SAINT OLGA

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SAINT MARGARET OF HUNGARY

Saint Margaret of Hungary on her death bed
1242-1271
Sister of Saint Kinga of Poland

Saint Margaret of Hungary was the sister of Saint Kinga of Poland, about whom I wrote a few days ago.  (See previous post.)  Like her sister, she is vaguely related to me.

The importance of piety and corporate devotions of a family is never more obvious to me than when I am reading about saints such as this one, in which the number of saints in the family is large.  This is why I am astonished when young mothers tell me that they are going to let their children decide what religion they want to be when they become adults and, therefore, they do not need religious education as children!




Instilling spiritual values in a person is never so efficacious as when they are children, especially if the parents communicate a clear vision of the blessed life of holiness, devotion to the Lord, obedience to the faith and to Jesus' Holy Church.   Sometimes, the child exceeds the parents in faithfulness, as I suspect this woman did.




There is quite a bit of information about Saint Margaret of Hungary because, shortly after her death, there began the effort to have her canonized by friends, relations and acquaintances.  Because of the testimony of these people who were close to her and witnessed her holiness, we get a good picture of her temperament, habits and character.

Margaret, the daughter of King Bela IV (who was sometimes referred to as "the champion of Christendom") was promised to God by her parents before she was born.  In exchange for the gift of their child, the royal couple begged God to liberate their land from the Mongols of "the Golden Horde" that had invaded Hungary in 1241/1242.  Margaret went to the Dominican monastery at Veszprem when she was 3 or 4 years old and quickly took to the life, imitating the nuns in all they did and demanding the habit at an early age.  This was not anticipated, as the children of noble families were often given special care, after which, they would leave the convent in order to make an advantageous marriage for their family.  Margaret was having none of that.



Despite having gifted the child to God, King Bela attempted to reneg on his vow by special dispensation several times so that he could marry her off to one of several important suitors who had learned of her beauty and purity.  When she was about 12, there was serious pressure for her to leave the convent and marry someone that would bring great advantage for her father, but she was resolute in her determination to remain in the convent as a nun, which is rather remarkable grit, considering her young age.  Again, when she was 18, King Ottokar of Bohemia pursued a marriage with her, and her father even went so far as to actually procure the dispensation from the Pope.  Margaret would not agree.  Of the proposed marriage, she is said to have replied:

"I esteem infinitely more the King of Heaven and the
inconceivable happiness of possessing Jesus Christ
than the crown offered me by the King of Bohemia."





Margaret evolved into a serious and fervent pursuer of Christ.  Some say that she became a bit fanatical with her mortifications: wearing a hair shirt; choosing the dirtiest of jobs in the monastery, though her rank would customarily have preserved her from those duties; long fasts; scourgings; nails inside her shoes, and other penitential practices more common in that era than our own.

One might suspect that all these self-inflicted punishments might have made her into a dour and long-faced spinsters, but she was much in evidence in the infirmary where the nuns she ministered were very fond of her.  All reports seem to present an image of a very happy young woman, grateful to be in religious life.  It is a peculiar work of God that, while the parents could have had no knowledge of the suitability of the unborn child they promised to give to the monastery, she turned out to be ideal, thanks be to God.


Margaret lived in a monastery that was situated on an island in the middle of the Danube River.  It had always been a religious center. Prior to the 14th century, it had been called Island of Rabbits! Now, it is "Margaret's Island."  It is quite built up along the coastline, with restaurants, hotels, and a large sports pool, but the ruins of Margaret's old monastery and some other structures remain.

Ruins of old church on Margaret's Island



Dozens, if not hundreds, of miracles are attributed to Saint Margaret of Hungary.

Prayers / Commemorations for this saint:
(She wasn't canonized as saint until 1943, and it is possible that these prayers were written prior to that time, as she is referred to as "blessed.")

First Vespers:
Ant. Blessed Margaret emulating the purity of the angels, dedicated herself as the bride of Him who is the spouse of perpetual virginity and the son of the perpetual virgin.
V.  Pray for us, Blessed Margaret
R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

Lauds:
Ant.  O most holy spouse of Christ, adorned with the diadem of virgins, honored with the grace of healing, endowed with the heavenly gift of reading hearts, consumed with the fire of divine love!
V.  Virgins shall be lead to the King after her.
R.  Her companions shall be presented to thee.

Second Vespers:
Ant. O blessed Margaret, who here on earth didst give to all the afflicted the solace of charity, help us from heaven in our miseries and obtain for us life with the saint sin heaven.
V.  Pray for us, Blessed Margaret
R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Prayer:
Let us pray:  O God, the lover and guardian of chastity, by whose gifts they handmaid Margaret united the beauty of virginity and the merit of good works, grant we pray, that through the spirit of salutary penance we may be able to recover integrity of soul Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.





