SAINT OLGA

SAINT OLGA
MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER, SAINT OLGA, PATRON SAINT OF CONVERTS

Monday, December 17, 2018

SAINT OLYMPIAS AND THE TOPIC OF FEMALE DEACONS

Saint Olympias (Olympia) 
Far left
(360-365 until July 25, 408)

One of today's saints is a female deaconess named Olympias (modern: Olympia). There is quite a lot known about her, as she was mentioned in the extant historical references around the turn of the 5th century. I found quite a few icons of her on the internet, and many pages dedicated to her from various sources. (See the list of references, below.)

Why do we know so much about her, while other saints we have previously mentioned remain a virtual mystery, except for their names? Well, it doesn't hurt to be born to a Senator and the daughter of an emperor and to be related to other famous and influential people of the time. In addition, her life was chock full of good works. When her parents died, she distributed their wealth to the poor. She was equally generous to the Church and its charitable institutions and monastic houses.



In addition, she had the admiration of other saints, John Chrysostom, for one, who called upon her and the other deaconesses (Pentadia, Proklia & Salbina) to remain with the church and serve his successor, after he himself was banished.

Sure enough, however, when one becomes famous for holiness, there are always those who will attack the saints, even persons belonging to the faith, human nature being what it is. Patriarch Theophilus (385-412) was so jealous of the devotion of Olympias for Chrysostom that he caused her some hardship for it. Theophilus had been the recipient of much of Olympias's generosity in the past, but his loyalty evaporated from the heat of envy. Even the saints have their frenemies! For me, it is a good object lesson about human nature. One can be doing and saying the most holy, pure and upright things, and still there will be people who will try to make one suffer for it - even those who are supposedly "religious!"



In fact, Olympias and other supporters of Chrysostom were wrongly accused of burning down a large church in Constantinople, and she was made to pay a huge sum of money in recompense, even though she was entirely innocent. The first thing that occurred to me when I read about this incident was that people, even church people, will sometimes go to great lengths to grab money away from innocent persons by accusing them falsely of some crime or character defect.

Obviously, it takes a great deal of self-control and self esteem in order to maintain the extremes of holiness that the saints exhibit.



Olympias's feast day also makes me think about how difficult it is for women to accomplish anything in the church these days, and how they were shoved out of the Diaconate many centuries since. Some people will say that the Diaconate was a different sort of proposition in the early church and that the title of Deaconess for a woman was an honorific or a generic title for a lady who gave much service to the church, but this is a weak argument for continuing to keep women out and for ignoring the feminine voice in the church.

It occurs to me that the current world-wide sex scandals of the church are a reflection of the heavily masculine nature of the hierarchy, but I have no studies to offer that back up my impression. It is just something that occurs to me now and then, and I wonder if the power of the church needs to be more equally divided before we will experience a balanced application of the faith.

Pope Francis opened an investigation into the topic of  women in the Diaconate. I wonder what happened to that?




In any case, Olympias is a wonderful role model and I feel encouraged to count her among the saints to whom I direct my requests for prayers! May she help me simplify my life and better direct it to the work of the Lord. Amen.

Silver Rose

References:


Sunday, December 16, 2018

THE FEAST OF THE UNKNOWN SAINT

Me and my spiritual sisters
sitting with the swami
about 1985


Just before I joined the Vedanta convent in California, I was made the producer of a yearly celebration called "All Saints Day." It used to be "All Guru's Day," but the Western world doesn't typically use that term for holy people, so it had been changed, years before.

That year, the theme was "the Unknown Saint," with the underlying meaning being that each of us can be that unknown saint if we quietly, steadily make progress in purification, study and practice of the faith (which consisted mainly of meditation.) Of course, there was also a code of conduct similar to that of Catholicism, especially in the sexual arena, because it was perceived that sexuality was an area of human experience that holds great potential for either "God realization" or spiritual destruction.

It would be a surprise to many that the Vedantic Hindu version of sexual restraint is much more stringent than even the Catholics propose. The primary "Saint" of the Vedanta Societies was Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, and he frequently advised that a man and wife should "live as brother and sister" after the birth of one or two children (a principle echoed in many ancient strains of that religion.) Yes, that is to mean that they were no longer to have sex after that time - not for the purpose of reducing births, mind you, but to allow for more time to devote to meditation and other spiritual disciplines. Also, and probably more important in that theological construct, is that the restraint of the sex urge is a key component in rallying one's spiritual energies in a mystical way.


