Monday, May 30, 2016


Long white lace chapel veil for sale on Etsy

Several weeks ago, I was sitting in church, my hands folded in my lap, my head bowed, in deep prayer after receiving the body and blood of Christ when some woman broke from the communion line, came over to me and grasping my hands, said, "your hair is SO beautiful!" I was astonished and appalled.

I hasten to add that I had done NOTHING to feature my hair. In fact, it was a mess. I hadn't even brushed it before leaving the house, as I was late getting ready for my ride. I had just put a few home-made scrunchies in it at varying spots down the length of it to keep it in line. It is a combination of gray and my natural reddish auburn color, and is on the frizzy side, so it isn't something I wear like a trophy.

To cover or not to cover?

Over the last couple of years, I had been considering the issue of veiling in church. Women originally veiled for another purpose, but having my hair become a distraction to someone else's devotions as well as my own was yet another reason to give serious consideration to the practice.

Of course, my physical condition has deteriorated to such an extent that I am currently unable to sit through mass, but I am praying for healing and I am also losing weight in the desperate hope that it will have some effect, even though I know that my joints are now "bone on bone" and my spine is becoming fused in the lower back. Hope springs eternal, especially when one is Christian and we have a long tradition of miraculous healings, going back to Christ Himself. I may or may not be able to return to regular mass attendance, so I have to get this issue of veiling settled in my mind for when and if I do return.

I know, of course, that women are no longer required to veil in church, but many Americans fail to recognize that the requirement having been dropped does not signify that it has no value. It just means that there is no longer an official proscription against women going bare headed into the church and one will not be PUNISHED in any fashion. One is no longer penalized for failing to veil in church, but it does not mean it should not be done.

Long white mantilla style veil

In all of the churches I have visited since I became Catholic about 9 years ago, I rarely see more than 2 or 3 women who are veiled. Many times, no one is veiled. I find no fault with that. It is just an observation about the current habit. Occasionally, I have remembered to bring a scarf or crocheted lace shawl with me to wear at church, and I noticed several women eyeing me as if I had broken some feminist code or something. Some women have told me that wearing a veil is a cooperation with the patriarchy that suppressed women for thousands of years.

1 Corinthians seems to be a problem for some women. They do not like the idea that the man is the head of the family

I was struck today by a response from a Muslim woman, ironically, with regard to the wearing of the Hijab, the large scarf that covers the hair and necks of Muslim women.

Malaysian woman wearing an hijab

Hanna Yusuf makes the point that the wearing of the head scarf is a way to opt out of the sexist culture that views all women as sex objects to be used in everything from selling cars to actually selling themselves. By dressing modestly and "covering up," a woman may reclaim her body. Obviously, she is not talking about those instances where a woman is forced, sometimes with violence, to wear obscuring clothing. She mentions that in her video. She makes her own case much better than I can, so, if you are interested, please see her video HERE.

When I was in the Hindu convent, several of us "younger ones" regularly wore simple handkerchiefs that were folded into triangles that were then tied at the nape of the neck, especially when doing dirty jobs, when the weather was breezy, or just for the heck of it. The tendency toward modesty is natural among those attracted to monasticism, in most instances. Then, there are the artists, and you never know what kind of getup they will adopt. Guilty, here, with my occasional outbreaks of pink. I still wear one of those headscarves on many occasions, especially as fall approaches.  These days, it is usually black in color, as a friend gave me 5 for my wardrobe. She is a lay Carmelite and wears a scarf to church.

Here I am, in the Hindu convent, wearing the scarf I mentioned.

In researching this article and studying the topic for myself, I found numerous fascinating articles and videos about veiling, both within the Catholic tradition and in others. Orthodox Jewish women, for instance, are required to cover their hair all the time unless in the presence of their husbands alone. Some Jewish ladies wear wigs, but a growing number of them are adopting an arrangement of a collection of scarves wrapped ingeniously around the hair that has been bound up in a scrunchy. Pretty elastic bands and sparkly brooches are sometimes added for extra flair.

This is an example of the Orthodox Jewish
"Tichel" I described, above.

While it is assumed that covering one's hair is simply a matter of some perceived modesty, in the Catholic tradition, it pertains rather more to the mass and to the Eucharist and probably has little or nothing to do with considerations of modesty or demure appearance. It is, in fact, a declaration of woman's essential holiness and special relationship with the Lord.

Everything considered holy in the Catholic mass is veiled or covered in some way. Woman is holy because she has an extremely intimate relationship with the Lord in which she helps bring God's beloved children into the world. For 9 months, a woman's body sustains two souls. Like the chalice that holds the precious blood in the mass, woman is the carrier of God's precious ones, just as Mother Mary carried Jesus within her womb.

Remember that the "holy of holies"  that was the inner sanctum of the Temple of Jerusalem in which the Ark of the Covenant was kept was separated from the rest of the temple by a veil, so the veil has great significance in the context of the mass, and it is deep and layered in meaning.

Rather than symbolizing the inferiority of women, the veil announces a woman's authority and close relationship with the Lord. It recognizes the essential holiness of the state of womanhood, in general. It is her crown and her privilege to wear.

One shouldn't extrapolate this meaning from the universal to the particular and think that if one is not of childbearing age or is infertile that the honor is not for them. No matter the condition of fecundity of the particular woman, this honor is proper to all womankind, as it is her sex that is elevated by its nature in the Lord's scheme of creation. A woman's receptive nature lends itself easily to an intimate relationship with the Lord, of a different type than that which a man may experience. It isn't just a woman's body that is honored, but the necessary emotional openness to the Lord 's love with which her sex is endowed which is a part of the great mystery of her vocation.

