HODEGETRIA IN MONTE VEDERNI

HODEGETRIA IN MONTE VEDERNI

Monday, May 30, 2016

VEILING

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
at



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


RETURNING TO THE SOURCE

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

Post Script – ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE OTHER HERMITS AND HALF-MONASTICS IN MY LIFE


Statue of Our Blessed Mother
In the Courtyard of the Church
in Old Town, Albuquerque
New Mexico
by
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:

“PRAYER FOR DAILY NEGLECTS:

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
From:
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:

Rosaries:
(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, I do not travel, and I do not own a television, though I may break down and get one at some point, since there are many education offerings on the PBS channels.

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

REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING



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

CHATTING WITH THE SAINTS

SAINT VLADIMIR THE GREAT
(958 - 1015)
"BAPTIZER OF RUSSIA"
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.



THE BAPTISM OF SAINT VLADIMIR THE GREAT



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



THE BAPTISM OF KIEVANS
by 
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


THE BAPTISM OF RUSSIA


Thursday, March 17, 2016

DREAMS OF AN ANCHORESS

An anchoress meets with a seeker

When I was about 12 years old, I lived in the Carmel Valley in Northern California, very near Big Sur, a gorgeous part of the country with magnificent high rocky bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and giant redwoods and other ancient trees growing amidst the boulders. It made my heart ache just to be amidst the beauty of it. My mother, a sadistic, deranged woman who was chronically ill with multiple sclerosis that occasionally paralyzed her, had moved us to the valley so that we could be near Big Sur, but, like all our moves, it would not last long and we would be pushed on to another place, just ahead of the creditors.

In the meantime, however, I grabbed at the beauty, holding it to my heart and cherishing it. Every day, when the weather permitted, I would hop onto my little Schwinn Bicycle with the banana seat and the tall handlebars, and work my legs like mad to get myself into the town of Carmel. Mostly, I enjoyed the Catholic Mission. I was drawn to it strongly, drawn to a different sort of beauty that I sensed it contained.



Mission San Carlos Borromeo
Carmel, California

Forced to live a life always on the move and having to adjust to new surroundings, new friends, new teachers, new homes, at least once a year, I found peace in a place that represented tradition, and the contiguous history of faith. It had stood there since 1771, and I yearned for a version of the stability of the place and its people.

The kindly man behind the counter at the gift shop felt sorry for me, I am sure. My clothes were old, tattered and unwashed. My hair was choppy and sloppy, the work of my mother who was jealous of its beautiful color, thickness and waves. She regularly forced me to sit still while she pushed the dull, old kitchen shears into it, until it was a crazy nonsensical shape, with cowlicks springing here and there. She would not allow me to grow it long.

Never having any money to spend, I could only gaze wistfully at the books, the sparkly rosaries, and all the captivating symbols of a faith I knew nothing about but which drew me mysteriously to itself. I had been promised an allowance many times by my absent, wealthy father, but never once received it, despite my earning it with "A's" in school. He was too busy buying airplanes and women. Thus, I never had a dime to spend at the gift shop.


Angels in the bedroom


Surely, I was a pathetic sight, always alone. My mother was interested only in men. My younger sister, my mother's pet and her sounding board between husbands, despised me, encouraged by my mother's insane desire that I be treated like the black sheep. I am sure that the solitary nature of my life radiated from me loudly, being so contrary to the condition of most children. The fact that I continually appeared by myself at the mission's gift store surely spoke volumes to the nice man behind the counter.

The Lord, when he created me, in his ultimate wisdom and mercy, gave me a temperament most introverted and studious, perfectly suited to a life lived with Him alone.  Occasionally, I was lonely, but it was an ordinary loneliness that did not clash with my customary inclinations. I found joy in silence.




Cross and paintings above the couch


Often, the nice man behind the counter would give me little gifts, mostly book markers, inexpensive little medals  of St. Therese of Lisieux, and pamphlets.  It was to one of these pamphlets that I turned when my mother moved us to Monterey, far away from my beloved Carmel Mission. I could no longer ride there on my bicycle.

The pamphlet was produced by the Carmelite nuns from their monastery in Carmel and discussed vocations to the contemplative religious life. The descriptions of a silent life lived for God alone, in the company of other women, just captivated me. I began a correspondence with the nuns, but my mother, who hated Catholics, quickly put an end to it, telling me that because she had been divorced, I would not be welcome in the convent. She must have written them, telling them not to correspond with me any more, as I never heard from them again, but I remember them fondly, more than 50 years later.