Hindu saint Ramakrishna (1836-1886)


Prior to the mystical path of the Hindu monastic tradition - the sadhus, swamis and their female counterparts - householders had a well defined path of gradual approach to that monastic lifestyle. The standard used to be for man and wife to take to the forest toward the end of their lives, to live a rigorous monastic existence so that they may attain to the heights of spiritual experience. Later, it became possible for younger people to bypass the householder state entirely and take directly to the ocher cloth, without marrying or having children at all.

My spiritual teacher, Swami Swahananda, allowed me to take to the Hindu monastic life in a special ceremony that permanently altered the arc of my existence as one that is dedicated to the realization of God as its primary focus. My artistic ventures, my writing, and the other incidental activities, are a pale remnant of my previous life.


Me and Swami Swahananda
Just prior to my sannyas vows


Swamiji named me Sannyasini Kaliprana. "Sannyasini" is actually a title denoting that style of Hindu monasticism. The name "Kaliprana" has something to do with my energies being informed by the spirit of the Divine Mother of the Universe (a concept that reverberates with Catholicism's respect for Mary, the Mother of God.)


Sannyasini Kaliprana, on the day of Sannyas vows
(That's "Duffy" on my lap)


Subsequent conversion to Catholicism did not delete my commitment to living a monastic life for God alone. In fact, when I discovered Catholic mystic Bede Griffiths (1906-1993) , I had a wonderful "ah ha!" moment of realization of the complementarity of Catholicism and the Vedantic mystical method.  I'd previously read the works of many Catholic mystics that dovetailed with the stories of Hindu saints and sages. I experience all of this as a marvelous harmony of past and present yearnings that arose from corresponding teachings.


Catholic monk, Bede Griffiths (1906-1993)
Catholic mass, with an East Indian flavor


The similarities of Vedanta with the other major religious traditions would be surprising to some Christians who have placed other religions in an "enemy of the faith" category, which they really are not. Religious education isn't complete, in my mind, without a comparative religions class or two.

While Bede Griffiths was a Catholic monk who gradually moved into an East Indian expression of the faith, my journey was the opposite. Also unlike Bede, I am not a member of any Catholic monastic institution, primarily because I am disabled and of no use to them. I suppose if I had money or was physically vigorous, there may be more interest in supporting my spiritual life, but there doesn't seem to be any, so I really AM left to my own devices, except that the life of a hermit is not typical of either religious tradition, though it exists. There are usually fellow monastics in the general vicinity. I sometimes wonder if my current hermit state is a detriment to me, but I can only hope that my faith in God is protecting me in that regard.

Divine Mother Kali of the Hindu faith

This morning, when I was researching the Catholic saints of the day and found yet another female Catholic martyr for whom we have a name but little else, the memory of that celebration, years ago, of "the unknown saint" came back to me with sweet recollection. It was during THAT time when I experienced the feeling of being saved from an otherwise pointless life. It grew to fruition in my Catholic conversion, many years later, so that every time I research one of these "unknown" Catholic saints (and most of them are female, by the way), I feel a renewed vigor of purpose and desire for union with God.

Saint Albina of Caesarea
Martyr who died in the year 250


Today's unknown saint is Saint Albina. All we know about her is that she was very young when she was martyred for the faith under Emperor Trajanus Decius in the year 250 in Caesarea, where she was born. (She could have been martyred in Formiea, according to some sources.) Anyway, she is listed in the Roman martyrology, and nothing is known of her life before her execution during the persecutions of the early church.



It is my hope to become one of that massive number of unknown saints who lived and died for God alone, without fame or fanfare. We come. We go.

May you go with God also.

Silver Rose

Thursday, December 13, 2018

SAINT LUCY HELP US!


Saint Lucy, enthroned

There are a few saints that really strike a chord with me. I am usually enamored of the mystics, as that is my temperament. The martyrs get my respect, though! One of today's saints is a popular one in that category.

As a martyr that refused to give up her faith before she was hacked to death, a whole host of stories have been passed down to us. Of course we do not know how much of these tales are legitimate, but they do give us a focus for our prayers.

We can reliably assume that Lucy submitted to torture and death for refusing to deny the faith, because this is what the martyrs typically endured. The details of the stories, such as that she plucked out her own eyes to dissuade a would-be beau from pursuing her, are less reliable, but whether her eyes were removed by her torturers or she did it herself, it is likely that something happened to her eyes during her ordeal at the hands of those who tried to force her to deny her faith. Her eyes were later said to have been miraculously restored to perfect health.

