Friday, April 18, 2014

MINOR CRUCIFIXIONS



The last couple of weeks have been full of messy, circular, painful and annoying events, but each time I am assaulted with yet another bit of stupidity, I have thought of Jesus on the cross.  Today is "Good Friday," although I wonder at the name.  It is the day that we commemorate the day Jesus died in a horrifying manner that, sad to say, was all too common during the Roman era.  First, he was, amongst other things, scourged (whipped) to within an inch of his life.  People often died from scourging alone.  On top of the scourging, he was also crucified.  I don't need to describe it to you.  Anyone who has seen Mel Gibson's movie has a more than adequate picture of the process.  Of course, there were several different methods of crucifixion in vogue at the time, and we are not sure of which method was used, but it is a distinction without a difference.

This week I have been dealing with some health issues and, in connection with that, dealing with the bureaucracy of the University of New Mexico Hospital.  This is the hospital that accommodates the poor of New Mexico.  It is a "teaching" hospital, of course, so unless you are lucky enough to have one of the teachers as your doctor, you are subject to having to have a string of doctors attend you over the years, some of whom don't yet quite know what they are doing.  It can be unnerving.  A few years ago, I lobbied to get one doctor who could follow me through the years, dealing with my chronic issues.  I was lucky.  I got Dr. Byrch Williams, a great doctor with a great "bedside manner."

Unfortunately, however, when I have to see a specialist, it is like playing Russian Roulette.   Many of the doctors are very good, but you know there is always a bullet in one of the chambers.  This week I had to go to one of the clinics that is located in the main hospital FAR away from the parking structure.  As with every other store and institution, there are not enough handicap parking spots.  I had to drive around and around and around to the top of the parking building and there, on the roof, was ONE space next to the elevators.  It was frustrating, but Jesus had a far worse time of it.

The elevator was filthy, with graffiti on the walls and chipped paint.  Once I got to the ground floor, I was dismayed to see that the entrance to the hospital that faces the garage had been turned into an emergency exit and I could not enter!  Instead, I had to limp, with my cane, ALLLL around the building to go into the large front entrance.  It was painful, but Jesus had a far worse time of it.

Entering the cavernous room with a high ceiling, I was greeted with so much noise and random activity that I had to stop for a moment and orient myself.  The air was full of the smells of food being cooked in the café adjoining the common room.  Patients were walking and wheeling into and out of the facility.  Several groups of medical personnel were lounging in the comfortable chairs where patients were meant to wait. 

I approached the polished marble information desk and asked one of the young women to have them send down someone with a wheelchair.  It is hard to describe the air of disinterest that the woman emanated.  She wasn't rude.  She was interested enough to be rude.  I felt I was beside the point because she had other things on her mind.  She called the Patient Transport Department and told me it would take half an hour before they could come get me with a wheelchair.  Instead, it took 45 minutes.  In the meantime, I recited one rosary in that noisy, chaotic place.  I wish I could say I was a tiny island of serenity amidst the cacophony, but I would be lying.  I was distracted and tense, but Jesus had a far worse time of it.

When I finally got to the clinic, the doctors, Sales (a woman), and her supervisor Waxman (a man), were very kind.  I thought they would schedule me for a minor surgical procedure for a future time, but they told me they could do it right then, if I wanted.  Rather than go through another day of hassles in this behemoth of a hospital, I opted to have them perform the procedure.  Out came the scalpels and needles and they went to work on me.  It was scary and painful, but Jesus had a far worse time of it.

When it was over, I had to sit in the adjoining room, waiting again for a wheelchair to come get me.  This time it only took 25 minutes, a decided improvement.  The young man pushing me around was very kind.  He was a Tibetan from India.  I asked him how he liked it in this country and whether or not he had friends.  He told me that he returns to India now and then, but it has begun to feel unfamiliar to him.  He is used to it here and knows many of the Tibetans that live in New Mexico, where the land is similar to some parts of India and Tibet.  He was very kind to me, but I sensed an underlying unhappiness, but perhaps that was just because of the business of his day.  So many people are overloaded in their jobs, while other people vainly search for work!  It seems like everyone is expected to do the work of 3 people, so that 2 other people remain unemployed.