Saint Margaret of Hungary is yet another example of a woman who had great personal beauty, power, wealth, connections and prestige but gave it all up to live a life of discomfort, humility, poverty, chastity and obedience for the sake of Christ.  When one considers that it is harder for a rich person to enter heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, Margaret's witness is a beacon of holy light.

God bless us all, and may we follow her as much as we are able.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015






For further information about Saint Margaret of Hungary, please have a look at the following links. Willing Shepherds seems to be the most comprehensive.

Catholic Exchange

Wikipedia

New Advent

Encyclopedia.com

Willing Shepherds


Sunday, July 26, 2015

SAINT ANNA OF NOVGOROD

St. Anna of Novgorod
My 30th great grandmother!
(Ingegerd Olafsdatter, prior to religious life)
Oldest daughter of the Swedish King, St. Olaf Skotkonung


In the above icon, we can see that my 30th great grandmother, Saint Anna of Novgorod, is holding the St. Sophia Catheral of Novgorod in her hand.  Anna, the daughter of a saint, Olaf Skotkonung ("the All Christian King") was a member of an extremely pious royal family.


One of the Frescoes in the Cathedral of St. Sophia
Saint Anna, the youngest, is probably the daugher
furthest on the left.


 As the wife of Yaroslav I "the wise" of Kiev, she initiated the construction of the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev, which her husband supervised, and she also commenced the building of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod.  It was primarily for this that she was sainted, in addition to her pious and holy life.



Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod


Like many of her era, she has many names.  She was born Ingegerd Olafsdatter, took the Greek version of her name, "Irene," after her marriage and subsequent move to Kiev, and was given the name "Anna" when she entered religious life.  Thus, she is styled "Saint Anna of Novgorod" by the Orthodox Christian church.  Some times, the name is embellished, such as "Right Believing Princess Anna of Novgorod."




Irene and her husband had ten children in all, six sons and four daughters.  The daughters married very well, becoming queens of France, Hungary, Norway and England.  It appears as if I am descended from at least two of her daughters.  If you go back far enough in your royal family genealogy, there is so much close relationship between the royal families that you find that you are a cousin to yourself many times over!

For instance, Anne of Kiev, wife of King Henry I of France, is my 29th great grandmother.


Anne of Kiev, wife of King Henry I of France
(My 29ths great grandmother)
Daughter of Saint Anna of Novgorod

When the Orthodox Church sainted Anna of Novgorod, they issued this statement:

"St. Anna, Grand Duchess of Novgorod, She was the
daughter of Swedish King Olaf Sketktung, the "All
Christian King," who did much to spread Orthodoxy
in Scandinavia, and the pious Queen Astrida.

In Sweden she was known as Princess Ingegard;
She married Yaroslav I "the Wise", Grand Prince
of Kiev, who was the founder of the Saint Sophia
Cathedral in 1016, taking the name Irene.

She gave shelter to the outcast sons of British
King Edmund, Edwin and Edward, as well
as the Norwegian prince Magnus, who later
returned to Norway.

She is perhaps best known as the mother of 
Vsevolod, himself the father of Vladimir
Monomakh and progenitor of the Princes
of Moscow.

Her daughters were Anna, Queen of France;
Queen Anastasia of Hungary, and Queen
Elizabeth (Elisiv) of Norway.  The whole
family was profoundly devout and pious.

She reposed in 1050 in the Cathedral of
Holy Wisdom (St. Sophia) in Kiev, having
been tonsured a monastic with the name
of Anna."


I was delighted to find my great great grandmother's hymn on the Wikipedia page devoted to her. Knowing that I may sing the praises of a saint in heaven from whom I am descended gives me a special feeling of protection, safety and guidance.

4 stichera
Tone 1
Special Melody: "Joy of the ranks of heaven"

"O joy of the Swedish people, thou didst gladden the
Russian realm, filling it with grace and purity,
adorning its throne with majesty, lustrous in piety
like a priceless gem set in a splendid royal crown.

Named Ingegerd in the baptismal waters, O
venerable one, thou wast called Irene by thy
Russian subjects, who perceived in thee the divine
and ineffable peace; but when thou didst submit to
monastic obedience, thou didst take the new name,
Anna, after the honoured ancestor of Christ, the
King of kings.

Wed in honourable matrimony, O holy anna, thou
didst live in concord with thy royal spouse, the right-
believing and most wise Prince Yaroslav; and
having born him holy offspring, after his repose
thou didst betroth thyself unto the Lord as thy
heavenly Bridegroom.

Disdaining all the allurements of vanity and donning
the coarse robes of a monastic, O wondrous and
sacred Anna, thou gavest thyself over to fasting
and prayer, ever entreating Christ they Master, that
He deliver thy people from the all want and
misfortune."

