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Sunday, July 5, 2015

MYSTERIOUS SAINTS OF OLD

Saint Erfyl's Church, Llanerfyl
geograph.org.uk - by Richard Law
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


I have long loved the little-known saints for whom we have perhaps only a name and some scanty information.  These holy people, lost in the mists of time, are a reminder to me that I am on this earth but a short while and, by the time 100 years have passed, no one will remember me! In fact, it will likely be a much shorter time before I fade into obscurity.  This is a wonderful meditation to promote humility and a proper perspective on my role in the world.  Just a little cog in a big machine...and not an essential one, at that!


3-bedroom cottage in Llanerfyl


Picking out the forgotten saints from the list of saints for each day, researching them, and featuring them on a blog post, is something I love to do.  We can all learn together in this process.

So, one of today's saints is a woman name "Erfyl."  Alternate spellings include "Eurfyl" and "Euerfyl." Very little remains of the story of her life, except that she was a "holy virgin who founded the church Llanerfyl in Montgomeryshire, Wales."





The website called Saints of Great Britain and Ireland  reports that "400 yards west of the church are the remains of an ancient yew tree and a holy well beneath it."   Our saint is buried under an inscribed stone near the remnants of the well.





Llanerfyl is a community that includes a town by the same name.  The church was rebuilt in 1870, which is why is looks so lovely and sturdy!  There are wide tracts of marshland in that area, and several farms.  The village of Llanerfyl itself sits on the river Banw near the sarns Sws Roman Way.  Combined with the mention of a "holy well" near the church, a romantic and enticing picture emerges in my imagination.  I would love to see it!





At first, I was unable to find a birth year reference for Saint Erfyl, but I did note some records of baptisms in the early 1600's, then I found a page about her on The Self-ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian diocese of North America.  It reports that our saint of the day lived in the third century, so it would be no wonder that there is so little information about her, however, other sources point to the sixth century, which seems much more likely.

Notice in the icon of her, above, she is holding a model of a church, the sign that she a foundress.  (I apologize for the crookedness of the photo.  I could find no other of this particular saint.  One day, if I can ever get myself to start painting again, I will try to make one of her.)

I am fond of the female saints who have founded convents and churches.  Until very recently, I had fervently hoped to start a contemplative convent geared toward accepting nuns that are disabled, but my health has rapidly deteriorated in such a way as to make this dream an unlikely one, barring any miracle with which the Lord decides to bless me!  Being both disabled AND poor, it is difficult to accomplish anything.  At least I can PRAY, thanks be to God!


Farm near Llanerfyl


I hope all of you have had a joyous and celebratory weekend and that you have experienced gratitude for the great gift of living in this country where, although we do have a large percentage of our population that lives in poverty, we are better off than many other countries of the world, particularly with regard to the African continent, where even clean drinking water cannot be had in numerous villages.  Likewise, in China, where the horror of forced abortions and infanticides are brutally thrust upon the families there.

While we do live in a beautiful country where our material standard of living is high, our religious freedoms are under attack from a spiritually bankrupt culture.  I ask you all to join with me in prayer for the strengthening of the Christian religion throughout the world, and for the grace of great courage in the face of persecutions which are sure to come.

God bless us all.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

LINKS TO SOURCES:
CATHOLIC SAINTS INFO WEBSITE
CATHOLIC ONLINE WEBSITE
THE SAINTS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND
WIKIPEDIA
A VISION OF BRITAIN THROUGH TIME
THE SELF RULED ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN ARCHDIOCESE OF NORTH AMERICA





Saturday, July 4, 2015

BODY AND SOUL





It makes me sad that all one ever hears about in the media with regard to Catholicism is but a small portion of the social manifestations of an incredibly loving, deeply meaningful and positive model gifted to us by a loving Creator who, in love, has tied his own hands, so to speak, so that, with free will, we may choose to follow his prescription that purifies us, aligns us with His will, and allows us to return to him and dwell with Him forever in a beatific vision.

