SAINT OLGA

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE IN GOD, OR ARE YOU JUST PRETENDING?




Some people pick a religion based upon what they already believe.  If there is any aspect to the religion with which they don't agree, they either ignore it or it becomes so annoying at some point in time that they go in search of a religion that agrees with themselves more tidily.  If there isn't a "better" religion, in their estimation, they lobby to change the one in which they find themselves, in order that it may more closely meet their desires.

The inner sanctum of the church is not immune.  Thus, we have nuns lobbying to become priests, priests lobbying for "gay marriage" and the occasional bishop assigning luxurious living accommodations to himself and his cronies, even though, at the very least, a simple style of life is required of them, what to speak of the poverty that characterizes the lives of nearly all the saints.

All of these faux Gods are using a false and self-reverential criteria.  Religion is not supposed to be a means to soothe the ego and make ourselves feel good, but this is exactly what many people now hope to get out of it. The so-called "new age" religions that hit America at end of the 19th century and spread like wild fire can lay claim to some responsibility for individuals elevating themselves above the saints and sages because the emphasis shifted from the individual being guided by God to one in which each individual replaces God as the ultimate authority in their own life.  At the very least, the individual's personal opinion takes precedence over the saints, sages, theologians and scholars that have digested and analyzed the scriptures over the last 2,000 years.

I hasten to append that, in many cases, these New Age mystical religions have been misinterpreted and that, while the religions of personal mystical experience are meant to corroborate the teachings of the saints and sages, devotees replace them, instead, with their own misshapen ideas.  Our modern culture has assimilated these foreign philosophical systems in this misshapen form and, when the Christian religion of the land was inoculated with them, it caused a terrible confusion in society, which confusion clearly continues until today, when the Supreme Court of the land enshrines sterile, unnatural unions between same sex couples as a form of so-called "marriage".  "Right" and "wrong" are no longer solidly understood but have been replaced by a modern relativism that has nearly destroyed the moral underpinnings of society completely.

The crux of the issue is that, even people who self-identify as religious or "spiritual" do not actually believe in God.  They will insist that they do believe in God, but, conveniently, their "God" agrees with them in every one of their unique inclinations.  Each person has become his own God, the big cheese sitting in the big chair with the long beard.  Each person has become the sole and complete arbiter and judge of truth.  Satan's sin was that he also considered himself as good as God, and for this he was kicked out of heaven.

Coincidentally, these self-made deities either dismiss or discount any scripture, saint or religious authority and tradition whenever and wherever they contradict the individual's all-mighty opinion. Frequently, these self appointed demi-Gods cite the ancient scriptures as the very reason why the Catholic Church is wrong because the scriptures are so old that they couldn't possibly pertain to our time.  "They need to be updated!" is the cry.  Never mind that, for God, there is no time.  The entirety of our puny history is with God in its entirety at every moment.  He knows the whole of my life because he's not stuck at any point in time.  He can't even be said to travel in time or forsee something "in the future" because, for Him, there is no future and there is no past.  There is only the eternal NOW.  The only case in which this may not have been true was perhaps when Jesus walked the earth.  Our Lord, as Jesus Christ, experienced time, suffering, pain and death.

Jesus asks us to learn from Him and He taught the Apostles the manner in which they were to do this. He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit.  He gave Peter the keys to the kingdom and told him that He was the rock upon which Jesus' church would be built.  This didn't happen 2,000 years ago, according to God.  It is happening now and now and now.  The Eucharist is Jesus today in the same degree as it was in that upper room when he instructed the disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, except you eat the flesh of
the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in
you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has
eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For
My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood, dwells in me,
and I in him." ~ John 6:53-56


God did not give us temporary Truths that need our hands to fix them.  It makes no sense to do so. What is true then is true now.  God needs no replacement.  He doesn't need our help.

I insist that the moment someone sets themselves up as their own God and their own arbiter of what is right and wrong in the Christian faith, that is the moment when it is revealed that the person does not believe in God at all.  If one believed in God, one wouldn't dare attempt to usurp Him and deny the relevance of His church to today's world.  Humility and fear of the Lord would overtake that person if he or she had a consciousness of the reality of God.  At the very least, a wise person would employ enlightened self-interest and would obey the commandments, despite any small misgivings or doubts. After all, following the commandments of God would not hurt if it turned out there was no God, but doing so is essential if there really is a God.

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle
and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For
My yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:29-30




"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; 
yet not my will but yours be done."  Luke 22:42


When Jesus speaks about being humble, he isn't referring to a personality type that bows and scrapes and defers to everyone, nor to a self-deprecating point of view.  He certainly was not like that.  He modeled for us an obedience to God that was a sublime lesson to those of us who try to balance prayers and desires for oneself with the desire to also do the will of God.  We have been given free will, otherwise our consent to living a holy life would be a condition of slavery.  We have to willingly gives ourselves over to the will of God, even as we ask for something from him.