The following couple of days were very busy with visitors, phone calls and attempts to straighten out an erroneous billing I received from UNM Hospital Pharmacy.  My service dog also needs surgery and I had to complete some documentation needed to obtain funding, walking to the office to make copies.  My apartment is coming up for renewal, and I had to submit all kinds of paperwork for that.  (You would think that, once you move into an apartment, the rental agreement would just roll over every year, with the exception of rent increases, but every year we have to reinvent the wheel here.)  Some people think that the disabled have lots of time on their hands because they aren't working, but I have never been busier.  When you are chronically ill, your needs increase, and getting those needs met invariably requires more paperwork, more money, and more attempts at funding.  It is a grind, but Jesus had it worse.

Today I woke at noon.  I have slept more than 10 hours, recovering from the stress of the week.  The first thing I said to myself was, "Jesus died on the cross at noon today."  Jesus had it much worse than me.

Copyright (c) 2014, Silver Rose Parnell
All rights reserved.
 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

LITANY OF THE LIVESTOCK

Spring view - 2014
 
 
Home-bound people often rely for companionship upon animals, domestic and wild.  Some of us require service animals for our various disabilities.  In addition, it has been scientifically proven that petting an animal and interacting with it is very good for one's health and has a tendency to reduce blood pressure in those for whom this is a problem.  I hope my animals don't lower my blood pressure, or I'd be dead.  Despite years of cigarette smoking (which I stopped about 8 years ago), I have the blood pressure of a teenager, thanks be to God.  I have that and my "beautiful brain," according to the MRI results several years ago.  No shrinkage - that's the key.  Anyway, I expect I will be around for a while, with my beautiful brain, my good blood pressure, and my animals...with the understanding that the rest of the edifice is slowing going to pieces.




The problem with animals, however, is that they require an awful lot of maintenance.  I have a small service dog and a huge Bengal cat, and it is like having two toddlers in the house.  You never know what they will poop on or what they will eat, and sometimes it is the same problem at once, in the case of my dog who has developed a taste for cat poop.




My morning routine goes somewhat like this:

I wake in my bed, propped up by my slanted pillow, my squishy pillow under my neck, a pillow under each arm, and a pillow under my knees.  The first thing I do is grab the large wooden cross I place on my chest when I go to sleep at night.  I use it to remind me, last thing at night, and first thing in the morning, that no matter my problems, someone had it a lot worse than I.  Things may be rough, but at least I am not being crucified, literally anyway.  I say some sort of prayers, many of them wordless, usually ending with a resolution to "do better today."  Then, as much as I want to lay abed, I can hear my corgi's toenails tap dancing on the linoleum floor around my bed, and I know that if I don't get her outside soon she will get so upset that she'll barf stomach acid in protest.  It's a new trick of hers, and I must say, it is quite effective.



As soon as I try to disengage myself from my pillow fortress, the Bengal stomps onto the first pillow that needs to be removed and plops himself down on it, purring to beat the band.  He used to care less about me when he was young, but now that he is an old retired gentleman he can't get enough of me.  Typical male.  Anyway, I have to pay the toll, so I stroke him nicely, give him a scratch under the neck, and scoot him out of the way so that I can roll myself out of bed.  Then the litany begins.

I read an article once that claimed that groaning is good for you.  Convenient, yes?  Getting out of bed and putting on some clothes is accompanied by a symphony of my groans and moans, punctuated by my dog's barking at me in an effort to herd me toward the back door.  This music supports the litany of my occasional exclamations of, "Lord save me!" and other such sentiments. 

I wake with a lot of pain, as do many people, but I push through it with physical activity first thing in the morning, in the vain hope that everything will get warmed up and less creaky.  Alas, my infrastructure is permanently damaged and, I suspect, rusting away in some hidden spots.  Still, I do not want to start my day with pain pills because the doctor has only given me enough for 2 per day.  It is not enough for my needs, but I am afraid to ask for more because the doctors at the public clinic deal with so much addiction amongst the poor population they serve that they act like everyone is an addict waiting to happen.