I have asked myself, if God made each one of us and knew our name before our birth, and if the whole of Christianity is purposed so we would return to Him at the end of our lives, why didn't he just create us and then keep us in heaven where we are intended to be for all eternity?  Why bother making this detour to earth?  Why?

Obviously, there is something valuable that happens here on earth, something that cannot be duplicated in heaven or in a strictly spiritual persona.  We need these bodies and these earthly experiences for some type of development and/or learning process.  On judgment day, He will resurrect us with our glorified bodies, and we will go to heaven, which is a place and not just some abstract 'spiritual' realm.  We will commune with Lord, as glorified body and soul, in the exquisitely beautiful realm of heaven.

We are body and soul.  We are not a soul trapped in a body.  (That was a very early heresy that is being repeated now by New Agey types of people whose views are similar to the gnostics that existed before Jesus was born and who tried to change His message to jive with their own.)

This is why it is tremendously important to harmonize our body's activities with the will of Our Father Who Art In Heaven.  We are called to "be perfect" as our "Father in Heaven is Perfect."  Many people do not understand that the sins that one does with one's body have a profound affect on one's entire being.  It is difficult for many people to understand how the sexual sins can be harmful, for instance, when it feels so great and there is no appearance of harm.  It is doubly difficult to comprehend the damage when other people join you in your assertions that "no harm is done."  When the government approves it, such as the legalization of abortion and the weddings of same-sex couples, it is harder still to see clearly, especially since the nature of what is being done is being hidden in deliberately obscuring language.

Abortion, which is murder of an unborn human being, is characterized as "pro-choice."  Same-sex marriage is enshrined in the Constitution, of all things, and is labeled as an issue of "human rights."

Because the general public is mostly ignorant of Christian faith, they are easily inculcated with the misleading language and phony labels generated by people who are committed to certain types of sins.  Without bothering to study the faith before making their decision, they opt for the thing that is easiest and feels the best.  Sex feels great.  Reading books and studying is too much trouble.  Let's just have the sexual sin and forget about studying both sides of an issue before we make a decision! Let's just discount the Christian faith by repeating the sound-bite cliches we have heard from other people.

I will sheepishly raise my hand at this point when the question is asked if I have ever behaved like that?  You betcha.  When I was young, I repeated what other people said about Jesus and His Church and kept sinning, secure in the knowledge that it was OK.  Everyone said so, after all.  I am grateful for the forgiveness of God.  He doesn't want to punish us.  He just wants us to get it right.  "Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more," Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery.

Sins accomplished with the body are important, not because I think so but because Jesus said so.  "Go and sin no more." In addition to sexual sins, gluttony is also a physical sin, as is alcoholism and abusing drugs.  We are told that the body is the temple of the spirit.  Something important is being accomplished there.  We do not need to know every reason why it is important.  God doesn't owe us that.  He is accomplishing His work in us as He sees fit.

If we didn't need our bodies for some special purpose, they would not have been created.  We wouldn't have them.  There is a divine purpose to humans possessing body and soul.  I don't pretend to know the whole story behind this, just that I need to be more cognizant of what I am doing with my body. I have my issue, which is food.  Other people will struggle with other crosses in regard to what they allow within the temple of their soul.  We must remember that it is important and not discount it, though.

What we should not do is pretend that bodily sins do not hurt us and others.  We should aim for the highest, instead of legislating the lowest.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

Sunday, June 28, 2015

FORNICATION, ABORTION, AND GAY "MARRIAGE"



This is a short post because I don't want the point to be lost.

The reason why the Supreme Court has upended the definition and nature of marriage by legalizing marital unions between homosexuals is because the dignity, beauty and sanctity of marriage had already been destroyed by heterosexuals.  It is the same reason we have so many abortions performed every day in our country.

The reason is fornication.