Children cannot stand to be told "no."  Sometimes they have a fit.  The mature disciple bows their head in reverential agreement, confident that the good Lord knows best, that His church knows best, and that the disciple's possible disagreement with the will of God is none other than the childish ego raising it's head and having a temper tantrum.

Obedience to the will of God is not popular these days.  Many people say they are Catholic while at the same time denying the unchangeable Truths of the faith and lobbying to change those divine truths to suit their cultural norms and, in some cases, their own sins. Some of them prowl the corridors of Facebook, inserting their heretical ideas into conversations and berating anyone who does not fall in line with the "modern" way of thinking. Dealing with them can be exhausting.

"Whoever is not with me is against Me, and whoever
does not gather with me, scatters."  Mark 9:40

Before I became a Christian, I followed my own inclinations.  In many cases, I was wrong, and no good came from it.  I've decided to put aside my own independent tendencies in favor of the commandments of Jesus.  I pray daily that I become a better Christian, more faithful, more worshipful, more pure and more holy.  I ask that you also pray for me, that I can become a better Christian, and I invite you to follow me in that pursuit.

God bless us all.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

THE POPE'S NEW ENCYCLICAL - IT IS NOT JUST GLOBAL WARMING


"The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely.  Hence,
there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain
trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person's face.  The ideal is not only
to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of
God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.  Saint 
Bonaventure teaches us that 'contemplation deepens the more
we feel the working of God's grace within our hearts, and the
better we learn to encounter God in creatures outside ourselves.'"
Pope Francis, Laudato si', paragraph 233


Some of the day's talking heads are dismissing the Pope's Encyclical, Laudato si', without even reading it, apparently, because they seem to think that it is all about global warming and, because he isn't a scientist, they claim he has no business speaking about ecology.  According to Rush Limbaugh, the Pope's encyclical confirms that he is a "Marxist."  This isn't the first time that Limbaugh has labeled the Pope thusly.  I wonder if the man has ever looked up the term in a dictionary.

Hear what Limbaugh has to say about "this global warming encyclical" HERE where he attempts to reduce this beautiful, multi-faceted document into a "rant" against the rich.  He also discounts the Pope's "assertions" about climate change because the Pope isn't a scientist.  The Pope doesn't have to be a scientist to comment upon a spiritual orientation that is reflected in the world around it.  He does mention some scientific facts, but he relies upon the findings of scientists for those.

I would hope that, just because Limbaugh and people like him are calling this the Pope's "global warming encyclical," the public will not dismiss it as such, because Pope Francis covers a lot of territory in this elegantly crafted but easily accessible document.  All one has to do is read the document to see the Truth.

On the other hand, Ryan T. Anderson, of the Heritage Foundation, gives a more than credible overview of the encyclical, which surprises me because I do not typically agree with much of anything the Heritage Foundation has to say.  It has always seemed to me that they were hostile toward the poor, but there wasn't much of that sort of thing in Anderson's article, which is titled POPE FRANCIS' ENCYCLICAL IS ABOUT MORE THAN CLIMATE CHANGE. IT'S ABOUT CULTURE.

It seems to me that, here in America at least, the culture has a grim view of life that denies the majority of Americans the right to be connected with the beauty of nature and with cultural symbols, architecture and art that feed the soul.  Francis talks about how it is not healthy for people to be surrounded by concrete, asphalt and glass, such as in most large cities.  The poor, especially, are subject to a gritty version of bare survival that does not take into account the quality of life, the need for beauty and nature, the hunger of the human soul for the experience of God through the rest of God's creation.

Under the heading DECLINE IN THE QUALITY OF HUMAN LIFE AND THE BREAKDOWN OF SOCIETY, paragraphs 43 through 45, the Pope says:

"43.  Human beings too are creatures of this world, 
enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed 
with unique dignity.  So we cannot fail to consider the 
effects on people's lives of environmental deterioration, 
current models of development and the throwaway 
culture."


"44.  Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of 
the disproportionate and unruly growth of many 
cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not 
only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions 
but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transporta-
tion, and visual pollution and noise.  Many cities are 
huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of 
energy and water.  neighbourhoods, even those 
recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in 
sufficient green space.  We were not meant to be 
inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and 
deprived of physical contact with nature."

"45.  In some places, rural and urban alike, the 
privatization of certain spaces has restricted 
people's access to places of particular beauty.  
In others,"ecological" neighbourhoods have been 
created which are closed to outsiders in order to 
ensure an artificial tranquility.  Frequently, we 
find beautiful and carefully manicured green space in 
so-called "safer areas of cities, but not in the more hidden 
areas where the disposable of society live."

Paragraph number 45 spoke to me very strongly because my living situation exactly mirrors what the Pope is referring to therein.

