Saturday, October 18, 2014

SATAN ATTACKS THE HOLY

Saint Marina, whacking one of 
Satan's demons


I LOVE the icon that I have featured on this blog post.  It is an excellent inspiration to remember to defend myself against the demons that Satan sends out to torment the holy.  Every Christian who struggles to reach perfection in spiritual life is, to one degree or another, a holy person.  Every moment in which our minds are immersed in the Divine, is a moment of holiness, and the more holy moments we can string together, the more it infuriates Satan.

1Peter 4:12-16
(New International Version)

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has
come on you to test you, as though something strange were 
happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate 
in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed 
when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of 
the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory 
and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as 
a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even 
as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not 
be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."


Satan will tempt a deranged neighbor to harass us.  He will lead an acquaintance to lure us into unholy pursuits.  He will send demons to visit our dreams and tear down our confidence in the Lord.  He will do anything to weaken our devotion.

Satan does not have to prompt people who are devoted to sinful habits because they are already his minions on earth.  If a person devoted to sin learns that we are Christian, they will persecute us because our quest for holiness insults them.  They are taking a road that leads in the opposite direction, and they wish to justify their journey by taking as many people along with them as they can.

When we examine the lives of the saints, it becomes obvious that there is no earthly reward for being holy.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  Most saints had terrible sufferings.  Asking God to make us saints carries with it a great deal of suffering.  He is all too familiar with suffering, if you will remember, and we have to learn to link our sufferings with His.

Yes, we are all sinners.  I am not saying that all Christians are holy, but I am saying that we aspire to holiness.  We have our eyes on the Lord and we are straining toward him.  Our mind is inclined toward His point of view, His values, and His teachings.  Every step toward the Lord is a slap in the face to Satan.

The last few weeks have been a suffering to me.  Nearly everything has gone wrong, with one notable exception, and I am slogging through persecutions.  Persecutions and sufferings are a distraction from my primary mission, which is to pray for the world and to spend time with the Lord in contemplation. Sometimes it is a struggle to tear myself away from thoughts of the persecutions to thoughts of our wonderful Lord.  I have to force myself to let go of the distractions and tune into the presence of God.  Having PTSD makes it that much harder.

Reminding myself that Satan attacks the holy is somehow very calming, however.  Things are going wrong, therefore everything is right in my life!  It is an odd contradiction, but I know it is true.  If everything was comfortable, all my needs were easily met, and no one was screaming and yelling at me, gossiping about me and working against me, I would suspect that something was wrong with my spiritual life.

I just thought I would put this note of encouragement "out there" for all my contemplative friends whose lives sometimes look more like a demented circus than a spiritual wonderland.  You're doing alright.

God bless you all.

Silver Rose Parnell

Friday, October 17, 2014

CONTEMPLATIVES AT HOME

Carmelite nun, praying in her cell




A quick note for my fellow contemplatives.  I have recently started a Facebook group called CONTEMPLATIVES AT HOME.  If you are on Facebook and you would be interested in reading helpful articles about the contemplative life and related topics, please "friend" me and I will include you in the group.  (Send me a private message.)

I occasionally deal with HERMITS, as a related topic.

Your input is welcome there.

Just type in, SILVER ROSE PARNELL and you will find me.  I look forward to seeing you there.

In the meantime, God bless!

Silver Rose Parnell

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

URGENT NEED



Standard poodle service dog from
Heritage Service Dogs



Thousands of people in America have post traumatic stress disorder, and most of them have not seen military service.  They have experienced a different type of life-altering, traumatic event.  Most of the sufferers are women who have endured kidnapping, imprisonment, beatings, rape, torture, threats, verbal and emotional abuse, and stalking.  Service dogs have proven to make normal life possible for sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition to PTSD, I suffer from chronic physical issues that affect my mobility and my balance, both of which are helped by having a service dog to improve stability, especially when walking in public, on uneven sidewalks and pavement, and over rough ground.  The service dog will act as a complement to my cane and/or walker, walking on the other side of the cane and alerting to rough ground ahead.

I also have allergy-induced asthma, which is growing worse as time goes on, therefore, I need a dog that has hair that grows rather than fur that sheds.  The most hypoallergenic dog that also has the brains, temperament and size necessary for the job is the standard poodle.

