Sunday, March 1, 2015

GOD BRINGS ALL THINGS TO THE GOOD

February snow in my garden


There are times when something will happen that completely throws all plans to the wind in an unexpected and unpleasant way, and we have to discern God's will amid the mess.   It is like a large snowfall in a city that doesn't customarily get much, if any, snow at all.  Everyone scrambles to accommodate the slippery roads.  Time tables are drastically altered, and some planned-for destinations have to be scrapped entirely.

Last Saturday, I went to confession, as I always try to do during Lent, and, for the first time, I walked away feeling relief, hopefulness, and peace.  So, there I was, all shiny and freshly washed and feeling good, and for the next two days I was assaulted by some harassment at church that finally got so bad I had to leave.  The harassment was completely undeserved and, looking back on it now, I see Satan's hand in it.  He hates it when you make a good confession, you see, and he wanted to force me to lose my temper and take the shine off my soul.  Thanks be to God, I did not lose my temper, though I did feel a tremendous amount of stress.

Sadly, I have to find another church community, since no one is going to rectify the situation at my now-former church, and my post traumatic stress has been aggravated to a degree that makes it impossible for me to continue on as I have been

Confidence in Jesus gives me great comfort at the moment. I know that he brings everything to the good for those that love him, for those that believe in him.  I look forward to discovering what is his will for me and where I will end up.

In the meantime, I am renewing my zeal for community life and investigating membership in the Lay Dominicans.  I had previously considered the Carmelites, but could not drum up the requisite enthusiasm for their programs.  Two of my very favorite people were lay Dominicans: St. Rose of Lima and Blessed Margaret of Castello, and I would be grateful to be in their company.

The dream of a convent for disabled and elderly women is still alive, though somewhat dimmed by recent events and lack of resources.  I give my will to the Lord in this matter and in all things, to the best of my ability, and wait for his instruction.

In the meantime, I am recuperating from a nasty fall on melted snow in my garage.  I landed hard on the cold, wet concrete and injured quite a few body parts.  As previously mentioned, plans have suddenly changed as a result of the snow storm.  I wait for the snow to melt and for my body to heal.

Please pray for me as I pray for you.

Silver Rose Parnell

Saturday, January 17, 2015

PRODIGAL DAUGHTERS OF THE MOTHER OF GOD

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo
located in Carmel, California


Many women find themselves, in middle or late age, longing to realize a strong monastic vocation that, for various reasons, they have been unable to pursue in their youth.  In my case, I was raised without any religion whatsoever.  In fact, my parents were hostile to religion in general and Catholicism in particular.  They were generally narcissistic people, who divorced when I was about 5 and spent the rest of their lives chasing sex, money and glamour.

We had a Cuban babysitter when I was about 6 or 7.  My mother was working at one of just a very few jobs she ever had.  The babysitter spoke no English, so we had to learn Spanish to communicate with her.  One day she took us out of the house and down to an enormous Catholic church to attend mass.  We were mystified by it all.  At one point, a man in a long robe at the front of the church was passing out cookies to lots of young children who were kneeling at a railing.  I was hungry.  I asked Iday if we could go get a cookie, but she didn't understand what I was saying.  I grabbed my little sister's hand and ran up the aisle, dutifully kneeling as I saw the other children doing.  When the priest got to me, he asked me, "Have you had your first communion?"  I said, "huh?" and looked at him, mouth agape in confusion.  He laughed to himself, cast a glance at me and then my sister, and walked past us with the cookies.  Red with embarrassment, I dragged my sister back to our seat.  We were hungry, darn it!

When I was about 11 years old, my mother moved us to the beautiful Carmel Valley in California.  I was a lonely child and spent many hours riding around town on my little Schwin bicycle with its colorful "banana seat", long handle bars and plastic streamers flowing from the handles.  The Carmel Mission, though a long ride from my home, was my favorite haunt.  It was open every day and there was no fee to enter.