When artificial birth control became widely used, our culture severed the link between sexuality and its natural result, which is procreation.  All hell broke loose.  People no longer felt the need to maintain chastity.  Sex during courtship was assumed.  Sex without courtship was practiced widely. Religious prohibitions against promiscuity were abandoned as stale, old, unnecessary rules.  We had THE PILL.  We could do anything we wanted, and we did.

Sometimes the pill didn't work or we forgot to take it and we got pregnant.  Abortions became legal, and we just killed the children that were conceived during these ill-fated unions because we had mentally disconnected the sex act from reproduction.  In our minds, "it" was not supposed to happen! "It" was not a baby.  "It" was an accident.  So, the accident had a heartbeat at 8 weeks and unique fingerprints at 10 weeks?  So what?

After spending the last 60 years violating Biblical commandments with perverted, sterile sex acts and 40 years of murdering our unborn children, how could we then turn around and tell the homosexual, who was ALSO living a lifestyle of perverted, sterile sex acts, that they were not "okay" as they were?

We have validated the homosexual "marriage" in order to validate our own fornication.

FORNICATION is the cause.  Abortion is a consequence.  Gay marriage is the rationalization.

I can tell you from personal experience that leading a chaste life, in obedience to the will of God, purifying oneself in preparation for the beatific vision, is more satisfying, more joyful and more exciting than a thousand illicit liaisons.  Spread the good news.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015

DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE IN GOD, OR ARE YOU JUST PRETENDING?




Some people pick a religion based upon what they already believe.  If there is any aspect to the religion with which they don't agree, they either ignore it or it becomes so annoying at some point in time that they go in search of a religion that agrees with themselves more tidily.  If there isn't a "better" religion, in their estimation, they lobby to change the one in which they find themselves, in order that it may more closely meet their desires.

The inner sanctum of the church is not immune.  Thus, we have nuns lobbying to become priests, priests lobbying for "gay marriage" and the occasional bishop assigning luxurious living accommodations to himself and his cronies, even though, at the very least, a simple style of life is required of them, what to speak of the poverty that characterizes the lives of nearly all the saints.

All of these faux Gods are using a false and self-reverential criteria.  Religion is not supposed to be a means to soothe the ego and make ourselves feel good, but this is exactly what many people now hope to get out of it. The so-called "new age" religions that hit America at end of the 19th century and spread like wild fire can lay claim to some responsibility for individuals elevating themselves above the saints and sages because the emphasis shifted from the individual being guided by God to one in which each individual replaces God as the ultimate authority in their own life.  At the very least, the individual's personal opinion takes precedence over the saints, sages, theologians and scholars that have digested and analyzed the scriptures over the last 2,000 years.

I hasten to append that, in many cases, these New Age mystical religions have been misinterpreted and that, while the religions of personal mystical experience are meant to corroborate the teachings of the saints and sages, devotees replace them, instead, with their own misshapen ideas.  Our modern culture has assimilated these foreign philosophical systems in this misshapen form and, when the Christian religion of the land was inoculated with them, it caused a terrible confusion in society, which confusion clearly continues until today, when the Supreme Court of the land enshrines sterile unions between same sex couples as a form of so-called "marriage".  "Right" and "wrong" are no longer solidly understood but have been replaced by a modern relativism that has nearly destroyed the moral underpinnings of society completely.

The crux of the issue is that, even people who self-identify as religious or "spiritual" do not actually believe in God.  They will insist that they do believe in God, but, conveniently, their "God" agrees with them in every one of their unique inclinations.  Each person has become his own God, the big cheese sitting in the big chair with the long beard.  Each person has become the sole and complete arbiter and judge of truth.  Satan's sin was that he also considered himself as good as God, and for this he was kicked out of heaven.

