SAINT OLGA

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE?



There is a lovely, very old, Catholic church near my house.  I just love it.  The interior evokes a by-gone era of reverence and awe in the presence of the Lord.  It is very small adobe structure in the Old Town of Albuquerque.  It is generally difficult to find parking, but when I am able to find a spot, I enjoy going there to pray.

The interior, though originally dating from the 17th century, has been well-maintained.  There are beautiful, well-made traditional statues and a restful color-scheme.  During "tourist hours" they play reverential classical music CDs, such as Gregorian Chant.  If there aren't too many tourists wandering through the church and talking loudly, it is a wonderful place to pray, and Jesus is there in a special way.  If the red lantern is lit, Jesus is present in the tabernacle in the form of the Holy Eucharist.





People will say that God is everywhere, and I believe that is certainly true, but Jesus arranged a special way in which we can physically touch Him and even take him into ourselves.  He told us that the bread was his body and that the wine was his blood.  He said that he who does not eat his flesh and drink his blood has no life in him.  He wasn't talking about cannibalism.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the Eucharist, even among Catholics for whom the Eucharist is extremely important.




God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to be with us in our time-bound, physical plane.  God, who made us, understands our limitations in our ability to comprehend God's immensity, his timeless nature, his unlimited love for us.  He knew that we needed Him to come to us and speak to us in our language and to show us how to be with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to partake of His divine nature.

At the point when the priest "confects" the Eucharist and it becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord, the timelessness of the Lord intersects our time-bound world.  Partaking of the Eucharist is a spiritual AND a physical union with our beloved Lord.  It is a bonafide, authentic, mind-boggling miracle.





Last Saturday night, I went to mass at this wonderful little church.  Walking into the cool and dimly lit building, I noted the lamp was lit.  Jesus was there, in the tabernacle.  I came early to be with Him before the mass started.  After getting myself settled, I began to pray the rosary and felt my heart begin to soar.

A few minutes later, two ladies came into the church and sat two rows behind me.  Immediately, they began to use the basest, most vulgar swear words.  They also used the Lord's name in vain many times, saying, "Oh God" this and "Oh God" that.  I felt my face begin to burn with embarrassment for those ladies and sorrow for the insults being given to our Lord.  I waited to see if they would calm down, and their chat fest continued on, unabated.  If anything, their voices became louder.  No one else was talking.  It was jarring.

Finally, I turned around and asked, "Would you just stop it?"  The ladies were fifty-ish, well dressed and coiffed.  One of them, the most vulgar of the two in her language, told me that she would "in a minute."  She was haughty and angry in her expression.

I replied, "Swearing and using God's name in vain in church?  You ought to be ashamed."  She appeared stunned that I had said this.  Her mouth dropped slightly and her eyes widened.  She had nothing to say in reply.  You could hear a pin drop in the church.  I turned around and, after saying a prayer for the two of them, continued praying my rosary.  Not a peep did I hear from those ladies.

In retrospect, I wish I had handled it differently.  Instead of heaping shame on their heads, it would have been better if I had found a way to remind them that we were in the presence of Jesus in that moment.  Of course, God is with us and sees all our actions and knows all our thoughts at all times, but He is not always physically present to us in our time space continuum.  The presence of the Eucharist in the church IS the presence of Christ: body, blood soul AND divinity.




This is why, when we enter the church, it is time to recognize the special presence of Christ and behave accordingly.  The mass is not an entertainment vehicle.  If we are sitting in the pews, chatting away, as if we are waiting for a film to start, we are oblivious to the presence of Christ in the tabernacle.  The way we behave in Church has a direct correlation to what we actually believe.




That night, after I received the Holy Eucharist, I went back to my seat to commune with the Lord.  With my eyes closed and my hands clasped, I gave thanks for this wonderful touch of God, this incredible gift that Christ instituted.

When I opened my eyes, I happened to glance at the long line of people that were filing past my seat, on the way to receive the Eucharist.  I was surprised to be looking directly at the bottom of a young teenage girl who was wearing cutoff shorts that barely covered her backside.  If she had to bend over at any time, she would surely be showing at least half of what should not be shown.  Never mind that this clothing is inappropriate in ANY venue, except maybe the beach, but for her to be wearing it in church was unfathomable to me.  A grandmotherly type was with her, and I wondered why on earth she allowed the girl to go out in public half naked, but I know the answer to my own question.

The degree to which one is cognizant of the presence of Christ in the church is the degree to which respectful behavior and clothing are employed.

The last "hymn" of dismissal sounded like Mexican polka music.  It was very peppy and very loud.  I just sighed to myself and prayed for all concerned as I exited the building.  I hope next time I am confronted people chatting loudly in church, I can do something to elevate my fellow Christian's faith.  I don't know how I might do that, but I will be praying about it.  Please pray for me in this regard.