There are two feast days for Saint Anna of Novgorod; February 10 and October 4.  I hope to get one of her icons before the October feast date.

In the meantime, I pray to become more like her and her pious family.  Please pray for me.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015




PERTINENT LINKS

Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church

Wikipedia link for Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden

Uncut Mountain Supply - where you can buy her icon


Friday, July 24, 2015

SAINT KINGA OF POLAND

Saint Kinga of Poland
1224-1292
Feast day: July 24, 2015

Saint Kinga of Poland, Patroness of Poland and Lithuania, was born 5 March 1224 In Esztergom, Hungary.  princess daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary.  She was a niece of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and the great niece of Saint Hedwig.  An illustrious and pious family, her sisters were Saint Margaret of Hungary and Blessed Jolenta of Poland.


Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, washing a poor sick man
Aunt of Saint Kinga


Saint Kinga's name appears in various forms and spellings, including: Kunegunda, Cunegunda, Kioga, and Zinga.


Statue of Saint Kinga


Both Kinga and her husband, Boleslaw V "the Chaste" embarked upon a marriage in which both parties were vowed to perpetual chastity.  Boleslaw's family was similarly pious and sincere.  His sister was blessed Salome of Cracow.  When he ascended to the throne as Prince of Cracow, Kinga became his princess.  Kinga soon began to devote herself to the care of the poor and the lepers and was known, both for her deep concern for the people, and her obedience and devotion to Christ and His Church.

Boleslaw "the Chaste"
June 21, 1226 - December 1279
High Duke of Poland 1243-1279
Husband of Saint Kinga


There is a popular legend about this beloved saint in which she is said to have thrown her engagement ring into the Maramures salt mine in Hungary and that the ring miraculously traveled through the mine, following the trail of salt deposits, and was discovered at Wieliczka, where additional salt deposits were revealed, and where a salt mine now stands.


Saint Kinga


Kinga is patron saint of the salt miners, and the salt mine of Wieliczka in Poland has a large chapel dedicated to her that is 101 meters under ground.  It is a remarkably beautiful Cathedral that is able to accommodate about 400 people.




When her husband died in 1279, Kinga sold all her possessions and gave the money to the poor.  Not long after that, she joined the Poor Clares monastery at Sandec (Stary Sacz).  Matters of state, and the prestige of her royal position, held no interest for her.  She was too modest and humble to have any taste for such power. Her heart belonged to Christ alone.  In fact, she would allow no one to call her by her official title of Grand Duchess of Poland.



Saint Kinga, abandoning her crown and scepter
for the veil of a nun


While her life with the prince had been characterized by charitable works and service, her time in the monastery was spent in silent contemplation.  In 1292, at the age of 68, she passed from this world. In 1690, she was beatified, and in 1999 she was sainted.

Saint Kinga's convent, the Monastery of the Poor Clares, in Stary Sacz, Poland, remains a much-beloved landmark in the oldest section of this historic little town.


Stary Sacz, Poland


The Sanctuary of Saint Kinga still towers over the town of Stary Sacz.  In the entire history of the town, the nuns have left that convent only 3 times.



Poor Clare Monastery in Stary Sacz,
Where Saint Kinga lived out the remainder of her life

On June 16, 1999, Pope John Paul II visited Stary Sacz, the town of his birth, for the proclamation of the canonization of beloved Saint Kinga.  A papal altar was erected on the common outside of the monastery that Kinga and created and in which she had died.


Papal altar, erected for John Paul II and the
canonization of Saint Kinga


It was decided that the "Papal Altar" would remain as a visible remembrance of this special event. 700,000 people came to see the Pope on that day and to hear him speak, but he was too ill to read his own homily, which Cardinal Macharski of Poland read for him.  The event had great personal significance for the Pope and, as time went on, he appeared refreshed by the memories and the loving people and was able to reminisce a bit.


Hungary's Gate - a gift in honor of the visit of
Pope John Paul II and the canonization of
Saint Kinga


Saint Kinga had every sought-after pleasure that exists in the world - money, prestige, power, glamour, luxurious possessions and properties - yet for her, Christ was the only jewel in her crown. We can learn a lot from her example, particularly Americans, who have at their disposal an excellent standard of living and the availability of many types of pleasures.  Serving the poor and suffering while at the same time eschewing earthly pleasure in favor of the bliss of the Lord, Kinga became a saint.