Ages ago, when a woman would enter a convent, it was often referred to as "taking the veil," and all nuns did wear veils, not like today, when you can hardly tell the difference between a nun and a random person walking down the street.

If a particular woman does not want the honor that the veil endows, the Catholic Church will not force it on them, but why renounce it over some false feminist doctrine that seeks to strip man and woman of their essential differences? I am not saying that this is the reason why every woman who has given up the veil has done so; I am speaking in general terms pertaining to the age in which we live and the concepts that currently inform it.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
Copyright (c) 2015


Part of my living room shrine

I have written blogs for the last 4 or 5 years now, but have decided to retire the majority of my posts. It was never my idea to put myself "out there" in that way, but after several strong encouragements by a former friend, I began to write. She had anticipated this as a means of gaining some support for my solitary monastic life, since I have no community, but this did not happen. Not only did I receive almost nothing for my efforts, but the cost of internet and the upkeep of a computer proved to be extra expenses for which I do not possess the resources.

In addition, the time taken to research my posts distracted from my primary contemplative mission of prayer. I enjoyed the writing, especially my forays into educational topics, but the world can easily live without my musings on information that is available elsewhere.

For myself, I prefer reading the original saints and doctors of the church, as well as the Bible (of course!) and almost never read blogs. In that vein, I encourage the same for everyone. Blogs are a waste of our time, for the most part. Now that I have realized this, I am chastened by disappointment that I did come to this fact sooner!

There are many elderly, disabled ladies like myself who have dedicated the remainder of their lives to the Lord, however, and I wouldn't like to lose track of my fellow hermitesses, anchorites and other holy people, so I leave this page, by way of a method of contacting me, should they wish it.

If you leave a message on this blog, it will find its way to me. Forward your email address, and I will contact you.

In the meantime, may the Lord's blessings be upon you daily, and may our Blessed Mother lead you by the hand to Jesus.

In Jesus' precious name, I remain your friend,

Silver Rose Parnell

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Statue of Our Blessed Mother
In the Courtyard of the Church
in Old Town, Albuquerque
New Mexico
Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) Copyright 2016
All rights reserved

I forgot to mention a few things in my farewell post that pertain to changes in my monastic routine, for the benefit of colleagues who are likewise inclined, but first, I have to express how much I will miss the support and companionship of my fellow travelers on the sometimes lonely road of the modern hermit. Whether by accident or design, it is a blessed vocation, a great gift from God, and I have enjoyed joining with you in the virtual community of like-minded souls around the world. I keep you in my heart and will continue to pray for you.

I am no longer able to afford internet, nor do I think that the amount of time one has to spend on it to get anything done is really worth the effort. An internet "hotspot" and a small amount of data has been donated to me, and I will appear online occasionally, as my prayer schedule permits.

I am attempting to resurrect my monastic schedule that had gone by the wayside, and I know that many of you also struggle with maintaining a monastic schedule while living in the world, albeit in a marginal sense.

With regard to my disabled and/or retired readers who are wrestling with the organization of their own prayer life, I know that many of you have expressed a wistful regret at being unable to become part of a real monastic community, rather than the virtual one that we have. My version of a monastic schedule may help you.  

Before making changes to your spiritual exercises, you may want to check with your spiritual director first, to avoid overtaxing yourself in the beginning, especially if you do not have previous experience. 

It is important to keep in mind that, for those of you managing multiple disabilities or advanced age, it is nearly impossible to maintain a strict schedule. I do whatever I have to do to handle whatever crisis appears, and then I return to whatever is on the schedule for that particular time. There are days that are so full of logistics that I can do little more than make a short mental prayer at the appropriate hours.

I don’t try to “make up” the prayers I have missed because it is just too stressful. In my mind, we cannot be perfect, so we must humbly offer our imperfections as a suffering to be used in saving souls.

Lacking the assistance of the movement of community around you, it will be necessary for you to find some way to keep yourself on some sort of loose schedule or it will slide into a ditch. The method I have chosen is to program the crucial hours into my telephone. I have picked the most melodic and least disturbing ring tone for the daily reminders, but it still is a bit jarring, so I may try to see if I can program something more appropriate…like Gregorian chant! In the meantime, it’s piano music.

The common prayer of the Catholic monasteries and convents is customarily the Liturgy of the Hours, but these are QUITE extensive and way beyond my capacity. All the flipping of pages back and forth is beyond me!  Some of the more active orders employ the much smaller “Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary” which is far easier to follow and is composed largely of some very lovely Psalms. Even so, I am not yet able to chant all of the hours, so I have decided to concentrate on those I consider most important: Matins (morning 6:30 a.m.), Sext (noon), None (3:00 p.m.) and Vespers (6:00 p.m.)

I also say something at bed time (compline and a rosary), but I tend to be so exhausted by that hour and in so much pain that I cannot get fancy with it.  Something short and sweet is the ticket. There is a wonderful little prayer in the PIETA PRAYER BOOK that a dear friend gave me, and I think it is just the perfect little thing to say at night. I will share it with you here:


Eternal Father, I offer thee the sacred heart of Jesus, with all its love, all its sufferings, and all its merits.

FIRST:  To expiate all the sins I have committed this day and during all my life. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

SECOND:  To purify the good I have done badly this day and during all my life. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

THIRD:  To supply for the good I ought to have done, and that I have neglected this day and during all my life. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

(A Poor Clare nun, who had just died, appeared to her abbess, who was praying for her, and said to her, “I went straight to heaven, for; by means of this prayer, recited every evening, I paid my debts.”)”