In the meantime, God bless us all.

Silver Rose


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

IF YOUR FIRST INSTINCT IS TO CRITICIZE, YOU ARE MISSING THE BLISS


We all know that Jesus said to love your enemies.  When I first read the Bible, I was struck by the passage that says, "They will know you by how you love one another."  One of the two most important commandments, according to our Lord, is to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.

He told us to show this love by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoners, etc.  He said that, when we served the poor and needy that we were really serving him directly.  What a glorious opportunity!

Love. Love. Love.  Jesus is all about the demonstration of love, yet today we have an upsurge in the amount of toxic public discourse in which the poor are demeaned in every way.   Mostly, the people who complain about the poor claim that they are lazy people who are "working the system" and taking advantage.

Stories ABOUND in which nosy people examine the shopping carts and personal dress of a person using a food stamp subsidy to pay for their groceries and then extrapolate that, if they can afford those things, then they shouldn't be receiving help buying food.  Never mind that the critic knows absolutely nothing about the personal finances of the person upon whom they wished additional poverty.  The critic does not know who is paying for the cell phone they wish the poor person did not have.  The critic begrudges the poor person the nice vehicle he or she is driving, yet does not know to whom the car belongs or even if the poor person paid for it themselves when they were working and successful.

Critics assume that poor people have been poor their whole lives, it seems, because they can't imagine that a poor person would be in possession of things purchased when they were financially successful.

I could give many credible reasons why someone would have a cell phone, a car, a pair of earrings...but it doesn't matter because it is irrelevant.

Jesus did not say to love your neighbor as much as yourself provided that you approve of all of his or her life decisions.  No.  We are to love one another.  PERIOD.  Love.  Not criticism.  Not judgment.

If your first instinct is to criticize, then your mind is inclined in a direction away from Jesus and away from his commandments.  In fact, all this criticism of the poor is a distraction from the commandments of God.  It is a method of grasping onto one's own greedy little pile of comfort.  If a person can convince themselves that the poor have some egregious character defect, then the critic thinks they can assuage their conscience and continue to live in comfort while others go hungry, unhoused, unchurched, and unhealthy.  They grow to think that the poor deserve to be poor...and the poorer, the better, so that they'll be forced to get off their lazy bums and get a job.

I have written many times about the facts that disprove every one of the critic's arguments about the conditions of the poor in America.  Today I write about saintliness.

When Mother Teresa picked up the filthy, scabby, maggoty, sick old man from the streets of Calcutta, she did not first interview him to determine if he was worthy of her love and care.  She did not sit there on the curb, pad and pen in hand, asking questions and checking off boxes on some form. She did not consider if he had bad habits that contributed to his pitiful condition.  She did not care about any of that.  She dispensed the love of Christ.  That was all.  She did not hesitate.  She picked him up and brought him indoors where she and the nuns loved him and cared for him, washing, dressing, feeding and coddling him until he revived or he died.  Mostly, they died.  But they died in love, surrounded by sweet, gentle, smiling faces.

I do not imagine that this tendency to criticize lays outside of myself.  I have also experienced bouts of criticism in my lifetime, when my heart has not been soft enough and I needed to lean into a person with God's love instead of arrogance.  It is a daily process, to check one's mind and make sure that it is inclined toward Jesus, in tune with his love and his intentions.  Lots of prayer helps.

Writing this constitutes my commitment to maintaining a loving inclination of heart, to look upon all others with a compassionate eye and see them the way God sees them, in the radiant beauty of the image of God in which they were made.  To think well of others is a delightful thing.  It generates a deep feeling of joy and bliss.  Come join me, all you critics and pessimists, and partake of the bliss. In the meantime, I pray for you.  Please pray for me.

God bless us all.

Silver Rose Parnell

Saturday, March 14, 2015

MEDITATION ON GOD'S TIMELESSNESS AND THE EUCHARIST



I once read that the definition of time is "the measurement of the movement of particles through space."  We measure the earth's rotation around the sun to arrive at our concepts of days, weeks, months, years, minutes, seconds, etc.

God, however, is timeless.  We know this instinctively, and logic confirms it. God, the creator of all things, the originator of our time, is omnipotent, omnipresent, and is not confined by the time in which we live.  He cannot be defined or limited to the powers of the planets as we are.  Even for us, time is not absolute.  Einstein demonstrated this for us in his theory of relativity.  Time is, in a simplistic sense, a function of where you are in the universe.  You can't pin down God.  He is everywhere and nowhere.




If you haven't read Einstein's Theory of Relativity in its entirety, by the way, I recommend slogging through it.  I once had a small book that contained it and made the mistake of lending it.  I will have to get another to read it again.  My mind couldn't contain all of it, but I found it spiritually enlightening.

