SAINT OLGA

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

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

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
Copyright (c) 2014
All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

THE BLESSING OF ILLNESS

Saint Therese of Lisieux, 
in her sick bed


No one enjoys being sick, including me, but I find that a protracted illness gives me more-than-usual downtime in which to examine my life, count my blessings, and make some resolutions about possible changes to my lifestyle.

Currently, I have this wretched virus which, thanks to my asthma, is clinging to me like a baby monkey on its mum's back.  Illness, when it is particularly bad, makes me contemplate my impending death.  By "impending," I mean that we are all going to die in the relatively near future.  When it is relatively mild, such as the current malaise, I tend to review my eating and exercise habits with a view toward improving them and boosting my immune system.

First, however, I experience an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  Thanks be to be God, I live in a relatively secure apartment, and if I am rendered weak as  baby for a few days, no one is going to invade the place, dispose of me and then take up residence, as may happen in some primitive cultures.  I have clean, pure water that comes out of the taps and I don't have to trudge down to the local river and carry it home on my head, as is still done in many places.

Toilet tissue, facial tissues, saline water in a bottle, a thermometer, blood pressure cuff, a refrigerator/freezer containing a supply of foodstuffs, vitamins, over-the-counter and prescription medications, a comfortable, clean bed, and a host of other benefits of civilization are at hand.

When it is all over, I have a washer/dryer, a mop, some disinfectant, and other cleaning items I can use to chase the germs out of the house so that I don't reinfect myself or, God forbid, get someone else sick because they touched a germy doorknob.

Getting sick is a good opportunity to take a step back and acknowledge the overall situation, in a global context.  If I lived in a village in Africa, I could easily be dead by now.  This is a tremendous reason to be grateful to God that he chose to have me born here in the United States with all its lifestyle benefits.  Granted, we have some problems now, but the overall situation is pretty good, in comparison to other countries.

After running through my list of things for which I am grateful, the next thing I feel is a tremendous compassion for those people in the world who struggle with survival in ways that I probably never will.  Then I pray for them.

God bless you all.

Silver Rose Parnell

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

INTERPRETIVE DANCE OF THE MIND

Saint Joseph of Cupertino, rising during prayer


Recently, a good friend has betrayed me, lied, and gossiped about me.  An acquaintance I had been helping became so abusive, my PTSD couldn't handle it, and I had to back away from her.  A neighbor screamed at me and called me vulgar names when I asked him to move his car from in front of my garage so I could go shopping.  I am still grieving from the loss of my dog, and now I have a fine virus which has inflamed my throat to the point that I can barely speak.  It all seems a bit much, and, oddly, most of it has happened after I finally was able to get my son's ashes interred in a holy space.  I had been very happy about that when I was deluged with evil.  How do I come to grips with this melange?

When I am overwhelmed with life's traumas, especially when they come in multiples, I have to carefully dissect my self-talk and discard what the PTSD would say in favor of what my Catholic faith says.

The PTSD would say, "I'm at war!  The world is out to get me!  I am not safe! Everything is dangerous!  I shouldn't leave the house or someone will get me!"

Fortunately, although the PTSD has a very loud and strident voice, urging me to flee or to fight,  I have a Catholic perspective that has been gradually taking over.

What I tell myself are varying versions of the following ideas, depending on the circumstance:


  1. God allows evil to exist in the world because we have free will.  Some people choose evil and abuse others with it.  I just happened to get in the way.  Pray for my persecutors.  They need it.
  2. Satan hates Christians and sends his demons out to torment them, as any good saint will say.
  3. In the case of the interment of my son's ashes in a holy place, Satan is infuriated because my son had given voice to the idea that he did not believe in God, and Satan was sure that he would have him in hell.  With the bodily remains in a holy space and with me praying for him in reparation for his sins, Satan may not get his wish.
  4. For some of us, life is very difficult, but it is also temporary.  Heaven, however, is permanent and eternal, and I look forward to it.
  5. In one sense, I AM at war, but it is a holy war that has been going on for a very long time.  It is the war between good and evil and, although it is distressing in a temporal sense, I have to remember the big picture.  Jesus did not promise us sunshine and daisies.  He told us we would suffer for his name.
  6. I am not alone.  Many saints suffered from depression, PTSD, and all manner of illnesses, physical and mental.
  7. Traumas are a good incentive to pray, and are therefore a blessing.
Some of the saints literally rose above the traumas of the world during prayer.  Saint Joseph of Cupertino is well known for this.  Lesser known is one of my favorites, Blessed Margaret of Castello, whose personal condition and tragedies are far worse than I could ever imagine mine to be, yet she still dedicated herself to God by worshiping Him through the care of the poor and the sick.