Prayer corner in the living room


I left home when I turned 17, escaping the torments of a crazy mother who had turned to Jehovah's Witnesses and began to tell me I was going to go to hell...basically because I would not become a Jehovah's Witness. My sister had quickly fallen into line, but I wanted no part of that crazy religion.

I DID yearn for some religion, though, something by which to guide my life. At 17, I joined the Scientologists (a different crazy religion) and ended up on their flagship that traversed the waters between the Island of Madeira and Basque country in the North of Spain. L. Ron Hubbard was a bizarre man whose penchant for assigning young teenage girls with very tight uniforms to be his personal "messengers" gave me the creeps.  One of them always seemed to be on hand to light his cigarettes. I couldn't get off the ship fast enough and was assigned as a department head at their newly formed "Celebrity Center," which, at that time, was located in an awful part of town, on the East side, on 8th Street, I believe. It ended badly.

In my mid-20's, I tried Nicherin Shoshu Buddhism for about 5 minutes, dismissing it as a very thin, propitiatory religion.

In my late 30's, I discovered the Vedanta Society. I had decided I needed to learn how to meditate, and their name in the Sacramento phone book sounded East Indian, and I guessed, rightly, that they were "into" meditation. This began a decades-long affiliation with them in which I learned an awful lot. In the end, I learned that I was meant to be a Catholic, but in the meantime I had been exposed to a contemplative monastic tradition that spoke to my deep desire for relationship with the Lord in a mystical union.

I left the convent when I was 38 and immediately signed up for an RCIA class at a large Catholic Church near where I was working at a law firm. Having read hundreds of books of the saints and doctors of the church, I was surprised at the games and gimmicky "lessons" that passed for Christian education. When the nun in charge of the classes got wind that I had been divorced, she hauled me into her office and told me it would be years before they would agree to baptize me because I would have to have an annulment of my marriage beforehand. This was and is completely wrong. If I had been living with someone in a second marriage, there could have been an actual problem, but this woman was just off the beam.  I was too green to know what to do about it because, although I knew the FAITH fairly well, I wasn't acquainted with canon law. I felt fairly sure she was wrong, but I didn't know what to do about it. This would not be the last time that a Catholic tried to frustrate my efforts to grow close to the faith.

Finally, I gave up and went to the Episcopalians for baptism, but it was an unsatisfying experience because it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to be baptized as a Catholic. As much as the "high church" Episcopal Cathedral across the street looked the part, I could sense that something crucial was missing. It had all the "bells and smells" and the lights were on, but no one was home.

In terms of career, romance and finances, my life was wretched and exhausting. I worked very hard to support myself for more than 30 years, but it was a constant struggle for survival because of numerous inherited illnesses and rare conditions that grew worse over time and multiplied, so that, by the time I was about 48, I was completely disabled and was no longer able to work at all.


Study desk in the living room


Becoming disabled, although it further complicated my life and put me under tremendous stress, had a happy aspect: It was the opportunity to spend more time in prayer and to build a life completely centered on God, with no distractions, or so I thought.  That was in 2003.

At the time, I had wandered back into the Hindu fold and had become a "swami," though that is not the right title for a female version of a Hindu renunciate or teacher. I think "swamini" may have been correct, but I am not sure.


Icons of our Blessed Mother in the bedroom


One morning, I was having breakfast at the diner across the street with an Ursaline nun, who turned out to be my 11th cousin. When I told her the story of my having tried to become Catholic, she was disgusted by the shabby treatment I had received by that nun in the RCIA class, so many years prior. Sister Sheila confirmed what I had long suspected, that the other nun had been completely wrong. Later, I would learn that education in the faith had been very poor and that even those whose job it was to know it were ill equipped to share it with anyone. This theme would be repeated continually in my Catholic journey, though I did not realize it at the time.

While talking with Sheila, I felt a hitch in my throat, and an old yearning that had smoldered for years began to blaze again. The attraction to the Catholic monastic life of prayer pushed itself to the forefront of my awareness. All of the information I had about the faith, however, I had received through books about the saints and doctors of the church that I had read in the Hindu convent in my 30's.  I had no experience of parish life and I did not realize that the silence, the reverence for the faith, the mystical heart of the faith, was nowhere evident in the parishes. I had decided to become Catholic based upon the faith alone, with no reference to how it is lived in the world, and it is turning out to be a sad lesson.