When I moved into my apartment complex ten years ago as a disabled lady on limited income, it was a fairly pretty place, especially since it is a property that, though originally built as condominiums, had become partially occupied by disabled, elderly and the working poor on a low income program provided by the city.  There was a dense line of tall, beautiful trees lining the ditch that runs the back side of the property.  Along that line was a nice old wrought iron fence, punctuated now and then with a softly lit globe light on a matching black post.  There was a dirt path that ran the full line of the property, from one end all the way to the fenced-in pool, and I often saw residents strolling the fence line at night, chatting quietly and enjoying the natural ambiance.

Honesuckle and rosemary bushes dotted the landscape, and a few giant cotton wood trees complemented them.  Each downstairs apartment had a patch of grass and a patch of dirt in which to plant flowers.  A peacock had somehow found its way to the property and was living here.  There was a family of beavers, presided over by a giant, silver-backed female who studiously ignored me when she marched the path, preferring, occasionally, to walk from one end of the ditch to the other.  In the spring time, large red-tailed hawks were in abundance, and I often was treated to the sight of them, clinging to the fence, searching for their next meal or teaching their young ones to fly and hunt.

Canadian geese and their chicks, guarded by an inexplicable giant white domestic goose, were plentiful, as were gorgeous little wood ducks and their tiny chicks.  Mallards were in no short supply, and white herons of some variety were often seen hunting from the banks or, with particularly tall individuals, right in the middle of the ditch!  At night, the black crested night herons would perch in those trees on the ditch line.  I was lucky enough to catch sight of a few green herons, which are pretty shy. It was a rich ecological smorgasbord that attracted a giant whitish owl who flew straight down the middle of the ditch at dusk, swiveling its head to look at me with its wide-set eyes as it passed me.

There were plentiful bass, trout and catfish in the ditch, along with the ubiquitous carp that no one wanted to eat, except the really desperate fisherman, but unless you trespassed on our property, you couldn't fish our excellent fishing holes because the dense treeline at the bank wouldn't permit it.  The maintenance man would occasionally fish during his lunch hour, and I shared recipes with him for the catfish that were quite large at the time.

We couldn't really see the golf course on the other side of the ditch, except for a glimpse here and there between the thicket.  Occasionally, we could hear a loud conversation of some golfers that had driven their balls too close to the fence or, which often happened, into the water.

One day, someone in power decided to kill all the grass and bushes.  They turned off the sprinklers for good and just waited for everything to die, which it did in short order.  The grass, the honeysuckle, the rosemary.  A tiny patch of grass was left at the driveway, just below the sign for the apartment complex, false advertising if you ask me!  Another patch of grass near the mailboxes was allowed to live - just barely.  It never really looks like grass any more, but a collection of clipped weeds of one variety or another.  In front of my garage, one of the two small trees that bore a profusion of beautiful flowers every spring, was allowed to die of thirst and was eventually removed by the "gardeners."  I notice that a nearby neighbor started watering the other one to try and keep it alive.  So far, it is hanging on.

Then someone decided to remove ALL the trees from the banks of the ditch, which I used to call "our creek" because it was so charming.  No more.  It took no time for giant machines to come and rip out the trees and carry them away.  Then the banks of the ditch were laid over with a giant netting of huge cement blocks, the purpose of which, I imagine, was to delay the erosion that the trees were preventing by their presence at the water line.  Then the quaint light globes that had dotted the fence line were also ripped out.

Huge machines came in and ripped up the back yards.  They placed some kind of tubing under the soil, which they then topped with heavy weed screen, over which they piled loads of crushed up cement, which is called "crusher fines" in the construction trades.  On the walking path that was previously dirt, they laid a thick carpet of gravel that is almost impossible to walk upon, chunks of gravel finding their way into any kind of shoe you might wear.  Walking the back fence was no longer practical, anyway, because there was no light and most of the line was pitch black at night, except for the occasional harsh light from one of the lamps that was placed on select walls of the buildings.

This is when my childhood asthma came back like a lion into the Colosseum, and I have had terrible trouble breathing every day.  The wind whips up, picking up the dust, dirt, cement and sand choking my sinuses and windpipe.  The back of my throat feels as if it's been sandblasted and, I suppose, it has.

I rarely see a hawk any more.  A young beaver has taken up residence where the old lady used to live. We have very few fish and almost no turtles since the trees were removed because people could (and did) wander up and down the property just outside our fence line.  I watched them as they took large nets and scooped absolutely everything edible out of our "creek."  Carp, turtles, frogs, bass, trout: they took everything.  Soon, the ditch was barren of life.  It is struggling to regain its footing.  The elm trees are making another appearance all along the ditch line and, if left alone, will be tall enough to screen out our view of the golf course one day.

As for the country club, they seem to have an unlimited supply of water for their lush greens and big cottonwoods.  We can look at it from across two fence lines; the wrought iron one on our side and the wire one on theirs.  At about 9:00 at night, I can hear their sprinklers coming on, with a rhythmic splash into the water of the ditch because at least one of them has a swing that is too wide.

