SAINT OLGA

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Post Script – ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE OTHER HERMITS AND HALF-MONASTICS IN MY LIFE


Statue of Our Blessed Mother
In the Courtyard of the Church
in Old Town, Albuquerque
New Mexico
by
Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) Copyright 2016
All rights reserved

I forgot to mention a few things in my farewell post that pertain to changes in my monastic routine, for the benefit of colleagues who are likewise inclined, but first, I have to express how much I will miss the support and companionship of my fellow travelers on the sometimes lonely road of the modern hermit. Whether by accident or design, it is a blessed vocation, a great gift from God, and I have enjoyed joining with you in the virtual community of like-minded souls around the world. I keep you in my heart and will continue to pray for you.

I am no longer able to afford internet, nor do I think that the amount of time one has to spend on it to get anything done is really worth the effort. An internet "hotspot" and a small amount of data has been donated to me, and I will appear online occasionally, as my prayer schedule permits.

I am attempting to resurrect my monastic schedule that had gone by the wayside, and I know that many of you also struggle with maintaining a monastic schedule while living in the world, albeit in a marginal sense.

With regard to my disabled and/or retired readers who are wrestling with the organization of their own prayer life, I know that many of you have expressed a wistful regret at being unable to become part of a real monastic community, rather than the virtual one that we have. My version of a monastic schedule may help you.  

Before making changes to your spiritual exercises, you may want to check with your spiritual director first, to avoid overtaxing yourself in the beginning, especially if you do not have previous experience. 

It is important to keep in mind that, for those of you managing multiple disabilities or advanced age, it is nearly impossible to maintain a strict schedule. I do whatever I have to do to handle whatever crisis appears, and then I return to whatever is on the schedule for that particular time. There are days that are so full of logistics that I can do little more than make a short mental prayer at the appropriate hours.

I don’t try to “make up” the prayers I have missed because it is just too stressful. In my mind, we cannot be perfect, so we must humbly offer our imperfections as a suffering to be used in saving souls.

Lacking the assistance of the movement of community around you, it will be necessary for you to find some way to keep yourself on some sort of loose schedule or it will slide into a ditch. The method I have chosen is to program the crucial hours into my telephone. I have picked the most melodic and least disturbing ring tone for the daily reminders, but it still is a bit jarring, so I may try to see if I can program something more appropriate…like Gregorian chant! In the meantime, it’s piano music.

The common prayer of the Catholic monasteries and convents is customarily the Liturgy of the Hours, but these are QUITE extensive and way beyond my capacity. All the flipping of pages back and forth is beyond me!  Some of the more active orders employ the much smaller “Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary” which is far easier to follow and is composed largely of some very lovely Psalms. Even so, I am not yet able to chant all of the hours, so I have decided to concentrate on those I consider most important: Matins (morning 6:30 a.m.), Sext (noon), None (3:00 p.m.) and Vespers (6:00 p.m.)

I also say something at bed time (compline and a rosary), but I tend to be so exhausted by that hour and in so much pain that I cannot get fancy with it.  Something short and sweet is the ticket. There is a wonderful little prayer in the PIETA PRAYER BOOK that a dear friend gave me, and I think it is just the perfect little thing to say at night. I will share it with you here:

“PRAYER FOR DAILY NEGLECTS:

Eternal Father, I offer thee the sacred heart of Jesus, with all its love, all its sufferings, and all its merits.

FIRST:  To expiate all the sins I have committed this day and during all my life. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

SECOND:  To purify the good I have done badly this day and during all my life. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

THIRD:  To supply for the good I ought to have done, and that I have neglected this day and during all my life. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

(A Poor Clare nun, who had just died, appeared to her abbess, who was praying for her, and said to her, “I went straight to heaven, for; by means of this prayer, recited every evening, I paid my debts.”)”

The Pieta Prayer Book
From:
Miraculous Lady of Roses LLC
PO BOX 111
Hickory Corners, MI 49060-0111

One word of caution about this little pamphlet: While it contains a wealth of very beautiful prayers, not all of them are covered by an imprimatur from The Church, so be careful when choosing prayers from its contents.  The book itself will reveal the few devotions or promises that should not be used and/or relied upon.  For instance, here is a quote from the book with regard to the promises associated with the St. Bridget Prayers:

“The 21 St. Bridget Promises, while traditionally associated with the St. Bridget Prayers, are not covered by an imprimatur. In Jan. of 1954, the Holy Office issued a warning that the supernatural origin of these promises has not been proven.”

Most of the prayers have an imprimatur, and you will recognize some of your favorites. I am extremely fond of this book and have found it very useful. I keep it at my prayer corner in the living room and reach for it often.

Frequently, I have recommended that each household should contain at least one prayer corner. I have two: one in the living room where I spend my daylight hours and one in the bedroom for early morning and evening hours. Pictures, statues and icons that have meaning for you personally should be placed there, as well as candles and incense, if you can manage it.  