Let us pray that we may do likewise.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015

RELATED LINKS:

WIELICZKA SALT MINE - Photos

Catholic Saints Info web site

Saint Kinga Facebook page

Wikipedia page on Saint Kinga

Stary Sącz, Poland - Wikipedia information

Poland's Official Website for Stary Sacz

Stary Sacz, Poland - historical information and photos

Information on the Papal Altar of Stary Sacz in Poland

Pope Visits his Birthplace and Memories Energize Him - NY Times

Pope, Still Ailing, Pays a Sentimental Visit - L.A. Times

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

DON'T BLAME IT ON THE DEMOCRATS



Until 1930, the use of artificial contraception was banned by the entire Christian world.  Protestants, Orthodox and Catholic Christians were ALL in agreement about this, not because the millions of people that belong to those traditions are anxious to regulate the sex lives of all its members, as some would have us believe, but because the Bible clearly enjoins all Christians to gracefully and gratefully welcome children as gifts from God.

Some people imagine that contraception is a new "modern" issue of which the people in the Bible would be blissfully unaware.  That is not true.  Both contraceptive concoctions as well as abortive measures were well known during the life of Jesus and at least 2,000 years previously.  There is an exhaustive list of procedures and potions that were employed in Egypt and other countries in the region.  Google it, and you will see.

Until 1930, Christian tradition had always maintained that fornication, contraception, and abortion are gravely sinful. It was recognized that these practices are unhealthy for the individual, for the family, and for society as a whole, as a result of flouting natural law, but especially as a consequence of ignoring God's law.

"We utter an emphatic warning against the use of 
unnatural means for the avoidance of conception,
together with the grave dangers - physical, moral
and religious - thereby incurred, and against the
evils with which the extension of such use threatens
the race. In opposition to the teaching which, under
the name of science and religion, encourages married
people in the deliberate cultivation of sexual union
as an end in itself, we steadfastly uphold what must
always be regarded as the governing considerations
of Christian marriage. One is the primary purpose
for which marriage exists, namely the continuation
of the race through the gift and heritage of children;
the other is the paramount importance in married 
life of deliberate and thoughtful self-control."
Sixth Lambeth Conference of 1920




Increased contraception use after 1930 quickly led to rampant promiscuity.  With promiscuity, naturally comes many "unintended" pregnancies, more and more unwanted children, as well as an increase in illegal abortions.  Eventually, in 1973, abortion was legalized.  Often, this event is blamed on the hippies or the feminists or the Democrats, but I place the blame on the Christian world itself. The Protestants reversed more than 1,900 years of tradition at that Lambeth Conference in 1930, and I do not think that the Catholics and Orthodox did much, if anything, to pick up the slack.

One thing is for sure.  Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton had anything to do with any of it. The abortion crisis and the assault on traditional marriage began in 1930, when Christians gave up the moral high ground in a formal proclamation.

THE ANGLICAN BISHOP'S RESOLUTION 15 OF AUGUST 15, 1930
"Where there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipleship and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception-control for motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience."  
This resolution of 1930 was the beginning of the end of any trace of sexual morality in our culture, and the Democratic Party had nothing to do with it.

It is time to stop screaming about political figures who are doing nothing more than capitalizing on the current issues in order to cement their longevity in their political careers.  WE are responsible for upholding the moral and ethical culture in the world and we have fallen down on the job.





Now, more than ever, we must tell the Truth about God's divine vision for our lives.

We must tell the world that God, being all good, pure and holy, wants nothing more than goodness, immaculate purity and holiness for all of us.  He did not make us in His image so that we could grow away from Him and become like Satan, who wanted to be his own God that took no instruction from anyone.  Lucifer said, "I will not serve" and he was banished from the exquisite divine presence of our Lord.

The world must know that we are wanted by our creator.  He pines for us.  We are all loved and treasured by Him, but we must come to Him of our own free will, otherwise He would have created nothing more than mechanistic beings enslaved to His will.  He does not want slaves.  He wants children who run to their Father in their innocence and purity shrieking "Abba!  Abba!" -- "Daddy! Daddy!" -- and climbing upon his lap, throwing their arms around His neck and showering Him with kisses.

We are his dear ones, but we must choose Him.  We do this by becoming more and more like Him. He told us HOW to do this in the Bible, in Catholic tradition, and by the breath in which Jesus transmitted the Holy Spirit to the apostles and which has been transmitted down through the ages in that Apostolic Succession which, by the way, the Protestants do not have because they broke away from the Church.

The Protestants said, "we will not serve," and they cut themselves off from the One True Church, the Church that Christ initiated and empowered.  It is no wonder that Protestants were the first to give up the fight for moral purity in 1930 when they approved contraception, the first to accept women as priests and bishops, the first to accept homosexual unions and call them "marriages."  Every year, they grow further and further away from the life-sustaining Eucharist that they do not have because they do not have the apostolic succession.  That breath of the Holy Spirit that Jesus imparted to the disciples cannot reach the Protestants because they decided they would not serve Catholic bishops or the Pope and they walked away, cutting themselves off from the opportunity to receive the holy transmission of Christ's power and authority.