I fought the decimation of our natural world on this side of the fence, but in America it is assumed that only the rich can have access to the beauty of living things, and it was a losing battle from the start.  I have tried (unsuccessfully) to grow various things in pots in my back yard, but I don't have the money I would need to fix the ugliness outside my window.  I often tell people how ironic it is that my "view" from the living room is disturbing: the artificially dyed approximation of dirt on my side, and lush greenery on the rich folks' side.  They tell me I should shut up and be thankful that I can see the pretty place where the rich folks play.  "How many people in your position could have a view like that?" they ask me.




I would say that city planners should be required to read The Pope's encyclical before dooming people to living and working in vast expanses of man-made structures, cement plazas, and artificial dirt substitute in favor of integrated green space where the movement of nature can be witnessed and with which we can freely interact.

Quality of life is not something I read about or something I hear on news programs discussing what to do about the poor, for instance.  There is an underlying presupposition in America that only people with money have the right to a decent quality of life, to beauty and to a life lived within the harmony of natural space.  Clearly, the Pope does not agree.  Neither do I.

The Pope's vision is vast and comprehensive, which is why he spent almost 200 pages discussing ecology and related issues.  It deals with global warming, to be sure, but it is much more than that.  Do yourself a favor and read the document and you will see what I mean.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ST. TERESA OF PORTUGAL



One of the saints celebrated today is another relative of mine, very distant of course!  Her name is Saint Teresa of Portugal.  She was married to her first cousin, King Alfonso IX of Leon and, after having several children, the church dissolved the marriage because their marriage was too close in blood relation (consanguinity.)  It was common at one time for relatives to marry one another among nobility because, God forbid, one couldn't marry a commoner.  Their world would fall in. Consequently, since I am descended from a bunch of royal lines, I am a cousin to myself a hundred times over, maybe more!

Teresa returned to her estate at Lorvao in Portugal and funded a monastery on her property.  Later, she replaced the monks with 300 nuns following the Cistercian Rule.  She lived with the nuns.  At some point after settling a dispute about the inheritance of King Alfonso in Leon, she once again returned to Lorvao and it is thought that she officially became a nun.

Teresa's sister, Sanchia, was also sainted, and today is her feast day as well.

I have long wanted to start a convent geared toward disabled and elderly ladies, but that sort of thing requires a huge amount of funding.  My sainted ancient ancestors were wealthy, most of them, or at least had quite a bit of land, and they had the freedom to donate it to the church and establish convents and monasteries for the glory of the church.

The great importance of prayer, whether intercessory prayer, glorification, or contemplative prayer in which one simply inclines the mind to God, cannot be underestimated, but I find that, even some very devout people don't see the sense of it and are not likely to support convents and monasteries.  They seem to want to see some visible work on the part of all religious, but fail to realize that Martha AND Mary are necessary.  I get the sense that some people are jealous of the peaceful, protected life of these monastics, despite their lack of mobility and choice about almost anything in their lives.

I have been thinking a lot about how King Henry VIII (a great uncle of mine), stole all the property of the Catholic Church and razed most of the monasteries and convents in England.  What was said at the time was that the quality of the spiritual lives of the monks and nuns was not that good, there were "too many" monastics and that better use could be made of the land and the structures.  It was a ruse, of course, a happy consequence of destroying the Catholic Church in England so Uncle Henry could finance his debaucheries and marry yet another woman.  The entire raison d'etre for the Church of England was the advancement of sin by sin, and now look at it!  Female priests and bishops and same-sex marriages on the horizon!  What a legacy.

Why do I care if I am related to this saint or that saint?  The thing is this:  The saints are not dead, and if I am related to any of them, I like to add them to the people to whom I direct my requests for intercessory prayer.  Hey...I need all the help I can get.

Today I talk to Teresa and Sancha of Portugal and ask for their inspiration and intercession.

God bless us all.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SAINT LUTGARDIS AND LOVE OF ENEMY

Saint Lutgardis in prayer

Today marks the death anniversary of Saint Lutgardis, who was a nun who died on this date (June 16) in 1246.  I admit that this lovely saint has little to do with the topic of loving one's enemies, but she is the saint I've chosen for the day, while the Gospel Reading of the day deals with loving one's enemies and praying for those who persecute us.

There is a whole long list of saints who are honored today.  That's the way it is for most days of the calendar year.  There are far more than 365 saints, so they all have to share.  I picked St. Lutgardis (sometimes Lutgarda or Luthgard, depending on the language of the country in which you live.) I had not heard of her before, and I am making an effort to broaden my knowledge of the saints, so she was my choice.  She was also a nun from the age of about 12.  I love to learn about other nuns, as it inspires me to cling more fervently to my own unique vocation.

The holy people we remember today are:

St. Benno
Bl. Guy Vignotelli
St. Aurelian
St. Berthaldus
St. Tychon
St. Colman McRhoi
St. Felix & Maurus
St. Luthgard (Lutgardis, Lutgarda)
St. John Francis Regis
St. Aureus
Bl. William Greenwood
St. Cettin
St. Curig
St. Ferreolus & Ferrutio
St. Quiriacus and Julitta

If you have some curiosity about the other saints, Catholic.org has a wonderful website with extensive information and a great search feature that allows you to find the saints either by date or by name.  The link for that page is HERE.

