Friday, September 19, 2014

GET BACK ON THE HAPPY HORSE





Every day when I wake up, I have to do my version of getting back on the horse.  The pains and disappointments of the previous day assault me and I have to throw them off and get back on the happy horse.  I grasp the wooden cross that lays on my chest while I sleep, and I remind myself of the promises of Jesus, the most excellent, happiest of news.  I smile and then I go to my shrine, cross myself and offer myself for the day, promising to do better, be better, incline myself better toward the Lord.  Then I turn on the altar lights and my day begins.  Directly after doing that this morning, I discovered a large, long piece of dog poop in my closet.

Even though I had walked that little dog at 6:00 in the morning, by the time I woke up at 10:00, he'd befouled my closet.  Clearly, the dog is not housebroken and, at 3 years old, it is doubtful I would be successful in training him.  If I lived in a house and had a doggie door, perhaps that would be the ticket, but I live in an apartment and I don't even have a fenced-in yard.  Anyway, he is the wrong dog for me.  I need a dog that will help me, not cause me extra anxiety.




After downing a strong mug of coffee, I took the little fellow back to the shelter.  I do my best not to dwell on the block of sadness at the bottom of my stomach.  Several people will be critical of my taking the pup back to the shelter.  They do not understand that the dog is not a pet for me.  It has a job.  It is a service animal.  Someone else WILL snatch him up.  Bringing him back was the right thing to do.

I was in a lot of pain today and downed two pain pills at once.  They barely made a dent in my pain level.  Some days are just like that.  The pain pills just don't work.  I settled into my crochet project; a baby blanket for the Gabriel Project at Project Defending Life, stopping now and then to load the washer and dryer, cleaning all the fabrics and pillows on which the dog had slept.  The cat was thrilled, and he flung himself across the freshly washed quilt that I arranged over the pink couch.

While I crochet, I say prayers for the baby that is going to use that blanket; prayers for a good life, a loving family, and a relationship with Jesus.  I ask the Lord to be kind to the little one.  While I am doing the laundry or eating my lunch, however, I am coming to grips with the very real possibility that I may never be able to get a service animal.  I have to adjust my expectations.  So MANY things are outside the realm of possibility for a poor person!  I am so tired of the dwindling collection of available options of my life, but I must get over it and resign myself to the reality of the situation.  It is important to me to learn to gracefully accept the will of God, and not to do so with bitterness or sour feeling.  Plenty of people in the world are in far worse shape.  Get back on the happy horse!





I enjoy the beauty of the baby blanket growing between my fingers and I thank the Lord for the skill and the ability.  My carpal tunnel kicks in now and then, and I have to stop for a while, but it doesn't matter.  I am not on a schedule and I can't get fired.

I feel the absence of the dog's energy in the house, and I deliberately displace the empty feeling with the satisfaction of creating a beautiful blanket.  Back on the happy horse.

Silver Rose Parnell

Thursday, September 18, 2014

THE HURRIEDER I GO, THE BEHINDER I GET

"SKIPPER"



Yesterday was stressful.  I had to let go of a toxic neighbor I had been helping for the last couple of years.  Some sort of mental illness makes this person hostile and aggressive, but oblivious to the effect of that behavior on other people.  After being exposed to it once too often this week, I had to put my foot down.  The whole episode was highly anxiety producing, especially since I was informed that my exertions on their behalf were not valued.  It can be frustrating when you try to minister to someone who doesn't notice the effort you are expending.  I wonder: if they don't notice the effort, do they actually receive the help you mean to give?

Last night, little Skipper slipped out of his collar and ran right into traffic on the main drag on which this apartment building sits.  Thanks be to God, he didn't get hit and then he ran back and circled around to the back door of my apartment.  I need to get him a proper harness.  I am thinking red plaid would be cute.  It will have to wait a couple weeks for the disability check.  (More about Skipper later.)