The Pieta Prayer Book
Miraculous Lady of Roses LLC
PO BOX 111
Hickory Corners, MI 49060-0111

One word of caution about this little pamphlet: While it contains a wealth of very beautiful prayers, not all of them are covered by an imprimatur from The Church, so be careful when choosing prayers from its contents.  The book itself will reveal the few devotions or promises that should not be used and/or relied upon.  For instance, here is a quote from the book with regard to the promises associated with the St. Bridget Prayers:

“The 21 St. Bridget Promises, while traditionally associated with the St. Bridget Prayers, are not covered by an imprimatur. In Jan. of 1954, the Holy Office issued a warning that the supernatural origin of these promises has not been proven.”

Most of the prayers have an imprimatur, and you will recognize some of your favorites. I am extremely fond of this book and have found it very useful. I keep it at my prayer corner in the living room and reach for it often.

Frequently, I have recommended that each household should contain at least one prayer corner. I have two: one in the living room where I spend my daylight hours and one in the bedroom for early morning and evening hours. Pictures, statues and icons that have meaning for you personally should be placed there, as well as candles and incense, if you can manage it.  

Bedroom prayer corner

I prefer tea lights placed in deeper votive light holders, as a safety measure against fire. I also use resin incense of frankincense and Myrrh, which are naturally occurring tree resins. This is the sort of incense used in Eastern Rite Catholic and Orthodox churches and is melted over charcoal discs manufactured for this purpose. I find that the smoke feels healing to my asthmatic lungs, as opposed to stick incense, which usually has a wood stick at its core.

I have been getting my tea lights, charcoals discs and incense from the Amazon website, believe it or not. I buy in large quantities and thereby save a little money. Being disabled, I require that most home goods are delivered, so I was thrilled to see that Amazon had these specialty items.

Most of us will need a comfortable chair in which to sit for prayer and meditation. Those who are more fit may want to sit on the floor or on their knees. If you are bedridden, then you may certainly recite your prayers in bed. Just make sure that you can see at least one little picture of Jesus and Mary, at the very least. Those who are quite ill may want to dispense with the candles and incense, preferring instead to use a small decorative electric lamp of some sort. [I found one of a praying angel, which I have faced toward my icon of our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.]

If you have the luxury of an extra room that can be converted into a prayer room exclusively for that purpose, I highly recommend it, but most single persons do not have the ability to do this. If you are a married person or there are other people in your household for some reason, for instance if you are caring for an elderly relative, a separate prayer room may be crucial to your practice!

I have retained a habit I learned in the Hindu convent which is to cover my head with a large shawl during prayers. It helps to block distractions and to provide a private little space for oneself. Long-time Catholics will recognize in this practice a hint of the veil that most women have given up wearing in our parishes. Notice that everything holy in the mass is veiled, therefore the veiling of women doesn’t demean them, but rather recognizes woman’s unique role in their intimate participation in creation. In my mind, it is an echo of our Blessed Mother Mary’s fiat, when she agreed to become the God Bearer ("Theotokos") out of humility and obedience to God. In saying “yes” to our Heavenly Father, she surrendered to His reign over her. He covers her completely in her humble acceptance of His will, just as the veil covers her in imitation of it. That which is humble therefore becomes exalted, just as Jesus came to earth in humble circumstances but was exalted in his resurrection. In my opinion, the veil is the mark of the dignity of woman and not a symbol of patriarchal oppression, as is asserted by some feminists.

On the other hand, I am not suggesting that you wear some sort of habit and veil, but if you wish to wear a hermit’s hooded robe while in the privacy of one’s own domestic church, I do not believe there is any prescription against it, only that none of us may present ourselves as anything other than lay persons, even though we follow a hermit or anchoritic path. The exception will be those rare individuals who are diocesan hermits.

I have tried to investigate the path of becoming a diocesan hermit, but the nun who is in charge of vocations in my diocese will not return my telephone calls, nor the emails of others who have contacted her on my behalf. I spoke to her in October of 2015, at which time she promised to speak to the Bishop and ask if he would entertain the idea of accepting a diocesan hermit. She made other promises, and nothing has come of it. I do not assume to know the motives of any person, so I will not guess what is her reason for failing to follow through with her promises and refusing to return my telephone calls or the emails of supportive Catholics, but I have heard from other Catholics around the United States that getting a bishop to return one's telephone calls is well nigh impossible, and I suspect that everyone has far too much work to do than to bother with the spiritual needs of one inconsequential person.

I don’t wear any special clothing outside of the hermitage. I purchase all my clothes from the clearance department, which means they are those things that other people avoid, the result of which you can imagine, especially since I must always wear a hat, due to failing vision. Whatever you wear, just make sure it is MODEST. I wear maxi skirts and dresses and am almost never seen in pants. You might as well be naked when you wear pants because, although everything is covered, everything is seen.

Obviously, I am addressing most of my comments to my fellow hermits who live alone. There IS a woman who calls herself "The Anchoress" and writes a very nice blog by that name, but she is a married woman with husband, children and house and does not meet even the basic requirements of an anchoress, which is extremely confusing to the neophyte. She is playing fast and loose with the meaning of the word and especially with the tradition, and I caution anyone who carelessly follows her lead and pretends to a state in life to which they are not equipped. This sort of pretense is a living lie, and we all know who is the father of all lies! 

Don’t get creative with the meanings of certain titles, such as “nun” or “monk” or “anchorite” – especially if your life circumstances are simply those of a lay person. There is absolutely nothing wrong or “less” in being a lay person, rather than a monastic, a hermit, a consecrated virgin, or an anchoress. We all have our role to fulfill in an authentic manner. Our focus is to be on the Lord, as it says in the first commandment. Love the Lord first, before all things. Anyone can love God, no matter what your state of life. Keep your eye on the prize at all times. Do everything that increases your love for God and don't worry about status or titles. You don't need them.