As the patron saint of the blind, Saint Lucy is typically called upon for assistance with all issues of eyesight and blindness. I have age-related macular degeneration, cataracts in both eyes, and a wicked bad case of dry eye - all of which causes poor vision. I have been told that, eventually, I will go blind.

At night, when I find myself squinting at the television, even though it is rather large, a feeling of foreboding comes over me. This is the beginning. Already, I hesitate before driving at night. A lot of my personal projects revolve around preparing my apartment and my habits for the time when I can no longer see.



I think I need to add a prayer to Saint Lucy among my daily devotions. Here is the one I found online:

Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket,
but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see.
We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but
we are still called to let the light of our Christianity
illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage
to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our
relationships, our conversation - every corner of our day.

Amen





God bless us all.

Silver Rose

LIBERAL NEWS MEDIA



"Liberal news media" is a phrase parroted by gullible followers who have been fed this idea by rich white American oligarchs who want to neutralize the fact-reporting arm of society so that they can operate under cover of darkness in order to continue to funnel all the wealth of our country to those same rich Americans, just a few of whom own more than half of the wealth in the U.S.. All it takes to earn the moniker of "liberal news media" is to report on something that reveals the crimes and lies of Donald Trump and others on the far right wing.

Ignoring the availability of nonpartisan fact-checking organizations such as snopes.com and factcheck.org, and the bare-bones reporting of Reuters (which concentrates on who, what, where, when, with no commentary) susceptible followers run around social media trying to discount the facts with the clarion call of "liberal news media!" carrying water for the rich white guys at the top of the socio-economic ladder.

Every despicable politician in history has used this method to sway large groups of people to their side so that they can have more power and more money. It is just that simple. Hitler did it. Stalin did it. It is what the morally bankrupt DO to get ahead.

The most reprehensible aspect of the current iteration of this method is that the religion of our dear Lord Jesus Christ has been hauled into the middle of it. He is being used and abused unmercifully by the party of Trump as a tool to disengage his followers from their common sense and intellects. It is being falsely claimed that Trump's vision for the future is the vision of Jesus Christ and it simply is not.

The big red herring in this odious stew is the topic of abortion. From the beginning of this current campaign of disinformation, which began years ago, the American public, specifically the evangelical wing of the Christian church, has been fed the lie that these politicians are doing the work of God, that they are going to eliminate abortion from the land.

First, they got the Christians whipped up into a white-hot fury in relation to the perceived association of "liberals" with abortion, neatly severing Jesus Christ's concern for the poor, the vulnerable, the refugee, from the public persona of the American Christian.

Whenever I express concern for the poor, the marginalized and the disenfranchised, in concert with the teachings of Jesus, I get someone sailing into the conversation and accusing me of being in favor of ABORTION. This is how effectively the puppet masters at the top of the alt. right heap have dissected the whole of the Christian message into little parts. They have convinced many Christians that the only thing that matters is the topic of abortion because it is ever so much more important to save the lives of innocent little babies than the lives of poor old people, or sick black people, or traumatized refugees. That was the first step.

This is how the most reprehensible man in the history of American politics has been tapped as a big Christian leader. The man isn't Christian AT ALL, not in his actions and certainly not in his beliefs. Nothing of what he believes jives with any part of Christ's message, but a good portion of his supporters believe that he was SENT BY GOD to save the babies.

These people are lying about their intention to make abortion illegal. That is the really sad part of it. Half the Christian world have sold their souls for the chance to make abortion illegal, but, instead, they are enabling another robber baron.

He does give lip service to being opposed to abortion, but since he has been in office, Trump's party has continued to support Planned Parenthood, and his recent addition to the Supreme Court (Kavanaugh) has recently ruled to keep support for that organization in place. Those people do not care about the babies. They care about their pocketbooks and the pocketbooks of their cronies far more than any innocent babies. They are staging their platform on the bodies of those innocent little babies, USING them to forward their careers. It is disgusting.

Trump did not start this campaign that cut the body of Christ into little pieces. He isn't smart enough. But he is the perfect representative for the guys that did. Those men who sit at the top of the heap have far more money than Trump could ever even dream of. In fact, if we ever see Trump's tax returns, I am willing to bet that, gold-plated toilets aside, he was close to being broke when he made the run for president. He needed the money he thought he would get from the notoriety of running for the highest office in the land.