By allowing this levitation during prayer to occur in view of others, I believe God was giving us stark visual instruction.  Prayer elevates the mind above the world.

Don't get me wrong.  I still avail myself of modern medicine and therapies to keep the PTSD in its cage, but good self-talk with a Christian slant is a crucial piece of my treatment, and I wanted to share it with you because, whether or not you have PTSD or you're just having a crappy week, it might be helpful.

God bless you all.

Silver Rose Parnell

Saturday, October 18, 2014

SATAN ATTACKS THE HOLY

Saint Marina, whacking one of 
Satan's demons


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

1Peter 4:12-16
(New International Version)
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has
come on you to test you, as though something strange were 
happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate 
in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed 
when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of 
the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory 
and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as 
a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even 
as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not 
be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless you all.

Silver Rose Parnell

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

THERESE OF LISIEUX HAS A MESSAGE FOR DISABLED AND ELDERLY

Saint Therese as a novice
in the courtyard of the convent


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

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




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




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

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




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






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

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

God bless

Silver Rose Parnell

Sunday, September 28, 2014

CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE VERSUS MONASTIC LIFE


Saint Thekla, Hermitess


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

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

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

Saint Paula and her daughter Eustochium,
with Saint Jerome

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


Hermit caves in Syria


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

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


Saint Theresa of Avila's cell


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

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




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

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

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


I will be researching avenues of emotional and spiritual support, such as third order possibilities, and I will report on that later.  I do know that individuals may be allowed to take some sort of personal vows, with the permission of the local bishop, but this may be reserved for perpetual virgins.  I will have to check my facts on that score and get back to you with that information as well.

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

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

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

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

Silver Rose Parnell

Sunday, September 21, 2014

THE CONTEMPLATIVE, MANUAL LABOR, AND PRAYER PROJECTS

Baby blankets and hats being prepared for donation
to the Gabriel Project at Project Defending Life
in Albuquerque, New Mexico


I just wanted to dash off a quick note for my other contemplative sisters and brothers with regard to the type of work one decides to do in the way of ministry or of making an income.

It is best to stick with what I call "manual labor," which doesn't have to mean you are out digging ditches.  As long as it is something that engages the body in rather routine tasks that do not involve much executive function of the brain, that will be suitable.

In the contemplative monasteries, they make candy and altar breads.  Some of them produce finely embroidered vestments.  I know one monastery that produces some awesome pumpkin bread.  Others make cheese and some even make wine.  Many grow a good deal of their own food.  We can take our example from the contemplative monasteries and convents and imitate their long-standing devotion to a simple life in which the hands are used for labor.

Something that occurs to me as being rather important is that most of these activities can be done in peace and silence.  I don't believe that a stock trader or a retail sales clerk would have an easy time of it, as far as developing a contemplative life.  Their jobs would pull them too far in another direction. Anyway, I am mostly speaking to the home-bound in my blog....the disabled and elderly who have the time and the quiet home life on which to capitalize.

Baby blankets and hats are one of my ministries.  The work is mostly repetitive, and with each stitch I can say a prayer for the welfare of the new baby being welcomed into the world.  Sometimes I listen to the rosary on EWTN and recite it along with Mother Angelica and her nuns.  Sometimes I wing it. I also paint, but I am having trouble getting back to that endeavor.

Anyway, if you choose a physical task like this, it is far easier to "pray unceasingly" than if you choose a more active ministry that requires interaction with other people or a lot of writing, research, typing, and that sort of thing.  The more involved you become with outside activities, the less you will be operating as a contemplative.  If you have a tendency toward loneliness and must be with people to feel alright, then the contemplative life is not for you.  We are communing with God at every opportunity we can snatch out of the jaws of time.

I don't mean to say that everyone should be a hermit. I do think we have to limit our interactions with the outside world and keep them within certain boundaries.  Each of you will have to decide what those are for yourself.