I loved to wander through the book store and admire the pretty medals and rosaries, knowing nothing of their use or meaning.  But I had a fascination for it all.  The man behind the counter felt sorry for me, I think.  Every once in a while he would give me an inexpensive little book mark or a colorful medal of Saint Therese or the Virgin Mary.  I was an avid reader and I would hide the medals in my books at home.  I am still a collector of medals and holy cards, to a certain extent.  I like to keep the holy cards at my primary prayer corner and take a moment during the day to ask for the saints' intercession.  Holy cards also make great book markers!

One day, the nice man gave me a pamphlet about the Carmelite nuns. In it, there was an address to write to them.  Enchanted by the descriptions of the life of peace and silence, I sent them a letter.  This began a short period of correspondence that was brought to an abrupt halt by my mother, who cuttingly announced to me, "do you think they will want you when they find out that your mother is DIVORCED?"  She pronounced the word with a distinct air of scandal.

Indeed, the nuns did stop writing me.  I realize now that, in all likelihood, my mother had written them and told them to bug off, or something like that, but I was left with the impression that she had been right, that I was somehow tainted by my mother's divorce.  This would not be the first time that I believed what other people had to say about the Catholic Church.  Absent any Christian education, how could it be otherwise?

At the tender age of 17, I left my abusive home and struck out on my own, with nothing but the clothes on my back.  My mother had hidden my car keys.  I had received the car as my high school graduation present.  It was a hand-me-down from my father's new wife who "deserved better."  It later went to my sibling, like nearly everything I had ever been given.  It had been a bizarre home life.

Life was very difficult, but despite continuing survival issues including a brief homeless stint, I continued to yearn for God, for peace, for a life of prayer, and a life that meant something.  My search was not what I would call successful.  I fell in with some Scientologists and spent some time working for L. Ron Hubbard on his "flagship" that traveled between Lisbon, Portugal, to the northern regions of Spain, in Basque country.  Franco was still in charge in those days, and Spain was more than a little tense.  L. Ron Hubbard made me tense, with his odd habits and very strange personal aura.

From the obvious drawbacks of the Scientologists, I flirted with a form of Buddhism that involved a lot of chanting.  That's all I remember about it, except that all the women I knew who practiced this religion were using it as a way to get things out of life...like cars and boyfriends.  It hardly seemed worth the effort and was obviously not a genuine pursuit.  In any case, there was no peace or joy and it lasted a very short time.

After some extremely difficult life occurrences, I found myself in an apartment in Sacramento, working in a law firm and feeling that familiar urge again.  Somehow, I had to get closer to God, but how?  I decided that I needed to learn how to meditate.  Perhaps THAT would give me peace.  So, I picked up a phone book and found a group that sounded East Indian:  The Vedanta Society.

That phone call was the beginning of more than 8 years of involvement in this group that posited the idea that "all religions lead to God."  Well, that sounded nice and tolerant and broad.  Plus, they taught meditation.  Just the ticket.  I became very involved because I did love the meditation and the peace that I felt on the premises.  For the first time, I studied a legitimate mainline religion (Hinduism.)  I swallowed the philosophy hook, line and sinker and decided to join the convent.

In the convent, we had a large library of books of most of the major religious traditions.  The darndest thing happened.  Every time I walked in there, I gravitated toward the Catholic books, especially the ones about the Catholic mystics and Catholic religious orders.  I also particularly loved the Eastern Orthodox magazines and books like, The Way of the Pilgrim, and the Philokalia.  I would tell myself that I "should" read the Hindu-based books, but they left me cold.

These Catholic books were my first introduction to Christian history, theology and cosmology, except for the slim pamphlets I'd been sent from the Carmelites as a young girl.  In my childhood, I'd never had a friend who was Christian.  My mother moved us to another city every year, one step ahead of the creditors or the last boyfriend or whatever.  It wasn't enough time to get to know anyone.  No one in my family was overtly Christian.  My grandmother said, "all you need is the golden rule," and that no one needed to go to church.  In my 20's, I had been working in the entertainment industry.  I didn't meet any Christians there either.

I was 38 before I encountered Jesus.  Realizing that my heart had become Christian, I got a job in a law firm, left the convent, and began taking RCIA classes at the large Catholic Church near my workplace in Beverly Hills.  About halfway through the classes, the nun in charge summoned me to her office and announced that it would be "years" before they would consent to baptize me because I had been divorced.

