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

Saturday, December 20, 2014

FOLLOW THE LIGHT


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Silver "Rose" Parnell

Monday, December 15, 2014

TORTURE IS A GRAVE MORAL EVIL



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

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

The Pope came out against torture this year:

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

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

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

God bless you all.


Silver Rose Parnell

Friday, November 28, 2014

THE EMBRACE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silver Rose Parnell
Copyright (c) 2014
All rights reserved.

Monday, November 3, 2014

EVERYTHING DIES



This has been a rough year.  My son died.  My dog died.  My television died.  My computer died.  I just learned that my cat is dying of renal failure and I have to buy him super expensive cat food to keep him alive.  My eyeglasses broke.

This morning I attended a wonderful mass for the souls of about 40 people whose families could not afford to properly inter the cremains of their loved ones.  My son was among those whose cremains were interred.  The archbishop said the mass and he is the one responsible for arranging this free method of properly disposing of the sacred bodily remains in an appropriate way.  Human beings are made in the likeness and image of God, and therefore their remains are to be accorded the love and respect properly due them.

I do not know if I will be having any services for the television of the computer.  As for the dog, I am howling at the moon at night.

I won't be posting much until I get my computer fixed, but know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

God love you.

Silver Rose Parnell

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

Saturday, October 4, 2014

PTSD AND THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE


"Ghost Tree"
Silver Parnell, 1995

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Silver Rose Parnell

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

THERESE OF LISIEUX HAS A MESSAGE FOR DISABLED AND ELDERLY

Saint Therese as a novice
in the courtyard of the convent


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

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




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




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

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




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






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

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

God bless

Silver Rose Parnell

Sunday, September 28, 2014

CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE VERSUS MONASTIC LIFE


Saint Thekla, Hermitess


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

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

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

Saint Paula and her daughter Eustochium,
with Saint Jerome

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


Hermit caves in Syria


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

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


Saint Theresa of Avila's cell


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

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




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

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

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


I will 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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

GIVE YOUR BEST



"Love the Lord your God with all your Heart and with all
your soul and with all your mind and with all your
strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as
yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these."


Imagine this scenario:  One of your friends has given you a gift.  It is wrapped in lovely paper and has a nice little card attached.  Then you open the package and see the contents.  It is a box of half-eaten grain out of which moths fly into the air.  This isn't a realistic, is it?  You would never give something like that to someone you love, yet the poor are given these kinds of presents every day.

Tattered, threadbare, stained and torn clothing, expired food, and other unusable objects are pushed at poor people, often with the expectation that the poor should be grateful for these "gifts," ostensibly because that is all they deserve or "beggars can't be choosers."

Jesus did not invent the phrase "beggars can't be choosers."  That was someone else.  What he said was that we should love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.  When we go to the market, we pick out the freshest food.  We don't deliberately try to find old food that has maggots crawling out of it.  When we shop for clothing, we examine the articles to make sure they are made properly and there are no holes in them.

If you are a poor contemplative living at home, you may have already experienced this.  I recommend distancing yourself from people who try to push garbage on you in the name of charity.  They are not doing it to help you.  They wish to feel better about themselves for some reason, or they lack charity of heart and want to give the appearance that they possess it.  Their offerings do not come from the heart of Jesus.

When Jesus fed the multitudes with bread and fish, there is no mention of maggots.  He gave the best.  Notice, when I say "the best," I am not saying the daintiest, the most expensive or the fanciest.  He gave fresh, wholesome and simple things. When he changed the water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, he didn't turn it into sour or moldy wine.  It was good wine.

Likewise, if you have a ministry in which you care for the poor, be mindful of Jesus' prescription.  Love your neighbor as yourself, and don't give them garbage.  Give them the best you have.