It is important to focus your prayer life also for, in addition to quietly spending time with the Lord in the practice of the presence of God and in strictly contemplative prayer, we are called to pray for the suffering world in many areas.  With so much going on in the world today, it is hard to know what to pray for.  It could be overwhelming.  I recommend having one primary prayer project that is a constant.  For me, it is the prayer that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches will resolve their longstanding rift and become one with each other again.  My prayer life is dedicated to that rather large request.  Not only does this give me a focus, but it gives me a PURPOSE as well.  This is important.

People will ask you to pray for them, and there will be transitory requests with which you can pepper the stew, so to speak.  Don't lose sight of your mission, however.  It will help you to stay more easily on the path.

I would be interested in hearing how you construct your contemplative life.  Feel free to comment and let me know.  Perhaps others will be interested also.

God bless you,

Silver Rose Parnell

Monday, September 1, 2014

PRAY WITHOUT CEASING

Baby hat made to give away


People think I have a lot of time on my hands because I am disabled and stuck at home.  It would be nice if I had hours of leisure time that I could spend sitting in front of my altar, but that just isn't the reality of my life.

It takes me three or four times as long to do anything as my able-bodied friends because of mobility challenges and chronic pain issues. What I find myself doing is praying and contemplating during my household chores.  The happy news about chores is that they do not occupy much mental space, leaving my mind free to practice the presence of God or recite favorite prayers like the Jesus prayer, the "Our Father" and the "Hail Mary."

The joy of my life is making baby blankets and baby hats to give away to poor mothers.  I have to take frequent breaks while attending to my household chores because of my back and leg issues.  At that time, I take up my crochet or my knitting and continue work on whatever project I have going at that time.  Most of my fiber projects are fairly repetitious, so I can also pray while I crochet.  I pray for the happy life of whatever baby is going to be cuddled in that blanket.  I also pray for his whole family and especially that his parents stay together in a healthy, happy union.


Blanket and hat that I finished today

After all this practice on the blankets, I began to get creative, and some of them were turning out really nice.  I considered selling them at the local store that sells items made by local "artisans" but when I learned how little the other crochet artists were charging, I realized that this was not a good option.  The blanket, above, took me more than 30 hours to make.  How could I sell it for $20?  Golly, if I am going to give it away, I should give it to a poor child.  Consequently, none of the blankets will be made available for sale.  I'll just make whatever I can with whatever yarn comes my way, trusting in the Lord that He will provide the raw materials.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1Thesalonians 5:16-18

I highly recommend finding a ministry you can do at home during those moments when you have to rest or when you are having a particularly difficult "pain day," like me, and you are relegated to the recliner chair for the day.  If you would like to join me in my baby blanket ministry, please let me know at silvercottage@hotmail.com and we can work on a project together.  Winter is coming, and not only do the new babies need blankets, but homeless men and women needs hats and scarves for the frigid Albuquerque winters.  Believe it or not, it gets down into the single digits here!  Mittens and gloves are also much appreciated.  I have not learned how to make those yet, but if you can do it, that would be wonderful.

Alternately, you could opt to donate some yarn to the ministry.  I have a few discounted yarns on my birthday wish list, and Amazon.com has my mailing address.  See the links to the right.

Most of all, though, I pray that, if you do not already have a ministry that lends itself to continuous prayer, then find something or learn something you can do that will make a difference in the lives of the poor.  We don't have to do big things.  Hey, it takes me a week to make a crib-size blanket, but it is a labor of love AND a holy relic, each stitch representing a prayer for the baby that uses it!

If you home bound and you already have a ministry, write me and tell me about it and we will post it as a comment.  It will encourage other people and also perhaps give them ideas about something THEY could be doing to improve the lives of poor people.

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

God bless you.

Silver Rose Parnell

Sunday, August 31, 2014

THE POLITICS OF OPTIONS IN AN INDIVIDUALISTIC CULTURE

If you look very carefully, you can see a rainbow
amid the trees.


Yesterday I finally decided that I would no longer attend the parish I had been attending for the last year or so.  The reason I had tried that parish at all was because of the efforts of an extremely devoted Catholic woman who belonged to that parish and has spent the last year (or more) carting me back and forth so that I could sit through mass without excruciating pain.  God bless her.

Finally, however,  I had reached the point where the mental pain of sitting through a happy clappy liturgy; a condescending nationalistic homily that rarely gave God a mention; hand holding (ugh); and loud, gimmicky announcements given before the mass had ended (among other irregular practices) was greater than my physical pain.  I am quick to add that those people had been nice to me.  They gave me a comfortable chair in which to sit during the liturgy, dragging it right into the church and positioning it at the end of the handicapped row.  They gave me a sense of belonging by giving me a little responsibility at the welcome table.  The question is this: to what did I belong?