One day, while meditating on the timelessness of God, I realized that the moment the priest confects the Eucharist is the moment when God, in his timelessness, intersects the time of our world.  This is what is meant when we are told that we are participating in the sacrifice of Jesus and not recreating the sacrifice that we feel was completed "a long time ago."  We are not crucifying Jesus over and over again.  We are participating in the one and only sacrifice of Jesus.  It is hard for most of us to grasp this because we are limited by time and our minds are ordered in a linear fashion because of that immersion in time.



The incredible meeting of the timelessness of God with the time-bound souls on earth which IS the confection of the Eucharist is not some magical hocus pocus that anyone could do if they only had the right words and performed the right movements.  It isn't witchcraft or a skill that one can develop.  If anyone other than a validly ordained priest in the line of apostolic succession  were to imitate every action that was performed during the sacrifice of the mass, the body and blood of Christ would not be present.  Why?



The power to confect the Eucharist is transmitted to a priest through the apostolic succession that extends back to Jesus himself.  Jesus created the church and gave authority and power to the apostles.  He created the hierarchy by naming Simon Cephas, "the rock", which was later translated to "Peter," and saying that on that rock he would build his church.  It is interesting to note that Cephas was not a proper name until Jesus gave it to him, so his moniker would be quite striking during his lifetime.  This word, the logos, Chephas' name, was meant to convey Jesus' intention that he would be the head of the church by being its foundation.  On him, Jesus' church would be built and even the gates of  hell could not stand against it.



When Jesus appeared to the apostles after His resurrection, he first said, "Peace be with you," then identified himself by showing them the wounds in his hand and his side.  Then he said, "Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, so I send you."  His church was already formed, with the 12 disciples, one of whom was named as the leader, the foundation of the church.  The teachings had already been given to them, but something else was needed.  They had to "graduate" in a sense and carry Jesus' teachings out into the world, so he sent them out as the Father had sent Him out.  This sending of the Apostles into the world was Jesus' confirmation of their authority and a continuation of the mercy of the Lord in sending Jesus among us to begin with.





Then, Jesus breathed on them and said, "receive the Holy Spirit."  So, they had first, their marching orders; second, their bona fides; and third, a new life in the Holy Spirit.  In addition, Jesus told them, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."  In those days, it was clearly understood that only God could forgive sins, yet Jesus had transmitted this capacity to the apostles.  The apostles were to stand, teach and speak "in persona Christi," on behalf of Christ.

The Catholic Church has an unbroken line of spiritual transmission from the time Jesus breathed upon the Apostles until today.  The power and authority that was given to the apostles is the same power and authority that is transmitted to a Catholic priest when he becomes ordained.  In our minds, the power has come "full circle," returning to the altar to confect the Eucharist, but in reality that power is the exact same power transmitted to the apostles.  It is not some old, dusty memory of something that happened once, a long time ago.



When I attend the Divine Liturgy, I often remind myself that nowhere else can I receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

If I think about the timelessness of the Lord at the moment the Eucharist is confected, I picture the congregation rising up to meet the Holy One while he comes down to meet us.  The angels and saints glory in that moment, and there is music and singing like nothing we have ever heard, I am sure.  When I am paying proper attention, I am more than a little moved and in awe.  I try to hold onto that mystery in my mind while it is occurring and leave my heart completely open to the limitless Lord with whom we are making the most extraordinary contact.

Jesus himself ordained this miraculous contact between us, this stunning experience of unity and salvation.  He said, "Whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood has no life within himself."  Some people think we are just eating crackers and drinking wine.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory to Him forever.

Silver Rose Parnell

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

GIVING ALMS TO THE POOR IS NOT CHARITY


"Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal 
from them and deprive them of life.  The goods we 
possess are not ours, but theirs.  The demands of justice 
must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in 
justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity."  "When we 
attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is 
theirs, not ours.  More than performing works of mercy, 
we are paying a debt of justice."

~ CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, No. 2446

Once again, the tide of hateful rhetoric against the poor has risen, and I have to write another post to remind Catholics of what our faith teaches us, which is that whatever money or assets we possess beyond which is necessary for our own survival belongs to those who do not have enough for their survival.  Read the catechism.  "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life."

The internet can give us a horrible glimpse into the darkness of Satan's world, where the poor are characterized as "lazy and just waiting for a handout."  In some Facebook posts, people complain that their tax dollars go to help the poor, robbing them of the ability to decide from themselves who is worthy and who is not.  They advocate for the removal of the already inadequate systems we have in place to feed children, the elderly and the disabled and claim that individuals and the church will take over the care and feeding of millions of people.  This is a fantasy.

Before Social Security and its associated social programs, individuals and churches already had the opportunity to take care of the poor and they didn't do it.  Unless we want history to repeat itself, it is best to leave in place those systems that have prevented our country from looking like India, with millions of people living and dying on the street or in tiny shacks made of corrugated tin.