I spend the next hour and a half catering to the creatures while reminding myself, "life is good!"  First, I need to get the dog outside, then bag her business and stash it in a deceptively pretty tin container in the garden, for disposal with the trash later in the day.  Then I have to wash all the animal's dishes.  This morning I also had to vacuum the tabletop where I feed the cat because he's such a pig he throws his food everywhere.  His bowls are surrounded by a mass of tuna bits and kitty kibbles.  Usually, I take a sponge and wipe it off, but the carnage was too much today.  The cat eats like he's King Henry VIII in the great room.  The litany continues.  "Lord save me!"

Once the dishes are washed, I measure out some kibble for the cat into his "Petite Royal" Parisian kitty bowl; dump a can of wretched "tuna" that smells like the bottom of a bird cage into his special, whisker length oblong dish; then pour out a dish of water which he will never drink because he insists on drinking from the bathtub faucet and will sit there for an hour until I acquiesce and turn on a dribble of water for his majesty.






Next, I turn to the dog's needs.  She's now on a special, low fat diet that is easy on the digestive tract.  I always wear gloves to wash her dishes because, although she licks her bowl VERY clean, she deposits a layer of saliva which is just gross.  Anyway, I put down her water first, while she tap dances around the kitchen, licking her lips and staring at me, wild-eyed.  My girl loves her food.  First, I measure out an exact amount of kibble, hit it with some hot water, then mix in a rounded tablespoon of some low-fat dog food.  Gently, I tell her to sit and stay.  She'll do it, but she's vibrating the whole time, and her eyes are saying, "why are you torturing me like this?"  When she's settled down, a bit, I tell her, "OK, take it," and she hoovers it in less than a minute and stands around, hopefully, as if she suspects I may give her more, which I never do...but a dog can dream, right?  She needs to lose 3 pounds, according to the vet.

My animals eat and drink better than most of the people on the African continent.  I worry about the quality of the water here, because our pipes are always breaking, so I give my dog the same bottled water I have delivered to me.  It is an investment in our health, which is expensive to repair, once it is broken.  Still, I think about those people in Africa who have to haul their water from the river a mile or two or three distant.

Most of the world lives in some version of abject poverty, surviving without even the benefit of clean drinking water, sanitation facilities, or proper food and housing, what to speak of electricity and all of that.  It is a source of bewilderment to me when I contemplate how, in the last 2,000 years or so, some countries have soared to the heights of comfort, while others remain in huts.  I suspect there is something sinful in that.  "Lord save them," I say.  The litany continues.

Finally, the animals are pooped, fed and watered (or so I think), and it is time for my first cup of tea.  I'm in the water closet for perhaps 3 minutes, during which time the cat is free to come in and use his litter box, but today he decides he is shy, and he REALLY has to go, so by the time I enter the kitchen to start making my tea, he has deposited a giant stinky poop squarely in the middle of the cushioned mat in front of the sink, something he has never done before.  It smells like the demons of hell have shot up my nose.   I can hardly believe it!  I suspect it has something to do with the new toilet in the bathroom which sounds like a jet taking off from Cape Canaveral.  Every time I flush it, the cat jets out of the room and under the nearest piece of furniture. 

Head pounding from allergies, an emerging migraine, and a neck spasm, I don my kitty haz mat suit.  First, the "gas mask."  That's the most crucial.  We don't want the troops to faint before the mess is cleaned up.  Then the latex gloves.  I make sure my long hair is falling down my back and not INTO the poop.  I dispense with the offending mound and carry the bag to the trash.  I can't imagine how I would get the mat clean enough for future use, so I quickly walk it out to the giant trash bin around the corner and deposit it there.   "Lord save me!"  The litany continues.