I am not going to spray all the defects all over my blog.  My point is not to bash the priest or saddle a struggling congregation with public excoriation, but to illustrate a problem common to many disabled persons, and that is the question of OPTIONS.  Our disabilities force us to make choices we would never otherwise make, were it not for the limitations of our condition(s).

Obviously, everyone's disabilities are not the same, and some disabled persons do quite well, with the help of mechanical aids, but mostly because of family, spouse or other supportive community that facilitates their access.  Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of us who are alone, and this is where the lack of community is most keenly felt.

The rarest sight in a church parking lot:
an empty handicapped parking space


I have a lovely Facebook friend who lives off the grid here in New Mexico, and just yesterday she posted a plaintiff wish for community of the faithful.  Now, she is Orthodox, but the situation for the Orthodox church in America with regard to community is the same, because we are all dealing with an individualistic American culture.  We can barely stand our own families, what to speak of the larger community of faith.

Yesterday, I posted about my experiences with the Vedanta Society in Southern California.  Something we could learn from them is their community focus.  Granted, it has been truncated somewhat due to a dwindling devotee base and changes in the economy, but I have to admit that I really miss that little community on the hill.  In the early days, we're talking 1930's, the Vedanta Society was given a bit of property in the Hollywood Hills - long before the Hollywood Freeway was even considered.  Some of the land may also have been purchased, but in any case, they had about two city blocks of property, some of it given over to a massive garden from which they got the flowers that were used in the daily worship.  There were also little houses stuffed together in a charming rabbit warren of residences, as well as an apartment complex.  The main property housed the temple, the monastery, the book store and the catalog buildings.  It was really charming.




I lived in the neighborhood for about 8 years, 3 of it in the convent, and I used to love to attend morning, noon and evening meditation hours.  There were many elderly ladies that lived in the smaller houses and apartments who were likewise able to attend.  They just had to walk across the small street and into the temple, which was a hushed and holy place.  No chatter allowed!




In this way, all people got to partake of a monastic style of contemplative life, without having to meet the criteria that is customarily required of a religious.  Good physical and mental health is the first hurdle to being accepted into a religious order.  This quasi 'ashram' style of living accommodated people of all types.

To be fair, we were dealing with individualistic Americans and there were many instances in which community members were not supported or helped during times of crisis.  I remember asking the cook at the convent for a plate of food for an elderly, long-time devotee who was flattened with a dangerous flu, only to be told there was not enough food, which was not true.  I said that was fine and that I would give her my portion of lunch.  Begrudgingly, this nun allowed me to take a plate to the sick old lady.  Now, that old lady had been very active in her youth.  She was a founding member of the group that originally moved onto the property, or she came very soon thereafter.  She had spent many years devoting a great deal of time to the maintenance of the place and the massive cooking projects that were required during the East Indian celebrations.  (There was always lots of great Indian food, and everyone in the world was invited.)  She had to gradually cease her efforts as she became too old to do them.  All of that support was forgotten, discounted, and taken for granted by some of the members, such as that one nun.


Lunch at the Hollywood Convent in the 1980's
(Swami visiting)

Another non-Christian group that does a much better job of forming supportive communities is the Mormons.  (Ignore, for the moment, their insistence that they are Christian.  Their theology and cosmology is completely different than accepted Christian doctrine from the earliest Christian age until the present.  That is a topic for another day.)  If you are a disabled Mormon, you are likely getting visits from eager young Mormons, with offers of help of all kinds.  If you want to attend a Mormon function, someone WILL take you.  If you are elderly, likewise.  If you've just had a baby, a score of young women will be helping with house-cleaning, baby clothes, baby this, baby that.  You won't go hungry or homeless or lonely if you are a Mormon in good standing.  I could never make myself believe in their theology, no matter how hard I might try, no matter how much I admire their community cohesiveness.  It's too bad, really.  I have several family members who are Mormon.

What is the point of all this?  I have a dream that one day Catholics will become more like the original Christian community that held all things in common and no one's needs went unanswered.  I have a dream that our "community" will be more cohesive, less individualistic and more helpful to one another.  I dream that the contemplative life will become more available to Catholic communities.  I suppose I dream of Catholic "ashrams," though I wouldn't want to use that term.  I long for loving communities.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed
that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared
everything they had."
~ Acts 4:32

If I ever won the lottery, the money would be gone in a minute because I would build a community with plenty of room for the elderly and disabled, complete with little cottages outfitted for the handicapped, smooth walkways that lead to the kitchen and the chapel, and meditation gardens.  I imagine a library stocked with all the Catholic classics, as well as religious DVDs.  Big dreams for a little person of no resources!