I exhort my brothers and sisters to stop worrying about whether or not some "lazy" person will slip through the system and receive the gigantic sum of $240 a month, which is the amount of welfare paid to able-bodied persons in New Mexico - a sum they have to pay for by working at least 20 hours for the state.

Millions of people are under the ridiculous assumption that scores of able-bodied people are making a killing on "welfare."  It simply is not true.  If you are an able-bodied person and you have a child and the household is poor, then the child can receive about $540 a month, food stamps and Medicaid, but the parents, if able bodied, receive NO MONEY other than the afore-mentioned $240 a month, for which they must work.  If poor enough, they may receive food stamps of about $80 per person, but even the spending habits of those with food stamps are criticized right and left.  Have you been to the grocery store lately?  What, exactly, can you buy with $80?

The reason why that woman paying for groceries with food stamps is wearing a piece of jewelry or has a cell phone is that someone else purchased it for her.  Family and friends have to step in and supply some of the needs of the poor because the miserly sums they receive are simply not enough.  In my case, nearly everything I own was given to me or left behind by the previous tenant in this apartment.  My apartment is adorable and I have internet and cell phone, thanks to my friends Jane, Betty, Kathy, Debbie, and my sister, Shauna.  I have a car, thanks to my friend Judy, who GAVE me her old car when she bought a new one.  Although very low income, I don't qualify for food stamps, so some of my friends help me with some food items.  I can't imagine what it is like for those whose income is less than mine.

We have more than 40 million poor people in our country right now.  More than half of them are elderly.  Another 20% are severely disabled.  At least 18% are what is called "the working poor" who are living on minimum wage.  Less than 3% of people who received entitlement income are able-bodied people that are not in the previous three categories.  Within that percentage is contained the vast number of unemployed in our country who are receiving unemployment insurance.

The most shocking statistic of all is that one out of every four children in America goes to bed hungry every night.  I am going to repeat that so you can meditate on it.   One out of four children goes to bed hungry in America every night.  

When you criticize the poor, you are making it more difficult for these children to get the food, housing and education they need.  When you criticize the poor, you encourage people to be more stingy.  When you criticize the poor, you paint a huge number of people with a brush that only belongs to a tiny minority.






Where are these lazy people who are just sitting around waiting for a handout and then buying luxury items with the boatload of money they get from the state?  I will tell you where they are.  They are in the imaginations of people who lack charity and generosity of spirit.  Some of them, sad to say, are Catholic.  Participating in this poor-bashing that is so popular right now is participation in the plan of Satan.  Just stop it.

Silver Rose Parnell

Sunday, March 1, 2015

GOD BRINGS ALL THINGS TO THE GOOD

February snow in my garden


There are times when something will happen that completely throws all plans to the wind in an unexpected and unpleasant way, and we have to discern God's will amid the mess.   It is like a large snowfall in a city that doesn't customarily get much, if any, snow at all.  Everyone scrambles to accommodate the slippery roads.  Time tables are drastically altered, and some planned-for destinations have to be scrapped entirely.

Last Saturday, I went to confession, as I always try to do during Lent, and, for the first time, I walked away feeling relief, hopefulness, and peace.  So, there I was, all shiny and freshly washed and feeling good, and for the next two days I was assaulted by some harassment at church that finally got so bad I had to leave.  The harassment was completely undeserved and, looking back on it now, I see Satan's hand in it.  He hates it when you make a good confession, you see, and he wanted to force me to lose my temper and take the shine off my soul.  Thanks be to God, I did not lose my temper, though I did feel a tremendous amount of stress.

Sadly, I have to find another church community, since no one is going to rectify the situation at my now-former church, and my post traumatic stress has been aggravated to a degree that makes it impossible for me to continue on as I have been

Confidence in Jesus gives me great comfort at the moment. I know that he brings everything to the good for those that love him, for those that believe in him.  I look forward to discovering what is his will for me and where I will end up.

In the meantime, I am renewing my zeal for community life and investigating membership in the Lay Dominicans.  I had previously considered the Carmelites, but could not drum up the requisite enthusiasm for their programs.  Two of my very favorite people were lay Dominicans: St. Rose of Lima and Blessed Margaret of Castello, and I would be grateful to be in their company.

The dream of a convent for disabled and elderly women is still alive, though somewhat dimmed by recent events and lack of resources.  I give my will to the Lord in this matter and in all things, to the best of my ability, and wait for his instruction.

In the meantime, I am recuperating from a nasty fall on melted snow in my garage.  I landed hard on the cold, wet concrete and injured quite a few body parts.  As previously mentioned, plans have suddenly changed as a result of the snow storm.  I wait for the snow to melt and for my body to heal.

Please pray for me as I pray for you.

Silver Rose Parnell