FINALLY, I make myself a big mug of very strong coffee.  I really need the extra caffeine by then.  I sit down in my recliner, put up my legs, and am about to drink it, when the dog insists that she has to go outside again.  She won't leave off, so I take her outside, and, sure enough, she leaves me a large bit of business, and I am on poop patrol once again.  "Lord save me!"  The litany continues.

copyright (c) 2014, Silver Rose Parnell
All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SHEEP AMIDST THE WOLVES


During the last 4 years, I have experienced a string of significant deaths in my life, each of which devolved into a drama that left me out in the cold: suspicious death and inheritance stolen; a beloved spiritual teacher surrounded by grasping, possessive followers; and my only child whose ashes were supposed to come to me but other relatives in his town closed ranks and prevented me from getting anything.  Without power, access or resources, I was unable to obtain even the smallest memento of loved ones.  I had imagined I would be comforted by the presence of a little reminder of the love I had for each person, but even the smallest comfort was not to be had.

These big events presented themselves in a sea of smaller, similar events, all of which seemed cruel and senseless, heartless and mean.  I have been reeling from the shock of it all.  The grief, the loss, the sadness, the depression, hit me hard.  Physical illnesses worsened, as did chronic pain.  Back and stomach spasms returned.  Migraines proliferated.  I have been stressed for years.

A good friend pointed out to me that all of this has happened since I was accepted into the Catholic Church.  I mulled this over for some time and had a quiet epiphany.

All of the people who have worked so hard to hurt me are non-Christians.  In fact, most of them are hostile toward Catholics in particular.  I should not have been surprised by the evil assaults.  I should have expected it and welcomed it because Jesus promised this would happen:




“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.  But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.  When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.  You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.  You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.  When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.  Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.  No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master.  It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household!

“Therefore, do not be afraid of them.  Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.  What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light, what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.  And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.  Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.  Even all the hairs of your head are counted.  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.  But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.  I have come to bring not peace but the sword, for I have come to set:

             a man against his father,

                        a daughter against her mother,

            and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law

            and one’s enemies will be those of his household.
 
Matthew 10:16-36.

Yes, everything has been turned upside down, but now I understand it.  Every attack is proof of the Lord's love and presence in my life.  There will be more attacks, but I know from whom they come,  and for whom they are meant, and I will no longer be puzzled by the whole process.  I will continue to speak, and it will be the Spirit of Our Father who speaks through me, and I will draw strength from it and be healed.

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Matthew 10:40
 
Copyright (c) 2014, Silver Rose Parnell
All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

SAINT SALVATORE OF HORTA

1520-1567


Saint Salvatore was born during the golden age of Spain, when it was wealthy world power, and art, religion and politics were flourishing.  Salvatore's family, however, was poor, and both of his parents died by the time he was 14.  Afterwards, he supported himself and his sister as a shoemaker.  When Salvatore was 21, his sister married and he was able to join the Franciscans.  Before long, he became famous for his holiness.

Salvatore healed people, just with the sign of the cross.  So many people came thronging to see him that his superiors kept having to transfer him to different locations.  Sometimes people would tear off pieces of his habit in order to have a relic of his.  Fame is annoying and inconvenient.

Salvatore would not pray for people on demand, however.  If you wanted him to pray for you, he required that you do a good examination of conscience, go to confession, and receive the Eucharist worthily.  This idea gives me pause, because I always agree to pray for people when they ask, and I am going to have to give some thought to Saint Salvatore's method.  Also, it makes me want to run to confession so that I can pray for Saint Salvatore's intercession so that he could heal me.

On the subject of healing:  I believe in spiritual healing.  Jesus healed.  His apostles healed.  It is possible.  On the other hand, I do not believe that everyone is destined to be healed, no matter how many saints you get on board.  Pain and suffering are a reality on this planet.  Some people may be chosen to suffer for their sins or the sins of others.  They are chosen to be "victim souls" and offer up their pains for the sake of the world.  This is one of those big mysteries that we will never solve.

Some people think that God is a vending machine and that, if you pray to him and sing a few songs and follow his commandments, then you will automatically be dispensed whatever you ask of Him.  It just doesn't work that way, no matter how much the "name it and claim it" people say otherwise.  Our relationship with God is not a piece of commerce.  He is our heavenly father.  We do what he asks of us, not because we want to get riches or comforts, but because we love Him and we know that He wants the best for us.