"Jesus said to them, 'very truly I tell you, unless 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 them 
up at the last day.  For my Flesh is real food and 
my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and 
drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.  
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because 
of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live 
because of me. This is the bread that came down from 
heaven.  Your ancestors ate manna and died, but 
whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.'"  
JOHN 6:53-58 (New International Version)


Lest the reader walk away feeling that I have given the Catholic Church a claim to the moral high ground, I quickly need to disabuse everyone of that notion.  Our entire culture has gone mad with sexual sins, and our church is not immune.

As I have previously mentioned, I "read myself" into the Catholic Church, feeding my soul on classic spiritual literature and tales of the saints.  You can imagine my surprise when, after being confirmed in the Catholic Church, my eyes were opened to a world I did not expect and which, frankly, shocked me.

The church's teachings on moral purity were not in evidence anywhere.  I don't have to tell anyone about the priestly sex scandals.  That was an eye opener.  Catholic parishioners also appeared to be universally sexually active and having children outside of wedlock right and left.  Then they would baptize their infants and continue to live in sin, perhaps eventually getting married, perhaps not.  Sex before marriage was obviously the norm, rather than the exception.  Contraceptive use was a given, although there is a growing trend toward natural family planning.

While I have several friends who teach RCIA or children's catechism classes, and several friends who are solidly educated about the faith, most Catholics seem to be very poorly catechized.  Then there are those who know the faith, but have decided they will pick and choose what they believe.  9 times out of 10, the teachings they reject have to do with sexual sin. They want to fornicate and they will use any excuse to do so. Many Catholics tell me they are in favor of contraception and abortion and they become quite hostile if I disagree with them.  These Catholics are passionately attached to sexual sins.

A large group of Catholics are in favor of so-called "gay marriage," even though Catholic faith and morals expressly decries homosexual acts as gravely disordered.  The official Catholic position on marriage is that it is only between one man and one woman, but we have a very vocal group of Catholics who approve of same-sex marriage.  Why?

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that we have a rather large cadre of homosexual priests and bishops, at least here in America.  On Facebook, I have had to "defriend" at least 10 priests who came out in favor of same-sex marriage and lifestyle within the last few years.  At one point, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, made a pronouncement to the effect that it was important to get the homosexuals out of the priesthood.  This hasn't been done.  Just today I learned of a recent news item about a large seminary in which the seminarians were told that they were to wear a robe when coming out of the shower, and not just a towel, because there were a large number of homosexual seminarians for whom the sight of a partially clothed male body was an occasion of sin.  I wonder if we have gotten to the point where there are so many homosexual seminarians and priests that the heterosexual men feel overwhelmed by it?

Homosexual priests, especially if they remain sexually active, (and, by many reports, some DO), are in a unique position to steer the Catholic Church away from its moorings.  Their counsel to parishioners will be tainted, especially in the area of sexual sin.  If they are in the Vatican's "gay lobby" that is widely alluded to by many sources, their influence will be even more oppressive.

I think, perhaps, that the original idea was that homosexual priests had to be chaste in the same way that heterosexual priests had to be chaste, and therefore the homosexual priest was as suitable for ministry as anyone else.  This would be a naive assessment of the nature of the homosexual world and the incredible temptations of living and working almost entirely with other men.

I wonder what would happen if all homosexual priests were to be asked to leave their posts tomorrow?  Would anyone be left to steer the barque of Peter?  Somewhere between 20 and 60 percent of Catholic priests are gay, according to Donald B. Cozzens, author of THE CHANGING FACE OF THE PRIESTHOOD.  Obviously, there is a WIDE margin for error in that figure, but most priests do not announce their homosexuality or discuss it.  Some remain in "the closet with no doors" if they work in the Vatican.  There have been some journalistic "stings" conducted in an effort to try and get at the truth behind all the rumors, the results of some of which I have seen in secretly taped videos, and they are shocking.

We need to get back to the basics, and we need to be clear about morals, ethics, the Code of Canon Law and the catechism. Anyone who holds any position in the local parish, religious life, seminary, Catholic College or school who does not actually believe in the tenets of the faith needs to go elsewhere.  They are leeches sucking at the body of Christ while using it as a platform to promote their own agenda.

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope emeritus Benedict XVI once predicted that our church would become much smaller, much more poor, but more authentic to its original mission.  As our faith undergoes more and more persecution, and it will, the advantage and prestige of being a Catholic priest or a nun or the head of a parish ministry will dissipate. Most will undergo a social martyrdom.  Those who do not actually believe in the faith will find the sacrifices intolerable.  The bloated leeches will fall off, and we can begin again.