I am always throwing out and giving away things.  We tend to accumulate THINGS in our culture, and it is a job to stay on top of it.  If I have something that is in great shape and needs no repairs, I will give it away to someone who is poorer than me.  My criteria is that, if it is good enough to sell (and someone would actually buy it), it is a worthy present for my needy neighbor or friend.  If not, I take it to the dumpster where it belongs.

Let us remember to give one another the best of ourselves and our possessions because we love one another as much as we love ourselves.

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

GET BACK ON THE HAPPY HORSE





Every day when I wake up, I have to do my version of getting back on the horse.  The pains and disappointments of the previous day assault me and I have to throw them off and get back on the happy horse.  I grasp the wooden cross that lays on my chest while I sleep, and I remind myself of the promises of Jesus, the most excellent, happiest of news.  I smile and then I go to my shrine, cross myself and offer myself for the day, promising to do better, be better, incline myself better toward the Lord.  Then I turn on the altar lights and my day begins.  Directly after doing that this morning, I discovered a large, long piece of dog poop in my closet.

Even though I had walked that little dog at 6:00 in the morning, by the time I woke up at 10:00, he'd befouled my closet.  Clearly, the dog is not housebroken and, at 3 years old, it is doubtful I would be successful in training him.  If I lived in a house and had a doggie door, perhaps that would be the ticket, but I live in an apartment and I don't even have a fenced-in yard.  Anyway, he is the wrong dog for me.  I need a dog that will help me, not cause me extra anxiety.




After downing a strong mug of coffee, I took the little fellow back to the shelter.  I do my best not to dwell on the block of sadness at the bottom of my stomach.  Several people will be critical of my taking the pup back to the shelter.  They do not understand that the dog is not a pet for me.  It has a job.  It is a service animal.  Someone else WILL snatch him up.  Bringing him back was the right thing to do.

I was in a lot of pain today and downed two pain pills at once.  They barely made a dent in my pain level.  Some days are just like that.  The pain pills just don't work.  I settled into my crochet project; a baby blanket for the Gabriel Project at Project Defending Life, stopping now and then to load the washer and dryer, cleaning all the fabrics and pillows on which the dog had slept.  The cat was thrilled, and he flung himself across the freshly washed quilt that I arranged over the pink couch.

While I crochet, I say prayers for the baby that is going to use that blanket; prayers for a good life, a loving family, and a relationship with Jesus.  I ask the Lord to be kind to the little one.  While I am doing the laundry or eating my lunch, however, I am coming to grips with the very real possibility that I may never be able to get a service animal.  I have to adjust my expectations.  So MANY things are outside the realm of possibility for a poor person!  I am so tired of the dwindling collection of available options of my life, but I must get over it and resign myself to the reality of the situation.  It is important to me to learn to gracefully accept the will of God, and not to do so with bitterness or sour feeling.  Plenty of people in the world are in far worse shape.  Get back on the happy horse!





I enjoy the beauty of the baby blanket growing between my fingers and I thank the Lord for the skill and the ability.  My carpal tunnel kicks in now and then, and I have to stop for a while, but it doesn't matter.  I am not on a schedule and I can't get fired.

I feel the absence of the dog's energy in the house, and I deliberately displace the empty feeling with the satisfaction of creating a beautiful blanket.  Back on the happy horse.

Silver Rose Parnell

Thursday, September 18, 2014

THE HURRIEDER I GO, THE BEHINDER I GET

"SKIPPER"



Yesterday was stressful.  I had to let go of a toxic neighbor I had been helping for the last couple of years.  Some sort of mental illness makes this person hostile and aggressive, but oblivious to the effect of that behavior on other people.  After being exposed to it once too often this week, I had to put my foot down.  The whole episode was highly anxiety producing, especially since I was informed that my exertions on their behalf were not valued.  It can be frustrating when you try to minister to someone who doesn't notice the effort you are expending.  I wonder: if they don't notice the effort, do they actually receive the help you mean to give?