After attending mass at various churches in town, I fell in love with the Byzantine Catholic tradition, which is practiced in only one church in this city. This Eastern Rite is fairly sparse in America, so New Mexico is lucky to have even one Byzantine parish.

One of my minor vocations in life has been as a professional genealogist, and I discovered that I am descended from and otherwise related to more than two dozen saints, one of which being a Ukrainian 30th great grandmother, Saint Anna of Novgorod, an Orthodox saint. My research was confirmed by my DNA, part of which comes from that general area. The Byzantine Church I was attending has its roots in that same area of the world and, although it is not orthodox, its liturgy is the same.


Saint Anna of Novgorod
my 30th great grandmother

I am convinced that, surely the saints in heaven are praying for their ancestors and other kin as a matter of course. Perhaps this is one reason why I continued to love the church and attempt to enter it, even though most of the people I met seemed to want to keep me out. I am not saying that I have been personally snubbed. The impression I have received over many years is that Catholics, for the most part, are not friendly or inclusive.

Some will behave in a friendly way toward you for two hours on Sunday, but you do not exist once you walk out that door. I do have a couple of Catholic friends, and we truly care about one another, but thinking about my favorite Bible quote, "they shall know you by how you love one another," is an occasion for sadness. You do not love people in whom you have no interest except when you happen to run into them at church.

After Sheila offered to tutor me and be my sponsor for confirmation in the church, I approached the priest at the Byzantine Church and asked if he would agree to this arrangement, since I was unable to attend the regular adult faith formation meetings, due to my disabilities. He gave permission and told me to coordinate with the deacon.

When I approached the deacon, he was dismissive and brushed me off without stopping what he was doing or even looking me in the eye. He said, "I don't have time for that. I'm too busy," and, basically emphatically "no." I was dumbstruck.

Sheila was likewise upset by this, but called around to some people that she knew. Eventually, an ex-nun working at a parish near my house agreed to let Sheila take me through whatever material I may have missed, and I would be accepted into the church on Pentacost, along with another man who was seeking entry.

As my disabilities worsened, and I learned more of the general requirements of most convents, it became apparent that I was not suited to monastic life lived in common, due to my age, disabilities, debts and divorce, but I adjusted my dream to the reality of my situation and resolved to live a monastic life at home and to turn my apartment into a sacred space. To the extent that my limited finances have allowed me to do some part of this, I have followed through.


Prayer corner in the bedroom


Although the name of this blog is "Diary of an Accidental Hermit," my life condition is more accurately described as an anchoress, since I have spent 11 years anchored in an apartment in a city, rather than the isolated places of hermits. I find that the Lord often demonstrates His sweet will for me by forcing me into a situation that reveals my true happiness, and I have found joy in solitude with the Lord, even though the situation has become almost completely intolerable at this location, and it is urgently needed that I find a more appropriate spot that will allow me to continue my life of prayer, study and writing, while attending to burgeoning disabilities, which now includes the threat of blindness, due to macular degeneration, which I have had, apparently, for at least five years.

An "anchoress," for those of you not familiar with the term, is a type of solitary who, in the middle ages, used to live in a small cell attached to a church. She could watch the mass through a small window that opened directly into the sanctuary, and would also receive the blessed host through that same small window. Each anchoress had her own particular situation and her own rule of life. Townspeople would seek the counsel of an anchoress that was believed to be of a particularly holy and wise condition. They would bring food and other necessaries for her, and she would impart her wisdom. St. Julian of Norwich is an example of one type of anchoress.



Saint Julian of Norwich at the Church of Saints Peter
and Mary in Norwich
c. 8 November 1342 - c. 1416

The other day I was listening to Mother Miriam on Immaculate Heart Radio. A Jewish woman who became an evangelical teacher and speaker and then wholeheartedly converted to the Holy Catholic Church, she has started her own order with a unique charism that is both contemplative and very active. She is a very holy woman. Her advice to her listeners was to retreat for some time, at least an hour or two, but preferably half a day, and just dream with the Lord. She said to ignore the barriers of money and whatever else stands in the way, and just dream about what you want to do with and for the Lord. I took her advice.