Coincidentally, these self-made deities either dismiss or discount any scripture, saint or religious authority and tradition whenever and wherever they contradict the individual's all-mighty opinion.  Frequently, these demi-Gods cite the ancient scriptures as the very reason why the Catholic Church is wrong because the scriptures are so old that they couldn't possibly pertain to our time.  "They need to be updated!" is the cry.  Never mind that, for God, there is no time.  The entirety of our puny history is with God in its entirety at every moment.  He knows the whole of my life because he's not stuck at any point in time.  He can't even be said to travel in time or forsee something "in the future" because, for Him, there is no future and there is no past.  There is only the eternal NOW.  The only case in which this may not have been true was perhaps when Jesus walked the earth.  Our Lord, as Jesus Christ, experienced time, suffering, pain and death.

Jesus asks us to learn from Him and He taught the Apostles the manner in which they were to do this. He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit.  He gave Peter the keys to the kingdom and told him that He was the rock upon which Jesus' church would be built.  This didn't happen 2,000 years ago, according to God.  It is happening now and now and now.  The Eucharist is Jesus today in the same degree as it was in that upper room when he instructed the disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, except you eat the flesh of
the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in
you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has
eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For
My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood, dwells in me,
and I in him." ~ John 6:53-56

God did not give us temporary Truths that need our hands to fix them.  It makes no sense to do so. What is true then is true now.  God needs no replacement.  He doesn't need our help.

I insist that the moment someone sets themselves up as their own God and their own arbiter of what is right and wrong in the Christian faith, that is the moment when it is revealed that the person does not believe in God at all.  If one believed in God, one wouldn't dare attempt to usurp Him and deny the relevance of His church to today's world.  Humility and fear of the Lord would overtake that person if he or she had a consciousness of the reality of God.  At the very least, a wise person would employ enlightened self-interest and would obey the commandments, despite any small misgivings or doubts. After all, following the commandments of God would not hurt if it turned out there was no God, but doing so is essential if there really is a God.

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle
and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For
My yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:29-30




"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; 
yet not my will but yours be done."  Luke 22:42


When Jesus speaks about being humble, he isn't referring to a personality type that bows and scrapes and defers to everyone, nor to a self-deprecating point of view.  He certainly was not like that.  He modeled for us an obedience to God that was a sublime lesson to those of us who try to balance prayers and desires for oneself with the desire to also do the will of God.  We have been given free will, otherwise our consent to living a holy life would be a condition of slavery.  We have to willingly gives ourselves over to the will of God, even as we ask for something from him.  Jesus didn't want to be crucified, so he begged the Lord to take that from his hand, so to speak.  He obeyed the Lord when the answer was "no."

Children cannot stand to be told "no."  Sometimes they have a fit.  The mature disciple bows their head in reverential agreement, confident that the good Lord knows best, that His church knows best, and that the disciple's possible disagreement with the will of God is none other than the childish ego raising it's head and having a temper tantrum.

We live in a day and age when obedience to the will of God is an occasion of persecution and, in some cases, martyrdom.  The easy days of being a majority power are gone.  Even some people who claim to be Christian are not with us because they deny the unchangeable Truths of the faith and have joined the enemy that lobbies against the teachings of Jesus' Church.

"Whoever is not with me is against Me, and whoever
does not gather with me, scatters."  Mark 9:40

Before I became a Christian, I followed my own inclinations.  In many cases, I was wrong, and no good came from it.  I've decided to put aside my own independent tendencies in favor of the commandments of Jesus.  I pray daily that I become a better Christian, more faithful, more worshipful, more pure and more holy.  I ask that you also pray for me, that I can become a better Christian, and I invite you to follow me in that pursuit.

God bless us all.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

YEARLY APPEAL

Me and my son, when I was about 22 years old


My life started with some promise as an artist and writer.  Thanks to my father's position as a writer/producer for the television show "Charlie's Angels," I had a lucky connection that enabled me to work in the television industry in various capacities, selling 9 stories to that TV show in the process.

Eventually, I was turned off by the gross superficiality and loose morals of the business and I moved on to other pursuits, mostly a search for God amid the chaos of this world.

I did not imagine that the back problems that began when I was about the age I was in this photo were going to increase in scope and severity, collecting other illnesses along the way, and that some day I would be disabled and poor.