Since coming into office, Trump's companies have raked in millions and millions of dollars as a direct result of his position. He has spent half his time at his luxury resorts, forcing world leaders, the press, and a hefty portion of the administration to follow suit. Millions of dollars have been spent housing and feeding these people at those luxury establishments. No babies have been saved - but Trump and his brood have been fed and housed and are raking in the dough at the same time.

Anyway, the guys at the top started this years ago and are using Trump, just like they are using all the American Christians, in order to grab more money and more power. Trump has gladly instituted permanent big tax breaks for the rich while waving small, temporary tax breaks at the upper middle class, like he is doing them a big favor. Built into those modest tax breaks for the middle class is a BIG balloon payment at the end - when the temporary tax cuts wear out. The middle class will have to pay big taxes in future to make up for a few insipid dollars now. Mistakenly, they will blame it on the Democratic administration that is SURE to come after this mess is finished, because that is when those balloon payments become due. It is calculated to explode while a Democrat is in office. Clever.

Despite the press reporting on all of these shenanigans, 23% of the American public don't believe it because Trump has been blowing the "liberal news media" smoke up their noses and they're all high on Trump's Jesus who hates gays, the poor, the marginalized, women, disabled people, and especially the blacks and the browns.

Normally, I am uninterested in politics, but it is because they are abusing Jesus so badly that I am invested now. When you use God to do something immoral, it makes the sin far worse. I suppose I love God enough to object to Him being maligned in this way, and I hate to see the beauty of Christ's message be destroyed by this bastardized version of Him.

One day, this cycle will have run its course. The American people will rise up and throw these criminals in jail. Trump's attorney has just been convicted of campaign fraud and will spend 3 years in federal prison. Others will soon follow. But I doubt that those who are really responsible will ever even be known. Even now, they are quietly sitting back, counting all the lovely money they managed to squeeze from the economy while everyone else suffered for it. Including the babies.

Silver Rose

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH

That's me, on the right.


Today, I heard an excerpt from Michelle Obama's "Note to Self." When she goes to a fancy university, on the first day she wonders, "Am I good enough?"

This is a common theme in our culture, with people wondering if they're good enough. I have never wondered if I was good enough, not because I think I'm so great but because the Lord instilled in me, very early, that all human beings are "good enough" to deserve whatever the human experience allows.

Even when I was a little girl, and my demented and cruel mother had decided that I was the black sheep of the family, I knew I was good enough. I knew that, when she and my sister made up derogatory songs about my body and chased me through the house, chanting and laughing, that I was good enough. And when she sent me to school wearing an old cocktail dress and Oxford shoes she'd painted pea green, while at the same time buying herself a big white rabbit fur coat, I knew I was good enough, but I also knew that life was unfair. I knew that people would try to make me feel less than themselves, but that it was a lie.

Me, at age 8 or so


We are all good enough, but whether or not other people believe we are good enough, or whether our particular gifts are recognized by the market to which we appeal; whether our appearance on the scene is timely or the product we produce is popular or perceived to be needed; THOSE are the issues. They're strictly logistical and do not speak to our worthiness.

Here is an example of what I'm talking about. In high school I wrote a few chapters of a proposed novel. It was for a school project. The teacher had his interview with me and he told me that my book was derivative because it had the same theme as Orwell's 1984. I had never read that book, somehow. I'd read Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Somerset Maugham and Poe, but not 1984. My writing was good enough. The book would have been good enough, had it not been for the fact that someone else had already done it. My self esteem was not touched in the slightest. This is what I mean.

Having equal worth doesn't mean you'll have the same job as someone else, that you'll have the same income or that you will be as popular or as pretty. Those are all variable conditions that do not have a bearing upon one's essential worth. Whether or not one has the proper education or experience for a job will probably have some bearing, but it may not. Unfair things happen all the time. Many times, in working at low-level secretarial jobs, I watched as prettier, flirtatious women, who wandered around doing no appreciable work, were given salary bumps, offices and other amenities, while hard-working but more ordinary looking women slogged along with barely a grunt of approval from their bosses.

It may go without saying that rewarding a woman simply because she won the genetic lottery is not doing her any favors, on top of it being unjust and inequitable, but it is hard to make that case when her survival is more easily won simply by taking advantage of her God given beauty. This kind of thing happens all the time. I don't think we should sanguinely accept this. If possible, you have to fight it, but it is very difficult. The important thing is to keep your self esteem intact, despite the unfairness.