Last night, I heard from another friend that she had discussed getting a service dog for me with someone at the New Mexico service dog organization located in Santa Fe, about an hour and a half drive from me. They charge $6,150.00 for the dog and $75 for the application fee.  It generally takes about a year to a year and a half to get a trained animal.  There is no discount for low income clients.

It would cost me more than 4 months income to pay for a service dog myself.  Obviously, this is not going to happen.

Well meaning friends have lots of suggestions about who to call to try and wrangle a free dog or free training or both...or maybe a "deal" of some sort.  This is one of the reasons why my days are so full.  I spend a lot of time begging, searching, wrangling, researching: vainly trying to get my needs met.

I also need one of those scooters and a lift for my car, but Medicare will only pay for it if the doctor verifies that I need one for use IN my home.  Who can afford so much living space that they have room for one of those massive things?  Anyway, the scooters and car lifts are also thousands of dollars, evidently.

People often do not understand that being disabled is much more expensive than being able-bodied.  The able-bodied do not need service dogs, scooters, housekeepers, cleaning ladies, delivery fees, medical equipment, special food, over-the-counter medicines, blah, blah, blah.

So, it doesn't look like I will get a proper service dog.  I do have a very small terrier I recently adopted in a fit of "oh, isn't he the most adorable thing you have ever SEEN?"  (See his picture, above.)  He is completely wrong as a service dog, and my doctor has suggested that I trade him in for something more appropriate, like a large standard poodle or Portuguese water dog.

My veterinarian has recommended that a standard poodle will best serve my needs, and that I should get one as a puppy so that it can be trained young.  I have researched that avenue also.  Poodle puppies range from $1,200 to $3,000.  Can you believe it?

I have asthma and bad allergies, so I need a dog that is hypoallergenic.  According to the AKC, there are not a lot of dogs that qualify.

So, if you have money, you complain about the prices, but you pay it and you get your needs met.  Problem solved.  You might haggle, but you don't have to beg.

I am very tired of begging.  I am exhausted from the effort and the stress.  There comes a point when trying to get one's needs met does not appear to be worth the stress and exertion.  I wonder if this is why so many veterans with PTSD are homeless, on the streets?  At some point, you just give up trying.

Fortunately, I have a place to live and a comforting spiritual foundation.  I'm not on the street, so I am ahead of the game.  I have gotten used to going without a lot of things.  This is just another one.  Time to move on to something more satisfying than begging.  I started another baby blanket for charity tonight, and it is very pretty.

Silver Rose Parnell

Friday, September 5, 2014

BLESS THIS MESS



I keep this little box of doo-dads next to my recliner, where I do all my crochet projects and where I occasionally trim my nails (or the cat's nails!)  Inside the box, along with circular knitting hooks, nail trimmers, a row counter, and crochet hooks, is a pair of scissors that my son gave me, and every time I have to trim a piece of crochet, I use these scissors.  They're very sharp and fit perfectly in the decorative box.  Every time I use them, I think of my son and say a little prayer for him.





I last saw Jason in the Spring of 2013.  He and his daughter came to visit me, driving across the desert from Las Vegas, Nevada.  He was supposed to have arranged for dialysis here in Albuquerque, and I don't know if he actually did it.  He had talked about feeling that he didn't need it if he had a session right before he left.  He wasn't overly cautious about taking care of his health, which is what killed him, ultimately.

We had a really nice time for the first few days.  I enjoyed showing them around Old Town, which is very near my house.  We ate at various restaurants, which was a real treat for me, since I never do that.  Jason took a lot of pictures.  It was wonderful to have him here. A couple days before they were to leave, he ran out of money.  He had received some money in back pay from Social Security, but he had spent most of it on some guns he had planned to sell at the gun show when he returned to Vegas. It is ironic that my son was involved in selling guns when I am so anti-gun, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I made no comment.

My apartment is small.  I had only a few days' notice they were coming, it was the end of the month, and I had very little food in the house and no money.  In other words, the status quo.  My granddaughter was only interested in playing games on her dad's phone.  The trip exhausted him, and he kept falling asleep in the chair.  He was very ill.