Every year I become more poor because the Social Security "cost of living increase" doesn't cover the increased costs of living at all.  I am receiving $27 a month more than last year, but my bills have increased more than $200 per month!  For example, last year my co-pays for medicine cost me $20. This year, I've been told they will cost me $107.00.  My rent went up $9.  I won't bore you with the rest of it.  Everything went up, and for a person on a limited income, it is a substantial amount.

I do not have any family that is able to help in any meaningful way.  I have a friend who has been very kind to me and even had my car repaired when it broke down, but she has a large family, and there are limits to what she can do.  I was not "lucky in love" and there is no husband.

Consequently, a lot of my needs are not met, and I am reduced to asking for help.  My Social Security is "too high" to receive any government aid, though I was told by the Medicaid people that if my income was derived from employment, rather than Social Security, they would pay some of my medical expenses, which exceed $300 a month.  This is a blatant case of handicap discrimination, and I did appeal the decision, but there is no recourse.

Because of my physical issues, there isn't much I can do to improve my situation in the way of work, though I have tried.  I am writing a book, which is a long-term proposition.  I am also an expert genealogist, but there aren't many people willing to pay for expert family research.  If you would like to have a family tree researched, please note that I am the only researcher that creates the database for you, as far as I know.  Most researchers just give you notes of what they have found.  When I was on Ancestry.com's "expert panel" I charged about $44 an hour.  These days, I charge $25 an hour, with a 3-hour minimum.

Please note, there is a "Donation" button on this page, at the upper left quadrant.  Paypal takes a percentage of every donation, however, and the arrangement is less than ideal for me.  Alternately, I have several wish lists that cover the gamut of food, household goods, service dog supplies, and research materials.  Amazon.com has my address and will ship to me direct.  All you have to do is go to my wish list, put the items in the shopping bag, and pay for them.  The wish lists are in the column to the right of this blog post.

FURTHER NOTE:  With regard to the food items, you will note that many of them are organic.  I have allergy-induced asthma, and I am allergic to many things, especially pesticides used on our produce.  In addition, I have a stomach condition that makes it difficult for me to digest many items. My asthma is not well managed because I can't get the medicine I need, due to cost.  For these reasons, I eat as much whole grain and organic food as possible, staying with simple unrefined ingredients and cooking all my meals "from scratch."  When I am feeling up to it, I even make my own bread.

If you would like to see a copy of a sample budget that I have worked up on an Excel spreadsheet before you donate, please contact me and I will email you a copy.  It is loosely based on July's expected expenditures but reflects the customary situation.

With regard to my habits and my standard of living, I should say that I do not smoke, drink or take drugs.  I don't have tattoos, eat at restaurants, travel or get my hair cut professionally.  My telephone does nothing but talk and text.  No internet.  I don't own a television and do not pay for cable, though I do have a laptop that was donated to me and I pay about $30 a month for internet access.

You should know that, despite the various privations, I am a very happy person because the Lord is always with me.  I am able to spend much more time in the presence of Jesus, Mary, the saints and angels than one would typically expect because of the situation in which I find myself.  In this way, I consider my disability and poverty a blessing...but that doesn't keep it from being a major obstacle to my survival.

If you are not able to help, I would be most grateful for prayers.

In the meantime, God bless us all.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

THE POPE'S NEW ENCYCLICAL - IT IS NOT JUST GLOBAL WARMING


"The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely.  Hence,
there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain
trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person's face.  The ideal is not only
to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of
God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.  Saint 
Bonaventure teaches us that 'contemplation deepens the more
we feel the working of God's grace within our hearts, and the
better we learn to encounter God in creatures outside ourselves.'"
Pope Francis, Laudato si', paragraph 233


Some of the day's talking heads are dismissing the Pope's Encyclical, Laudato si', without even reading it, apparently, because they seem to think that it is all about global warming and, because he isn't a scientist, they claim he has no business speaking about ecology.  According to Rush Limbaugh, the Pope's encyclical confirms that he is a "Marxist."  This isn't the first time that Limbaugh has labeled the Pope thusly.  I wonder if the man has ever looked up the term in a dictionary.