There was a time in history when ladies had only two choices in life.  You either married or you joined a convent.  Generally speaking, it was rather shameful to be a spinster living at home, but, as with all generalizations, this was not always true.  Lutgardis's father had managed to squander her dowry in a bad investment scheme which meant she could not marry.  At the age of 12, he sent her off to a convent, despite her having no monastic vocation to speak of. In fact, she came and went as she pleased and entertained all visitors she wanted, both male and female.  Then something happened in the way of a vision which set her firmly on the path to heaven.  She grew more and more devout, had visions, a type of stigmata, and levitated during prayer.

You will find her entire story HERE.

The thing I found most inspiring was that she began with no interest in God whatsoever, but ended up becoming a great mystic and saint, which speaks to the importance of teaching one's children the faith.  Often times, a child will express disinterest in a topic, skill, or way of life, but they have no way of knowing if they are interested until and unless you introduce them to it.  Exposure to a thing is necessary.  I think it very odd when someone says that they are not going to teach their child about God but will "let them choose" when they're 18.  Let them choose based on WHAT information, I want to know!

Saint Lutgardis gives me hope that, even if we start out as vain, superficial people, we can grow and improve and "become perfect" as our "father in heaven is perfect," which brings me to today's Gospel reading.

Matthew 5:43-48

(43)  You have heard how it was said, you will love your neighbour and hate your enemy,

(44)  But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;

(45)  so that that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike.

(46)  For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Do not even the tax collectors do as much?

(47)  And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?

(48)  Do not even the gentiles do as much?  You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It occurred to me that I have, in the past, prayed for people who have done me grave harm in one way or the other, but it has been quite a while since I prayed for those people.  I have forgiven them and I did pray for them for some time, at least until it was fixed in my brain that those people had been forgiven, but I wonder if Jesus intended that we continue to pray for our enemies, over and over again?  How much is enough?  I am unsure about this aspect of things.  I am grateful that this reading came to me today so that I would have that little nudge that would inspire me to examine an important aspect of my prayer life.  I'll have to ponder this one a bit.

The doctor called today.  The latest tests reveal that my illness is still a mystery.  He will call again tomorrow with information about the next steps to take.

Despite being in the middle of an intense pain episode, I made a big pot of vegetarian soup today, with organic tomatoes, kidney beans, red onion, garlic, olive oil, celery, new spring potatoes, and just enough cayenne to warm the mouth.  I put a little brown sugar in there also, to put a damper on the tang of the tomatoes.  I fed a couple neighbors in an impromptu, casual supper: me with my legs propped up on a big box with a pillow on top (my recliner is broken), one neighbor on my couch with a tray and another at the tiny white table in the middle of the living room.  I've lost the ability to socialize in a group, for the most part.  Having spent the last 11 years as a solitary, with very little company, silence has become my friend.  I do enjoy a conversation of substance, but those are sometimes very hard to find or generate.

Now that there is a dog in the house again, I am forced into a walking schedule, which I am assuming is good for anything that ails me.  I have yet to hear of an illness in which they tell you NOT to walk, even if walking makes you feel like someone is sticking hot pokers up your spine and in your kneecaps.  Anyway, it is time to walk the cutest dog in the world.  I'll pray for you while we stroll.




God bless us all.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015


Monday, June 15, 2015

SAINT EDBURGA OF WINCHESTER

Stained glass window depicting
Saint Edburga of Winchester
holding chalice and patten


I like to think that, even though I was raised by people who hated religion, and the Catholic religion in particular, it was the many Catholic saints to whom I am related who have been praying for me and the rest of their relations, whose intercession I can thank for eventually leading me to the beautiful Catholic faith.

In gratitude for their prayers, and out of love for them, I am attempting to learn as much as I can about all the family saints.  Saint Edburga of Winchester is one of them, as she is my 31st Great Grandaunt, and her feast day is today, June 15, as it is the anniversary date of her death.

Often, when I make reference to this type of relationship, people will express some skepticism, until I explain that, with regard to the nobility of the British Isles, we have quite a bit of historical information.  Those folks couldn't sneeze without someone noticing.  The lines of descent are easy to trace from this wealth of information, particularly those of us whose family lines date back to the earliest settlers of America.


Edward I, King of England
Father of Saint Edburga


Edburga was born to King Edward I of England and his third wife, Eadgifu of Kent, in about 920.  It is said that her father divined her future vocation when, at her tender age of 3, he laid before her a small chalice and paten on one side, and gold and jewelry on the other.  She took up the chalice and paten (items used in the Catholic liturgy) and King Edward took this to mean that his daughter would be attracted to holy things and therefore had a vocation as a religious.  Not long after this, the King put her under the care of the Nunnaminster Monastery, where she was educated by Abbess Ethelthritha, in exchange for which the King provided yearly endowments of money and other presents.