One day, when I wasn't looking, he grabbed a special pair of sewing scissors from my desk and bent them by using them as if they were a screwdriver,  I got upset because they were given to me by a special friend.  He got testy and a little rude.  I had to straighten him out.  He apologized and later bought me that pair of scissors pictured above.  At first, I was disappointed, because they were completely different than the pair he had ruined, but I just thanked him, knowing that he was stressed and sick and I could always buy another pair that suited me better.  Later, I realized the scissors he gave me were perfect for my crochet projects.

I felt bad about our little spat.  When they were leaving, I hugged my son for the last time and told him I was sorry that the visit wasn't perfect.  He was very sweet and gave me a good hug.  I will never forget what he said.  "Next time I see you, it will be better."

A few months later, he drove himself to the hospital.  He had pneumonia.  Very quickly, it turned into a variety of issues.  He had an infection around his heart.  It went from bad to worse.  Soon, he was gone.

Jason's birthday is coming up in a few days, and in another 3 months, the first year anniversary of his death.  I have been thinking about him a lot, and especially his last words to me, "Next time I see you, it will be better."  From your lips to God's ears, my boy.  From your lips to God's ears.

Silver Rose Parnell

Thursday, September 4, 2014

DRIVING MISS RUBY


I have a great friend in my apartment complex.  She's only a few years older than I am, but she's a little more banged up.  She was in a terrific hot air balloon crash about 10 years ago and they put her back together with metal rods, chewing gum, and band aids.  Recently, she has had to give up driving, and I try to invite her to accompany me every time I go shopping because she is generally stranded.  She's also not eating properly, has never learned to cook, really, and needs some help with her nutrition.

Going shopping with her is a scream because she wanders off and spends an inordinate amount of time reading all the labels and "pricing" things she is not going to buy that day.  She often cannot find things that are right on the shelf in front of her.  It takes forever.  I am always losing her.  The other day I lost her at a new Walmart.  I forgot to bring my cell phone, so we couldn't call one another to coordinate our locations in the store.  FINALLY, when I met up with her, I had a shopping cart full of things, I was ready to check out, and she had 4 items...but she needed one more.  I checked out and waited half an hour for her to appear again.

Today we went to Sprouts market for vegetables, and it was a circus.  She was revved up and chattering like a magpie while I, accustomed to proceeding in a leisurely, quiet fashion, was not in the mood.  I yelled at her at one point and had to apologize, at which point she told me that it was such a treat to get outside the apartment that she just gets EXCITED.  She was enjoying the fun trip.  Well, then I felt really crappy.  I had gotten mad at her expression of happiness.  Sigh.

The young girls at the produce department laughed at the two old biddies behind their hands.  I tried to explain to Ruby the fruits and vegetables needed to make a nutritious juice drink using my Jack La Lanne juicer.

Ruby is so scattered she went off on a tangent, taking two produce workers away from their jobs to ask them if the apples were on sale, after I told her they were not.  Then she asked if there was a senior discount.  They were very patient with her.  Meanwhile, I stood there, mortified, holding a bag of carefully selected apples, waiting for her to stop fiddling around.  She stood there, yammering to the produce workers, as if engaging them would make a discount appear out of nowhere.  Finally, she stopped talking.  They politely waited.  She stood there.  They looked at me.  Hysterical.  I dragged her away.  She argued about the number of apples I had chosen.  Everything is like pulling teeth....from a magpie.

Dismayed at the rising cost of food, even in this market that used to be very affordable, I grew anxious about whether or not I would have enough money to purchase the staples I needed: garlic, onions, ginger, leafy veggies, yellow veggies, tofu, mushrooms...and something else I had forgotten.  I wondered if I would have enough money for food for the rest of the month.  Ruby wandered off to buy a birthday card for her granddaughter, while I continued to toil in the vegetable department.  My PTSD kicked in and I lost my concentration.  It was so clear in my mind what I needed to get BEFORE I walked into the store, but the increasingly crowded store had made my mind turn to mush on high alert, if you can picture that.  I had to collect myself.