Hear what Limbaugh has to say about "this global warming encyclical" HERE where he attempts to reduce this beautiful, multi-faceted document into a "rant" against the rich.  He also discounts the Pope's "assertions" about climate change because the Pope isn't a scientist.  The Pope doesn't have to be a scientist to comment upon a spiritual orientation that is reflected in the world around it.  He does mention some scientific facts, but he relies upon the findings of scientists for those.

I would hope that, just because Limbaugh and people like him are calling this the Pope's "global warming encyclical," the public will not dismiss it as such, because Pope Francis covers a lot of territory in this elegantly crafted but easily accessible document.  All one has to do is read the document to see the Truth.

On the other hand, Ryan T. Anderson, of the Heritage Foundation, gives a more than credible overview of the encyclical, which surprises me because I do not typically agree with much of anything the Heritage Foundation has to say.  It has always seemed to me that they were hostile toward the poor, but there wasn't much of that sort of thing in Anderson's article, which is titled POPE FRANCIS' ENCYCLICAL IS ABOUT MORE THAN CLIMATE CHANGE. IT'S ABOUT CULTURE.

It seems to me that, here in America at least, the culture has a grim view of life that denies the majority of Americans the right to be connected with the beauty of nature and with cultural symbols, architecture and art that feed the soul.  Francis talks about how it is not healthy for people to be surrounded by concrete, asphalt and glass, such as in most large cities.  The poor, especially, are subject to a gritty version of bare survival that does not take into account the quality of life, the need for beauty and nature, the hunger of the human soul for the experience of God through the rest of God's creation.

Under the heading DECLINE IN THE QUALITY OF HUMAN LIFE AND THE BREAKDOWN OF SOCIETY, paragraphs 43 through 45, the Pope says:

"43.  Human beings too are creatures of this world, 
enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed 
with unique dignity.  So we cannot fail to consider the 
effects on people's lives of environmental deterioration, 
current models of development and the throwaway 
culture."


"44.  Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of 
the disproportionate and unruly growth of many 
cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not 
only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions 
but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transporta-
tion, and visual pollution and noise.  Many cities are 
huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of 
energy and water.  neighbourhoods, even those 
recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in 
sufficient green space.  We were not meant to be 
inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and 
deprived of physical contact with nature."

"45.  In some places, rural and urban alike, the 
privatization of certain spaces has restricted 
people's access to places of particular beauty.  
In others,"ecological" neighbourhoods have been 
created which are closed to outsiders in order to 
ensure an artificial tranquility.  Frequently, we 
find beautiful and carefully manicured green space in 
so-called "safer areas of cities, but not in the more hidden 
areas where the disposable of society live."

Paragraph number 45 spoke to me very strongly because my living situation exactly mirrors what the Pope is referring to therein.

When I moved into my apartment complex ten years ago as a disabled lady on limited income, it was a fairly pretty place, especially since it is a property that, though originally built as condominiums, had become partially occupied by disabled, elderly and the working poor on a low income program provided by the city.  There was a dense line of tall, beautiful trees lining the ditch that runs the back side of the property.  Along that line was a nice old wrought iron fence, punctuated now and then with a softly lit globe light on a matching black post.  There was a dirt path that ran the full line of the property, from one end all the way to the fenced-in pool, and I often saw residents strolling the fence line at night, chatting quietly and enjoying the natural ambiance.

Honesuckle and rosemary bushes dotted the landscape, and a few giant cotton wood trees complemented them.  Each downstairs apartment had a patch of grass and a patch of dirt in which to plant flowers.  A peacock had somehow found its way to the property and was living here.  There was a family of beavers, presided over by a giant, silver-backed female who studiously ignored me when she marched the path, preferring, occasionally, to walk from one end of the ditch to the other.  In the spring time, large red-tailed hawks were in abundance, and I often was treated to the sight of them, clinging to the fence, searching for their next meal or teaching their young ones to fly and hunt.