I write this post mostly to my dear friends and colleagues who follow a similar path to mine. There are many elderly and/or disabled persons who live alone and are very devout. They are hermits of a sort. If attached to a parish, they may even be somewhat like anchorites. Many would likely be in convents or monasteries, if their personal circumstances were different.

These days, Westerners tend to live a very long time, even after the appearance of chronic illnesses and disabilities that sideline us from active life. Many of us struggle alone with these chronic and painful conditions for 2o years or more. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity to consecrate our suffering for the remission of our sins and the sins of the whole world. Redemptive suffering is a shining gift to the church and to mankind in general. God brings all things to the good for those who believe.

Throughout the day, no matter what sort of prayer schedule one maintains, If you are suffering, it is important to say, “I offer this pain and suffering for the reparation of my sins and the sins of the whole world.” You will save souls by doing this, as well as saving your own!

The schedule that I outlined above is the bare structure into which I insert the various devotions that suit me. If nothing else, I suggest you pray at least ONE rosary every day. My intention is to pray three rosaries, as, follows:

(1)            For our Holy Catholic Church:  I dedicate one rosary for the purification of our Holy Catholic Church, that those religious within it, who lobby for changes to the unchangeable, be converted, repent, and publicly renounce their heretical positions. If they will not repent, then I pray that the evil be cast out from our Holy Catholic Church. I pray that the body of Christ be healed in all ways, including the reunion of it with the Orthodox Churches, so that the body of Christ may breathe with two lungs, East and West, once more. I further pray that the laity be properly instructed in the Truth of the faith and not the heretical opinions of those who oppose Her eternal teachings or those whose understanding is malformed. I call out to all the angels, especially Archangel Michael, to protect our Holy Catholic Church and all those who are faithful to it.

(2)         FOR ALL SOULS:  I dedicate one rosary to the suffering souls on earth and in purgatory, so that they may be refreshed and encouraged on the path to righteousness. I ask for the intercession of Mary and all the saints in imploring our Sweet Jesus to shine his love into the stony hearts of the recalcitrant, the atheist, the agnostic, the non-believers, and all those hurt in any way by members of the Holy Catholic Church. May that light be so bright as to draw all souls to Him so that they may join us as part of the mystical body of Christ.

(3)         FOR MYSELF AND ALL OTHER DISABLED, ELDERLY, SICK, AND/OR FRAIL PERSONS WHO WISH TO CONSECRATE THEMSELVES TO THE SERVICE OF THE LORD: I dedicate one rosary for the healing and strengthening of those persons who suffer mental, spiritual, emotional and/or physical illnesses but who nonetheless desire nothing more than to love and serve God, offering up their every suffering in reparation for their sins and the sins of the whole world. I ask our Blessed Mother Mary, ever virgin, to take each of us by the hand and lead us to Jesus, never letting loose of us so that we are protected from the wiles of Satan who loves nothing more than to depress and discourage the victim souls who give their pain so that others may be saved.

In addition to the rosary, I will pray two chaplets:

(1)            The Divine Mercy Chaplet after the Little Office at 3:00 p.m.
(2)            The chaplet of Saint Michael, when I can fit it in…probably in the morning.

Other devotions and activities that I have to squeeze into my schedule, as illness permits, include:

(a)          Latin lessons
(b)         Bible Study course
(c)          Lectio divina
(d)         Holy reading on the saints
(e)          Padre Pio prayers
(f)            Prayers to my sainted ancestors and patrons
(g)          Piano lessons for Gregorian Chant, hymns, and the Byzantine Divine Office
(h)    The Jesus Prayer

This is a rather ambitious schedule for a disabled person, but it can be done, if life is simplified somewhat. It really depends on how many people depend upon you! In my case, I have been celibate for about 20 years, I have very few friends or family members who contact me regularly, I do not attend parties or social functions and I do not travel.

If you have a lot of friends or relatives who call you, or a few people that call you incessantly, it might work to corral them into specific time blocks. I TRY to make phone calls at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Those are the two “tea times” I’ve worked into the schedule. I don’t know about all of you, but I loathe long conversations on the telephone. Sometimes that is the only way to communicate with some people, however. I prefer a person-to-person chat.

The one thing which I will have to figure out how to do is get my house clean, since there are many functions of house cleaning that are extremely difficult for me to do, given my disabilities. Others in my position have echoed that concern. It has become obvious that I need to hire someone to do it, but I can’t really afford it at the moment. I need to work on that because it takes me so long to maintain the house that it interferes with my prayer life. I can be like Brother Lawrence and pray amid the pots and pans, but I find it difficult to concentrate, especially when working through pain.

There is a chance I may be accepted into a special program for persons such as myself. They will come and clean my house, do my shopping and cooking, and transport me to doctor appointments. I must apply and then wait.  In any case, I will be better equipped to maintain a prayer schedule, I HOPE.

I do not have  reliable internet at home, but I will check it when I get the opportunity, so you CAN leave me messages on this blog, and I will eventually respond. If you can send me your snail mail address, I may write you.

By the way, the “DONATION” button still works on my blog, for future reference. It is pretty dusty, so, if history repeats itself, I’m not expecting much.

Please don’t forget to pray for me, as I pray for you, and may God bless us all!

Silver “Rose” Parnell
© Copyright 2016

All rights reserved.

Friday, March 25, 2016


In the beginning of my conversion process, when Christianity, in general, was almost completely unknown territory, I used to dislike the Catholic crucifix, with its bloody corpus hanging there, evoking gut level reactions to the extreme pain and brutality of the image. I used to say that I was "really into the risen Christ," and things of that nature.

