Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Saint Margaret of Hungary on her death bed
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

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.

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


New Advent

Willing Shepherds

Sunday, July 26, 2015


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

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


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
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



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

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Today I read in the Albuquerque Journal that, unless Congress acts quickly, disabled Americans will experience a 19% reduction in their disability benefits in 2016.  This is a huge cut in an income that is already too sparse to meet all the needs of the disabled, whose medical expenses (including assistive devices and over-the-counter aids) are typically much higher than the average person.

In addition to this possible cut, two things are in the pipeline to happen for Social Security recipients in 2016:

(1)  Medicare premiums will rise by at least $54.00 per month (for some recipients); and,
(2)  NO cost-of-living increase will be given to anyone.

What does this mean for me personally?  If the cut goes into effect, I will be receiving $304 a month less than I did in 2015. (I am not in line for the steep increase to my Medicare premium, I am told, because my income is too low.)  Even so, I am in danger of losing almost a quarter of my entire income!  Already, I don't have enough money to meet my needs.  I have two friends helping me with food and other necessaries, when they are able.  I have NO luxuries.  No television.  No travel. No alcohol, drug or tobacco use.

I worked for more than 30 years and had no idea that the Social Security fund I paid into for all those years would yield such a poor return that it would plunge me into poverty.  Of course, I had no idea I would become disabled, either.  No one does.  One would think that Social Security would at least provide the basics of life; food, shelter, medical needs, transportation, clothing, etc. etc., but it doesn't.

The Journal article (link below) mentions that Rand Paul, in typical fashion, is maligning the disabled by saying that a lot of us are "slackers."  It is a horrible slur to make about a vulnerable class of people, a slur that is both untrue and unchristian.  Having endured the circus of obtaining disability benefits, I can tell you that it isn't easy.  You can't just get a doctor to send a note to Social Security saying that you are disabled!  Social Security has their OWN doctors who have a vested interest in ferreting out fakers.  Just as in any group of people, you WILL find liars and cheats in a tiny percentage.  Politicians like Rand Paul inflate a tiny issue and brandish it vigorously in our faces so they can bamboozle with bologna.  Casting aspersions on the character of the disabled is just another ploy to protect the millionaires from having to pay their fair share.

Lackeys of the Koch Brothers and other billionaires are feeding us this line of crap about how Social Security is going broke because of the poor, the disabled, the elderly, the immigrants.  It is a HUGE lie.

With all this chatter about Social Security and how broke it is, there is almost no mention whatsoever of the most glaringly obvious "fix" for the problem.  At the moment, individuals only pay Social Security tax on their first $110,100 in income (some sites say $106,800.)  This is called the "cap" on Social Security tax.

What this means in practical terms is that the wealthy pay less than a tiny fraction of a percentage of their income into Social Security while the wage earner typically pays 4.2% (or about 8% if self-employed.)  This is not equitable, particularly since Social Security is not a "needs based" program. Wealthy people have no qualms about taking their full Social Security benefits when they reach the retirement age, so why not pay the same percentage into it as we do?

If we removed the cap on Social Security contributions, we would have enough Social Security funds to last until the sun burns out.  Why aren't we doing this?  Why aren't we even TALKING about it?

The government is too busy trying to daze us with smoke and mirrors.  Just as in THE WIZARD OF OZ, there is a guy behind the curtain pulling all the levers and pushing all the buttons that make the smoke billow into the air.

The bloated, gaseous guy behind the curtain is the billionaire "wizard" who donates millions of dollars into superpacs to elect political candidates that will do his bidding.  He and his cronies do not want to pay their fair share into the system, so they pay their glorified go-fers to generate a flurry of misinformation into the atmosphere that pumps up the issue with lies and then blames the problems on the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the illegal alien...anyone but the real culprits - the wealthy who are gaining unjust enrichment at the expense of the poor.

Preferential treatment of the rich was not the original intention of our tax system.  On the Vanderbuilt University website, I learned that:

"When our income tax system started, it was supposed to
be a tax on success," said Beverly Moran, a professor of
law and sociology and a leading tax scholar.  "Only 2
percent of people in the country were ever supposed to
file, and only 1 percent were supposed to pay."

Vanderbilt Research agrees that the cap on Social Security taxes should be lifted and that 3 other measures should be taken.  Here is their list:

"1.  Integrate the taxes on gifts, estates, income, corporations and shareholder-level income into one overall tax, int he process eliminating loopholes used by wealthy people to avoid paying taxes.

2.  Equalize the tax rates between ordinary income and capital against income, instead of taxing capital gains at a lower rate.

3.  Remove the cap on Social Security taxes, so that high-income people continue to pay the tax on all their income.

4.  Decrease pressure on the IRS to audit poor people."

It is WELL PAST TIME that we open a few windows and clear the air.  The horrific disparity of income between the top and the bottom of the socio economic field has been accomplished by bestowing unreasonable tax breaks on the rich.  Meanwhile, the wages of the working man have stalled since the early 1970's.  Lately, the oppression of the poor, elderly, and disabled and the slander against them is a national shame, and a humiliating nightmare for the poor, especially those who spent many years contributing to society, working, and paying into a culture that now spreads hateful lies about them.