Others think that God is made out of unicorns, cotton candy and rainbows, in other words; a god with lots of sweetness and no demands of his own.  People who believe in this type of God will often get mad at him when something goes terribly wrong in their lives.  They would say, "how could a good god allow this to happen to me?"

The point of religion is to prepare us to see God by increasing our holiness.  We are destined to become saints.  God doesn't care about our prosperity here on earth, except as to whether or not our condition is conducive to becoming a saint.  Please note:  Saints are customarily known for their poverty, simplicity, austerity and devotion.  The way to heaven cannot be bought.  In fact, God doesn't seem to like rich people very much.  Throughout the old and new testament, the message is given over and over again that it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle.

If my healing doesn't interfere with God's plan, then my prayers may be granted.  If they are not granted, I won't be mad.  With confidence, I will proceed as best I can, knowing that the good God accompanies me.

Copyright (c) 2014, Silver Rose Parnell
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SAINT JOSEPH




Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foster father of Jesus, is an extremely popular saint in the Catholic tradition, although we do not know a lot about him.  He is a "silent saint," in one sense, because we learn about his actions in the Bible, mostly from the gospel of Matthew, but we do not have any of his words.  We celebrate him twice during the year, once on March 19th as the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and another on May 1, as the patron of workers.

Joseph, to me, exemplifies the perfect family man.  We learn in the scriptures that he was a righteous man.  We also know that he was kind because when he found out that Mary was pregnant, he was going to divorce her quietly so that she wouldn't be exposed to public humiliation and punishment.  Yet, when the angel appeared to him in his dream and explained that Mary was carrying the Divine Child, Joseph accepted this readily and did not put her aside, but instead, he went through with the marriage and took up his duties as devoted husband to Mary and foster-father of Jesus.

Again, when the angel told him that the family was in danger, he protected them by secreting them off to Egypt, a foreign country, until the angel said it was safe to return.

We know that Joseph was descended from the royal line of David, and yet he was a humble man of limited means because when it came time to make a sacrifice at the temple, he was only able to offer small birds, rather than the obligatory sheep.  Joseph is an encourager of the poor.  We who are poor know that, even though we are not wealthy in a worldly sense, we too come from a royal line because God the father has adopted us through Jesus.




Saint Joseph is often depicted as an older man because no mention is made of him during the years of Jesus' ministry, and it is assumed that he died before Jesus began preaching, passing away in the presence of his loving family.

Joseph was a "just" man.  A just and righteous man stands by his wife and children and protects and supports them.  Many of us have never had a strong male figure in our lives.  On my own part, my father left our family as soon as he became successful and spent the rest of his life chasing after a stream of young gold diggers, while his children lived in poverty.  Saint Joseph is a soothing presence in my life, a surrogate father, if you will.  He was the foster father of Jesus, and I feel confident he has accepted me as a foster daughter as well.  I am sure there are many women who relate to him in the same way.  There are many righteous men who look to Saint Joseph as an example to emulate.




Having Saint Joseph as a foster father is not some flight of fancy or wishful thinking.  The saints are not dead.  They are in heaven with our Heavenly Father, with Jesus, with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the angels.  As spiritual beings, they are able to hear every prayer to them, whispered in private prayer, in public prayer in church, or silently in the cave of the heart.  They are more available to us now than when they were living here on earth.  In addition to being examples of holiness, they continue to pray for us, to intercede with God on our behalf.  They are active beings.  As part of the Catholic church, in particular, and the wider Christian world in general, the communion of saints support us in our striving toward holiness, in our striving toward the beatific vision of God.  Even when we appear to be alone in our struggles, we are actually surrounded and uplifted with the host of heavenly beings.  Is it any wonder that we have such devotion to the saints?

In Spain, Portugal and Italy, Saint Joseph's feast day is also Father's Day, and they make a big deal of of it, especially in Sicily, Italy.  Italian Americans likewise celebrate this feast in a big way.  New Orleans, which had a large influx of Italians, celebrates grandly, with parades and shrines to the saint.