Gradually, over time, I have learned that the cross without Christ is an image robbed of a good deal of its hope. Horrible sinners must pay a horrible price for their sins. Most of us have been or are horrible sinners, depending on how you look at it, and only the horrible suffering of Christ on the cross could have redeemed our horrible sins that have offended our good God. The cross without Christ, for me, is somewhat bland. Don't get me wrong. I have a few little crosses on the necklaces I wear that bear the many medals I have collected, and I am about to put a decorative cross in my spring garden.

The plain cross is not a bad thing. It is an incomplete thing that does not reveal the fullness of Truth, somewhat like Protestant religions that employ the plain cross rather than the crucifix. Many of these religions have much good in them, but their faith is missing a crucial connection with Christ. Our Lord Jesus established one church, then, 1,500 years later, some people broke away from it and started their own religions, based upon their own ideas, and even threw out entire books of the Bible that didn't agree with their heretical religious ideas. Most Protestants I have met are unaware of the history of The Church and have no idea of the price they may pay for rejecting The Church that Christ established.

Now that I am growing old, I am disabled with many illnesses and live with much pain. As these conditions worsen, I begin to feel a little bit more understanding of a portion of what Christ endured to save us from utter damnation.  A special prayer that I often repeat throughout the day, is this:

Lord, I offer thee all my suffering and pain in
reparation for my sins and the sins of the whole
world. Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with the
opportunity to participate in the redemptive
suffering of Christ. Amen

Christ doesn't need my suffering to complete his salvation of the world, but He allows me to participate in it, elevating my suffering from an uncomfortable and sad reality of life, to an heroic mission to save souls!

I used to yearn to do something really BIG for God. I wanted to dedicate myself to an intense life of contemplative prayer as a nun.  I wanted to start my own religious order, but here I sit in my little apartment, unable to do much for myself, much less anyone else.  Yet Christ has gifted me with a divine calling that saves souls. Without the suffering of Christ, without the corpus on the cross, my suffering would have no value and no meaning.

Today, as I write this, it is Good Friday, the day we commemorate Christ's sacrifice for us, when he endured torture and a horrible death for our sake. I wanted to do a lot of spiritual practices, but today I am particularly unwell, and all I could manage so far has been to say a few prayers and to start my Divine Mercy novena, which culminates on Divine Mercy Sunday, the week after Easter. I just said a few prayers. The rest of the day, I was saving souls.

God bless us all!

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) Copyright 2016
All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


(958 - 1015)
My 31st Great Grandfather

I discovered this week that, among the most interesting of my ancestors is my 31st Great Grandfather, Saint Vladimir I Sviatoslavich, mostly known as "Vladimir the Great" or "Saint Vladimir, the baptizer of Russia."  He was the Prince of Novgorod, Grand Prince of Kiev, and the ruler of an area once called Kievan Rus', precursor to Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia, which was occupied by both Slavic people and Vikings, who were actually invited in to help unite the warring Slavic chieftans, restore some order and also to rule them. There is controversy about some of it, and the story of this land is long and extremely interesting. Quite a lot of information exists on the internet, if you become curious about it.

At one point in history, this land was called "Ruthenia." Learning that factoid was an "aha" moment for me, since my heart belongs to the Byzantine Catholic Church, to which I was first introduced here in Albuquerque, which is an Eastern Catholic rite that is rooted in the Ruthenian people. Perhaps my genes remembered!

In the year 988, or thereabouts, grandpa became converted from Slavic Paganism to the Christian faith and was baptized. It was a big deal when the ruler of a country became Christian, and I have found several icons and paintings that celebrate that day. He chose to convert based upon research of the religions of the day, sending envoys out to gather firsthand information about Islam, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Byzantine Orthodoxy. Their observations in Constantinople convinced the Grand Prince. I LOVE this aspect of the story, since it hints that Saint Vladimir, in some regards, was a truth seeker and not primarily politically motivated in his decision to convert. There were political gains to be had with a Byzantine alliance, but this just a bonus, according to some biographers.

There is a conflicting story, however, that tells of political intrigue with the Emperor Basil II, and Vladimir DID end up divorcing all his pagan wives and marrying Basil's sister, Anna, who was not in favor of the match and is said to have expressed great distress on the way to the wedding. Some people say that grandpa only agreed to become Christian, since this was a condition of obtaining the hand of the much sought-after and highly prized Anna. Motives of the living are mostly inscrutable, what to speak about speculations about motives for the long dead! Such were the customs of that day that women, especially high born women who were valued as pawns in political alliances, were not free to choose their own husbands.

It is not known if they had any children together. My line descends from one of his pagan alliances prior to his marriage to Anna.

The customs of the era of the middle ages overlay other considerations and, as with all human beings, Vladimir had his good and his bad attributes. Ultimately, however, it was all brought to the good as a huge swath of territory was Christianized in this process.


Saint Vladimir baptized his family and the residents of Kiev, converting the country's official religion to what we now call Orthodox Christianity.

Klavdy Vasiliyevich Lebedev

The thing about saints that most Protestants do not understand is that we do not PRAY to them. First of all, a Saint is not dead in the sense that, although he or she has left the body behind, they are alive in heaven. You can talk to them just like you can talk to your neighbor over the fence that separates your yards. You live in different worlds, but can still interact.

The saints, being holy people and close to God, are very good friends to have. Even better, in my mind, is a saint who is also an ancestor. I have this idea that the saints MUST be praying for the welfare of their descendants, and I hope that this is true.

In any case, anyone can call on the saints and ask them to pray for you, just as you might that friend of neighbor whose body is still walking around on this earth!

All Christians must remember that Jesus promised us everlasting life, if we follow his commandments. Dismissing that timeless reality by turning up one's nose at the idea of talking to the saints reveals a weak, if not entirely absent faith in the promises of Christ. The promises of the Lord are true and thus, we are never alone with our sorrows and our joys. The angels and saints are present to us and available to us in a way they could not be if constrained by the physical body and the straightjacket of this time-bound world.