Now that I have spent a dozen years living as an anchoress of sorts, I find that I love it. It suits me.  It is perfect for me. However, except for my heart and mind being anchored in the Lord, I am not anchored to the church or to a faithful church community. Online "community" is not real community any more than a paper fish is anything like a real one just pulled from the lake.





There was a long time in Catholic history when anchoresses were more common, they lived in towns and cities that were entirely Catholic, and they were supported physically, emotionally, psychologically and, most important, spiritually, by a community that held common values and beliefs. They were not surrounded by atheists, new-agers, Hindus, and anti-Catholics, yet this is the situation in which I now find myself. I am vulnerable prey to Satan and his minions.

Just this week, a young neighbor who has been very nice to me previously and who knew quite well that I am Catholic, verbally assaulted me with horrible lies about The Church and Pope Benedict.  According to her, she got her "facts" from a program on television. 

Firstly, one would think that anyone with half a brain would not be so gauche as to attack another person's religion if they expected to remain friendly. Secondly, even though I reminded her that I am a well educated Catholic and I know far more about the topic than she, she insisted that the lies were real. 

I realized that she, like most Americans these days, thinks that it is permissible to attack the Catholic Church, regardless if what she says is true or not. She WANTS to believe the lie. Many people are willing to freely show their contempt for Catholicism. This prejudice is encouraged by the culture that, supposedly, believes in freedom of religion. I have been verbally ambushed like this more than a dozen times at this apartment complex.  I am surrounded by people like her, vulnerable to attack at any time.

We live in an age when the supportive Catholic atmosphere must be deliberately created. Isolated elderly and disabled ladies, as well as frail widows, are spread out in the city, surrounded, for the most part, by those who are hostile to the faith. Even one's own family cannot be relied upon to maintain the faith, since there is so much pressure to conform to a society that hates us.



Miniature shrine at my bedside


"Divide and conquer" is a familiar motto of the enemy, and we have to fight this tendency. My dream is the dream of the Catholic ashram, in the style of the Vedanta Society, where I lived during my years with the Hindus.

Marginalized groups often gather together, and the Vedantists were no exception. A wealthy patron gave them some land in the Hollywood Hills in the 1930's, and now there is a monastery, a convent, an apartment building, and many houses. In its heyday, it was a lively, happy community. Over the years, as more permissive new-age groups became established, and the faddishness of following all things East Indian dissipated, the group had to sell off properties, one by one, as they could not afford to keep them up.



Swami Swahananda, my Vedanta (Hindu) teacher
at the Vedanta Society of Southern California
About 1987


I lived there for about 8 years, several of which were spent in the convent, and I never felt more secure and supported. It was a wonderful life. It was just the wrong religion, which I discovered while reading the Catholic mystics in the Hindu convent.



Sitting at the convent dinner table,
when I was a Hindu nun


My dream is for the creation of Catholic neighborhoods, where the church is the center of the community, but the parish church must be of a spotless character and completely faithful to the magisterium, or the community will fail. We have many unfaithful and some heretical priests, bishops and cardinals in these dark days. There is a homosexual cabal that nearly rules the Vatican. Entire diocese in America are polluted by unfaithful clergy living perverted and immoral lives. The pedophile priest scandal scratched the surface of the depravity. Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, strongly stated that "we must get the filth out of the church."

In addition to the disobedient clergy, we have a Catholic laity that is uneducated in the faith and which ignores the guidance of the faith with regard to all the sexual sins in particular. Fornication, birth control and abortion are as common as dirt, and these sins open the gateway to Satan. Unfortunately, these people don't believe in Satan or Hell, a topic about which Jesus spoke more than any other.


Christ's descent into Hades





Obviously, when I speak of Catholic community, I am not thinking of these cultural Catholics or Catholics in name only, who are little more than poor Protestants in disguise, the wolves in sheep's clothing.

My dream is that those who yearn for perfect obedience to the faith gather together in neighborhoods, with The Church at the center. I long to be situated in a small house with a little yard for my service dog and my seeing eye dog, where my life of prayer can be conducted in a safe, holy, quiet place that also accommodates my disabilities.  