To be clear, I was leading a chaste life.  I had no boyfriend.  I wasn't dating.  There was no reason to deny me baptism, but this nun was under a misconception, which she gleefully transmitted to me.  Evidently, getting a divorce was so sinful in her mind, that baptism couldn't even wash me clean.

Heartbroken, and desperately wanting to be baptized Christian, I walked across the street to the big Episcopal Church, entered their class midway and was baptized on April 11, 1993.  It was what they call "high church," but the minister was a very masculine woman who made me very uneasy and who rarely smiled.  Aside from the female minister, they had all the bells and smells of a Catholic Church but something was definitely missing.  Later, I would learn that it was the apostolic succession that was so necessary but which was absent.

The Episcopal Church was a huge disappointment, for various reasons too numerous and, frankly, too petty to elaborate here.  I was part of the problem, of course.  On their part, the lack of apostolic succession of the Episcopal Church and its evolution toward secular values was a problem for me. My experience with them gave me the impression that they didn't care much for the poor, especially if the poor was in the pew next to the upper-middle class congregants.  I am not saying this is true, but this was my perception.

One thing I particularly missed was Jesus' mandate that we love one another.  I didn't see any of that in the Episcopal Church.  The Catholic Church had made it clear it didn't want me because I had been divorced, and what could be more unloving than that sort of rejection?  I just couldn't seem to find a religious "home" with any of the Christian denominations I had visited.

After a period of sadness, confusion, and challenging life issues, I returned to the Hindus by taking sannyas vows by permission of my Hindu teacher.  These vows, essentially, make one a female swami.  You could say that they are the "final" vows of a Hindu monastic, some of whom live in monasteries, but most live ascetic lives by themselves.  I wanted to devote myself to God completely and felt that these vows would help me.

While living in a large apartment complex, I met a woman who was an Ursaline nun.  We became friends.  I did her genealogy and found that she was my 11th cousin.  When I confided to her what had happened to me when I had tried to become Catholic and how sad it had made me, she informed me that the nun who had refused me baptism had been completely wrong.  Unless I had been living in an "irregular" second marriage or living in sin with someone, there was absolutely no bar to baptism or confirmation in the church.  She offered to sponsor me if I still wanted to become Catholic, and I was thrilled.

Once again, I had problems, however, because of my physical health issues.  I was unable to sit through the classes and had to pursue a private course.  I wanted to be confirmed in the Byzantine Catholic Church that I loved so much but, while the priest was willing to have me pursue a private course, the deacon felt he didn't have the time and he refused me.  Once again, the door had been closed on me.

I wasn't going to let this rejection throw me off, however.  My cousin had an acquaintance at a large church near my house.  We had a meeting with her, made arrangements for my confirmation, and this was done about 8 years ago....20 years after I first wanted to enter!

After a period of poor health, trying different Roman Catholic Churches, I returned to the Byzantine Catholic Church that I loved so much.  The Byzantines are, essentially, Orthodox style churches that either stayed with the Catholic Church or joined it.  I can't remember the specific history.  There is only one in all of New Mexico and, thanks be to God, it is in the town where I live.  We are lucky enough to have two marvelous priests.  Our retired priest, Father Chris, my new spiritual director, has been permitted to remain there, which is a great benefit to all of us.  He is a man of great spirituality and intelligence.  Likewise, our new young priest, Father Artur.  He is just a couple years younger than the age of my son, if my son had not died last year.  Recently, I offered to fill a need in the bookstore on Sundays, and am happily doing what little I can.

Looking back on my experiences, I realize that my failing in all of this was my lack of persistence. When my mother badmouthed the Catholics, I should have continued writing them.  In the alternative, I could have visited them on my little bike.  Of course, I was only 11, so I have to cut myself some slack!  Seriously, however, my lack of persistence was the real problem when that nun refused to allow me to become baptized.  I knew in my heart that she was wrong, that the Catholic Church did not expect you to be a saint before baptism.  It only required that one be repentant of one's mistakes and not be living in sin while requesting baptism.