Where do we begin?  Chastity.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015



Helpful links:
LIFE BEFORE BIRTH

Monday, July 20, 2015

SAINT WHAT'S-HER-NAME

Saint Ealhswith, wife of King Alfred the Great of Wessex
"The True and Beloved Lady of the English


Saint Ealhswith is one of a large number of saints about whom we know very little.  There are umpteen different versions of her name, which is rather typical for some of these folks during that era.  Etheidwitha is one.  Ealswitha another.  She was a Mercian princess, the daughter of Aethelred Mucil and a female scholar named Eadburgh, who was prominent at court.  Ealhswith was married to a very famous person (King Alfred the Great); we know that she established a convent, Nunnaminster at Winchester Cathedral, also known as Saint Mary's Abbey; and that her children and other descendants were illustrious, William the Conqueror being one of them.  Many of her descendants live in America, and I am one of them.

Customarily, I research a saint on their feast day so that I can come to an understanding of the particular gift(s) to be emulated.  In cases such as these, where little is known, an outstanding feature is usually the fact that the person founded a convent, monastic order, or a grand church, giving land and/or monies for this purpose.


Ruins of St. Mary's Abbey at Winchester

I can barely support myself, so making a big splash with a large piece of land and a fine convent is not something I can do, though I would like nothing better and think of little else on the rare occasion I buy a lottery ticket.  It has been a dream of mine for a very long time, and these days I still imagine that I will establish a community of disabled and/or elderly ladies who will pray their little hearts out with their last bit of energy left on earth.

This is where I have to get creative.  How can I emulate this ancestor of mine?  I have to recall the "little way" of the little flower, Saint Therese, and accomplish the essence of what my ancestor did, in a small way.

By holding a space in which people can be supported in a community of prayer, I am doing my very little bit.  I have a Facebook group called CATHOLIC FAITHFUL SANCTUARY, in which I try to post inspiring items and which I try to maintain as a worry-free zone.  In my home, I have two prayer corners, and, although people do not typically come to my house to pray, I hope that the atmosphere and visual image will be taken home with visitors.




Although I may not be able to found a convent or even join one, I can live a convent style of life, something for which many of these saints are valued.

As I work toward this worthy goal, I ask for your prayers of encouragement and support.

God bless us all.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

MOTHER TERESA'S SHOES

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, kneeling on the hard floor, praying

Sometimes when I read about the privations that saints have endured, I despair of ever becoming one. While the saints are deliberately choosing pains and sufferings, I am doing everything I can to avoid the pains and to get my needs met.

Currently I am having problems with severe osteo arthritis throughout my body, including growths in my feet and fallen arches.  I have always had problems with my feet, as they are misshapen.  They are very wide over the metatarsals but narrow in the heel.  One foot is an inch longer than the other.  I've had terrible foot pain for the last 53 years.

Doctors, podiatrists and shoe experts have been telling me that I need to have shoes made specifically for me throughout my life, but I have never been able to afford it, so I have tried to "make do" with different shoe styles, including some versions of Birkenstocks and the vaguely affordable Crocs. Now that Crocs has changed their styles to conform to a new, slimmer line with a harder plastic shell, I can no longer wear them.

Walking has become a nightmarish trial.  Every step feels as if someone has taken a hammer to my feet, knees, hip and back.  Even when my legs are elevated, I experience a sharp, pounding pain in the left foot and ankle which I have broken 5 times since I was 11 years old.  Disfigured with masses of twisted purple and blue veins, along with large areas of swelling, my legs look almost as bad as they feel, despite the recent loss of 47 or more pounds.


Mother Teresa's feet


Looking at Mother Teresa of Calcutta's feet, I can only imagine the agony she must have endured with long hours on her feet, caring for the poor and dying, wearing shoes that not only did not fit her but also twisted her toes into bizarre conformations.


Mother Teresa of Calcutta's foot, shod in old sandal


I read a story some time ago about how Mother Teresa would choose her sandals when she needed them.  From the donation box, she would pick the most worn out, ugliest and poorest made sandals for herself.  While I am complaining about not getting my needs met with regard to shoes, I have her example before me: a woman so self-effacing and humble that she picked the worst of the worst for herself, even though it likely caused her tremendous physical pain and most certainly caused malformation of her bones.  We can see the twisting of the toes.

Lacking the fortitude and saintliness of Mother Teresa, I cannot even aspire to her example.  I just can't.  The physical pain is a huge distraction and presents a sizable limitation in my mobility.

While I can't follow her example, I can learn from it, though.  Certainly, her example is a lesson in humility.  Her choice to emulate the poorest of the poor, the most humble and vulnerable of humanity, is also a great lesson in gratitude and an adjustment in perspective.  No matter how much pain and privation I am enduring at this point in time, it is nothing compared to the plight of many thousands of people in the world today.