I don't know what to do, other than write this blog, but who knows how long I can continue to do it, given that my income may be cut by almost 25% in a few short months.  That would be convenient for the wealthy cheats.  The fewer poor people with access to the internet, the better for that wizard behind the curtain.  He can continue blowing all that hot air and smoke up your noses.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015

Pertinent Links:

Report: Social Security disability fund to run dry next year

Petition to remove the cap on Social Security contributions

Top ten lies about Social Security

Four ways to improve the U.S. Tax System - Vanderbuilt University

Robert Reich, Economist - the case for expanding Social Security

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

Alliance for Retired Americans

Monday, July 20, 2015


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

Saturday, July 18, 2015


"I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral 
people, not at all referring to the immoral of this world
or the greedy and robbers or idolaters, for you would then
have to leave the world.  But I now write to you not to
associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, 
greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber,
not even to eat with such a person.  For why should I be
judging outsiders?  Is it not your business to judge those
within?  God will judge those outside.  'Purge the evil
person from your midst.'" 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

Once a person has been converted to the Catholic Christian religion, has accepted Jesus Christ and been admitted to his Church, it is assumed that such person believes in the tenets of the faith, believes that Jesus Himself created the church and made Peter, the first bishop of Rome, the rock upon which it is built.  Each Catholic person is charged to and promises to reject Satan and all his pomps and works.  At every mass, Catholics recite the Creed, which includes the statement that we believe in "the Holy Catholic Church."

Imagine my surprise when, upon becoming Catholic, I have witnessed a slew of individuals and "Catholic" blogs and newspaper articles in which people who claim to be Catholic openly defy the faith, dispute doctrine and malign the Pope, either this one or Benedict or John Paul II.  Imagine my horror when I found that a number of these detractors actually reside within the church as priests, deacons and bishops!  Some are secular bigwigs who make a living from writing about the Church.

Widespread criticism of the Pope would be understandable if he was obliterating doctrine or was living in unrepentant sin.  I would fully expect a massive uprising and quite a lot of "fraternal correction" coming from the college of cardinals and many others, but in the case of Pope Francis, for instance, I am dumbfounded by the arrogance of some who blatantly lead Catholics into the mistaken notion that public criticism of the pontiff's habit, style or manner of communication is something desirable, edifying or worthwhile in any way.

For example: recently, in THE CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT, Carl E. Olson's article appeared, the title of which is THE HYPERBOLIC AND EXHAUSTING PAPACY OF FRANCIS, which you can read HERE.  One immediately gets the thrust of the article from its title and the first sentence.

"My impression is that many Catholics are weary of the seemingly
constant addresses, homilies, interviews, texts - many of which
read like lectures - that come from the Holy Father."
Carl E. Olson
"The Hyperbolic and Exhausting Papacy of Francis"

Carl Olson sucks off the teat of Holy Mother Church while he criticizes its Holy Father.  He is editor of Ignatius Insight, and, most significantly, the editor of Catholic World Report in which the article in question appears.  He wrote a previous article in that online magazine entitled POPE FRANCIS: THE GOOD, THE BAFFLING AND THE UNCLEAR, which you may read HERE.  He is also the author of the book WILL CATHOLICS BE LEFT BEHIND? and another with Medievalist Sandra Miesel called THE DAVINCI HOAX.  He writes a weekly column for OUR SUNDAY VISITOR.  Clearly he has his fingers in a lot of Catholic media pies and is, without question, a talented person, which is the danger, of course.

I am not picking on Carl Olson in particular.  His other contributions have been helpful to the faith. Nor is he the only writer to critique the Pope in a disrespectful way, but he provides a perfect example of what ought not be done.  Whether or not his criticisms and complaints are objectively accurate is irrelevant.  We already have enough people in the secular media lambasting our church and its leaders without adding to the confusion and leading others down a twisted path away from the light of Christ.  We don't need to encourage a lack of willingness to be led by Holy Mother Church or to be taught by it and learn from it.

All of us need to model the correct attitude toward the pontiff which is indicative of our place in the scheme of things.  Cultivating a humble attitude can be challenging for Americans.  We have enough freedom to say whatever we want, and we rely so heavily on our opinions that our love for our own opinions, independent of any authority except ourselves, verges on idolatry.

Christ said that those who love Him follow his commandments. Then He set up our church, organized it on the apostle Peter, and transmitted to the apostles some of His power and authority. That power and authority has been, in turn, transmitted in an unbroken line until today.  Our Pope, a common sinner, is the recipient of that power and authority.  It is a remarkable dichotomy and one of the greater mysteries of our faith, especially when one considers that this power and authority are not simply organizational devices.  It is real power.  It is real authority.

My dearest wish is that these talented and intelligent writers would turn away from critiques of our Papa and, instead, fix their attention and their skill on helping everyone find the instructive value in each missive that the Pontiff sends our way.  Just as the power and authority of God reside within the common human who is Pope, remarkable jewels lay hidden in that artless, off-the-cuff comment, or that dull paragraph about which those writers complain.

If our Pope really is overwhelming some people with the volume of teachings, there is some good reason for it. Perhaps he is aware of a lack of time.  Maybe he senses an impending crisis, like the deceptive quiet before a tsunami hits land.  On the other hand, all of those things about which some of these writers complain could simply be the Pope's earthy, simple style.  All of God's laborers in the vineyard, including the Pope, are trying to accomplish God's work within the parameters of our abilities, hampered by the defects of our human failings and imperfections.

I pray that we all learn to shift our focus to the jewel that lays within that pile of dust, rather than the dust itself.

God bless us all.

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


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

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Saint Erfyl's Church, Llanerfyl - 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