Saint Joseph's Day parade float
New Orleans, LA


Every ethnic group has a particular set of customs in honor of Saint Joseph.  Wearing red, similar to the wearing of the green for Saint Patrick's day, is often part of it.




Polish Americans hold Saint Joseph's day feasts, sometimes called Saint Joseph's table, which is combined with an altar that displays holy cards, statues, and meatless dishes.  The Italians also make elaborate altars, usually with three levels, which represent the Holy Trinity.  The food is usually distributed to charity when the event is over, but this depends upon the location and the hosts.




The Saint Joseph's Day feasts began in the middle ages in Sicily during a time of severe drought.  The populace appealed to their patron saint (Joseph) for his intercession with God so that there would be rain.  They promised that if the prayed-for rain was received, that they would give a feast in honor of Saint Joseph.  the rain came, and the yearly feast has been a tradition every since.

If you would like to learn more about Saint Joseph and the celebrations in honor of him, you can check the following sources:


SAINT JOSEPH WEBSITES




http://wgno.com/2014/03/18/list-of-st-josephs-day-altars-in-new-orleans/#axzz2wNheZmpY









 
Copyright (c) 2014, Silver Rose Parnell
All rights reserved.
 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

HOW REDISTRIBUTION OF INCOME CAUSED INCOME DISPARITY



"It should be no surprise that when rich men take control of the government, they pass laws that are favorable to themselves. The surprise is that those who are not rich vote for such people, even though they should know from bitter experience that the rich will continue to rip off the rest of us. Perhaps the reason is that rich men are very clever at covering up what they do."
Father Andrew Greeley
 
 
 
 
 
Fifty years ago, the CEOs of America's largest companies and banks made 40 times what the average worker made.  Today they make 475 times what the average worker makes.


 
Current ratio of pay between CEOs of largest
companies and banks and the average worker


This obscene shift was made by raising the CEO salaries while artificially suppressing the wages of the average worker, as is shown in the following graph:


 
 
As you can see from this graph, which encompasses the years between 1970 and 2005, CEO salaries increased by 430%, while the average wage income increased by only 26%.

"Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who
mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries
of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord
Almighty." James 5:4

This is how American income and wealth has been redistributed to a small percentage of Americans. 

In a humorous Huffington Post article about this topic, there appeared a funny "pie chart" depicting the current distribution of our wealth in America, i.e., how big a slice of the pie each faction receives:




[Note that the fat cat on the upper right represents only 12% of the population, yet it eats 3/4 of the pie, or perhaps a bit more.]

Hedge fund managers, some of the very people responsible for the disastrous economic collapse from which we are still reeling, not only made giant bonuses after they were given bailout money, but continue to make yearly salaries in the millions and BILLIONS.  The top ten are compared in the following chart:





Do not imagine that these billionaires and millionaires actually pay much in the way of taxes, either.  Their effective tax rate is lower than the average person because of tax loopholes.

It is hard to imagine the justification for any one person making BILLIONS of dollars per year, when most people will not see even one billion in their lifetime.  Is it even possible that one person's labors are worth THAT much more than the rest of ours?

This is called disparity of income. 

Here is a chart comparing different countries in the world and their rates of disparity of income:


As you can see, the disparity of income in the United States is higher than any of these countries, except for Singapore.


"You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will
not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine."  Amos 5:11


If it weren't for social programs like Social Security, food stamps, and Supplemental Security Income, this disparity of income would have caused more than 40 million additional people to fall into poverty.