Bedroom prayer corner


I prefer tea lights placed in deeper votive light holders, as a safety measure against fire. I also use resin incense of frankincense and Myrrh, which are naturally occurring tree resins. This is the sort of incense used in Eastern Rite Catholic and Orthodox churches and is melted over charcoal discs manufactured for this purpose. I find that the smoke feels healing to my asthmatic lungs, as opposed to stick incense, which usually has a wood stick at its core.

I have been getting my tea lights, charcoals discs and incense from the Amazon website, believe it or not. I buy in large quantities and thereby save a little money. Being disabled, I require that most home goods are delivered, so I was thrilled to see that Amazon had these specialty items.

Most of us will need a comfortable chair in which to sit for prayer and meditation. Those who are more fit may want to sit on the floor or on their knees. If you are bedridden, then you may certainly recite your prayers in bed. Just make sure that you can see at least one little picture of Jesus and Mary, at the very least. Those who are quite ill may want to dispense with the candles and incense, preferring instead to use a small decorative electric lamp of some sort. [I found one of a praying angel, which I have faced toward my icon of our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.]

If you have the luxury of an extra room that can be converted into a prayer room exclusively for that purpose, I highly recommend it, but most single persons do not have the ability to do this. If you are a married person or there are other people in your household for some reason, for instance if you are caring for an elderly relative, a separate prayer room may be crucial to your practice!

I have retained a habit I learned in the Hindu convent which is to cover my head with a large shawl during prayers. It helps to block distractions and to provide a private little space for oneself. Long-time Catholics will recognize in this practice a hint of the veil that most women have given up wearing in our parishes. Notice that everything holy in the mass is veiled, therefore the veiling of women doesn’t demean them, but rather recognizes woman’s unique role in their intimate participation in creation. In my mind, it is an echo of our Blessed Mother Mary’s fiat, when she agreed to become the God Bearer ("Theotokos") out of humility and obedience to God. In saying “yes” to our Heavenly Father, she surrendered to His reign over her. He covers her completely in her humble acceptance of His will, just as the veil covers her in imitation of it. That which is humble therefore becomes exalted, just as Jesus came to earth in humble circumstances but was exalted in his resurrection. In my opinion, the veil is the mark of the dignity of woman and not a symbol of patriarchal oppression, as is asserted by some feminists.

On the other hand, I am not suggesting that you wear some sort of habit and veil, but if you wish to wear a hermit’s hooded robe while in the privacy of one’s own domestic church, I do not believe there is any prescription against it, only that none of us may present ourselves as anything other than lay persons, even though we follow a hermit or anchoritic path. The exception will be those rare individuals who are diocesan hermits.

I have tried to investigate the path of becoming a diocesan hermit, but the nun who is in charge of vocations in my diocese will not return my telephone calls, nor the emails of others who have contacted her on my behalf. I spoke to her in October of 2015, at which time she promised to speak to the Bishop and ask if he would entertain the idea of accepting a diocesan hermit. She made other promises, and nothing has come of it. I do not assume to know the motives of any person, so I will not guess what is her reason for failing to follow through with her promises and refusing to return my telephone calls or the emails of supportive Catholics, but I have heard from other Catholics around the United States that getting a bishop to return one's telephone calls is well nigh impossible, and I suspect that everyone has far too much work to do than to bother with the spiritual needs of one inconsequential person.

I don’t wear any special clothing outside of the hermitage. I purchase all my clothes from the clearance department, which means they are those things that other people avoid, the result of which you can imagine, especially since I must always wear a hat, due to failing vision. Whatever you wear, just make sure it is MODEST. I wear maxi skirts and dresses and am almost never seen in pants. You might as well be naked when you wear pants because, although everything is covered, everything is seen.

Obviously, I am addressing most of my comments to my fellow hermits who live alone. There IS a woman who calls herself "The Anchoress" and writes a very nice blog by that name, but she is a married woman with husband, children and house and does not meet even the basic requirements of an anchoress, which is extremely confusing to the neophyte. She is playing fast and loose with the meaning of the word and especially with the tradition, and I caution anyone who carelessly follows her lead and pretends to a state in life to which they are not equipped. This sort of pretense is a living lie, and we all know who is the father of all lies! 

Don’t get creative with the meanings of certain titles, such as “nun” or “monk” or “anchorite” – especially if your life circumstances are simply those of a lay person. There is absolutely nothing wrong or “less” in being a lay person, rather than a monastic, a hermit, a consecrated virgin, or an anchoress. We all have our role to fulfill in an authentic manner. Our focus is to be on the Lord, as it says in the first commandment. Love the Lord first, before all things. Anyone can love God, no matter what your state of life. Keep your eye on the prize at all times. Do everything that increases your love for God and don't worry about status or titles. You don't need them.

I write this post mostly to my dear friends and colleagues who follow a similar path to mine. There are many elderly and/or disabled persons who live alone and are very devout. They are hermits of a sort. If attached to a parish, they may even be somewhat like anchorites. Many would likely be in convents or monasteries, if their personal circumstances were different.