With regard to the PTSD issues (and real life protection) a service dog can be trained to enter the home prior to the owner and check every room of the apartment to make sure there is no one lurking there.  There have been 6 attempted break ins of my apartment, so there is an actual threat, rather than an imaginary one.  Police officers who have responded to reports of attempted break-ins have advised me that the best deterrent is a watch dog.  They can also be trained to provide me extra space if my claustrophobia kicks in during shopping or other errands by circling me.

In addition, the service dog can sense when my body chemistry becomes unbalanced from the PTSD or my chronic low blood sugar.  The dog can easily sense/smell the chemical changes and alert me to take my medicine.  Dogs are a natural calming element, as well.   At night, I will be able to sleep in peace, knowing that the dog will alert me to the presence of any prowler outside the apartment.

My doctor has written me a prescription for a service dog.  Unfortunately, there are no agencies that supply these dogs without a fee.  I have researched this matter thoroughly and reached out to everyone I know who may have been able to help me get the right dog, to no avail.  I scoured the local shelters and found that this type of dog is just not available in the shelters in Albuquerque.  Plenty of pit bulls and chihuahuas and all kinds of little mutts, but no standard poodles.  I have inquired of breeders whether or not they will adopt out dogs that have exceeded the breeding age.  Basically, I have begged for a free dog everywhere, and that is just not happening.

After extensive research, I have found the least expensive option, which is a company that breeds and raises the poodles, places them with the patient, and then coaches them through the training steps.  The name of the company is Heritage Service Dogs.

Their fee is $3600.  It will cost about $400 to ship the puppy, and we anticipate needing another $500 in expenses, such as veterinary bills, a crate, a bed, harnesses for various sizes of a growing puppy, etc.  (The typical cost for a standard poodle puppy is $2,000.  The local agency that trains dogs charges $6,000.  That is DOUBLE what it would cost using Heritage Service dogs, so we feel we have made a good decision about the provider.)

PLEASE HELP me obtain the necessary service animal.  There is no government assistance for this.  There are no organizations that give away service dogs.  My income is very low, and I am unable to create more income (though I have tried!)

Please click the link to go to my fundraising site.


SILVER'S FUNDRAISING SITE FOR A SERVICE DOG

If you are not able to help, then please spread the word and pray for me.



God bless you,

Silver Rose Parnell


Saturday, October 4, 2014

PTSD AND THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE


"Ghost Tree"
Silver Parnell, 1995

A good percentage of my fellow contemplatives are also sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.)  While they may have had an interest in contemplative practice prior to the traumatic event that caused their PTSD, the quiet regularity and peace-inducing meditation, rituals and contemplative prayer are soothing to a person whose adrenal system has been sent into overdrive due to the witnessing or experiencing of a traumatic, violent event.

I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to embrace their PTSD as their peculiar port of entry into the beauty of contemplative life.  The Lord brings all things to the good for those that believe.  Because I have become disabled due to severe PTSD, I have the wonderful opportunity to spend my days in peace and blessedness, prayer and contemplation.  In this way, PTSD is a type of blessing.

 I used to hide my illness, mostly because I didn't know what it was and I was afraid of the stigma.  After more than 7 years of continuous counseling and 10 years of medication, I have come to understand that it is not my fault.  In fact, PTSD is the only mental illness that is caused by OUTSIDE circumstances, rather than arising from within the person themselves.

Most people I meet do not understand PTSD.   When I mention that I have it, their first question is usually, "were you in the miliary?  You do not need to be part of a branch of the military in order to suffer from this illness.  Plenty of women experience more violence and torture than most military men will ever see.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs:

"Although most people who go through trauma will not get PTSD, you are more likely to develop PTSD if you:

(1)  Were directly exposed to the trauma as a victim or a witness
(2)  Were seriously hurt during the event
(3)  Went through a trauma that was long-lasting or very severe
(4)  Believed that you were in danger
(5)  Believed that a family member was in danger
(6)  Had a severe reaction during the event, such as crying, shaking, vomiting, or feeling apart from your surroundings
(7)  Felt helpless during the trauma and were not able to help yourself or a loved one
Women who have experienced severe domestic abuse or some other kind of attack often experience most, if not all of these circumstances. I know a woman with PTSD who had been held captive for 4 days, beaten with fists and the butt of a gun, beaten while being violently raped, verbally demeaned during the 4-day attack, tortured by continually being "choked out," brought back to consciousness, and then chocked into unconsciousness again, and threatened with a loaded gun in the face. She was unable to escape because her abuser had disabled her car in preparation for his attack. The fear, terror and physical and mental pain is obvious. But it can be hard to communicate the depth of the humiliation it causes when a person has to beg for her life from a violent drunken sociopath.