Edburga's reputation became one of gentleness and humility.  In one story, she is reputed to have washed the socks of the other nuns while they slept.  She was widely revered and loved as a very holy woman.

She died in 951 and was buried at the Monastery.  In 972, she was declared a saint, though she was already considered such during her lifetime.  At the time of her official designation as a saint, a large amount of her relics were translated to Pershore Abbey in Worcestershire, which is dedicated to her. Only a very small portion of the Abbey remains today.



Pershore Abbey, Dedicated to St. Edburga


Both Pershore and Nunnaminster fell prey to the suppression of the monasteries by Henry the VIII. Nothing remains of Nunnaminster, save a few waterways.  Parishioners managed to purchase the monk's quire of Pershore, and this small portion remains as the parish church, though it has been destroyed and rebuilt.  As late as 2001, it was being repaired and/or refurbished.  Contemporary photographs of the Abbey can be seen on its official web page:  http://www.pershoreabbey.org.uk/g-aerialcam.html

Although history has not left us with a lot of personal details about my great aunt, I find her life inspiring nonetheless, as an example of someone who steadfastly maintained a holy life, dedicated to God, from the time of her youth and that she attained such sanctity that it was recognized during her lifetime.

God bless,

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2105




Sunday, June 7, 2015

THE FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI



I was about to write some comments about the Feast of the Holy Trinity when I was reminded by one of my friends that Holy Trinity was LAST weekend and that this weekend we celebrate Corpus Christi!  Just in the nick of time.  Technically, the feast day was actually Thursday the 4th, but in America we generally celebrate it on Sunday.  It became a feast day in about 1247, at the urging of St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon in Belgium.




"Corpus Christi" is translated as the body of Christ, and it refers to the Holy Eucharist which Catholics receive at every mass (with one exception during Lent.)  Saint Juliana was exceedingly devoted to this sacrament and worked hard to influence the Catholic authorities to make a feast day for it.

Why the Eucharist is a central aspect of our faith goes back to Christ himself. In fact, every doctrine in the Catholic Church goes back to Christ and the Bible.  Those unfamiliar with the Catholic Church often claim that men in The Church made up a bunch of rules that have nothing to do with Jesus or the Bible.  If you read the Catechism, each and every teaching refers back to the precepts originally found in the Bible.  Don't believe me, though.  Pick up a copy and read it. You'll see for yourself.




The Eucharist in the Catholic Church is definitely not the same thing that one may receive in a Protestant Church. First of all, the Protestant Churches do not have the apostolic succession by which the power to confect the Eucharist is conveyed.  So, it is a good thing that most of the thousands of Protestant offshoots view communion as a symbolic gesture and not Jesus Himself.  Churchgoers are being cheated by this, because it is no small matter.  The Eucharist goes to the heart of what Jesus came to earth to do.

Protestant communion plates with grape juice
and pieces of bread


Jesus did not wander around giving intellectual treatises to the intelligentsia of his day.  Nor did he come as a king or a high priest, something he could easily do, given that He was God.  He chose to be born in a poor family.  He was lowly, humble.  The popular story is that he worked as a carpenter with Joseph, his foster father.  But a "tekton," which is what he was called, simply meant someone who worked with his hands, whether it was with wood, stone or mud.  It was a gritty, earthy job, in any case.  His closest friends were fishermen, hard working, physical laborers who worked up a sweat with the stink of fish and sea in their nostrils.  Theirs was a primitive job, the most basic.




When giving talks, Jesus took care to feed the people real food in addition to the spiritual food he spoke to them.  There was the miracle of the 5,000 people and the miracle of the 3,000 people.  Small amounts of fish and bread miraculously fed them all, with some left over.

He came to us physically, engaged with us physically, baptized people not only with words but with water. In addition to the fish and the bread, he miraculously produced wine for the wedding at Canna.  He walked on the waters of Gallilee.  He touched earth and sea.  He touched us and healed us.  He gave us his breath when he breathed on the disciples, just as God had breathed life into Adam.  He was a hands-on guy.  So, when he said that this bread is my body and this wine is my blood, he wasn't giving the disciples some intellectual symbol.  He was showing them how He planned to come to all his disciples after His ascension into heaven; in a real way, a physical way, a nourishing and earthy way.  He was announcing that He was going to come to us in the guise of bread and wine.

He admonished us that anyone who did not eat of his body and drink of his blood had "no life in him."




Jesus gave his disciples authority and power, saying that whoever listened to them thereby listened to Jesus and the Father who sent Him.  He told them that the sins they forgave on earth would be forgiven in heaven, something only God could do, according to the Jewish understanding of the day. The apostles were the agents of God, with the authority of God.  With that authority, they could transmit the power that Jesus had given them to each succeeding generation of priests in the Church. This is apostolic succession, and this is how Jesus ensured that His commandments would be kept inviolate, and The Church would remain a place that was in harmony with Him.  This is how he ensured that his presence as bread and wine would continue to be given to the faithful, down through the ages.