I highly recommend developing relationships with the saints. They are very good friends to have!

God bless us all.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) Copyright 2016
All rights reserved


Monday, March 7, 2016


Antique Crystal Ball

In the 1800s, America saw an influx of a huge number of people from foreign countries, for various reasons. From the coffin ships of Ireland in which poor Irish were crammed like sardines below decks, desperately seeking to escape the potato famine, to the Chinese imported to build the railroads, and the overseas speculators and miners who flocked to the gold fields from the 1850's onward, Americans became exposed to different cultures and, to a certain extent, different religions and unique religious expressions.

Spiritualism, an occult practice that posits that spirits are somehow wiser than those living on earth, and that they could and should be contacted for information about loved ones here and in the beyond, as well as advice for the living, was rampant throughout the states, mostly among the bored and jaded upper classes who could afford the exotic trappings, but also accessible to the ordinary citizen.

In the mid 1860's, palm readers were a common sight, and otherwise respectable Americans frequented these soothsayers for a hint into their future.

Starting in about the late 1800s, Crystal balls were all the rage and the most exclusive stores in New York would sell exceptional specimens for thousands of dollars, which only millionaires could afford. Smaller versions, graded by clarity and number of occlusions, were sold accordingly. The large crystal ball (above), is set on an elaborate silver stand that appears to be from about 1910, the height of the crystal ball craze.  Likewise, the smaller crystal ball "game" in the decorated box (below), is of the same approximate time frame and was marketed to the more modest consumer.

The wealthy classes toward the turn of the century traveled extensively and returned with unique specimens of occult ephemera, little realizing that they were opening the doors to malevolent spirits. They were opening the doors to Satan.

When I was researching the genealogy of some of the prominent families that contributed to the eroding of Christian values and faith with their dabbling in exotic religions, I was surprised to see multiple ads for soothsayers, fortune tellers, and mediums in the classified sections of the New York and Chicago newspapers in particular.

The Catholic Church does not find it amusing and strongly forbids the dabbling in all occult practices.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, in part:

"All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or
demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed
to "unveil" the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm
reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of
clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for
power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human
beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.  They
contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to
God alone."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2116

In our modern era, many people think of the spiritualism of the 19th century as an amusing comment on the naiveté of the people of that time. They imagine fakirs and madams in gypsy style costumes, with canny tricks who would convince the gullible with knockings, rappings and special effects so that they could divest the suckers of all their money. Certainly, this was true. Aunt Gertrude was not speaking to the clientele from the grave, and whatever advice "she" was giving to the them was calculated to encourage the customer to put more cash into the pockets of the actors and actresses who perpetuated these hoaxes.

What NO ONE realized, no doubt, is that, when the charlatans invited spirits into the house in jest, their clients were believers and they, themselves, were willing the entrance of the spirits in reality and, once invited in, demons do not go meekly home like Aunt Gertrude's ghost.  They stick around to work their evil, on the individuals, on the families and on the culture at large, oftentimes infecting families for generations.

For spiritualists for whom this practice of contacting spirits was serious business, they deluded themselves into thinking that all spirits would naturally want to help the living, that whoever they were conjuring was the person who appeared, never imagining that when they opened the spirit door it was pretty much like an open door in one's home. Whoever wants to come in may do so.

Any reliable Catholic exorcist will tell you that to invite spirits into one's home with the mistaken notion that they are benign spirits who only want to help you or who, themselves, need help, is a very dangerous thing to do and that it can, and probably will, attach demons to you for the rest of your life and your family's lives, unless actions are taken to rid one of the infestation.

This rash of spiritualism in the 19th and early 20th centuries made ripe the field for the sowing of religious ideas that were the antithesis of Christian belief.  When these people invited the spirits into their homes, our entire culture began to disintegrate.

World Parliament of Religions, 1893
with representatives of different religions on the stage

In 1893, there was an enormous Exhibition on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was called the World's Columbian Exposition and was meant to mark the quadricentennial of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.  Essentially a huge trade fair, there were also multiple "Parliaments" treating of different topics, one of which was the Paliament of religions to which were invited members of the major religious traditions in the world. Of the 16 representatives, most were from Christian denominations, including Catholic bishop P.A. Feehan from Chicago, despite the European Roman Catholic hierarchy's expression of disapproval of the event.  Oddly enough, the Native Americans were not included.

A Swenborgian layman, Charles Carroll Bonney was the President of the Worlds Congress Auxiliary, and it was his duty to appoint and supervise the administrator of the General Committee of the Congress of Religion.  The Parliament of Religions was to operate in concert with these stated aims:

1.To bring together in conference, for the first time in history, the leading representatives of the great historic religions of the world.
2. To show to men, in the must impressive way, what and how many important truths the various religions hold and teach in common.
3. To promote and deepen the spirit of human brotherhood among religious men of diverse faiths, through friendly conference and mutual good understanding, while not seeking to foster the temper of indifferentism, and not striving to achieve any formal and outward unity.
4. To set forth, by those most competent to speak, what are deemed the important distinctive truths held and taught by each Religion, and by the various chief branches of Christendom.
5. To indicate the impregnable foundations of Theism, and the reasons for man's faith in Immortality, and thus to unite and strengthen the forces which are adverse to a materialistic philosophy of the universe.
6. To secure from leading scholars, representing the Brahman, Buddhist, Confucian, Parsee, Mohammedan, Jewish and other Faiths, and from representatives of the various Churches of Christendom, full and accurate statements of the spiritual and other effects of the Religions which they hold upon the Literature, Art, Commerce, Government, Domestic and Social life of the peoples among whom these Faiths have prevailed.
7. To inquire what light each Religion has afforded, or may afford, to the other religions of the world.
8. To set forth, for permanent record to be published to the world, an accurate and authoritative account of the present condition and outlook of Religion among the leading nations of the earth.
9. To discover, from competent men, what light Religion has to throw on the great problems of the present age, especially the important questions connected with Temperance, Labor, Education, Wealth and Poverty.
10. To bring the nations of the earth into a more friendly fellowship, in the hope of securing permanent international peace.
It would be good to step back for a moment and examine the worldview from which Charles Bonney managed the overall aims, and what unstated, assumed aims he may have had with regard to the Parliament of Religions.