After I took a tour of the store and found her, we got to the checkout line, and she didn't have quite enough to pay for her portion, so she gave me what money she had and put aside a selection of items to pay for with her debit card, on which she had $14.  The bill was something like $23, however, because she had misread the price of the birthday card she selected which was more than $7!  This happens to us all the time.  Money is so tight on Social Security income that, when we miscalculate our purchases, we often have to pay from two different methods: a little cash, the remainder from a bank account with the debit card.  Sometimes we have to return an item and have it deducted from the bill.  Sometimes when she gets the bill, I have to lend her money.  Sometimes she lends me money.  It does get embarrassing, at times, but today we presented such an entertaining production that the stock clerks and the cashier just smiled at us and endured our bickering and fumbling with extremely good nature.

When we got back to the apartment complex, I drove her as close to her apartment as possible, and she went in and got her little shopping cart, then loaded her stuff into that.  I went home and unloaded all of my veggies from my trunk into my kitchen.  Ruby came BACK over to my house, and I made a lovely dinner of bagel, cream cheese, tomato and onion.  This has become a monthly routine, when I do my major shopping trip.  Ruby commented that we had had a really fun day, and I felt badly again that I had gotten so irritable with her.  Chronic, unremitting pain makes me grumpy.  I could have taken a pain pill, but then I would not have been able to drive.  Catch 22.

Most of all, I get disappointed in myself that the God consciousness that is so effortless while alone in my apartment just EVAPORATES when I get stressed and I am bungling my way through errands or other business exchanges.

She went home.  I drank a cup of tea, rather HALF a cup of tea, and promptly fell asleep in my recliner despite my cat's efforts to wake me by stomping his 16-pound royal furriness all over me.  It is odd to realize that just one shopping trip can now completely wipe me out and keep me aching for days afterwards.  I've been disabled for 10 years and I still can't get used to it.  It is almost as if I do not believe it, even though I know better than anyone that it is true.  I keep trying to do as much as I did when I was 30, and then I'm surprised when it doesn't work out.  I pictured a completely different life.

No one anticipates becoming disabled.  That's the thing.  You get injured in a hot air balloon crash, like Ruby, or you gradually start to get sick, struggle to stay employed, stay above water.  You swim and swim until you have to get out of the water or you will drown.  You do not have a choice about it.  When I finally went on disability, I had been sick for about 10 years, and my finances were completely depleted.  One of my old friends, on learning that my disability benefits had been approved, asked me, "If you can't afford to live on the monthly income, why did you retire?"   Retire? Ridiculous question.

The able-bodied just don't get it, but Ruby and other disabled people DO know what it is like to desperately try to maintain one's independence and the illusion of normalcy.  Both of us dressed to the nines today, with lipstick, jewelry and everything.  You'd never know that she was down to her last $14 and I was down to my last $80, even though I just got paid.

This is one reason why I am grateful for people like Ruby in my life.  We're in the same boat and we can laugh about our circumstances.  We're both religious, so we can also forgive one another our idiosyncracies and see the humor in them.  Best of all, we are each grateful for the blessings we retain, the things that really matter that have nothing to do with how much money one has or how much physical health.

What we have in common, aside from our artistic natures, disability, pain and poverty, is Jesus, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Silver Rose Parnell




Monday, September 1, 2014

PRAY WITHOUT CEASING

Baby hat made to give away


People think I have a lot of time on my hands because I am disabled and stuck at home.  It would be nice if I had hours of leisure time that I could spend sitting in front of my altar, but that just isn't the reality of my life.

It takes me three or four times as long to do anything as my able-bodied friends because of mobility challenges and chronic pain issues. What I find myself doing is praying and contemplating during my household chores.  The happy news about chores is that they do not occupy much mental space, leaving my mind free to practice the presence of God or recite favorite prayers like the Jesus prayer, the "Our Father" and the "Hail Mary."