From Bill Moyers' website, here is a list of 10 things you should know about poverty in America:

  1. The number of Americans living in poverty (less than $22,314 for a family of four) stands at 46 MILLION PEOPLE, which is 15.1 PERCENT OF OUR POPULATION.
  2. The actual number of poor Americans living in poverty increased by almost 20 percent since 1962.
  3. ECONOMIC GROWTH DIDN'T TRICKLE DOWN:  Since 1980, GDP has doubled while poverty rates have remained essentially flat.
  4. AMERICANS IN DEEP POVERTY:  20.5 million Americans, or 6.7 percent of the population, have an income less than HALF of the poverty line (less than $11,157 for a family of four.)  This rate has doubled since 1976.
  5. CHILDREN UNDER AGE 18 IN POVERTY:  16.4 million, 22 percent of all children, including 39 percent of African-American children, 35 percent of Latino children, and 12 percent of white children.
  6. People in single female-headed families (with children) have a poverty rate of 42 percent.
  7. Roughly one in three Americans live at twice the poverty level or less than $44,628 for a family of four.)  That is more than 103 million people.
  8. Half the jobs in the country now pay less than $33,000 a year and a quarter pay less than the poverty line of $22,000 for a family of four.
  9. Public policies like the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, and Social Security, kept 40 million people from falling into poverty in 2010.
  10. Poverty rate among the elderly was reduced by nearly half between 1967 and 1975, reaching a low of 8.9 percent in 2009, due in large part to Social Security.

The bottom line?  Disparity of income is bad for us.  Suppressing wage earner salaries is bad for everyone.  Raising minimum and other wage earner wages is good for everyone.  Social Security and other social programs are good for the economy and for our people.

"Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor
of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which
He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored
the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally
drag you into court?  Do they not blaspheme the fair name by
which you have been called?" ~ James 2:5-7

While it is true that Jesus Christ said, "the poor will always be with us," he didn't encourage us to manufacture them, nor did he make any disparaging comments about them or encourage us to keep them in their place, so to speak.  He said to feed, clothe and house them.  In fact, he told the rich man to give up everything he possessed in order to follow him, but the rich man went home dejected because he couldn't imagine divesting himself of his wealth.  Jesus was not in favor of the rich hoarding wealth.  If you wanted to follow him, you had to give everything you had to the poor.  You cannot call yourself a Christian and advocate for wealth to be hoarded and the poor to go hungry.

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of
the misery that is coming on you." ~ James 5:1

Throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testament, there are exhortations against the rich and their greed.  This is a far cry from the economic policies of some "Christians" today.


"Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor, will
themselves call and not be heard." Proverbs 21:13


Some people who call themselves Christian are currently lobbying in favor of our extreme disparity of income.  They twist Bible verses into a meaning that does not exist in scripture.  For instance, the justification for extreme disparity of income is often given by reciting the parable about the talents (money) that a master gives to two different servants before he goes away on a trip.  One servant invests it and makes money for his master.  The other servant is afraid to lose the money, and so he hides it and keeps it for his master.  The master comes back and punishes the man who saved the money and sends him on his way, never to return.  This is obviously a message about lack of proper stewardship and perhaps laziness, which are good messages but they do not apply to the vast majority of the poor, more than 97% of whom are elderly (already worked), disabled (can't work), or already working low-wage jobs. 

Nor does it apply to our current situation in which the greed of the top 1% has caused the stagnation of salaries of the common wage earner.  It also says in the Bible that a worker deserves his wage, but our workers are not getting appropriate wages for the work they do.  We are not dealing with lazy people who can't be bothered to take care of their money properly.  We are dealing with a broken system that is institutionally skewed toward the wealthy accumulating more wealth by suppressing wage earner salaries and shuttling the extra money to the top.

"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through
the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter
the kingdom of God."  ~ Matthew 19:24 ~
 

Important sources and reference information:
Video with charts - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM
Video with charts - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTzMqm2TwgE
Video - Economy, inequality and Obama's Second Term - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRB7pg_Td04
Video - How unequal can the economy get? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCu-XnVxhfk
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - http://www.cbpp.org/
Regarding Minimum Wage Increase - http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4075
Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality - http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4075

Copyright (c) 2014, Silver Rose Parnell
All rights reserved






Friday, March 14, 2014

HEAVEN ON EARTH

Fra Angelico's version of heaven
 
Although I write a blog that usually aims to generate sympathy for vulnerable populations, I do not spend all my mental energy on the earth's problems.  Instead, I think about heaven.  I long for and pray for the beatific vision of God.  Everything in my personal world is blessed and positive because I have surrendered myself to the Lord and I have the hope of heaven, despite the fact that I am poor and disabled with chronic pain.