Canadian geese and their chicks, guarded by an inexplicable giant white domestic goose, were plentiful, as were gorgeous little wood ducks and their tiny chicks.  Mallards were in no short supply, and white herons of some variety were often seen hunting from the banks or, with particularly tall individuals, right in the middle of the ditch!  At night, the black crested night herons would perch in those trees on the ditch line.  I was lucky enough to catch sight of a few green herons, which are pretty shy. It was a rich ecological smorgasbord that attracted a giant whitish owl who flew straight down the middle of the ditch at dusk, swiveling its head to look at me with its wide-set eyes as it passed me.

There were plentiful bass, trout and catfish in the ditch, along with the ubiquitous carp that no one wanted to eat, except the really desperate fisherman, but unless you trespassed on our property, you couldn't fish our excellent fishing holes because the dense treeline at the bank wouldn't permit it.  The maintenance man would occasionally fish during his lunch hour, and I shared recipes with him for the catfish that were quite large at the time.

We couldn't really see the golf course on the other side of the ditch, except for a glimpse here and there between the thicket.  Occasionally, we could hear a loud conversation of some golfers that had driven their balls too close to the fence or, which often happened, into the water.

One day, someone in power decided to kill all the grass and bushes.  They turned off the sprinklers for good and just waited for everything to die, which it did in short order.  The grass, the honeysuckle, the rosemary.  A tiny patch of grass was left at the driveway, just below the sign for the apartment complex, false advertising if you ask me!  Another patch of grass near the mailboxes was allowed to live - just barely.  It never really looks like grass any more, but a collection of clipped weeds of one variety or another.  In front of my garage, one of the two small trees that bore a profusion of beautiful flowers every spring, was allowed to die of thirst and was eventually removed by the "gardeners."  I notice that a nearby neighbor started watering the other one to try and keep it alive.  So far, it is hanging on.

Then someone decided to remove ALL the trees from the banks of the ditch, which I used to call "our creek" because it was so charming.  No more.  It took no time for giant machines to come and rip out the trees and carry them away.  Then the banks of the ditch were laid over with a giant netting of huge cement blocks, the purpose of which, I imagine, was to delay the erosion that the trees were preventing by their presence at the water line.  Then the quaint light globes that had dotted the fence line were also ripped out.

Huge machines came in and ripped up the back yards.  They placed some kind of tubing under the soil, which they then topped with heavy weed screen, over which they piled loads of crushed up cement, which is called "crusher fines" in the construction trades.  On the walking path that was previously dirt, they laid a thick carpet of gravel that is almost impossible to walk upon, chunks of gravel finding their way into any kind of shoe you might wear.  Walking the back fence was no longer practical, anyway, because there was no light and most of the line was pitch black at night, except for the occasional harsh light from one of the lamps that was placed on select walls of the buildings.

This is when my childhood asthma came back like a lion into the Colosseum, and I have had terrible trouble breathing every day.  The wind whips up, picking up the dust, dirt, cement and sand choking my sinuses and windpipe.  The back of my throat feels as if it's been sandblasted and, I suppose, it has.

I rarely see a hawk any more.  A young beaver has taken up residence where the old lady used to live. We have very few fish and almost no turtles since the trees were removed because people could (and did) wander up and down the property just outside our fence line.  I watched them as they took large nets and scooped absolutely everything edible out of our "creek."  Carp, turtles, frogs, bass, trout: they took everything.  Soon, the ditch was barren of life.  It is struggling to regain its footing.  The elm trees are making another appearance all along the ditch line and, if left alone, will be tall enough to screen out our view of the golf course one day.

As for the country club, they seem to have an unlimited supply of water for their lush greens and big cottonwoods.  We can look at it from across two fence lines; the wrought iron one on our side and the wire one on theirs.  At about 9:00 at night, I can hear their sprinklers coming on, with a rhythmic splash into the water of the ditch because at least one of them has a swing that is too wide.