Bonney was a lawyer, judge, teacher, author and orator at various times in his life.  He was a member of a somewhat offbeat church, the New Jerusalem Church, one of the loosely affiliated churches established on the principles laid down by Emmanuel Swedenborg.

Emmanuel Swedenborg
29 Jan 1688 - 29 March 1772

Swedenborg was a mining engineer for most of his life until about age 53 when he began to have dreams and visions that supposedly began the Easter weekend of April 6, 1744.  Sometime after this point, he claims to have received a spiritual awakening and the revelation that it was his job to reform Christianity by writing "The Heavenly Doctrine." In later years, he claimed that the final judgment had already happened in the year 1757.  He said that he could freely visit both heaven and hell and that he spoke with angels and demons alike.

To my mind, it seems rather obvious that he had some sort of mental breakdown or early onset dementia, and it always amazes me that people will actually follow these claimants of special powers and divine deputizations, but of course, this is the nature of the flow of Protestantism. Once they broke away from the faith that Jesus instituted, they started spinning out of control and now there are thousands upon thousands of protestant denominations, some of which have gone so far afield that they cannot be rightly labeled Christian whatsoever, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons.

A few loosely connected churches sprang up in response to Swedenborg's claims and even exist to this day. The tenets of the Swedenborgian Church of North American may be found at this LINK, for those who may have interest. You will note the spiritualism inherent in their approach to religion, which I think is extremely important.

Already we can see that the Parliament of Religions is, at the outset, organized by persons well outside the mainstream religious traditions. Even so, there is some allusion in the records I've examined that lead to the conclusion that, although the organizers were promoting ecumenism, they were apparently operating under the assumption that Christianity, in general, was the superior religion that, in its magnanimity, would recognize and get along with people of other faiths, but would always be superior. To me, it smacks of religious tourism and is particularly funny, given the fact that the "Christianity" of the organizers is a somewhat wacky version.

So, at this point, we have a field that is well fertilized with satanic influences from the spiritualist movement, and tended by spiritualist-leaning Protestants devoid of the sacraments, cut off from the Apostolic succession, and somewhat on the fringes of the fringe. Onto this field walked Swami Vivekananda, a high class Brahmin from India on a mission for his master, Ramakrishna, a late 19th century Hindu holy man who claimed to be the incarnation of both Rama and Krishna (two Hindu deities).

Swami Vivekananda
On the Parliament of Religions stage
with other Indian delegates
1893, Chicago

When Swami Vivekananda began his speech with, "Sisters and brothers of America," he was met, by all accounts,  with a standing ovation lasting up to two minutes.

Whatever the aims of the Parliament organizers, Swami Vivekananda had his own agenda in mind, which was to spread the religion of his master throughout the world. He was a dynamic speaker and his words were thrilling to the ears of the people keen for something exotic, new and flexible enough for almost anyone's peculiar temperament. His stated aim was to obtain help for the impoverished people of his country, but after reading his complete works, which runs into the thousands of pages, I find no evidence to support that claim.

Swami Vivkekananda travelled all over the United States during the 1893 visit, as well as later trips. He was hosted by a network of wealthy patrons interested in his ideas, and soon The Vedanta Societies were formed to carry forth his philosophy to the American people.

Swami Vivekananda, born Narendranath Dutta
12 Jan 1863 - 4 July 1902
Disciple of Ramakrishna
Participant in 1893 World's Parliament of Religions

The key idea that is pushed by the Society can probably be said to be the phrase, "God is one, His forms are various." They believe that God has incarnated many times on earth, coming to each country in the guise that will most appeal  to the people of that land and culture, thus they incorporate within themselves all deities, including Christ, whom Ramakrishna was said to love.  In fact, Ramakrishna said he "practiced" being a Christian for some days.

Sri Ramakrishna
Neo-Hindu 19th Century Saint
Master of Swami Vivekananda

There is a definite streak of individualism inherent in the religion of Vedanta, though one is expected to lose that in order to achieve enlightenment. One achieves "realization" or "union" with God through one's own efforts. The Vedantists, although they emphasize sexual continence much more stringently than the Catholics, share the same fate as that of Catholics in getting their American membership to behave accordingly. While Catholics respect life, Vedantists teach that this world is nothing but the wheel of sorrow and it is not until we purify ourselves that we can get of it and merge into God.  In other words, life sucks.

Ramakrishna said many times that a man and wife should have one or two children and then live like brother and sister. The sexual restraint of the Vedantist is the restraint of a religion that hates the body, while Catholics love the life with which we have been gifted and we like big families. Sex, though it is supposed to be restrained to within the marriage bed, is glorified for us, while for Ramakrishna, it was disgusting.

The ideas that HAVE percolated into our culture from the Hindus include the idea that it is not necessary to be faithful to any one religion because "all religions lead to God." Some people, in the mistaken notion that this means one can cherry pick different aspects from multiple religious traditions and be a successful aspirant, have become the cafeteria Catholics of our culture. I suspect that the entrance of this idea into our culture is responsible for the lukewarm evangelizing of our people.  After all, if all religions lead to God, who are we to try to get someone to change theirs?