In the meantime, while praying for the big picture, I have to find a way to get my own needs met with regard to getting to a church on Sunday.  Mind you, I am a sick, elderly lady and I am actually not required to go to mass any more.  I want to go to mass, though, and I would like to be able to attend mass at a parish of my choosing and not be forced to attend a place that violates all my sensibilities.

Wish me luck, and help me in my prayers, won't you?

God bless you all

Silver Rose Parnell

Friday, August 29, 2014

I HAVE TO STOP READING MARK SHEA



Mark Shea, a well-informed and prolific Catholic writer, is one of my Facebook friends.  He has a wide circle of Facebook "friends," some of whom don't seem to like him much.  That's what happens on Facebook when you open up your friend list to people you don't actually know.  Some people want to "friend" you when, in actuality, they just want to fight with you and/or bash your religion or your politics.

I find the whole thing fascinating.  He posts "hot" news items, makes a one-sentence comment, and then the fur flies.  So far, I always agree with his take on these news items.  He has compassion, intelligence, knowledge and good sense, which is a lot more than I can say for some of his "friends" that respond to his posts.

I spend WAY too much time trying to elucidate a logical, sane, fact-driven point because some of them haven't even a passing understanding of classical logic and its fallacies, and it just frustrates me.  Most of them do not bother to actually read the articles that Mark posts, what to speak of any independent, original source material from which to form a cohesive, rational  and fact-based point of view.  I waste my time posting source material that bolsters my comments, only to have them ignored or discounted by people for whom opinion is king.  Today, one guy even told me that he wasn't going to read the articles I provided, but that I should critique them and tell him which of my proffered articles was the least convincing!  He was so lazy, he could not be bothered to counter my arguments himself.  I was supposed to do it for him!

In one sense, it is invigorating.  Crafting a good argument, making a good case, can be fun.  In the end, however, it is a waste of time.  Once I craft my case, no one will actually respond to it.  Irrelevant comments abound.  Eventually, I feel that I do not exist for these solipsistic Facebookers.  There is no give-and-take.  No conversation.  No debate.  They just repeat the same ridiculous, nonsensical arguments over and over again, and if I challenge them in a way that makes them look bad, they turn their ire on me and start to attack me as a person.  Then it is a free-for-all.

When the dust clears, I feel terrible that I have wasted my valuable time pretending that I can enlighten anyone in a culture that is, for the most part, entirely closed off from incoming information that disagrees with the all-holy opinion that comes out of the imaginations of people whose rigidity of opinion is caused by mental laziness, lack of curiosity and disinterest in ultimate Truth.  It feels as if many of these people "pick a side" that is already well-established, for instance, liberal or conservative, and then they argue from that position, with little, if any, independent thought.  In their world, there are only two sets of beliefs....and that is it!  They just swallow whole whatever side they've chosen.  Today the gun lovers were attacking Mark for saying that some innocent people getting killed in a drive-by shooting was a "pro-life issue."  That's all he said...and the crowd went wild.

Ultimately, my distress is my own fault.  I already know that my main function, my "work," if you will, is prayer and contemplation.  I accomplish a lot more doing THAT than I could ever hope to do by thinking up intelligent comments for Facebook.  I am responsible for wasting my own time.

Despite being terribly interested in the topics on which Mark posts, I have got to stop reading him.  But he is so INTERESTING, I whine to myself.  Maybe I could still read him but avoid commenting on his posts.    Okay, so I will let myself read him, but I have to exhibit some restraint and avoid commenting.  He is just so darn INTERESTING, though.  It will be hard.  But I will try.

Silver Rose Parnell

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

JANE DE CHANTAL

Saint Jane Frances de Chantal


If you are like me, and you are disabled, poor and trying to lead a holy life in the midst of your sufferings and pains in a world that discounts you because you do not appear to be productive, you need some inspiring words to keep you going on the contemplative path.  In the case of today's saint, Jane de Chantal, you may find a lot to bolster your prayer life and your resolve.  The letters between her and her spiritual director, Saint Francis de Sales, would be helpful to you, and there are several other books, as I remember, about these two saints.  It has been a while since I read them.  I was in a Hindu convent at the time, but I recall feeling strengthened by this saint's attitude toward spiritual life.