What Jesus transmitted to them was not some intellectual idea or symbol or philosophy.  He transmitted an actual thing of some substance to them, and He gave them the power to transmit that substance to others.  Remember, he was a hands-on man, fully engaged with the physical world.  He smeared spit on the eyes of one man to cure his blindness.  You can't get any earthier than that.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he re-entered the timeless world of God.  While we are conscious of almost 2,000 years passing since his ascension, Jesus is equally present at all times.  No time has passed for Him.  His Church is not an old, desiccated relic, dissolving into the sands of a middle-Eastern country.  It is still fresh and alive because He is still with us as much as He ever was, and perhaps more.



When we consume the Eucharist, the timelessness of God intersects with our puny, time-shackled world in this miracle that is Jesus, by the power of Jesus, by the express wish of Jesus, and by the specific intention and direction of Jesus.  That is what today is all about.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

Saturday, June 6, 2015

IF JESUS IS GOD, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS HIS CHURCH

"Josephus Antiquitates Iudaice" by Brother Maciej and 
Master of the Lady with Unicorn - Andrzej Kłossowski
 (1990). Biblioteka Narodowa w Warszawie: zbiory 
i działalność. Biblioteka Narodowa. ISBN 83-70090-44-3.
 Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - 
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Josephus_Antiquitates_Iudaice.jpg#/media/File:Josephus_Antiquitates_Iudaice.jpg


A great friend of mine, teacher of RCIA classes, mother of 6, grandmother many times over, caretaker of many, public speaker and humble worker in the vineyard, tells her students that the beginning of the Catholic journey is when you "fall in love with Jesus."

I agree with my saintly friend.  It all has to start with Jesus.  Nothing about the Catholic Church makes any sense at all unless you believe that Jesus is who He said he was and who his close friends said He was, which is the Messiah, son of God, one in being with the Father who created us all.  In essence, that he was God.  Everything flows from that conviction, which naturally turns to love; a love that increases the more we learn about Him, accept his love, and interact with Him in prayer.

Having been raised with no religion whatsoever (by people who hated religion), I had to embark upon a journey to find the God that I just knew in my bones does exist.  My whole being felt his presence from the time I was about 6 or 7.  Thanks be to God, through his grace, he instilled in my heart that certainty that He existed...but WHO was He?  My journey led me from irreligion to Scientology to Vedantic Hinduism where, in the Hindu convent library, I began to read about Jesus and his church.

Jesus is God.  If he was not God, then he was either a con man or insane.  If He was a con man, he was a lousy con man because his only rewards were poverty and crucifixion.  If Jesus was crazy, then all of his disciples and followers would have to have been insane as well. After all, would you condemn yourself to being a social outcast living in rank poverty and risking death by crucifixion if the man you followed was a nut job?  Con man or mad man, no one could convince that many people that He was something so outrageous if it was not true.  Then there are those pesky miracles to contend with.  How can one ignore those, unless you decide that the disciples and everyone throughout history colluded in something akin to a giant celestial ponzi scheme.  This is particularly hard to swallow when one considers the countless miracles, many verified by doctors and other professionals, that have occurred over the last 2,000 years, through the prayers for the intercession of the Catholic Saints.

There are some people who do not believe that Jesus even existed, much less that He was the son of God, but historians are of one mind on this score, since we have the extant writings of the 1st Century historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote a book called Antiquity of the Jews (written about 93-94 A.D.) that mentions Jesus in Book 18, Chapter 3.  In this book he says that Jesus the Messiah was a wise teacher who was crucified by Pilate.  He also mentions John the Baptist.  In Book 20, Chapter 9, he references "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James."  Although there are no extant manuscripts of this book that are older than copies made in the 11th century, there are numerous early references to the work as early as the second century, with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, and in the 3rd Century when Origen quotes from it.  In the 4th Century, Eusebius of Caesarea also references a portion of it.  There are multiple copies from successive centuries.  This is but a taste of the information that is available on the historicity of Jesus, all of which are easy to locate.

Once you reach the point where you believe Jesus did (does) exist and that He is who He said He is, the next obvious step is to acquaint oneself with the church that he created.  It was and is the Catholic Church that has been carrying the transmission of Jesus' power, authority and commandments for close to 2,000 years. 



Matthew 16:17-19 ~  And Jesus said to him; Blessed are you,
 Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this 
to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  I also say to you that 
you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and 
the gates of Hades will not overpower it.  I will give you the 
keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on 
earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you 
loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."


Jesus clearly indicated that Peter was the foundation of Christ's Church.  Jesus transmitted heavenly power and authority to Him.  He intended that His church exist forever and that even Satan could not take it down, much less sinful mortal man.  Jesus did not intend for his church to fracture into thousands of little pieces and exist as little independent islands of theology called Lutheran or Episcopal or Presbyterian or Baptist, all of which are very recent anomalies when taking in the scope of the entirety of Christian history.