You've got to develop the habit of ignoring these variables in relation to your feelings of worth. It really is a habit because it is something that becomes stronger over time if you continue to remind yourself and act accordingly. Slowly, you'll develop personal dignity, and no matter what happens to you in life, you won't question whether or not these bad things are happening to you because you don't deserve any better. The answer to that question is always "no."

Please hold onto your esteem of self and recognize that there is evil in the world. Evil people want to diminish you. In their muddied thinking, they believe that if they convince you that you are less than them, it elevates them. God does not agree. Your worth is exactly the same as any other human being on this planet.

God bless you all.

Silver Rose

PRAYER CORNER REVAMP

Dec. 2018
Living Room Prayer "Corner"

Every so often I write a post about my prayer corners. I change them around as often as I reorganize the living room, which is a very small space that is ruined with doors, windows and walkways. No matter where I put my recliner, it is in the way of a door, window or walkway. The present configuration is no different, and I think I have finally given up. As long as I live in this odd little apartment, I will just live with the set-up as it is and stop trying to find a better organization. The space is so awkward, it will never be comfortable or spacious.

When you enter my apartment, you will have to scoot around my recliner and the table I must have next to it. We will pray that your hips are more narrow than mine and you won't end up knocking everything off the little tables and onto the floor. Welcome to my world!

Now that I have resigned myself to this odd little piece of air, I decided to reorganize for the LAST time, and look forward to the day when I can leave here, hopefully to a house that I will buy from the proceeds of my writing. I have never had the money to buy any sort of home, but the dream still lives.

Whenever I buy a lottery ticket or think of what I might like to accomplish if I were to sell my book and/or paintings, I immediately think about a Catholic ashram where I might host several other senior religious women like me. It would be be an Indian style house of prayer that would rely upon the sale of art works for its income, and regular times of quiet and meditation in a quasi-monastic schedule. [We will have to be relatively flexible with all of this because of the vagaries of the human body as it breaks down with age.]

Because of my disabilities, I am physically unable to adapt myself to someone else's routine and premises, nor would I want to, as I tend to take charge under most circumstances, and religious institutions typically don't want that. I am alpha. It is my natural posture in relation to the world, and as far as I can ascertain, God has made me this way, and therefore it is good.


 
My Shrine table

In the Catholic Byzantine tradition, having at least one prayer corner in one's home is highly stressed as very necessary to the corporate spiritual life of the family that lives there. You can have dozens of icons or just a few, a big shrine table or just 10 inches square, as I have here. The point is to create a sacred space conducive to regular prayer.

I try to create sacred space throughout the entire apartment, but my joints have disintegrated to such an extent that I am not able to even keep it tidy. It is hard to feel all holy and elevated when the dust bunnies are the size of small cats. Especially important, to that end, is getting a special vacuum cleaner that will address my asthma as well as those dust bunnies and the peculiar requirements of cleaning a linoleum floor that is manufactured to look and feel like wood. Dirt and dust become wedged into the "grain." This apartment is so dusty that the walls around the heater vents are black with it. [After much research, I found an excellent vacuum that will both clean AND help me BREATH. My Amazon wish list is HERE ]

Invite the Lord into your home in a more visible way. Having a prayer corner creates a remarkable environment that encourages prayer. The visual reminders of the Lord and His saints leads you into it. You'll find that it is easier to find time to sit and meditate if you have a beautiful space in which to do it. I happen to have a lot of beautiful icons and statues that people have given me and that I have collected over the years, but you don't need all that. One picture, a candle, a set of prayer beads, set on a small table with a chair nearby: these are all you really need.

Try to remember that God is everywhere, including most especially in your home. There are many advantages to having at least one prayer corner in your home, but I won't tell you all of them. Discover for yourself.

God bless you all.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

FRIENDS AND FRENEMIES


 Jesus and his Disciples

I have been thinking about my friendships a lot lately. One of my neighbors is getting Alzheimer's and has, essentially, disappeared. Controversies on Facebook have heated up, as they do in cycles, and I have had to reduce my friend list. It brings up a lot of memories.