Here is a great quote about her:

“She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself...But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth” ~ St. Vincent de Paul.

Just google her name or look her up on Amazon.com, and you will find many books about her and St. Francis de Sales.  The library may also have some things.

It seems to me that most saints suffered greatly, in one fashion or another.  A few were sickly or disabled, like Blessed Margaret of Castello, and some were depressed, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta who had a dark night of the soul for 30 years.  Others were tormented by demons.  Most were afflicted with doubts and other temptations.  If anyone can relate to them in their sufferings, it is the disabled and frail elderly, many of whom endure chronic pain that does not leave them for a minute.  Depression and mental illnesses like post traumatic stress disorder are very common these days because the world has become a mean and violent place.  All of these things can interfere in a person's spiritual life if we let it get to us or if we imagine for a moment that we cannot possibly become saints if we are so messed up.

It is precisely BECAUSE we are messed up that we have a chance of becoming saints if we use our sufferings and humiliations to our advantage, offering it all up to God while maintaining a joyous visage.  We needn't pretend the suffering doesn't exist.  We aren't stoics or automatons!  We wrestle with our struggles, whatever they are, and we will notice them and occasionally give voice to the frustration, and we will certainly feel the pain, but our primary focus is on God and the beauty and joy of Him.  But never let anyone tell you that you "shouldn't feel" this or that emotion.  The saints feel plenty.  That is how they have a heart for the poor and suffering, and a heart for Jesus, Mary and the other saints.

Don't forget that God is great and has no problem using broken instruments such as ourselves.  Ignore what the worldly have to say about you and, whatever you do, don't let it get you down.  God will use us in the way he wishes to use us in the time in which he wishes to use us, and all we have to do is be open to him in our hearts.

I have been getting down on myself because of my inability to keep a strict schedule.  That was stupid.  One of the reasons I am disabled is because my illnesses prevent me from maintaining a schedule.  Somehow I had internalized the criticisms of the world.  I am learning to ignore the critical lady who frequently tells me, "I don't understand why you're not working.  You should be working.  Surely there is SOMETHING you can do.  You're so INTELLIGENT."  (As if one can only be disabled if one is a moron!)  Then there is the nosy neighbor who quizzes my apartment manager and asks her for a list of my disabilities because I do not "look" disabled. (Most illnesses, no matter how grave, cannot be detected by simply looking at someone.)

Quite a few people ask me how much money I get in Social Security.  I have made the mistake, in the past, of actually telling them the amount, only to be told that I am not really poor because some other able-bodied person with a temporary financial problem has a lower income than I do.  People do not understand that being disabled is MUCH more expensive than being able-bodied and, while an able-bodied person can actually do something to alleviate their situation, like taking a second job, a disabled person is pretty much stuck.  Occasionally, some of us can find a little something we can do to increase our income, but it is very difficult.  The solution for any financial privation is usually tightening our belts and doing without.  I will write a blog about that one day.

None of these people have the right to the information they ask about income or health conditions, and, these days, when pressed, I simply say that I have a collection of illness which, put together, make it impossible for me to work.  It does not satisfy them, but if I say it enough times, they stop asking.  Hostility and criticism toward the disabled and the poor are rampant in our society today, and we can fall into the trap of trying to defend ourselves at every turn.  Don't do it!  If someone is quizzing you about your disabilities or your income, it is not out of concern for you.  They want to judge for themselves whether you are poor or sick and your word is not good enough.  If you give in to this type of interrogation, you will lose your dignity like I did, and no amount of explanation will change a person's mind about you and all the other "lowlife" poor people who are faking disability (supposedly.)

Don't make the mistake I made and internalize the world's garbage until you are so down on yourself your spiritual life goes down the tubes.  There are plenty of people in the world for whom all the explanations and information in the world would not be enough to gift them with a sense of compassion and understanding for your trials or appreciation for your contemplative strivings.  In fact, most people won't "get you" in any real way.  If you're lucky, like me, there are a few dear friends who respect you and trust you.  Ignore the rest of the nattering world and hold onto the Lord.  Think of the rest of us who are in your same position (and there are quite a lot of us!)  We are your community.  We get you.  We support you.  We pray for you.  Don't give up.

Silver Rose Parnell