Given that God instituted this church on earth, how could I possibly belong to any other religion or to any Christian sect that has separated itself from the original church in protest of some thing or other (i.e., "protestant.")  Sure, the Catholic Church is full of sinners, but I challenge you to introduce me to another Church that isn't!  Jesus knew that his church would be administered by sinners because that is all He has to work with here on earth.  I had a choice.  I could join the church full of sinners that Jesus founded, or I could join a church full of sinners that some random sinner founded.  No contest.

Jesus Christ, the 2nd person of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is waiting for his sheep to return to the fold.  He waits for you at every Catholic Church, where He continues to give himself to mankind, physically and spiritually, in the Holy Eucharist during the mass.  The original transmission of power and authority from Jesus to St. Peter and from St. Peter to his successors, continues to express itself by the miracle of the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ which we receive within ourselves at every mass.  If you are Catholic, but you've been a little lukewarm lately, remind yourself of who it is you are receiving at mass and go to church with renewed zeal.  If you are not Catholic, but you want to receive the real presence of Jesus, call the nearest Catholic Church and make an appointment to talk to the priest.  Or you could just attend mass one Sunday.  Jesus is waiting for you there.

God bless us all.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

AUTHORITY



When I was in my early 20's, and despite having no education in Christianity whatsoever, I used to say the stupidest things, in a very authoritative tone.

"Christ was just a good man who said beautiful things."

"The Catholic Church is just a bunch of misogynistic men parading around in dresses and tall hats."

"What about the Spanish Inquisition?!!!"

I was repeating sentiments I had heard elsewhere by folks that were hostile to Christianity.  They reflected an anti-Christian worldview that sought to justify a promiscuous, hedonistic and materialistic lifestyle that was gaining momentum in the 1970's.

Later, when I actually began to learn the Truth about Catholicism, and Christianity in general, I was mortified by the previous breezy and condescending myths I had helped to spread about the Faith arising from my abundance of ignorance.

Oddly enough, it was in the Hindu convent where I first read the works and lives of the mystics and doctors of the Catholic faith that I began to get a clue about the beautiful Truth at the heart of it.  That was the beginning of a gradual dawning of understanding that took many years to shine into the recesses of my heart and fully illuminate it.  Finally, I was accepted into the church and the real work began.

Fortunately, I had several decades of experience in genealogy research that contributed to my understanding that, in order to know the Truth about a thing, one has to rely upon authoritative source data.  I learned to identify the relative credibility of source materials and to seek out the most authoritative.

Authority.  It is an unpopular word, culturally speaking.  American culture, with its hyper-emphasis on the individual, encourages the individual person to "speak his mind," "stand up for what he believes in," and freely express his "opinion" as if it were a sacred fact.  These opinions spring from a person's attitudes toward life, rather than having been arrived at through an examination of facts, what to speak of authoritative sources!  I myself was guilty of this travesty until I matured as a person and learned that I am not the center of the universe and that Truth does not originate with me and my inclinations.

It is significant to me that Jesus created the Catholic Church.  He gave clear instructions about its mission.  He "staffed" it with the apostles and gave them their marching orders, after having spent several years instructing them in the faith.  He breathed upon them and bestowed his power and authority to forgive sins and to do a host of other things.  He announced that whoever listened to them listened to Jesus and listened to the Father who sent Him, thereby establishing their authority for all time.  He assigned a leader to whom he gave a name never used for a human being before this time: Peter, the rock.  Upon that rock, Jesus established his Church, which would stand forever.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to further enliven and empower all of them, not just the apostles but Mary his mother, and Mary Magdalene also.  None of the female disciples were named as apostles.  Many modern people complain about women getting short shrift in the Catholic Church because they can't be priests.  If Jesus had intended them to have that sort of job, He would have included at least ONE among the Apostles that he charged with going out into the world and baptizing all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  I doubt it was an oversight on his part or that he was such a wimp that He was afraid to buck the paternalistic culture of the time by installing a woman or two.  It doesn't make sense.  God is not a slave of time as we humans are, and this "modern" time in which we are enmeshed is seen by God at all times.  If women were intended to occupy the jobs that Christ assigned to the men, He would have instructed it.  He didn't.

The reason why the Catholic Church does not change its doctrines is that Truth does not change.  Ultimate Truth was the same then as it is now.  We are aware of a great deal of time having gone by, but God is outside of time.  The Catholic Church was given Christ's power and authority.  While it is true that some people within the church have failed it, and failed it spectacularly, it is not because the Truths were wrong or the Church was no longer the highest authority, but because the individual failed to live the Truth and fell away from the teachings of the faith.

I do not judge the Catholic faith by the people that fail to live up to its precepts.  I judge it by what Jesus said about it.  His authority is unimpeachable.  These days, I continue to study and learn as much as I can about the faith while doing the best I can to live up to its commandments.  It does not occur to me to replace any part of the faith with a "modern" perspective.  Truth never goes out of style.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015