Get ready for bread lines, people!


Republi-Catholics will often talk about the principle of subsidiarity, first developed by Pope Pius XI, in which the government of any function should be accomplished in the most local arena as will accomplish that function in the best way.  It is NOT a command that everything MUST be administered locally, but only that it should be if it can be done just as effectively at the local level as the national.  History has proven that leaving the administration of poverty relief to the local level does not work and never has.

Furthermore, Pope Pius XI allowed for this in his Encyclical on the Reconstruction of the Social Order, saying that the rulers of the state should give chief consideration to the weak and the poor:

"The function of the rulers of the State,
moreover, is to watch over the community
and its parts; but in protecting private indi-
viduals in their rights, chief consideration
ought to be given to the weak and the poor.
"For the nation, as it were, of the rich is guarded
by its own defenses and is in less need of
governmental protection, whereas the suffering
multitude, without the means to protect itself
relies especially on the protection of the State.
Wherefore, since wageworkers are numbered
among the great mass of the needy, the State
must include them under its special care and
foresight."[20] Quadragesimo Anno

Encyclical on Reconstruction of the Social Order
His Holiness Pope Pius XI
May 15, 1931

The next installment in this series will explore the topic of abuse in the social welfare programs and whether it is as widespread as some people believe.  (Spoiler alert - It's not.)

Reading list for further study of the History of Social Programs:

Classic Sources:
Armstrong, Barbara, "Insuring the Essentials," Macmillan Co., 1932.
A scholarly review of the state of social insurance efforts as they stood in the early 1930s, by one of the principal designers of Social Security's old age insurance program.

Epstein, Abraham, "Insecurity: A Challenge to America," Third Revised Edition, Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1936.
A classic study of social insurance, with one of the first published critiques of the recently passed Social Security Act by a critic who believed the Act did not go far enough in addressing the need for social insurance programs.

Rubinow, I. M., "Social Insurance: With Special Reference to American Conditions," Henry Holt, 1913.

Rubinow, I. M., "The Quest for Security," Henry Holt, 1934.
Rubinow's two books were the most influential on early thinking regarding social insurance. President Roosevelt, in particular, was an admirer of Rubinow's work.

Seager, Henry, "
Social Insurance: A Program of Social Reform," Macmillan Co., 1910. Believed to be the first American work on social insurance.

Academic Treatments: Chambers, Clarke, "Seedtime of Reform: American Social Service and Social Action 1918-1933," University of Minnesota Press, 1963. In-depth discussion of events in the period leading up to the creation of Social Security.

Katz, Michael B., "In The Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America," Tenth Anniversary Edition, Basic Books, 1996.
An outline of the development of American social policy from the earliest days.

Lubove, Roy, "The Struggles for Social Security: 1929-1935," Harvard University Press, 1968.

Mitchell, Daniel J.B.,
"Pensions Politics and the Elderly: Historic Social Movements and Their Lessons for Our Aging Society," M.E. Sharpe, 2000. A discussion of the Townsend Plan, the Ham and Eggs movement, and other alternative pension movements in California.

Skocpol, Theda, "Protecting Soldiers and Mothers," Harvard University Press (Belknap), 1992.
Source for information on Civil War pensions, Mothers pensions, and early workmen's compensation efforts.

Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M., three volumes: "The Crisis of the Old Order," "The Politics of Upheaval" and "The Coming of the New Deal." Houghton-Mifflin, The American Heritage Library, 1988. This is the classic history of this period.

Weaver, Carolyn, "The Crisis in Social Security: Economic and Political Origins," Duke Press Policy Studies, 1982. Contains an account of historical developments from prior to 1900 through the Social Security amendments of the early 1970s.

Popular Accounts:

Brinkley, Alan, "Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin and The Great Depression," Vintage Press, 1983.
A good overview of Long and Coughlin.

Kennedy, David M., "Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945." Oxford University Press, 1999.
The early chapters in this book contain a good summary of the period right before the Depression through the passage of Social Security.

McElvaine, Robert S., "The Depression and New Deal: A History in Documents." Oxford University Press, 2000. This books has lots of photos and short essays and is easy to read.

Mitchell, Greg, "The Campaign of the Century," Random House, 1992. This is the most comprehensive account of Upton Sinclair's EPIC Plan.

Watkins, T. H., "The Great Depression: America in the 1930s," Back Bay Books, 1993. Lots of photos and short essays.

Watkins, T. H., "The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America," Henry Holt, 1999.
A more in-depth account of this period.

Copyright (c) 2013, Silver Parnell
All rights reserved.

Friday, October 26, 2012


 Hodegetria Icon on display at Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Byzantine Catholic Church in Albuquerque, NM
copyright (c) 2012, Silver S. Parnell
All rights reserved.

On Wednesday, I was dressed and ambulatory.  My church had devotions on that night.  I resolved to go, even though it is on the other side of town from where I live, and I am very glad I did!

Copyright (c) 2012, Silver S. Parnell
All rights reserved.