If I do manage to get some shoes made for me, I will remember to walk a few miles for the sake of others and in service to the poorest of the poor.  I will remember to be grateful, once again, for having been born in a country with a fairly high standard of living.  I will remind myself to keep rein on my ego and not let it get carried away with itself.    Please help me with your prayers.

God bless us all.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

THE TRUTH ABOUT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS AND WELFARE

Hispanic men at a homeless shelter in Los Angeles


2446  "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

It never fails when I prove someone wrong in this never-ending slander against the poor, I am told that I am "entitled to my opinion," when I have actually demolished someone's lies with facts.  It has become obvious to me that a great number of people do not know the difference between opinion and fact, so I start my post with a short tutorial:

The primary definition of "opinion," at least the one with which I am dealing here, is:


"A view or judgment formed about something, 
not necessarily based on fact or knowledge."

The definition of a "fact," for the purposes herein, is:


"1.  a thing that is indisputably the case; and,    
2.  a piece of information used as evidence or 
as part of a report or news article"          

The peculiar North American definition of "Welfare" is:


"financial support given to people in need."

Notice that "opinion" isn't necessarily based on the truth of a thing, while a "fact" IS. Therefore, if someone says:

"I am tired of illegals getting welfare,"

they are expressing an opinion (being "tired of it") based upon the supposed fact that "illegals get money from the government."

This opinion is based on a lie and is promoting that lie to other people, whether in social media, mass media or private conversations.  I am going to make yet another stab at providing the factual information about undocumented immigrants in our country.  

"Undocumented immigrants do not qualify 
for welfarefood stamps, Medicaid, and most 
other public benefits.  Most of these programs 
require proof of legal immigration status and, 
under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants 
cannot receive these benefits until they have been 
in the United States for more than 5 years."  
CNN Money Article (1)
[Emphasis added.]

The above quote presents the factual circumstances of this issue, which facts are repeated by countless credible sources that can easily be found on the internet, yet scores of people have argued with me incessantly, vigorously and loudly, claiming that undocumented immigrants are given welfare as soon as they enter the country. 

I suspect that something that confuses these people is the fact that, if a person is born in this country, they are American, which means that, if the illegal aliens have babies in our country, then those babies are Americans and they are entitled to a small amount of government assistance.  These children are sometimes referred to as "anchor babies" that serve to allow the foreigners a tenuous foothold in this country.  Even so, the amount of money given to these children is so small (about $550 each, plus food stamps), it is a marvel to me how much certain people begrudge the food that goes into the mouths of these little ones.

What I hear continually from angry Americans, is that they resent their taxes being spent on the poor because of this false impression that illegal aliens are raking in big bucks.  They also accuse the disabled of faking their injuries, but that is another topic for another day.  The angry Americans are widely under the mistaken impression that they are spending huge amounts of money on "welfare" for illegals and other poor people.

As of 2012, a person who earns $50,000 a year only pays $36.82 in taxes for food stamps and $6.96 in taxes for welfare per year.  It seems like an awful lot of squawking for $43.78 PER YEAR IN TAXES EARMARKED FOR WELFARE AND FOOD STAMPS, especially when you compare that figure to the $4,000.00 a year they spend on corporate subsidies.  Below is a tax breakdown using $50,000 per year income for one tax payer. These tax figures are provided by the White House and government agencies, collected by commondreams.org. (3)




If we step back and look where all of the entitlement monies are spent after you have paid your taxes, the elderly, the disabled and the working poor account for the majority of it. Using the above model of the tax payer who earns $50,000 a year, his taxes for unemployment insurance, food stamps, welfare, retirement and disability to government workers and Medicare amount to $346.25, per year, added to which would be approximately $3,500 per year of Social Security taxes, making a grand total of $3846.25 paid into so-called "entitlement programs."  These monies are spent out in the following percentages:




These figures were obtained from the U.S. Office of 
Management and Budget, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 
US. Dept of Labor, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities [February 2012] "more than 90 percent of the benefit dollars that entitlement and other mandatory programs spend go to assist people who are elderly, seriously disabled, or members of working households - not to able-bodied, working-age Americans who choose not to work.  This figure has changed little in the past few years."

"Federal budget and census data show that, in 2010, 91 percent of the benefit dollars from entitlement and other mandatory programs went to the elderly (people 65 and over), the seriously disabled, and members of working households.  People who are neither elderly nor disabled - and do not live in a working household - received only 9 percent of the benefits.

"Moreover, the vast bulk of that 9 percent goes for medical care, unemployment insurance benefits (which individuals must have a significant work history to receive), Social Security survivor benefits for the children and spouses of deceased workers, and Social Security benefits for retirees between ages 62 and 64.  Seven out of the 9 percentage points go for one of these four purposes."