Once a person has PTSD, it is as if their system is permanently set on high. Continued anxiety has to be dealt with.   Hypervigilance is common, as is sensitivity to noise.  Crowds can be a difficult challenge for some.  Each person will have their own set of symptoms, according to the unique triggers of their case.  Managing those symptoms can be a challenge for the sufferer.

If you know someone with PTSD, don't try to have them tell you what caused their illness.  Repeating the story will likely heighten anxiety.  Just understand that they have been through at least one really horrendous thing in their life, and maybe more and that they need kindness and gentleness.  If they have some idiosyncrasies you do not understand, just accept them.  You are not able to cure them. Doctors cannot "cure" them.  This illness can only be managed.

If you are one of my home-bound contemplatives, and you have PTSD, I would just caution you to avoid stressing yourself with too many religious practices or a schedule that it is too rigid, unless that schedule soothes rather than stresses you.  That would be uncommon, however.  Most of us do well with a simplified schedule and prayer routine.  Don't punish yourself with too many forms of penance or acetic routines.  You've had enough suffering for one lifetime.

If you ever start to feel that your illness has rendered you in some way "useless," don't believe it! The world needs your compassionate prayers.  Even if you are having a high-anxiety day and all you can do is pace, recite the Jesus prayer to yourself, aloud or mentally.  Dedicate your pacing to your favorite intercessory prayer topic.  You can pray while you walk.  Pray while you have a soothing cup of tea.  Just pray, in whatever manner you are able to pray, within the limits of your PTSD.

JESUS PRAYER
Lord, Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
Have mercy upon me
a poor sinner

While contemplative life has a lot to offer us, we also have a LOT to offer to it because we are likely more compassionate than the average person, due to the great suffering we have endured.  That compassion is a great blessing to the world.  Spread it around and, while you're at it, please pray for me as I will pray for you.


Silver Rose Parnell

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

THERESE OF LISIEUX HAS A MESSAGE FOR DISABLED AND ELDERLY

Saint Therese as a novice
in the courtyard of the convent


I really love the above picture of Saint Therese because it echoes her philosophy of "the little way."  We see her here as a novice, alone under the cross.  She is dwarfed by the surroundings, hidden by her cloak that seems massive for her frame, her face appearing quite small underneath the billowy white veil.  The courtyard appears to me to be a little forlorn and unkempt, without much in the way of greenery to soften the view.  She clings to the cross with one arm slung around it.  You can just see her little hand coming around from the back.

"I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way
-very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new.
We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not
trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead.  Well, I
mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto
God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfec-
tion.  [....]  Thine arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which
must raise me up even unto Heaven.  to get there, I need
not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little.  I must
become still less."




Many of us have wanted to do something big and grand for God.  I really wanted to join a Catholic convent, but learned that because of divorce and disability I was not suited.  Then, I dreamed of starting a Christian "ashram" of sorts, with a special place for the disabled and elderly contemplatives.  I am poor, sick and old.  That big dream will not come true.  Like Therese of Lisieux, I am learning to embrace my disabilities and my smallness.  Inconsequentiality is a wonderful freedom.  If I am of no account, then people will not be knocking on my door at all hours, wanting things from me.  The phone rarely rings.  There are no parties, no dinners in restaurants, no travel, and few visitors.  Big dreams require big work and big money, neither of which I possess.




Consequently, I am free to spend time with God, free to pray unceasingly and to practice the continual presence of God.  Because of my disabilities, I am unable to keep a monastic schedule at home, so I am free from the stress of trying to maintain that schedule.

Instead of being unhappy about being unable to do the big things, I am grateful for the boundaries that have been thrust upon me.  I am grateful for my enforced smallness.  Instead of regretting it or fighting it, I am learning to cherish it instead.




I also think about how little time we have left.  We will all die. I turned 60 this year, which seemed a big milestone for me.  Anyway, at the same time that I am coming to grips with my smallness, I am aware of the clock ticking and that, whatever small thing I am able to do for Jesus, I must do it.






Today is the feast day of our little Saint Therese.  I am welcoming the day by meditating on my smallness and praising God for it.