As a person who is committed to an intense sort of spiritual life, it is important for me to be selective in my choice of friends and close associates. When deciding who to let into my circle of friends, it is most important to me that the person have good character, that they do not lie, cheat, steal, or manipulate. They should be kind. If they claim to be Catholic, they shouldn't advocate for non-Christian ideas.  They shouldn't be hypocrites. Those are the basic requirements for me. Everything else is window dressing.

Many people make the mistake of making friends based on personality. If someone is easy on the eyes, is fun and upbeat (i.e., entertaining), that is all it takes to make it onto the friend list of people for whom values aren't really important, in the final analysis. Honesty, reliability and ethics don't play into it. I think that may have something to do with the role that friends are perceived to occupy. I have talked to many people for whom friends are merely a relief from the stresses of a person's "important" relationship of mate or spouse. If you do not have a spouse, the sort of friends one has occupies a more and more important place in the heart.

It is common, after a divorce, for one of the partners to look around and suddenly realize that he or she has no one with whom to grieve the loss or fill in some of the blank spots. There is no one to walk with on one's road through life. Married people sometimes fail to make friends and are left isolated and alone after the dissolution. I try to encourage married people not to become isolated little islands. Friends are important.

What matters to me is that the people around me at least intend to do the right thing. Their hearts and minds are inclined toward goodness. It's the same requirement I have for myself, except that my standards for myself are higher. For instance, I work to cultivate a constant practice of the presence of God, and this isn't something that everyone is able to do. I don't expect it.

Lying is particularly concerning to me. Whether one is religious or not, lying comes from a dark place, and it is something I hate to see in anyone. Sometimes people can't help themselves, it seems. In the heat of the moment, when pressed, humans will resort to a convenient lie they later regret. This is a human weakness that people do not advocate but sometimes fall into. I am not talking about that kind of lie.

I have some experience with a different sort of liar who is committed to using deception to manipulate other people into giving them what they want. That type of person is resolutely evil and very dangerous to one's soul and circumstances. The few I have known have caused me great damage, and I do everything I can to avoid them. All lies come from Satan, and those persons committed to a life of lies are committed to Satan.


Judas receives 30 pieces of silver

Ridiculing the Catholic Church, Catholic societies, the Pope, the disabled, the unattractive, the troubled, are all examples of things that will qualify a person for a fast track ticket off my friend list, for various reasons.

As I have aged and grown in my own process of repentance, and increasing commitment to the spiritual life, I have realized that, while it is important to be friendly toward everyone, it is crucial to carefully curate the close friends and associates I keep around me, being careful to cut off people who prove they lack character and/or who do not have my best interests at heart. Last night I had to take another woman out of my Facebook circle. She was trying to diminish me with every comment, pretending to a position of great height. She had become a frenemy.

With frenemies, it starts with comments, here and there, that are a bit "off." You feel bad when you read their comment, but don't initially understand what is going on. You want to give the person the benefit of the doubt. Everyone misspeaks on occasion, right? So, you ask about the comment and work it out - but then it happens again....and again. The third or fourth "misunderstanding" leads me to "defriend" the person. For whatever reason, the person is not behaving as a friend ought.

I don't expect Trump-style loyalty if a friend thinks I am wrong about something. The Truth is more important than any friendship or relation. God is Truth with a capital "T" and violating that Truth is a violation of one's relationship with the Lord. I just need to feel that I can work something out with a person in an atmosphere of mutual regard. If the other person is too invested in landing on top of me, diminishing me or ruling me, it isn't conducive to harmony.

I used to think that Catholics and other religious people were a safe bet, on Facebook and in real time, but I was wrong about that. I am a convert, and my trust in people who identified as religious was not realistic, at first, but I have learned that just because someone says they are religious does not mean that they actually follow the faith, or even want to do so. In fact, a surprising number of religious people I have met on my journey are not terribly interested in obeying the commandments of Jesus.

When I caught a "Christian" friend of mine lying in order to benefit herself financially, she said to me, "It's not a lie. It's just a story." I wondered about her chances of going to heaven with that attitude and she very confidently said, "Don't you worry about me, Missy. I'll be there." She was sure of it. There isn't a thing in any religion - Christian, Buddhist, Hindu - that advocates for lies, even little ones, yet she was sure.

Shortly thereafter, that woman stole from me and I stopped associating with her. Then I caught her stealing the food that was left out for the poor at the mailboxes during the local food bank drive. I was able to stop her - that time - but there were other times when the food disappeared before the postal carrier was able to collect it.

Lying is the tail of the monkey. Pull the tail and you get the rest of it.