I have the Lord's companionship throughout every day, in every action, whether I am washing dishes, paying bills, or having tea with an elderly neighbor.  I feel His hand guiding mine.  I sense the presence of the angels who guard me and I hear the whisper of their messages of God's love in my soul.  When I think of my favorite saints, I experience their presence and influence.  The examples of their holy lives shine before me and help to guide me in my own quest for holiness.

I don't think that Christians, as a whole, do a great job of communicating the exquisite blessedness of our lives and the glittering vision of heaven that we hold in our hearts.  Through sheer undeserved acts of divine grace, we experience an intensely joyful love of God that brings us into ever deepening communion with Him and His holy church. 



 


In the beginning I was bored by the Catholic mass.  It seemed to go on forever.  Today, I look forward to the holy mass with great expectation.  Whether it is the Bible readings, the prayers, or the recitation of the "Our Father," I am riveted on it.  The Eucharist, which is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, is the crescendo in a finely crafted symphony of inspired praise.  The holy mass seems to be over in a minute!  Time changes its nature for me.  During the mass, I feel the loving attention of our Father God, Jesus, Our Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints and angels, in a mystical interaction.  We are elevated toward heaven while God comes down to us.





Instead of advertising the good news of our loving God, we tend to discuss all of the means by which God has directed the church to approach Him.  It is like writing an article about France by endlessly discussing the type of airplane we will take to Paris.  This is not to say that the doctrines and practices are not important; they are crucial for the journey, but I have to remind myself that, unless someone really WANTS to go to France, they are never going to get on the airplane.


"Do not be dismayed daughters, at the number of things which
you have to consider before setting out on this divine journey,
which is the royal road to heaven.  By taking this road, we gain
such precious treasures that it is no wonder if the cost seems to
us a high one.  The time will come when we shall realize that
all we have paid has been nothing at all by comparison with
the greatness of our prizes."  ~ Saint Teresa of Avila ~



What we need to communicate to non-Christians is the bliss of communion with the Lord and that the kingdom of heaven is truly amongst us right here, right now.  While it is true that we will have to wait to get the full beatific vision when our souls go to heaven, we can experience it now, here on earth.




Stories of the saints and blesseds bear out what I am saying.

Blessed Margaret of Castello, for instance, was born blind, hunchback, lame and "ugly" with serrated teeth, of all things!  She was abandoned in a strange town with not a farthing by her wealthy parents, yet she held no rancor in her heart toward them.  She became a Dominican nun and served the poor and the sick.  When praying over the sick, she went into ecstasy and levitated in the air.  Other miracles are attributed to her, and she was so loved by the people of her adopted town that the populace declared her a saint upon her death and there was a very large funeral party in which the whole town turned out.



Blessed Margaret of Castello


Many of the saints describe ecstatic union with God, accompanied by unusual physical signs.  Teresa of Avila, a doctor of the church, comes to mind.  In her writings, she says that, during her illness in the convent, and through her devotional exercises, she rose from the lowest stage of contemplation to the "devotions of ecstasy", which is a state of perfect union with the Divine.  She experienced visions that lasted unabated for almost two years.  In one memorable vision, an angel jabbed her heart repeatedly with a fiery lance, causing spiritual and bodily pain.

"I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the point there
seemed to be a little fire.  He appeared to me to be thrusting
it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when
he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave
me all on fire with a great love of God.  The pain was so great,
that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness
of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it..."
~ Saint Teresa of Avila ~



Ecstasy of Teresa of Avila by Bernini


"Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of
love, for they enkindle and melt the soul."
~ Saint Teresa of Avila ~




Obviously, this union with God that the Saints describe is the spiritual version of "Paris" in my analogy.  I invite you to get on the plane and take others with you.  Book the entire flight and fill it with people you have led to Christ by introducing them to a vision of heaven on earth.

Copyright (c) 2014, Silver Rose Parnell