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

God bless

Silver Rose Parnell

Sunday, September 28, 2014

CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE VERSUS MONASTIC LIFE

Saint Thekla, Hermitess


There are a bunch of monastic wannabes parading around the internet claiming to be "hermits."  One of them calls herself "The Anchoress," yet she is married and lives with husband and children.  Another has done herself up in a nun's habit of sorts and has published a "rule of life," yet she also is married and living at home.  I do not pretend to know why these people are doing this, but one thing is obvious:  They aspire to some state of life for which they do not possess even the basic requirements.  It confuses the uninitiated and gives the wrong idea about monastic life in general.

If you are married, marriage is your vocation, and being the best wife and mother is your holy occupation.  You've chosen that life and it is up to you to throw yourself into it with all your heart and soul, for the sake of the Lord and the kingdom.  Your family will work together for the salvation of all, and it is beautiful.  There is no higher status elsewhere.

What is a monastic?  "Monastic" comes from the word "mono" or singular, alone.  Monastics have chosen to remain unmarried and unattached (or it has chosen them) so that their lives are given completely to the Lord in a singular way.  Monastic life is generally centered around prayer at regular intervals throughout the day.  Sometimes it is contemplative and sometimes not.

Saint Paula and her daughter Eustochium,
with Saint Jerome

Whereas today, "monastic life" is typically understood to be part of a recognized religious order, the early days of Christianity saw a number of independent people relocating to the desert, mostly the Scetes desert of Egypt, but also in Syria and Palestine, where they lived ascetic lives of prayer and penance.  Palladius of Galatia tells us that there were almost 3,000 women living in the desert as religious hermitesses or as a part of a loosely organized community of believers by the year 419-420


Hermit caves in Syria


These were Christianity's first monastics and I guarantee you that the desert fathers and desert mothers did not haul spouses and children out to the desert to live with them en famille, with the exception of desert mothers such as Saint Paula, whose daughter Eustochium, ALSO took up the religious life.  (Saint Paula had been widowed prior to this.)  The monastic life is a vocation of single people, not married ladies living with husband and children, with a job in town, Wednesday pizza night and family vacations to the beach every year.

Sometimes a particularly holy hermit would attract followers. Very quickly, the cenobitic life, a life lived in common, became the norm.  Monastics still do not marry, but they are "together, alone."  The hermit's cave became the monastic "cell."


Saint Theresa of Avila's cell


There are many different monastic orders in the United States.  If you have leanings toward a monastic life that is contemplative in nature, rather than try to live as a monastic or hermit on your own, I highly recommend that, if you meet the criteria,you go directly to a cloistered convent, do not pass go and do not collect $200.  Nuns who have LEFT the convents, thinking they can maintain their contemplative life and schedule "on the outside" routinely complain that keeping anything close to the convent's prayer schedule is nearly impossible.  There are torments, hassles and disagreeable people in some convents, perhaps in most convents, but the trial of living with these is worth the rewards.  Go to a cloistered convent and try it out.  Some of them will take older people.

The active orders are something else.  They live for God, but their focus is outward and is more service oriented.  There are teaching orders, nursing orders, all kinds of orders. I don't recommend these for the quiet contemplative who years for mystical union with God.  In another post, I will write about some of the contemplative orders, such as my favorites, "the pink nuns" who maintain continual adoration before the Divine Eucharist 24 hours a day.




The primary obstacle is often the HEALTH of a person.  If you do not have good health, then you are in my boat, and I will go on to discuss how to manage a monastic life at home in later posts.  Convent life is a very physical life, with lots of hard work.  There is plenty of manual labor to go around.  Also, you are never "off the clock," in that you are a nun 24/7 and it can be a strain for some. If you have PTSD, as I do, or depression or some other mental problem, it can be particularly difficult.  Religious orders usually insist that prospective members be physically and mentally healthy.

A simplified type of monastic life can be lived at home, though it is very difficult to maintain a rigorous schedule for most of us who are elderly and/or physically compromised.  But we are the ones who have the time and the circumstances to live a version of monastic life at home, however, and it is a shame to waste our golden years playing computer games, when we can grow closer to God in an intentional and intense way.  I intend to help us all explore that and to provide information that will be helpful.