Last night, little Skipper slipped out of his collar and ran right into traffic on the main drag on which this apartment building sits.  Thanks be to God, he didn't get hit and then he ran back and circled around to the back door of my apartment.  I need to get him a proper harness.  I am thinking red plaid would be cute.  It will have to wait a couple weeks for the disability check.  (More about Skipper later.)

Last night, I heard from another friend that she had discussed getting a service dog for me with someone at the New Mexico service dog organization located in Santa Fe, about an hour and a half drive from me. They charge $6,150.00 for the dog and $75 for the application fee.  It generally takes about a year to a year and a half to get a trained animal.  There is no discount for low income clients.

It would cost me more than 4 months income to pay for a service dog myself.  Obviously, this is not going to happen.

Well meaning friends have lots of suggestions about who to call to try and wrangle a free dog or free training or both...or maybe a "deal" of some sort.  This is one of the reasons why my days are so full.  I spend a lot of time begging, searching, wrangling, researching: vainly trying to get my needs met.

I also need one of those scooters and a lift for my car, but Medicare will only pay for it if the doctor verifies that I need one for use IN my home.  Who can afford so much living space that they have room for one of those massive things?  Anyway, the scooters and car lifts are also thousands of dollars, evidently.

People often do not understand that being disabled is much more expensive than being able-bodied. The able-bodied do not need service dogs, scooters, housekeepers, cleaning ladies, delivery fees, medical equipment, special food, over-the-counter medicines, blah, blah, blah.

So, it doesn't look like I will get a proper service dog.  I do have a very small terrier I recently adopted in a fit of "oh, isn't he the most adorable thing you have ever SEEN?"  (See his picture, above.)  He is completely wrong as a service dog, and my doctor has suggested that I trade him in for something more appropriate, like a large standard poodle or Portuguese water dog.

My veterinarian has recommended that a standard poodle will best serve my needs, and that I should get one as a puppy so that it can be trained young.  I have researched that avenue also.  Poodle puppies range from $1,200 to $3,000.  Can you believe it?

I have asthma and bad allergies, so I need a dog that is hypoallergenic.  According to the AKC, there are not a lot of dogs that qualify.

So, if you have money, you complain about the prices, but you pay it and you get your needs met.  Problem solved.  You might haggle, but you don't have to beg.

I am very tired of begging.  I am exhausted from the effort and the stress.  There comes a point when trying to get one's needs met does not appear to be worth the stress and exertion.  I wonder if this is why so many veterans with PTSD are homeless, on the streets?  At some point, you just give up trying.

Fortunately, I have a place to live and a comforting spiritual foundation.  I'm not on the street, so I am ahead of the game.  I have gotten used to going without a lot of things.  This is just another one.  Time to move on to something more satisfying than begging.  I started another baby blanket for charity tonight, and it is very pretty.

Silver Rose Parnell

Friday, September 5, 2014

BLESS THIS MESS



I keep this little box of doo-dads next to my recliner, where I do all my crochet projects and where I occasionally trim my nails (or the cat's nails!)  Inside the box, along with circular knitting hooks, nail trimmers, a row counter, and crochet hooks, is a pair of scissors that my son gave me, and every time I have to trim a piece of crochet, I use these scissors.  They're very sharp and fit perfectly in the decorative box.  Every time I use them, I think of my son and say a little prayer for him.





I last saw Jason in the Spring of 2013.  He and his daughter came to visit me, driving across the desert from Las Vegas, Nevada.  He was supposed to have arranged for dialysis here in Albuquerque, and I don't know if he actually did it.  He had talked about feeling that he didn't need it if he had a session right before he left.  He wasn't overly cautious about taking care of his health, which is what killed him, ultimately.

We had a really nice time for the first few days.  I enjoyed showing them around Old Town, which is very near my house.  We ate at various restaurants, which was a real treat for me, since I never do that.  Jason took a lot of pictures.  It was wonderful to have him here. A couple days before they were to leave, he ran out of money.  He had received some money in back pay from Social Security, but he had spent most of it on some guns he had planned to sell at the gun show when he returned to Vegas. It is ironic that my son was involved in selling guns when I am so anti-gun, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I made no comment.

