SAINT OLGA

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

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