The joy of my life is making baby blankets and baby hats to give away to poor mothers.  I have to take frequent breaks while attending to my household chores because of my back and leg issues.  At that time, I take up my crochet or my knitting and continue work on whatever project I have going at that time.  Most of my fiber projects are fairly repetitious, so I can also pray while I crochet.  I pray for the happy life of whatever baby is going to be cuddled in that blanket.  I also pray for his whole family and especially that his parents stay together in a healthy, happy union.


Blanket and hat that I finished today

After all this practice on the blankets, I began to get creative, and some of them were turning out really nice.  I considered selling them at the local store that sells items made by local "artisans" but when I learned how little the other crochet artists were charging, I realized that this was not a good option.  The blanket, above, took me more than 30 hours to make.  How could I sell it for $20?  Golly, if I am going to give it away, I should give it to a poor child.  Consequently, none of the blankets will be made available for sale.  I'll just make whatever I can with whatever yarn comes my way, trusting in the Lord that He will provide the raw materials.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1Thesalonians 5:16-18

I highly recommend finding a ministry you can do at home during those moments when you have to rest or when you are having a particularly difficult "pain day," like me, and you are relegated to the recliner chair for the day.  If you would like to join me in my baby blanket ministry, please let me know at silvercottage@hotmail.com and we can work on a project together.  Winter is coming, and not only do the new babies need blankets, but homeless men and women needs hats and scarves for the frigid Albuquerque winters.  Believe it or not, it gets down into the single digits here!  Mittens and gloves are also much appreciated.  I have not learned how to make those yet, but if you can do it, that would be wonderful.

Alternately, you could opt to donate some yarn to the ministry.  I have a few discounted yarns on my birthday wish list, and Amazon.com has my mailing address.  See the links to the right.

Most of all, though, I pray that, if you do not already have a ministry that lends itself to continuous prayer, then find something or learn something you can do that will make a difference in the lives of the poor.  We don't have to do big things.  Hey, it takes me a week to make a crib-size blanket, but it is a labor of love AND a holy relic, each stitch representing a prayer for the baby that uses it!

If you home bound and you already have a ministry, write me and tell me about it and we will post it as a comment.  It will encourage other people and also perhaps give them ideas about something THEY could be doing to improve the lives of poor people.

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

God bless you.

Silver Rose Parnell

Sunday, August 31, 2014

THE POLITICS OF OPTIONS IN AN INDIVIDUALISTIC CULTURE

If you look very carefully, you can see a rainbow
amid the trees.


Yesterday I finally decided that I would no longer attend the parish I had been attending for the last year or so.  The reason I had tried that parish at all was because of the efforts of an extremely devoted Catholic woman who belonged to that parish and has spent the last year (or more) carting me back and forth so that I could sit through mass without excruciating pain.  God bless her.

Finally, however,  I had reached the point where the mental pain of sitting through a happy clappy liturgy; a condescending nationalistic homily that rarely gave God a mention; hand holding (ugh); and loud, gimmicky announcements given before the mass had ended (among other irregular practices) was greater than my physical pain.  I am quick to add that those people had been nice to me.  They gave me a comfortable chair in which to sit during the liturgy, dragging it right into the church and positioning it at the end of the handicapped row.  They gave me a sense of belonging by giving me a little responsibility at the welcome table.  The question is this: to what did I belong?

I am not going to spray all the defects all over my blog.  My point is not to bash the priest or saddle a struggling congregation with public excoriation, but to illustrate a problem common to many disabled persons, and that is the question of OPTIONS.  Our disabilities force us to make choices we would never otherwise make, were it not for the limitations of our condition(s).

Obviously, everyone's disabilities are not the same, and some disabled persons do quite well, with the help of mechanical aids, but mostly because of family, spouse or other supportive community that facilitates their access.  Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of us who are alone, and this is where the lack of community is most keenly felt.