There, displayed in front of the iconostasis, was a full length Icon of Mary, covered in gold and silver metal.  Now, when I say "full length," I mean the entire body, and this is somewhat unusual.  She is holding the baby Jesus, just as in the Icon of our Lady of Perpetual Help, EXCEPT that, in this standing icon, she is pointing to Jesus and his hand does not rest in hers.  In this icon she is showing the way to salvation, therefore she is "Hodegetria" or "Hodigitria," the Wayshower, She who Shows the Way, the Lady of the Way, etc.

Copyright (c) 2012, Silver S. Parnell
All rights reserved.

It turns out that the original icon on which this one is based was painted by Saint Luke during the earthly life of the Theotokos (Mother of God.)

Saint Luke painting the Hodegetria

In the 400's it was brought from the Holy Land by Empress Eudocia and thereafter sent to Constantinople.  It is a much earlier iconographic image than Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which itself was modeled after the Hodegetria, with two differences.  Our Lady of Perpetual Help holds the Christ Child's hand in hers, and one of Jesus' sandals has slipped from his foot and is hanging from it.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help 

The icon that greeted me at church was about 4 or 5 feet tall.  Only the beautifully painted faces and hands of the image were exposed, the rest being covered in bas relief metal, as I previously mentioned.  I was dazzled by this image.  What a beautiful image of our Blessed Mother and Jesus!  I felt an immediate awe and attraction.

Copyright (c) 2012, Silver S. Parnell
All rights reserved.

I thought that the name of Empress Eudocia was very familiar, so when I got home from devotions, I opened my genealogy database and found out that, just as I suspected, she was my 43rd great grandmother!  Knowing that an ancestor brought the original icon from the Holy Land and thereby preserved it, ignited a flame of interest in my heart.  Of course, like most Catholics, I already have a devotion to our Blessed Mother, no matter what image represents her, but there are two things that draw me to this particular image.  The first is that our Mother is showing us the way to salvation.  She is pointing to Christ.  Secondly, the original image that Saint Luke painted has a link with my family.

Empress Aiela Eudocia - mosaic

The original icon was doubled-sided and depicted a crucifixion on the reverse side.  It was displayed in the Monastery of the Panaghia Hodegetria in Constantinople.  Many copies of it were made, while the original is believed to be lost or destroyed during the fall of Constantinople in 1453, but there are two separate traditions that speak about it being carried to Russia or Italy.

an Icon of "Hodegetria of Smolensk"

One Russian tradition is that this icon appeared in Russia after the Fall of Constantinople, upon which it was installed in Smolensk's Assumption Cathedral.  Russian versions of the icon are called "Our Lady of Smolensk" or the "Hodegetria of Smolensk" and many miracles are attributed to it.   In one story, it is given by Emperor Constantine Monomachus of Byzantium to his daughter, Princess Anna, in honor of her marriage to Prince Vsevolod Yaroslavovich of Chernigov.  The princess brought the icon to Russia in 1046, before the fall of Constantinople.  Later, in about 1101, her son translated it to Smolensk, where it is reputed to have protected the people of Russia from invaders with many miracles.

Hodegetria of Anna of Poland

The Italians say that the original image painted by Saint Luke that was sent by Eudocia to Pulcheria (Catholic saint and another relative of mine!) was actually just a circular icon picturing Mary's head.  This piece was inserted on top of a large rectangular icon of Mary holding Jesus.

Another Italian story claims that when Baldwin II left Constantinople in 1261, he brought the circular icon out with him and likewise inserted it into a larger image of Mary holding the Christ child.  This image, which been repainted many times, is held at the Benedictine Abbey church of Montevergine.  In the following picture, you can see a faint line where the head was inserted.

Hodegetria Image at Montevirgine - (detail)
[Purported to have been painted by Saint Luke.]

Hodegetria at Montevirgine, full length
[Purported to have been painted by Saint Luke.]

The Hodegetria is especially revered by those with eye problems, since the first miracles attributed to it involve the curing of blindness in two men.

Madonna di Constantinopole, Bari, Apulia, Italy
[Purported to have been painted by Saint Luke.]

These are the rough outlines of the story of the Hodegetria image, but I didn't know any of it when I was praying during our devotions at church.  The image of the Hodegetria affected me powerfully, and I found it to be a wonderful instrument of teaching, direction, and inspiration.  While I was praying for my intentions during that portion of our devotions, I experienced an inner vision of all the people for whom I had prayed being drawn up into heaven and directed to Christ by the Blessed Mother, who pointed the way.  It was a vision of sparkling bright light.  As the people ascended toward heaven, the darkness of their sins was sloughed off, like dirty clothing.  Gradually, the people began to shine and sparkle until, when they reached the Lord, they were as bright and shining as the heavens around them.

Virgin Hodegetria from the Rila Monastery,
Pchelino Convent

I felt very strongly that my prayer for the intercession of the Hodegetria had been answered and that sins of those persons had been expiated.

In this year of faith, I plan to learn a lot about the faith, our history, the various customs and icons, and most especially about our Blessed Mother in her form as the Lady of the Way, Virgin Hodegetria.

Anyone interested in seeing more images purported to have been painted by Saint Luke, take a look at this interesting web site I found:

Copyright (c) 2012, Silver S. Parnell
All rights reserved.