I fought the decimation of our natural world on this side of the fence, but in America it is assumed that only the rich can have access to the beauty of living things, and it was a losing battle from the start.  I have tried (unsuccessfully) to grow various things in pots in my back yard, but I don't have the money I would need to fix the ugliness outside my window.  I often tell people how ironic it is that my "view" from the living room is disturbing: the artificially dyed approximation of dirt on my side, and lush greenery on the rich folks' side.  They tell me I should shut up and be thankful that I can see the pretty place where the rich folks play.  "How many people in your position could have a view like that?" they ask me.




I would say that city planners should be required to read The Pope's encyclical before dooming people to living and working in vast expanses of man-made structures, cement plazas, and artificial dirt substitute in favor of integrated green space where the movement of nature can be witnessed and with which we can freely interact.

Quality of life is not something I read about or something I hear on news programs discussing what to do about the poor, for instance.  There is an underlying presupposition in America that only people with money have the right to a decent quality of life, to beauty and to a life lived within the harmony of natural space.  Clearly, the Pope does not agree.  Neither do I.

The Pope's vision is vast and comprehensive, which is why he spent almost 200 pages discussing ecology and related issues.  It deals with global warming, to be sure, but it is much more than that.  Do yourself a favor and read the document and you will see what I mean.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ST. TERESA OF PORTUGAL



One of the saints celebrated today is another relative of mine, very distant of course!  Her name is Saint Teresa of Portugal.  She was married to her first cousin, King Alfonso IX of Leon and, after having several children, the church dissolved the marriage because their marriage was too close in blood relation (consanguinity.)  It was common at one time for relatives to marry one another among nobility because, God forbid, one couldn't marry a commoner.  Their world would fall in. Consequently, since I am descended from a bunch of royal lines, I am a cousin to myself a hundred times over, maybe more!

Teresa returned to her estate at Lorvao in Portugal and funded a monastery on her property.  Later, she replaced the monks with 300 nuns following the Cistercian Rule.  She lived with the nuns.  At some point after settling a dispute about the inheritance of King Alfonso in Leon, she once again returned to Lorvao and it is thought that she officially became a nun.

Teresa's sister, Sanchia, was also sainted, and today is her feast day as well.

I have long wanted to start a convent geared toward disabled and elderly ladies, but that sort of thing requires a huge amount of funding.  My sainted ancient ancestors were wealthy, most of them, or at least had quite a bit of land, and they had the freedom to donate it to the church and establish convents and monasteries for the glory of the church.

The great importance of prayer, whether intercessory prayer, glorification, or contemplative prayer in which one simply inclines the mind to God, cannot be underestimated, but I find that, even some very devout people don't see the sense of it and are not likely to support convents and monasteries.  They seem to want to see some visible work on the part of all religious, but fail to realize that Martha AND Mary are necessary.  I get the sense that some people are jealous of the peaceful, protected life of these monastics, despite their lack of mobility and choice about almost anything in their lives.

I have been thinking a lot about how King Henry VIII (a great uncle of mine), stole all the property of the Catholic Church and razed most of the monasteries and convents in England.  What was said at the time was that the quality of the spiritual lives of the monks and nuns was not that good, there were "too many" monastics and that better use could be made of the land and the structures.  It was a ruse, of course, a happy consequence of destroying the Catholic Church in England so Uncle Henry could finance his debaucheries and marry yet another woman.  The entire raison d'etre for the Church of England was the advancement of sin by sin, and now look at it!  Female priests and bishops and same-sex marriages on the horizon!  What a legacy.

Why do I care if I am related to this saint or that saint?  The thing is this:  The saints are not dead, and if I am related to any of them, I like to add them to the people to whom I direct my requests for intercessory prayer.  Hey...I need all the help I can get.

Today I talk to Teresa and Sancha of Portugal and ask for their inspiration and intercession.

God bless us all.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015