The rarest sight in a church parking lot:
an empty handicapped parking space


I have a lovely Facebook friend who lives off the grid here in New Mexico, and just yesterday she posted a plaintiff wish for community of the faithful.  Now, she is Orthodox, but the situation for the Orthodox church in America with regard to community is the same, because we are all dealing with an individualistic American culture.  We can barely stand our own families, what to speak of the larger community of faith.

Yesterday, I posted about my experiences with the Vedanta Society in Southern California.  Something we could learn from them is their community focus.  Granted, it has been truncated somewhat due to a dwindling devotee base and changes in the economy, but I have to admit that I really miss that little community on the hill.  In the early days, we're talking 1930's, the Vedanta Society was given a bit of property in the Hollywood Hills - long before the Hollywood Freeway was even considered.  Some of the land may also have been purchased, but in any case, they had about two city blocks of property, some of it given over to a massive garden from which they got the flowers that were used in the daily worship.  There were also little houses stuffed together in a charming rabbit warren of residences, as well as an apartment complex.  The main property housed the temple, the monastery, the book store and the catalog buildings.  It was really charming.




I lived in the neighborhood for about 8 years, 3 of it in the convent, and I used to love to attend morning, noon and evening meditation hours.  There were many elderly ladies that lived in the smaller houses and apartments who were likewise able to attend.  They just had to walk across the small street and into the temple, which was a hushed and holy place.  No chatter allowed!




In this way, all people got to partake of a monastic style of contemplative life, without having to meet the criteria that is customarily required of a religious.  Good physical and mental health is the first hurdle to being accepted into a religious order.  This quasi 'ashram' style of living accommodated people of all types.

To be fair, we were dealing with individualistic Americans and there were many instances in which community members were not supported or helped during times of crisis.  I remember asking the cook at the convent for a plate of food for an elderly, long-time devotee who was flattened with a dangerous flu, only to be told there was not enough food, which was not true.  I said that was fine and that I would give her my portion of lunch.  Begrudgingly, this nun allowed me to take a plate to the sick old lady.  Now, that old lady had been very active in her youth.  She was a founding member of the group that originally moved onto the property, or she came very soon thereafter.  She had spent many years devoting a great deal of time to the maintenance of the place and the massive cooking projects that were required during the East Indian celebrations.  (There was always lots of great Indian food, and everyone in the world was invited.)  She had to gradually cease her efforts as she became too old to do them.  All of that support was forgotten, discounted, and taken for granted by some of the members, such as that one nun.


Lunch at the Hollywood Convent in the 1980's
(Swami visiting)

Another non-Christian group that does a much better job of forming supportive communities is the Mormons.  (Ignore, for the moment, their insistence that they are Christian.  Their theology and cosmology is completely different than accepted Christian doctrine from the earliest Christian age until the present.  That is a topic for another day.)  If you are a disabled Mormon, you are likely getting visits from eager young Mormons, with offers of help of all kinds.  If you want to attend a Mormon function, someone WILL take you.  If you are elderly, likewise.  If you've just had a baby, a score of young women will be helping with house-cleaning, baby clothes, baby this, baby that.  You won't go hungry or homeless or lonely if you are a Mormon in good standing.  I could never make myself believe in their theology, no matter how hard I might try, no matter how much I admire their community cohesiveness.  It's too bad, really.  I have several family members who are Mormon.

What is the point of all this?  I have a dream that one day Catholics will become more like the original Christian community that held all things in common and no one's needs went unanswered.  I have a dream that our "community" will be more cohesive, less individualistic and more helpful to one another.  I dream that the contemplative life will become more available to Catholic communities.  I suppose I dream of Catholic "ashrams," though I wouldn't want to use that term.  I long for loving communities.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed
that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared
everything they had."
~ Acts 4:32

If I ever won the lottery, the money would be gone in a minute because I would build a community with plenty of room for the elderly and disabled, complete with little cottages outfitted for the handicapped, smooth walkways that lead to the kitchen and the chapel, and meditation gardens.  I imagine a library stocked with all the Catholic classics, as well as religious DVDs.  Big dreams for a little person of no resources!