So, here I am, at age 60, with some health problems and plenty of impediments to a monastic vocation, yet, in other ways, I am an ideal candidate.  Confident that God can and does use a broken instrument such as myself, I am determined to live as a nun to the best of my ability.

It occurs to me that other women who have retired or are not in ideal health may also like to join me in a contemplative life as religious sisters.  I would call the order "The Prodigal Daughters of the Most Holy Mother of God."

If you are likewise inclined, please share your story with me.

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

God bless,

Silver Rose Parnell

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

CHRISTMAS LETTER, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM SILVER COTTAGE!



Last year at this time, it was a sad state of affairs.  My son, my only child, had just died.  Everything was colored with a dark pall.  During 2014 my service dog died, my television died, my cat contracted stage 3 kidney disease, and all sorts of other problems presented themselves.  It was bleak, but, thanks be to God, the pall has gradually lifted.  

My son, Jason Beasley
Shortly before his death in 2013


One significant event was the interment of my son's ashes at Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery, free of charge (thanks to the efforts of our bishop!)  The Divine Liturgy that marked the occasion was exquisitely beautiful, respectful and uplifting.  I really DID feel that "closure" people talk about when discussing funerals and services.  I also began to feel an increase in gratitude, serenity and peace.  

Throughout 2014, I received the assistance of several good friends in my church community who fed me, transported me and comforted me in my grief.  Their steady companionship and love, in the spirit of Christ and his blessed mother, have strengthened me in my struggles, and I feel very blessed for the gift of their friendship.

After praying for at least enough healing to make it to church "on my own steam," my health improved enough to do just that, and I returned to my beloved Byzantine Catholic Church as a regular attendee.  I am thrilled to be of service in the bookstore on Sundays.  It is gratifying to have some small niche where I can contribute to the welfare of the church.


Our Lady, Helper of Mothers
Icon located at Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Byzantine Catholic Church
Albuquerque, New Mexico


During this year, I also gained a spiritual director who is helping me establish my monastic prayer life at home and with whom I am beginning the discernment for a formal monastic life.  I have a plan to start a small monastery of retired and/or disabled ladies who would probably not be good candidates for the typical contemplative convent.  This would be a big project, and it may be more practical for me to enter an establishment that is already in place and then just blend into the woodwork as best I can.  On the other hand, I could easily end up staying at home and pursuing the solitary path as I have done for the last dozen years or more.  God's will be done in all of this!  I am feeling great joy in pursing the possibilities.

In order to get a grasp of the Old Church Slavonic that we use in our church, I have begun to learn Ukrainian, since the script and pronunciation is substantially the same.  I am fascinated by languages and have wanted to learn something new for a long time.  In many respects, Ukrainian is reminiscent of the Sanskrit I studied when I was a nun in the Hindu convent.  They have a similar sentence structure and method of declension.  On the side, I am also learning a little Polish.  70% of its vocabulary is common with Ukrainian.  In 2015, I hope to make some real progress in my language studies, even though I am not all that gifted when it comes to learning languages.  I will do my best, however!  There is a chance that one of the ladies at church will teach a class in Ukrainian, since it is her first language.




As my prayer life has deepened and increased, my prayer corners have also developed and taken on more space in my apartment.  The one in the living room has a tiny little ceramic creche set on the table.  This is the table where I used to have a television.  A prayer corner is a much better idea!




The prayer corner in the back room is where I do all my formal prayers.



The icons spill over onto the adjoining walls:



...and in the corner!



Another pending project involves learning how to 'write' icons.  Now, I have done a lot of painting in the past, and have sold a few things, but icons are another matter entirely.  There is a well developed process of producing these beautiful windows into heaven.  I have a couple of books to help me, and I am close to breaking out the acrylic paints and getting to work!