These days, Westerners tend to live a very long time, even after the appearance of chronic illnesses and disabilities that sideline us from active life. Many of us struggle alone with these chronic and painful conditions for 2o years or more. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity to consecrate our suffering for the remission of our sins and the sins of the whole world. Redemptive suffering is a shining gift to the church and to mankind in general. God brings all things to the good for those who believe.

Throughout the day, no matter what sort of prayer schedule one maintains, If you are suffering, it is important to say, “I offer this pain and suffering for the reparation of my sins and the sins of the whole world.” You will save souls by doing this, as well as saving your own!

The schedule that I outlined above is the bare structure into which I insert the various devotions that suit me. If nothing else, I suggest you pray at least ONE rosary every day. My intention is to pray three rosaries, as, follows:

Rosaries:
(1)            For our Holy Catholic Church:  I dedicate one rosary for the purification of our Holy Catholic Church, that those religious within it, who lobby for changes to the unchangeable, be converted, repent, and publicly renounce their heretical positions. If they will not repent, then I pray that the evil be cast out from our Holy Catholic Church. I pray that the body of Christ be healed in all ways, including the reunion of it with the Orthodox Churches, so that the body of Christ may breathe with two lungs, East and West, once more. I further pray that the laity be properly instructed in the Truth of the faith and not the heretical opinions of those who oppose Her eternal teachings or those whose understanding is malformed. I call out to all the angels, especially Archangel Michael, to protect our Holy Catholic Church and all those who are faithful to it.

(2)         FOR ALL SOULS:  I dedicate one rosary to the suffering souls on earth and in purgatory, so that they may be refreshed and encouraged on the path to righteousness. I ask for the intercession of Mary and all the saints in imploring our Sweet Jesus to shine his love into the stony hearts of the recalcitrant, the atheist, the agnostic, the non-believers, and all those hurt in any way by members of the Holy Catholic Church. May that light be so bright as to draw all souls to Him so that they may join us as part of the mystical body of Christ.

(3)         FOR MYSELF AND ALL OTHER DISABLED, ELDERLY, SICK, AND/OR FRAIL PERSONS WHO WISH TO CONSECRATE THEMSELVES TO THE SERVICE OF THE LORD: I dedicate one rosary for the healing and strengthening of those persons who suffer mental, spiritual, emotional and/or physical illnesses but who nonetheless desire nothing more than to love and serve God, offering up their every suffering in reparation for their sins and the sins of the whole world. I ask our Blessed Mother Mary, ever virgin, to take each of us by the hand and lead us to Jesus, never letting loose of us so that we are protected from the wiles of Satan who loves nothing more than to depress and discourage the victim souls who give their pain so that others may be saved.

In addition to the rosary, I will pray two chaplets:

(1)            The Divine Mercy Chaplet after the Little Office at 3:00 p.m.
(2)            The chaplet of Saint Michael, when I can fit it in…probably in the morning.

Other devotions and activities that I have to squeeze into my schedule, as illness permits, include:

(a)          Latin lessons
(b)         Bible Study course
(c)          Lectio divina
(d)         Holy reading on the saints
(e)          Padre Pio prayers
(f)            Prayers to my sainted ancestors and patrons
(g)          Piano lessons for Gregorian Chant, hymns, and the Byzantine Divine Office
(h)    The Jesus Prayer

This is a rather ambitious schedule for a disabled person, but it can be done, if life is simplified somewhat. It really depends on how many people depend upon you! In my case, I have been celibate for about 20 years, I have very few friends or family members who contact me regularly, I do not attend parties or social functions and I do not travel.

If you have a lot of friends or relatives who call you, or a few people that call you incessantly, it might work to corral them into specific time blocks. I TRY to make phone calls at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Those are the two “tea times” I’ve worked into the schedule. I don’t know about all of you, but I loathe long conversations on the telephone. Sometimes that is the only way to communicate with some people, however. I prefer a person-to-person chat.

The one thing which I will have to figure out how to do is get my house clean, since there are many functions of house cleaning that are extremely difficult for me to do, given my disabilities. Others in my position have echoed that concern. It has become obvious that I need to hire someone to do it, but I can’t really afford it at the moment. I need to work on that because it takes me so long to maintain the house that it interferes with my prayer life. I can be like Brother Lawrence and pray amid the pots and pans, but I find it difficult to concentrate, especially when working through pain.

There is a chance I may be accepted into a special program for persons such as myself. They will come and clean my house, do my shopping and cooking, and transport me to doctor appointments. I must apply and then wait.  In any case, I will be better equipped to maintain a prayer schedule, I HOPE.

I do not have  reliable internet at home, but I will check it when I get the opportunity, so you CAN leave me messages on this blog, and I will eventually respond. If you can send me your snail mail address, I may write you.

By the way, the “DONATION” button still works on my blog, for future reference. It is pretty dusty, so, if history repeats itself, I’m not expecting much.

Please don’t forget to pray for me, as I pray for you, and may God bless us all!

Silver “Rose” Parnell
© Copyright 2016

All rights reserved.