The idea of KARMA, which means nothing without the philosophical underpinnings and a belief in multiple lives, has thoroughly adulterated our religious orientations. Every time someone uses that word, I just cringe. Even the American Vedantists don't understand it. I had a long-time Vedantist tell me recently that all it means is that, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. No. That's physics. Karma is not physics.

“One should not think, ‘My religion alone is the right
path and other religions are false." God can be realized
by means of all paths.’” - Ramakrishna

This is the dangerous thing about the ideas that have seeped into our culture from the Hindu and Buddhist religions. No one understands what they mean in the original religion, much less what it might mean in a religion to which the idea behaves as a parasite.

We have had active ecumenism in our country for more than 100 years and, instead of promoting understanding between peoples, our culture and religion have been adulterated and diluted. Our loyalty to our own religion has almost faded out and our culture is suffering from a bleak moral bankruptcy.

Even today, when we face such horrible hostilities from the Muslims, ecumenism is not the answer! Their holy book, the Kuran, tells them to conquer and subjugate Christians and Muslims. It tells them to lie if it benefits Islam.  Ecumenical "dialog" is pointless when the religion exists, in part, to destroy us and our religion! No. We must fight against it, not talk to it.

Lest I receive all manner of hate mail from Vedantists and Buddhists and whomever, I will clarify here that I do not intend to insinuate in any manner that those religions are Satanic. I do not believe they are. Both are beautiful religions in their own way and have many things to recommend them.  After all, God is everywhere and there must be some truth in a thing to a capture the imagination of the devotees.  I DO assert that these religions do not have the fullness of Truth that is the Catholic Church, which was established by God himself, therefore, they are not supernatural nor are they efficacious.

Spiritualism, on the other hand, is highly dangerous and does invite Satan and his demons into your life, and it is best to avoid anything that smacks of this sort of thing.

In summary, I assert that ecumenism has not been a healthy activity for the Catholic Church or for our Western culture. It has introduced concepts with which we are not prepared to cope and which wreak havoc with our systems of thought.

Instead of striving to understand the religions of other persons, I rather think it is far more efficacious to work on understanding our own a bit better.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) copyright 2016
All rights reserved

Reading material:

Out of Many: Religious Pluralism in America - http://publications.newberry.org/outofmany/exhibits/show/atlanta/spiritualism-in-nineteenth-cen

The Fox Sisters: Spiritualism's Unlikely Founders - http://www.historynet.com/the-fox-sisters-spiritualisms-unlikely-founders.htm

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Math and Mission

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna Math and Mission

Swedenborgian Church of America - http://www.swedenborg.org/Beliefs.aspx

Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology – World Parliament of Religions -  by editor Derek Michaud, incorporating matierial by Joas Adiprasetya (2004), with some basic information contributed by Wesley Wildman - http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/bce/worldparliamentofreligions1893.htm#3._Themes

CRI website – The 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions (Part 1) – Article by Elliot Miller -  http://www.equip.org/article/the-1993-parliament-of-the-worlds-religions-part-one/

Parliament of the World’s Religions, at the Global interfaith Movement website - https://www.parliamentofreligions.org/parliament/chicago-1893

The Global Interfaith Movement - 1893 Parliament of the Worlds Religions - https://www.parliamentofreligions.org/parliament/chicago-1893

Wikipedia - Emmanuel Swedenborg - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanuel_Swedenborg

Wikipedia - Charles Carroll Bonney - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_C._Bonney

Wikipedia - Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of the World's Religions - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swami_Vivekananda_at_the_Parliament_of_the_World%27s_Religions_(1893)

The Swedenborgian Church of North America - http://www.swedenborg.org/Beliefs/Tenets_of_Swedenborgianism.aspx
Barrows, John H., ed. 1893. The World's Parliament of Religions: An Illustrated and Popular Story of the World's First Parliament of Religions, Held in Chicago in Connection with the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Vol. II. Chicago: The Parliament Publishing Company.

Bishop, Donald H. 1969. “Religious Confrontation, a Case Study: The 1893 Parliament of Religions.” Numen 16 April, 63-76.

Braybrooke, Marcus. 1980. Inter-Faith Organizations, 1893-1979: An Historical Directory. New York & Toronto: The Edwin Mellen Press.

Braybrooke, Marcus. 1992. Stepping Stones to a Global Ethic. London: SCM Press LTD.

Burris, John P. 2001. Exhibiting Religion: Colonialism and Spectacle at International Expositions 1851-1893. Charlottesville & London: University Press of Virginia.

Eck, Diana L. 1993. “Foreword.” In Seager, R. H., ed., xiii-xvii.

Goodpasture, H. Mc. 1993. “The World's Parliament of Religions Revisited: The Missionaries and Early Steps in Public Dialogue.” Missiology: An International Review Vol. XXI, No. 4, October, 403-11.

Kitagawa, Joseph M. 1987. The History of Religions: Understanding Human Experience. AAR Studies in Religion 47. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press.

Müller, Friedrich M. 1993. “The Real Significance of the Parliament of Religions.” In Ziolkowski, 149-62. Reprinted from The Arena 11, no. 61 (December 1894), 1-14.

Seager, R. H. 1986. “The World's Parliament of Religions, Chicago, Illinois, 1893 : America's Religious Coming of Age.” Ph.D. Diss., Harvard University.

Seager, R. H., ed. 1993. The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World's Parliament of Religions, 1893. La Salle, Ill., Open Court.

Williams, Cyril G. 1993. “The World's Parliament of Religions: Chicago 1893 Re-visited.” Faith and Freedom: A Journal of Progressive Religion 14 (Autumn), 79-94.

Ziolkowski, Eric J., ed. 1993. A Museum of Faiths: Histories and Legacies of the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press.