In addition to all of this, I will continue making baby blankets for donation to the Gabriel Project, perhaps some hats for the homeless, and some lace veils and scarves for ladies to wear to church, at the request of a member of the congregation




It makes me very happy to have the wherewithal to learn some new things and to produce some works of art while helping others at the same time.  God is truly blessing me abundantly, and my spirits are light.  Nonetheless, everyone is still "working on" trying to get either a labradoodle or standard poodle puppy for me to train as my service dog.  I have to have the hypoallergenic coat, because of my asthma, and the expense for one of these animals is astonishing!  Many people think that the disabled are just given trained dogs, and nothing could be further from the truth!  The puppies cost between $1200 and $2500.  Training is extra.  The only people who are being given these dogs for free are military veterans, and they have to wait for years!

Many people are also under the mistaken notion that you have to hire a "professional" to train a dog for PTSD service.  This is simply not true.  The experts nearly all agree that because every person has their own triggers and their own methods of dealing with stress that work for them, it is best for the patient to train their own dog.  There are several really good books for this purpose that are available now.  Of course, it helps if one is already practiced with basic dog obedience training, which I am.

All in all, aside from the difficulties in getting some of my needs met, it is a happy Christmas, full of love and peace and plans for the future.  I pray that everyone is as happy as I am during this lovely time and that the joy of the Christ child is yours throughout the coming year.

God bless us, everyone!

Silver Rose Parnell


Monday, December 22, 2014

LYING IS STILL A SIN

Saints in heaven


I am becoming alarmed that increasing numbers of people are lying and spreading rumors and defending the lies when they are found out.  They don't even have the good sense to be ashamed of it!

This is ever more true on Facebook which can be, at times, a scary ride.  Today a Facebook contact posted a story that has been making the rounds on Facebook for a long time.  Supposedly, a pastor poses as a homeless man to see how his new congregation will treat him.  This "news" item is a hoax.  The events detailed never happened.  The picture that is provided is said to be that of Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (a fictitious name.)  In fact, the photo is one taken in 1970 on the streets of London, England.  The man pictured has no relation to the story whatsoever.  By including his photograph, the "news" item is geared to mislead people into believing that the story actually happened and that the characters are real.  The whole purpose of the story is to slam Christians for, supposedly, being hypocrites when confronted with the poor, which is ironic because most of the efforts to care for the poor throughout the world are conducted by Christian, and especially Catholic organizations.


Homeless man on a London Street
whose picture was used in the hoax.
He was falsely identified as "Pastor
Jeremiah Steepek"


When I offered the snopes.com link that exposed the hoax, the person posting the item defended it, saying that it was heart warming and insinuating that I was a scrooge.  According to the poster, I was offering "bah humbug."  The Facebook poster extolled the "beautiful message" that was contained in the bogus news item.  (See that item on the snopes.com website by searching for the name "Jeremiah Steepek.")

Apparently, slamming Christians, defaming their character and claiming they are rank hypocrites by employing a false story deliberately meant to mislead people has some kind of "beautiful message" in it.  This kind of beauty I do not understand.

What is really sad is that the person posting this lie and defending it considers themselves a highly spiritual person with big credentials.  I wish I could say that I had never seen this kind of disconnect between what people claim to believe and what they actually defend.  More and more, I am seeing the deification of personal opinion at the expense of true religion and true spirituality.

Nearly every major religious tradition agrees that lying and defaming the character of another person or persons is a terrible sin, yet these tactics are constantly employed in order to shore up prejudices and ill will toward others.  Sometimes, a person is unable to feel good about themselves unless they can convince themselves they are better than most by defaming whole classes of people with lies.  I suppose there are lots of reasons that could be to blame.  Lots of reasons and one reason:  Satan.

Satan is the father of lies.  It is one of his titles.  It is what he does best.  He deceives.  People who manipulate others by use of deception are operating in concert with the father of lies.

The false news item remained on my friend's timeline, but the snopes.com link that disproved it did not.   Deliberately choosing to propagate a lie and mislead others is a sure sign of one's allegiance to the dark side.  I regularly "pray Facebook," in that I offer prayers for the many people who are expressing lies, uncharitable opinions, criticisms of the poor, and the like, so I include that person in my morning prayers.