I dream of having an excellent lending library of The Church doctors and fathers, mothers and saints, and a special room for prayer and meditation in my home.  I long to be surrounded by faithful Catholics as my neighbors and to be close to my faithful church. This, to me, is heaven on earth, and I encourage all Catholics to begin thinking in these terms, because it is time to circle the wagons and draw tightly together. The persecution is just beginning.



Our Lady of the Inexhaustible Cup - in the kitchen


I have shared the major features of my dream. Now let me share the blocks that stand in front of me:

Occasionally, a house will come up for rent in a modest but relatively safe neighborhood near a Byzantine Catholic Church that is close to where my supportive Catholic friends live, but I cannot afford the rents. I cannot afford to buy the houses that come up for sale. A lifetime of battling illness and working at jobs that gradually paid less and less over the years, has left me completely destitute, and struggling to live on an income that is the same as the income on which I was starving 30 years ago.

My primary mission in life is to pray for (1) the purification of the Catholic Church and its reunion with the Orthodox churches; (2) the eradication of Islam, the purpose of which, according to the Koran, is to subjugate Jews and Christians; and (3) the raising up of the poor throughout the world. My inability to take care of myself properly is a terrible distraction from that mission. Somehow, a miracle has to occur so that my dreams for myself, my mission, and the world may be realized.


Our Lady of Perpetual Help near the front door


In addition to praying, I am calling out to all of my faithful Catholic brothers and sisters for help in realizing this holy dream. I need housing, I need special foods, supplements, over-the-counter medicines, medical equipment and a host of other necessities. I do not have the resources for any of it. 

The housing seems to be the most impossible situation at the moment. Government housing is all located in dangerous neighborhoods and consists of noisy apartments on large main streets, especially when it comes to single people for whom the subsidies are very limited. Single people do not qualify for houses, even small ones.

Currently, I live on the main street that cuts through the middle of town. It is part of the old Route 66 that traversed the United States prior to the freeway systems taking its place. Car horns, yelling people, barking dogs, broken mufflers, booming rap music, screaming people, and raunchy old motorcycles pepper the air that is already thick with rubber that the road rubs from the tires. Soon, these sounds will be supplemented by the noise and vibration of jackhammers and other tools as the median is removed from the middle of the road and a system of rail buses is installed down the length of the road. Getting into my apartment complex will be terribly restricted, as those traveling west will have to go to the end of the block, make a u-turn, and THEN travel back the other way to make a right into our driveway. This will be a permanent inconvenience, since one cannot make a left turn over the rails. NONE of this is conducive to a quiet life of prayer.



I have "made do" with a host of deprivations, pains and sufferings, accepting everything the Lord has brought me and offering it all to Him. I STILL accept it while at the same time praying for a miracle that will get me closer to my good dream, a righteous dream, a holy dream that God can get behind! (I hope.)

Most of all, I seek Catholic community in which the First Commandment is recognized as the most important, that we will love God above all else.  Ask yourself why you make certain choices.  Do you move into a neighborhood because it has the best, most faithful Catholic Church in town, or do you move close to work for your convenience? Do you make friends first within the Catholic community so that you can be sure of having friends that share your love of God and your values, or do you choose those who are most entertaining or those who have the most money or the coolest clothes?

It used to be that Catholics were anxious to have people in the world who were dedicated to praying for them and for the woes of the world. The Church itself was more supportive of the mystics among us, more cognizant of the value of prayer in peaceful, reverent atomospheres.  That certainly doesn't describe most parishes I've seen, where people dress like they are about to take a walk on the beach, the pastor's homilies never mention God, heaven or hell, and where people are holding hands or clapping and hooting like they're at some pop concert instead of offering respectful worship to the Lord of the universe! I want to help change this, but I can only do it through prayer. I am too banged up to do anything else. I hope you will join me in my efforts by praying with me for a change in these aspects of Catholic life as well.

Please read the sidebar about my medical needs, click the DONATION button to contribute funds, or click one of the Amazon.com links to contribute food, supplements and medicines. God bless you for your generosity.

If you are not able to assist me, please pray for the realization of my dream, as I do, and God will provide, according to his blessed holy will.

In addition, I ask you to consider getting behind this movement to create Catholic community that is real and concrete, instead of the imaginary "communities" that gather at church once a week for an hour. That is not community. That's just a break from the rest of your life.

Something to think about.

God bless us all!

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) copyright 2016
All rights reserved.