My apartment is small.  I had only a few days' notice they were coming, it was the end of the month, and I had very little food in the house and no money.  In other words, the status quo.  My granddaughter was only interested in playing games on her dad's phone.  The trip exhausted him, and he kept falling asleep in the chair.  He was very ill.

One day, when I wasn't looking, he grabbed a special pair of sewing scissors from my desk and bent them by using them as if they were a screwdriver,  I got upset because they were given to me by a special friend.  He got testy and a little rude.  I had to straighten him out.  He apologized and later bought me that pair of scissors pictured above.  At first, I was disappointed, because they were completely different than the pair he had ruined, but I just thanked him, knowing that he was stressed and sick and I could always buy another pair that suited me better.  Later, I realized the scissors he gave me were perfect for my crochet projects.

I felt bad about our little spat.  When they were leaving, I hugged my son for the last time and told him I was sorry that the visit wasn't perfect.  He was very sweet and gave me a good hug.  I will never forget what he said.  "Next time I see you, it will be better."

A few months later, he drove himself to the hospital.  He had pneumonia.  Very quickly, it turned into a variety of issues.  He had an infection around his heart.  It went from bad to worse.  Soon, he was gone.

Jason's birthday is coming up in a few days, and in another 3 months, the first year anniversary of his death.  I have been thinking about him a lot, and especially his last words to me, "Next time I see you, it will be better."  From your lips to God's ears, my boy.  From your lips to God's ears.

Silver Rose Parnell

Thursday, September 4, 2014

DRIVING MISS RUBY


I have a great friend in my apartment complex.  She's only a few years older than I am, but she's a little more banged up.  She was in a terrific hot air balloon crash about 10 years ago and they put her back together with metal rods, chewing gum, and band aids.  Recently, she has had to give up driving, and I try to invite her to accompany me every time I go shopping because she is generally stranded.  She's also not eating properly, has never learned to cook, really, and needs some help with her nutrition.

Going shopping with her is a scream because she wanders off and spends an inordinate amount of time reading all the labels and "pricing" things she is not going to buy that day.  She often cannot find things that are right on the shelf in front of her.  It takes forever.  I am always losing her.  The other day I lost her at a new Walmart.  I forgot to bring my cell phone, so we couldn't call one another to coordinate our locations in the store.  FINALLY, when I met up with her, I had a shopping cart full of things, I was ready to check out, and she had 4 items...but she needed one more.  I checked out and waited half an hour for her to appear again.

Today we went to Sprouts market for vegetables, and it was a circus.  She was revved up and chattering like a magpie while I, accustomed to proceeding in a leisurely, quiet fashion, was not in the mood.  I yelled at her at one point and had to apologize, at which point she told me that it was such a treat to get outside the apartment that she just gets EXCITED.  She was enjoying the fun trip.  Well, then I felt really crappy.  I had gotten mad at her expression of happiness.  Sigh.

The young girls at the produce department laughed at the two old biddies behind their hands.  I tried to explain to Ruby the fruits and vegetables needed to make a nutritious juice drink using my Jack La Lanne juicer.

Ruby is so scattered she went off on a tangent, taking two produce workers away from their jobs to ask them if the apples were on sale, after I told her they were not.  Then she asked if there was a senior discount.  They were very patient with her.  Meanwhile, I stood there, mortified, holding a bag of carefully selected apples, waiting for her to stop fiddling around.  She stood there, yammering to the produce workers, as if engaging them would make a discount appear out of nowhere.  Finally, she stopped talking.  They politely waited.  She stood there.  They looked at me.  Hysterical.  I dragged her away.  She argued about the number of apples I had chosen.  Everything is like pulling teeth....from a magpie.