Saint Rose of Lima
A Third Order Dominican who lived at home
and served the poor


I will write a few more blogs addressing the needs and aspirations of the 11th hour monastics and offer some solutions at a later date.  I will also be researching avenues of emotional and spiritual support, such as third order possibilities, and I will report on that later.  I do know that individuals may be allowed to take some sort of personal vows, with the permission of the local bishop, but this may be reserved for perpetual virgins.  I will have to check my facts on that score and get back to you with that information as well.

In addition, I will be supplying lists of resources, blogs and books that are helpful to the contemplative life in general, so look for those in future blog posts.  I also plan to write some blog posts highlighting the lives of some of our saints who were mystics that gained great consolations from contemplative prayer or those who either lived at home, in hermitage, or as an independent third order monastic.  Anything that I feel will be helpful and supportive to contemplative life and to the independent monastic will be included.

Everyone can benefit from contemplative prayer.  The fact that you enjoy the mystical union that is the reward of such prayer does not mean you are a monastic, however, and I think that is where some of the pseudo-hermits have gone off the rails.  Contemplative prayer is a religious practice.  Monasticism is a religious vocation.  Often, the two will intersect, but they shouldn't be confused with one another.

The thing to remember, most of all, is that each person is born in the likeness and image of God and we are equally loved by the creator who made us, no matter what our vocation.  Remember, we are human BEINGS and not human DOINGS.  In the long run, it doesn't matter what vocation we choose, only that we turn it to God as much as possible and rely upon His guidance within our circumstances.

God bless you.  Please pray for me as I pray for you.

Silver Rose Parnell

Saturday, September 27, 2014

HATS FOR THE HOMELESS




For the last few weeks I have been crocheting baby blankets and baby hats for my baby blanket ministry and, now that I have a good supply, it is time to switch to my "HATS FOR THE HOMELESS" ministry.  Fall is already upon us, and I have to get busy.

Just as I did with the baby blankets, I will pray for the homeless people for whom I make the hats, as I am working the yarn with my crochet hook.  This type of ministry is perfect for an at-home contemplative because it is a type of manual labor that allows me to continue to pray while I work.

Many people think of New Mexico and they automatically think of hot weather.  Yes, during the summer it IS quite hot here, but we have a semblance of 4 seasons here, and winters can be VERY cold, sometimes dipping into the single digits for a week or two.  This is extremely hard on the homeless people who, generally speaking, are not allowed to be inside the homeless shelters from 5 a.m. until 5 p.m.  I am sure some exceptions must be made for those occasionally brutal cold snaps, but the homeless, like the rest of us, have business to do outside of the shelters, and they are on foot.  Waiting for a bus when the temperature is 5 degrees sounds like torture to me!

Anyway, I make the hats and distribute them to shelters and agencies here in town,  I love doing this ministry, but I need to work with donated yarn because I am poor myself and cannot afford to purchase the yarn.  Soooo...I am providing a link to my wishlist on Amazon that has the specific yarn I need for the patterns that I use.  (I make several sizes.)

Please do not substitute a different type of yarn, since my pattern will not be able to accommodate it, in all likelihood.

Amazon has my address and will mail the yarn to me directly.  If you have a connection for cheaper yarn of the same variety and color, then please email me at silvercottage@hotmail.com, and I will send you my mailing address.  In the alternative, if you just want to donate via my Pay Pal account, you can do that also, and I will purchase the yarn from there.  Please note, however, that Pay Pal does take a small fee from the donation as a service fee.

As I make the hats, I will post photographs so that everyone can see what has been made!  I think it is fun to participate in the creative process.

If you have any questions about this ministry, or if you would like to join me in making hats for the homeless here in Albuquerque, just let me know.  I have operated in concert with a church in San Diego, California during one winter.  San Diego is a relatively warm place and no one wanted their hats in Southern California, but the homeless here in Albuquerque were very grateful to get them.

By the way, a good percentage of the homeless are military veterans with post traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.  I realize that many people have a stereotypical picture of the homeless being drug addicts and ne'er do wells, but a compassionate investigation into the facts turns up a far different reality.  it is very easy to become homeless, with so many people living paycheck-to-paycheck and jobs being so scarce.  The homeless deserve a lot more, but all I can contribute are hats.  I appreciate your help in doing this.

Here is the link for the Amazon wish list: WISH LIST: YARN FOR HATS FOR THE HOMELESS

God bless you, and thank you for your generosity!

Silver Rose Parnell