I did send an email telling this person that lying was beneath them, but in return I received a wild diatribe of accusations and name calling.  This is the predictable response.  Think about Linda Blair in the exorcist when the demon is addressed and her head starts spinning around and she spits pea soup everywhere.  It was kind of like that.

I ask that you also pray for my Facebook friend who has lost her way, and pray for all of the people in the world who are operating in concert with Satan while putting up a spiritual front.  I really want to believe that they are not deliberately choosing evil, but that they are confused or ignorant.  In any case, they are in the devil's camp, and we need to pray them out of there.

Of course, some modern people tell me they do not believe in Satan.  They also think God is made of unicorns and rainbows and that he passes out candy to everyone when they die, no matter how evil they have been.  Whether or not you believe in Satan, Satan certainly believes in all of us, and he is quite happy to be in the shadows and work behind the scenes, manipulating people who don't believe that he exists.  Whether we believe in him or not, if we follow his ways, there is a good chance we will end up with him in eternity.

God bless,

Silver Rose Parnell

Saturday, December 20, 2014

FOLLOW THE LIGHT


"The lamp of the body is the eye.  If your eye
is sound, your whole body will be filled with 
light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body
will be in darkness.  And if the light in you is
darkness, how great will the darkness be."
Matthew 6:22-23

I had a nightmare the other night in which Satan tried to allure me to his side.  The room was shadowy, the light meager and of a sickly dark yellow color.  The figure of the devil was tall and shrouded with a black cloak with a hood.  An angel warned me that I could not look upon that evil creature or else I might become enthralled, so the angel gave me a piece of parchment to put in front of my face to block the view of the dark one.  Even so, I could still make out that tall and ominous form.  I tried to leave, but the master of all lies drew near and asked me to sit with him.  I woke up, with a sense of foreboding and illness of spirit.

Satan is still pursuing me, trying to wrest me away from Jesus.  He wants all of us, actually, but the ones he pursues most diligently are those who are straining vigorously toward Jesus, who is the light of salvation.  The devil doesn't have to worry about the casual Christians.  They may walk themselves away from the light on their own, or with a gentle push from the evil one.  Likewise, the saints, the perfected ones, are likely past his reach.  The determined traveler who is struggling toward heaven, however, presents a challenge, and Satan pesters them unmercifully. 

He specializes in confusing the spiritual aspirant by either appealing to his ego or presenting visions and other supernatural phenomena in the guise of a message from God.  So, the sincere seeker gets sidetracked with this spiritual circus, stuck on the ferris wheel in which he occasionally sees a glimpse of glory from the top of the wheel, only to lose it again when the wheel goes around, and around, and around.  In this way we can understand "mystics" like Maria Divine Mercy or that Bayside woman who spout messages supposedly from heaven but which contradict Divine Inspiration of the Bible, Christian tradition, and the like.

It is so tempting to think that we are emanating the light and leading people to heaven when, in actuality, it is Christ who is the light and we live in his light when we are close to Him.



"He commanded us to follow Him, not because
He had any need of our service, but to grant us
salvation.  To follow the Savior, in fact,
means sharing in salvation, just as to follow 
the light means being surrounded by brightness.

He who is in the light is surely not the one to
create the light and make it shine, rather;
it is the light that shines on him and illuminates
him.  He gives nothing to the light, but he receives
from it the benefit of its splendor, as well as
all its other advantages."
~ Saint Irenaeus ~

I pray that we all remember to keep our eyes on the light of Christ and to follow Him most closely.  We have to keep custody of the eyes at all times and be cautious of all matters upon which we turn our vision, or else we may lock our gaze upon one of Satan's snares and become entangled in his mess.  Everything we read, everything we watch, everything we take in through the eyes has the potential to either divinize us or destroy us.

I pray that you all remain in the orbit of Christ's saving light.

Silver "Rose" Parnell

Monday, December 15, 2014

TORTURE IS A GRAVE MORAL EVIL



I continue to react in amazement at some of my Catholic brethren who are publicly expressing their opinion that torture of human beings is OK.  I am scandalized.  