In the meantime, while praying for the big picture, I have to find a way to get my own needs met with regard to getting to a church on Sunday.  Mind you, I am a sick, elderly lady and I am actually not required to go to mass any more.  I want to go to mass, though, and I would like to be able to attend mass at a parish of my choosing and not be forced to attend a place that violates all my sensibilities.

Wish me luck, and help me in my prayers, won't you?

God bless you all

Silver Rose Parnell

Saturday, August 30, 2014

DIVE DEEP INTO YOUR FAITH



I love the contemplative life; the peace, the silence, the stillness.  It was the emphasis on the contemplative life that initially drew me to the Vedanta Society, a Hindu-based organization initiated in America at the turn of the last century when Swami Vivekananda came to our country to attend the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago of 1893.


"None can teach you.  None can make you spiritual.
There is no other teacher but your own soul."
Swami Vivekananda

I did not have the advantage of having anything with which to compare this Eastern religious philosophy.  My parents hated religion and spoke against it frequently.  They were exceedingly immoral and pleasure-driven.  The tenets of Christianity were not ever discussed, much less taught.  All I knew was that I longed for peace and that I wanted God in my life.  Thus began an association with the Vedanta Society that included a few years in its convent in Hollywood as a nun.  Later, although I had left the convent, my teacher allowed me to take the final vows of sanyas, which is similar to being a Hindu Swami and involves renunciation of the world in favor of living a contemplative life completely devoted to God.




When I first stumbled onto the Vedanta Society in about 1980, there was a big movement toward ecumenism in Christian circles.  Hindus, Buddhists, Sufis and Christians were gathering together.  Pope John Paul II came to America and participated in an inter-religious dialogue with my teacher [Swami Swahananda], a Buddhist teacher and a Jewish Rabbi.  I was lucky enough to be in the middle of that small audience of about 500 people that had gathered at the Japanese Cultural Center in Los Angeles.  The idea that all religions lead to God was percolating throughout society, especially in California, where the cosmic poo-poo has a particularly enthusiastic reception.  Ramakrishna, the Hindu saint that devotees claimed was "an incarnation of God" had said that all religions lead to God, and he was particularly worshipful toward Christ.  One of his followers promoted the idea that Christ spent years in India before his public ministry.




Instead of simply respecting all religions, however, some religious people began to mix the religions together, creating an amalgam that sometimes results in the deterioration of one or both faiths.  Catholic priests were mixing Zen meditation practice with Catholicism.  Father Hand of the Mercy Center's "East-West Community" began teaching Zen Meditation in 1984 in Burlingame, California, after spending 30 years in Japan.

Here is a blurb from that ersatz Catholic institution with regard to their new teacher, with barely a whisper of a mention of his being a Catholic priest:

"RESIDENT TEACHER
In 2005, the community welcomed a new resident teacher, Fr. Gregory Mayers, C.Ss.R., a Redemptorist priest. Fr. Greg began Zen koan studies in the late 1970s and completed them in 1996. He is an Associate Roshi of the Sanbô-Kyôdan Religious Foundation in Kamakura, Japan. He was given the teaching name of Ryûun-ken (Flowing Cloud) by Yamada Ryôun Roshi, the 4th Abbot of Sanbô-Kyôdan.
On November 11, 2010 Fr. Greg received full transmission as an Authentic Zen Master with the honorific title of Roshi from his teacher, Willigis Jaeger, who is the founder of the Empty Cloud Zen Lineage at Benediktushof, Holtzkirchen, Germany. He is the 46th successor to Master Lin Chin and has been teaching both Zen and Christian Mystical prayer in retreats around the United States.
Fr. Greg is the author of Listen to the Desert: The Secrets of Spiritual Maturity in the Desert Fathers and Mothers. He directs the East-West Meditation Program at Mercy Center and is its resident teacher."