Dismayed at the rising cost of food, even in this market that used to be very affordable, I grew anxious about whether or not I would have enough money to purchase the staples I needed: garlic, onions, ginger, leafy veggies, yellow veggies, tofu, mushrooms...and something else I had forgotten.  I wondered if I would have enough money for food for the rest of the month.  Ruby wandered off to buy a birthday card for her granddaughter, while I continued to toil in the vegetable department.  My PTSD kicked in and I lost my concentration.  It was so clear in my mind what I needed to get BEFORE I walked into the store, but the increasingly crowded store had made my mind turn to mush on high alert, if you can picture that.  I had to collect myself.

After I took a tour of the store and found her, we got to the checkout line, and she didn't have quite enough to pay for her portion, so she gave me what money she had and put aside a selection of items to pay for with her debit card, on which she had $14.  The bill was something like $23, however, because she had misread the price of the birthday card she selected which was more than $7!  This happens to us all the time.  Money is so tight on Social Security income that, when we miscalculate our purchases, we often have to pay from two different methods: a little cash, the remainder from a bank account with the debit card.  Sometimes we have to return an item and have it deducted from the bill.  Sometimes when she gets the bill, I have to lend her money.  Sometimes she lends me money.  It does get embarrassing, at times, but today we presented such an entertaining production that the stock clerks and the cashier just smiled at us and endured our bickering and fumbling with extremely good nature.

When we got back to the apartment complex, I drove her as close to her apartment as possible, and she went in and got her little shopping cart, then loaded her stuff into that.  I went home and unloaded all of my veggies from my trunk into my kitchen.  Ruby came BACK over to my house, and I made a lovely dinner of bagel, cream cheese, tomato and onion.  This has become a monthly routine, when I do my major shopping trip.  Ruby commented that we had had a really fun day, and I felt badly again that I had gotten so irritable with her.  Chronic, unremitting pain makes me grumpy.  I could have taken a pain pill, but then I would not have been able to drive.  Catch 22.

Most of all, I get disappointed in myself that the God consciousness that is so effortless while alone in my apartment just EVAPORATES when I get stressed and I am bungling my way through errands or other business exchanges.

She went home.  I drank a cup of tea, rather HALF a cup of tea, and promptly fell asleep in my recliner despite my cat's efforts to wake me by stomping his 16-pound royal furriness all over me.  It is odd to realize that just one shopping trip can now completely wipe me out and keep me aching for days afterwards.  I've been disabled for 10 years and I still can't get used to it.  It is almost as if I do not believe it, even though I know better than anyone that it is true.  I keep trying to do as much as I did when I was 30, and then I'm surprised when it doesn't work out.  I pictured a completely different life.

No one anticipates becoming disabled.  That's the thing.  You get injured in a hot air balloon crash, like Ruby, or you gradually start to get sick, struggle to stay employed, stay above water.  You swim and swim until you have to get out of the water or you will drown.  You do not have a choice about it.  When I finally went on disability, I had been sick for about 10 years, and my finances were completely depleted.  One of my old friends, on learning that my disability benefits had been approved, asked me, "If you can't afford to live on the monthly income, why did you retire?"   Retire? Ridiculous question.

The able-bodied just don't get it, but Ruby and other disabled people DO know what it is like to desperately try to maintain one's independence and the illusion of normalcy.  Both of us dressed to the nines today, with lipstick, jewelry and everything.  You'd never know that she was down to her last $14 and I was down to my last $80, even though I just got paid.

This is one reason why I am grateful for people like Ruby in my life.  We're in the same boat and we can laugh about our circumstances.  We're both religious, so we can also forgive one another our idiosyncracies and see the humor in them.  Best of all, we are each grateful for the blessings we retain, the things that really matter that have nothing to do with how much money one has or how much physical health.

What we have in common, aside from our artistic natures, disability, pain and poverty, is Jesus, and that makes all the difference in the world.

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