Father of all lies
by Gustav Dore

A recent pressure on friendships is the rise of Donald Trump and his supporters. His continuous stream of unrepentant lies has highlighted differences in attitudes toward dishonesty. I have been surprised at the number of supposedly religious people who discount his lies or excuse them by saying, "who among us has not sinned?" and other ridiculous things. There is no tenet in any of the major religious traditions that advocates for lies or for handing power to someone who constantly lies and never repents!

I have had to distance myself from these people because I know that, again, if I pull the tail of the monkey, the rest of the monkey comes out - teeth and all. Satan is the father of all lies.

"You are of your father, the Devil, and the desires of your
 father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning,
 and he stood not in the Truth; because Truth is not in him. 
When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a 
liar and the father thereof." 
John 8:44

This is not to say that I do not have friends who are Trump supporters. I DO. Mostly, these are people who are one-issue voters. They're against abortion and they believe that the only way to eliminate the sin of abortion from America is to make it illegal. Voting Republican, for these people, is a utilitarian thing. They'll put up with whatever Trump brings along with him if his party will make abortion illegal.

I disagree with this method because Jesus said to evangelize all people. He didn't say to force our views on believers and nonbelievers alike, but at least my pro-Trump friends do not advocate for, discount or excuse Trump's lies. They know what kind of person he is but believe that the Lord works through a broken instrument. It is possible they are right, but I do not think so. In any case, there is no reason we can't be friends, even though there are awkward moments. These people do not lack character (though I often think they lack research and information, neither of which lacunas are sins.)

Then there are the Christians who do NOT support Trump, but they inveigh against the church. They believe in feeding the poor, clothing the naked and visiting the prisoner, but they loudly protest the Catholic Church's tenets surrounding sexual issues. They do not believe that sex outside of marriage is a big deal. They advocate for having children outside of marriage. They speak against the church all the time, yet they demand that they be treated like members in good standing. This is a type of dishonest hypocrisy I want nothing to do with. Pretending to be Catholic while fighting against it and advocating for positions that are the opposite of church teaching also confuses society as a whole and makes evangelization almost impossible for those who are faithful to the tenets of the faith.


Jesus being kissed by Judas
ancient fresco

Why take such care with choosing friends?  First, I do not have a lot of time to give and must be cautious with my choices. Between my disabilities and my prayer routines, housekeeping and art projects, I have none to waste.  It is also difficult to spend time with people who do not support my values or understand their importance to me. Frequently, situations will arise and conversations will be had in which someone who doesn't share my values will try to get me to abandon my beliefs. It has happened many times. They're not trying to be evil. They do not understand the good. That is all. I try to help them see the good, but these conversations do not end well. Apparently, I am a lousy evangelist. If I was a greater person, I would be more like Jesus - able to capture the heart of the nonbeliever - but I know my limits.

It has also been my experience that, sooner or later, those who do not share my values will turn on me and cause me great difficulty. My cross is heavy enough as it is.

Jesus surrounded himself with all sorts of persons with various backgrounds, but they were repentant sinners who were thrilled and grateful that, unlike the culture in which they lived, forgiveness was theirs for the asking. They only had to repent and follow Christ's commandments.




Many people have a misconception about Jesus. They think he was friends with everyone. Well, He wasn't. The Pharisees were not his friends. The Roman rulers weren't his friends. The unrepentant weren't his friends.

He welcomed everyone to come and learn from him, but His close friends were those who repented and changed the manner of their lives.





I take my cue from Him. My aim is to be friendly with everyone, but true friends only with the faithful, and that does not mean, by the way, that only Catholics will be my friends. No. Anyone who is truthful, reliable and kind is welcome in my book. It is the good characteristics that are important to me - not the religious designation, because we have all seen how supposedly religious people have lived, acted and advocated for dishonest lives, in some instances. On the other hand, non-religious people like my grandmother, are sometimes nearly saints.

Still, it is with regret when I have to distance myself from someone who has demonstrated bad intentions or character. I don't usually drop them entirely, but keep them at arm's length, leaving open the possibility of future conversion of heart. There is always hope.

Silver Rose

[Post Script: Please don't forget the GOFUNDME campaign and the donation button on this page. I need to buy a van into which I can lift my scooter; a special vacuum to handle the dust that kicks up my asthma so I can breathe; an electric bed so I can stop sleeping in my recliner, and many more things!]