This man has picked up where Father Hand left off, evidently.  It was Father Hand who (supposedly) told one woman that she had his permission to receive the Catholic Eucharist at any Catholic Church she chose, despite the fact that the woman was neither Catholic nor even Christian, really.  She believes that God has come to earth in many "incarnations," such as Buddha, Krishna and Christ.  She has a particular love for Christ but is not Christian and, in fact, speaks against the theology of the Catholic Church, but tells me that she continues to take communion during Catholic mass.  I have tried to explain to her how wrong this is, but my pleas fall on deaf ears.  She knows better.  She knows that the Catholic church, with all its "rules," is wrong, and she is right.

My readers who are not Catholic may not understand what a shockingly irreverent and strictly forbidden thing it is for a non-Catholic to receive the body and blood of Jesus.  Reception of the Eucharist is called "communion."   Receiving the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ and his church.  Even Catholics who are not in a "state of grace" are not allowed to receive the Eucharist because they are not in communion.  Grave sins must be repented, confessed and forgiven.  For instance, in the case of Catholics who are living together, unmarried, they are never allowed to receive the Eucharist while living in that condition.  Many saints have commented that receiving Jesus unworthily can make a person very ill and cause untold damage to their soul.

Even Ramakrishna, the "avatar" that Vedantists follow, who said that all faiths lead to God, told his followers to "dive deep" into one faith alone.


"To get the real gem, you must dive deep"
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa


Western devotees are particularly prone to scatter our allegiances over many faith traditions in a cafeteria fashion.  This is the way that we can avoid those pesky sacrificial aspects that are key to most religious traditions.  We can take all the stuff that tastes good to us, bypass the cashier at the end of the line, and skip out when it's time to do the dishes.  Because of our American democratic tradition, we also think that every rule and precept is up for discussion and should be voted upon.  We value our opinions much higher than the saints and sages who have come before us.  Some of us value it more than the words of Jesus.  Humility is not our strong suit.

When I finally found Catholicism, I read hundreds of books of the saints.  I realized that my value system was already in line with Catholic Truth and that, whenever I had a problem with Hindu philosophy, it was at those points where its teachings disagreed with Catholic theology.  Still, I struggled with my faith for a few years, tempted to return to the familiar contemplative orientation of the Vedanta Society and its habits, drawn to a type of monastic life and contemplative atmosphere that is not easily accessed in the Catholic Church, at least on the parish level.  On the other hand, I am too old, too decrepit and too divorced to be accepted into any religious order.  If I could, I would be one of the pink sisters.




Catholic parishes are often noisy and boisterous places.  Many of the churches don't have much reverential atmosphere.  The music stinks in many of them here in New Mexico, sounding like a combination of Broadway show tunes and Mexican mariachi music.  The Eastern Catholic churches, however, such as the Byzantine Catholic Church, represent the earlier Christian traditions which, because they ARE Eastern, I suppose, are familiar to me. The gorgeous liturgy is sung a capella by the entire congregation, without the aid of any musical instruments.  It sounds divine.  When I can, I will return to Our Lady of Perpetual Help here in Albuquerque.  Somehow, I will manage to sit through the service, despite my pain.




I don't need to go to the Hindus to find a FORM of Catholicism that resonates with me.  There really is something for everyone in this vast religion that accommodates under its generous umbrella a multitude of different rites and orientations.  What is crucial, however, is the theology, and it is our theology that is damaged when we mix it up with other religions or think that we can be the arbiters of the faith.

All of this came to me as I sat praying in front of my home altar this morning, the smoke of frankincense and myrrh rising in front of my San Damiano cross and my icon of the Holy Trinity.  I sat silently, wrapped in the orange chaddar (East Indian Shawl) that reminds me of my commitment to leading a contemplative life for God alone, a commitment that I maintain as a Catholic, rather than a Hindu, contemplative.  I have realized that, although I have no visible support or recognition for my solitary monastic vocation, I have the rock of faith on which to lean.  Because I have surrendered myself to the will of God and the direction of His Holy Church, I have nothing to worry about and very few decisions to make.  The blueprint, our theology, is my guide.

God bless you all.

Silver Rose Parnell