The remaining 2% include able-bodied people who "choose" not to work (many of whom are suffering from undiagnosed and/or untreated mental and emotional illnesses): hardly the vast conspiracy of fraud and corruption that uninformed and angry Americans claim are bankrupting our country.

In the past, I have heard the angry Americans discount facts by falsely labeling them "statistics," rather than raw data, and claiming that statistics can be skewed to suit the situation.  While that perception of statistics could be true, I would point out that I am not providing "statistics," but raw data instead.  The definition of statistics is:


"The practice or science of collecting and analyzing numerical 
data in large quantities, especially for the purpose of inferring 
proportions in a whole from those in a representative sample."


The definition of "raw data" is:


"Raw data (also known as primary data) is a term for data
collected from a source.  Raw data has not been subjected 
to processing or any other manipulation."

The information I have provided consists of raw figures provided by primary sources from which no inferences of proportions have been made.  No manipulation of the data has been done.  These are simply the facts of the law and the direct numerical (monetary) figures of the matters discussed.

I present these facts in an effort to curtail the cruel myths that are circulating throughout the internet and to begin to direct the attention of the angry Americans to the truth of this portion of the discussion about welfare in America.

Helpful sources:

(2)  LIFE BEFORE SOCIAL SECURITY
(3)  COMMON DREAMS
(4)  CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES

God bless us all,

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

Sunday, July 5, 2015

MYSTERIOUS SAINTS OF OLD

Saint Erfyl's Church, Llanerfyl
geograph.org.uk - by Richard Law
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


I have long loved the little-known saints for whom we have perhaps only a name and some scanty information.  These holy people, lost in the mists of time, are a reminder to me that I am on this earth but a short while and, by the time 100 years have passed, no one will remember me! In fact, it will likely be a much shorter time before I fade into obscurity.  This is a wonderful meditation to promote humility and a proper perspective on my role in the world.  Just a little cog in a big machine...and not an essential one, at that!


3-bedroom cottage in Llanerfyl


Picking out the forgotten saints from the list of saints for each day, researching them, and featuring them on a blog post, is something I love to do.  We can all learn together in this process.

So, one of today's saints is a woman name "Erfyl."  Alternate spellings include "Eurfyl" and "Euerfyl." Very little remains of the story of her life, except that she was a "holy virgin who founded the church Llanerfyl in Montgomeryshire, Wales."





The website called Saints of Great Britain and Ireland  reports that "400 yards west of the church are the remains of an ancient yew tree and a holy well beneath it."   Our saint is buried under an inscribed stone near the remnants of the well.





Llanerfyl is a community that includes a town by the same name.  The church was rebuilt in 1870, which is why is looks so lovely and sturdy!  There are wide tracts of marshland in that area, and several farms.  The village of Llanerfyl itself sits on the river Banw near the sarns Sws Roman Way. Combined with the mention of a "holy well" near the church, a romantic and enticing picture emerges in my imagination.  I would love to see it!





At first, I was unable to find a birth year reference for Saint Erfyl, but I did note some records of baptisms in the early 1600's, then I found a page about her on The Self-ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian diocese of North America.  It reports that our saint of the day lived in the third century, so it would be no wonder that there is so little information about her, however, other sources point to the sixth century, which seems much more likely.

Notice in the icon of her, above, she is holding a model of a church, the sign that she a foundress.  (I apologize for the crookedness of the photo.  I could find no other of this particular saint.  One day, if I can ever get myself to start painting again, I will try to make one of her.)

I am fond of the female saints who have founded convents and churches.  Until very recently, I had thought to start a contemplative convent geared toward accepting nuns that are disabled, but my health has rapidly deteriorated in such a way as to make this dream an unlikely one, barring any miracle with which the Lord decides to bless me!  Being both disabled AND poor, it is difficult to accomplish anything.  At least I can PRAY, thanks be to God!


Farm near Llanerfyl


I hope all of you have had a joyous and celebratory weekend and that you have experienced gratitude for the great gift of living in this country where, although we do have a large percentage of our population that lives in poverty, we are better off than many other countries of the world, particularly with regard to the African continent, where even clean drinking water cannot be had in numerous villages.  Likewise, in China, where the horror of forced abortions and infanticides are brutally thrust upon the families there.

While we do live in a beautiful country where our material standard of living is high, our religious freedoms are under attack from a spiritually bankrupt culture.  I ask you all to join with me in prayer for the strengthening of the Christian religion throughout the world, and for the grace of great courage in the face of persecutions which are sure to come.

God bless us all.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

LINKS TO SOURCES:
CATHOLIC SAINTS INFO WEBSITE
CATHOLIC ONLINE WEBSITE
THE SAINTS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND
WIKIPEDIA
A VISION OF BRITAIN THROUGH TIME
THE SELF RULED ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN ARCHDIOCESE OF NORTH AMERICA