Unlike many people who became Catholic because their parents raised them in it, I became Catholic because I actually believe.  I want to follow Jesus and be like Him as much as possible.  I want to lead a life that he would recognize as a holy one.  I fail.  I fail a lot.  I pick myself up and keep trying though.  One thing I am very keen to do, and which I recommend to everyone, is not to deviate from the faith in my opinions about the faith.  2,000 years of history and a whole lot of saints have come before me.  Who am I to say I know better than they?  So, while I may fail to live up to the ideal in many many ways, I do not shift the ideal for my own convenience.

The Pope came out against torture this year:

"I repeat the firm condemnation of every form of torture and invite Christians to commit themselves to work together for its abolition and to support victims and their families," he said. "To torture persons is a mortal sin. A very grave sin."  Pope Francis

His words are not surprising.  Jesus said we should love our enemies and do good to those who harm us.  The Pope is reiterating Jesus' prescription.

I would ask all my Catholic readers to pray for the conversion of Christians who are publicly advocating that we torture people.

God bless you all.


Silver Rose Parnell

Friday, November 28, 2014

THE EMBRACE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT



"Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it
done to me, according to his word."
Luke 1:38


I used to know a woman who constantly fretted about God's will for her life.  She kept saying that she wanted to know what He wanted her to do, while at the same time entertaining dreams of gargantuan missions for which she did not have the requisite skills or the physical, mental or spiritual stamina.  He kept giving her the little mission that was suitable for her, but she refused to take it because it did not conform to her dream of greatness.  Many of us fail to hear God when He is speaking to us because we want to hear something else.  We are so busy telling Him what to say to us that we can't hear Him speak.

In the last year, my son has died, my service dog died, my television died, the computer died, and I learned that the cat I had raised from a kitten for more than 10 years will likely die soon because he has stage 3 renal disease.  All of my acquaintances who call themselves Christian but who do not actually practice their faith have blown out of my life, making more space for holy endeavors.  At the same time, I have been asking the Lord to show me his will for me, but He was already doing that.

During the time the computer was on the fritz, I had lots of time to pray, and I finally got around to listening to God AND to telling him that I officially abandon myself to his will.  I said it and really meant it.  Shortly after that, my eyes were opened and I saw that, for some reason, He is clearing the decks...or allowing them to be cleared.  In any case, my life was being simplified.  Instead of fighting it, I have decided I need to embrace it.

In the moment that I resolved to embrace it, I became calm...and joyful.  No longer wasting my energy on fighting what IS, I am fully available to participate in the work God is doing in me.  I am simplifying.

Even the "good" things can be too much.  There are a plethora of excellent Catholic newsletters from a host of inspiring sources, but how many can I actually read?  How many HAVE I read since signing up for them?  Very few, really, because my need for knowledge has its own flow, pace and direction.  I know where to find information and inspiration when I need it.  I went through my email box and unsubscribed from every newsletter today.  It took surprisingly little time, considering how many unread missives were in my inbox.

Kitchen gadgets; dusty old spices that have lost their flavor; clothes I no longer wear and will never wear again; multiple vases for flowers I can't afford to buy; filing that is so old it no longer needs to be filed, A bar-b-que set that has never been taken from the box, much less assembled; an old fabric cat-carrier; costume jewelry and boxes of other extraneous possessions are finding their way to St. Vincent de Paul for their thrift store.

Last week I sold all my silver jewelry except the necklaces of religious medals I wear.  The proceeds funded the cat's expensive new cat food and medicine.  The jewelry box is almost empty, and I couldn't be happier.

I am eyeing every possession with the calculating attitude of a corporate raider who takes over a corporation and then slashes all the excess personnel.

The less stuff I have to care for, the more serene I feel.  My monastic vocation, although it may not be realized in someone else's establishment, due to my health and age, has been rekindled nonetheless, and I am feeling a lightness of spirit that lends itself to more prayer and contemplation.

When I am finished simplifying, perhaps the Lord will reveal a little more of his plan...or maybe he won't!  Maybe I will just keep bumbling along, following his clues as best I can.  That's alright with me because I am not in charge, and I am glad about that.  I will just keep saying "yes" to Him, as did Mary, and maybe some day it will all make sense.

Silver Rose Parnell
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