The Power of Love

We can do no great things, only small things with great love.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

My husband and I rearranged our wall of family photos to make space for our new grandson’s picture. The pictures include our sons as toddlers, college graduates and grooms. As I considered the little boys-turned-men, I wondered how it happened that my older son became a husband and the father of three little girls. I went on to wonder how his younger brother also became a husband who now is a dad himself.

As I perused the family photos further, my eyes rested on my husband’s and my parents who have all passed away. Wasn’t it just last week when they celebrated the kids’ birthdays with us? So many years have passed since they left us. My momentary grief morphed into a chuckle as I gazed at our sons’ wedding photos which include their dad and me. It occurred to me that he and I are well past the ages our parents were on our wedding day. “How did that happen?” I wonder further.

As I consider these familial milestones, the significance of every moment of our lives becomes crystal clear. Both the good and the bad from our pasts made possible each of the photos on our wall. Though the future is filled with uncharted waters, my response to every moment will contribute to the happiness which lies ahead. Most importantly, I realize the value of the present moment –God’s greatest gift to each one of us– which requires my undivided attention and my love. The events of my life, both great and small, will be shaped by the love I bring to each one.

Loving God, help me always to remember the value of the opportunity at hand and the difference my love can make.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Our Faithful Guardians

A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where he sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads attended to him.

Daniel 7:10

Daniel’s imagery provides a fairly accurate picture of my earliest impressions of God. The adults around me did a very good job of convincing me of God’s love. Still, there was something about the Almighty’s powerful presence which gave me reason to pause. The earliest days of my relationship with God included some shyness and perhaps a bit of fear when it came to my own behavior and the things I dared and dared not to pray for.

The good news is that Daniel’s imagery also inspired my faith in God’s helpers, the archangels in particular. From the time I was a little child, I turned to Michael the Archangel when fearful people or fearful circumstances threatened. Though I was unsure of how all of this worked back then, I do recall finding great consolation under the Archangel’s watchful eye.

Though I have set aside the more cumbersome baggage from my childhood which stunted my growth faith-wise, I admit that I continue to turn to the Good Michael when those I love are in danger. Though I don’t expect him to draw a sword to take down their adversaries, I do believe that Michael is present with them for the duration. Perhaps all that is required to make things right is a strong shoulder to lean on, even when we don’t realize that shoulder is there.

Loving God, thank you for all of those who guard us and guide us along the way. Most of all, thank you for being with us in everything.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Appreciate Our Gifts

“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM.”

John 8:27

There are a saying and an old song that remind us that we often don’t realize what we have until we lose it. Most often, we don’t appreciate the impact of these losses until it is too late. I remember how eagerly I awaited the start of high school, only to find that I missed the comfort of my junior high school friends when I arrived there. I was thrilled to change schools during my teaching career until the first day I walked into the teachers’ lounge and realized that I didn’t know a soul. Though our only dog drove me nuts most of the time, I missed Ernie terribly when he died.

Like the Pharisees who rejected Jesus, my list of lost and unappreciated treasures is far too long. Fortunately for me, one of these precious gifts remains a constant in my life. I was born to parents of faith who relied on God in good times and in bad. My amazing mom and dad shared this great faith with me quite tangibly. As a result, my faith is a constant which remains part and parcel of who I am. I am most grateful that it is faith which opens my eyes the my list of found and appreciated treasures every day.

Generous God, thank you for giving me the sense to recognize your gifts -most of the time.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We’re In This Together

My husband and I just returned home from a visit with our new grandson. We truly enjoy spending time with Daniel’s parents, too. Still, I must acknowledge that Daniel was the focus of this visit. You see, this was the first time that little Daniel appeared to be a typical newborn to me. Though it has been only six days since our last visit, I noticed these changes immediately. Daniel has gained more weight and is well beyond that five-pound milestone. He has traded his preemie clothing for his newborn wardrobe. Though Daniel has always been alert, his facial expressions and movement attest to his continuing development and health. His absolute delight at feeding time reassured me further. During the drive home, I didn’t say much to my poor husband because I was busy expressing gratitude to God. Finally, I was able to let go of the worry which had overwhelmed me since Daniel’s premature birth.

After completing my prayer, I remarked to my husband that I didn’t miss those long drives to the hospital in Chicago. Nonetheless, we both agreed that, in spite of that drive, we will be forever grateful to the staff at Prentice Women’s Hospital. They took amazing care of Daniel and his mom and dad. This made all of the difference because the hospital served as their home-base for twenty-four days.

By our third visit, we began to feel at home there as well. Regardless of when we arrived, this bustling environment teemed with people. Visitors, employees and new patients streamed from the parking lot to the hospital and down dozens of corridors leading to places we would never explore. Every time we navigated our way to the elevators, I was struck by the variety of people who journeyed with us. I heard French, German and Spanish, Polish, Chinese, an African dialect and British and Australian accents. Chicagoans’ offerings of American English quickly revealed their South and West and North Side roots. I encountered chiseled faces with long and short noses, high and mid-placed cheek bones, very full and very thin lips. I can’t begin to list the numerous shades of hair color that topped my fellow humans as we made our way. Every time we visited the hospital, I remarked to my husband that we were truly in the midst of a melting pot of God’s children. And, in spite of our varied appearances and languages, our eyes betrayed to all who noticed the common concern which brought each of us to this place of healing.

I share our hospital adventures because they echo the message found in the scriptures. Passages from Numbers (11:25-29) and Mark’s gospel (9:38-48) underscore God’s unconditional love for each one of us. Numbers tells us that Moses’ followers complained because two among them who were not blessed with the spirit of Moses had received the gift of prophesy like the rest. Joshua went so far as to tell Moses to stop the two who had no business doing God’s work. While Joshua questioned who the two interlopers thought they were by acting in God’s name, Moses declared that he wished all of the people did the same.

In Mark’s gospel, a similar situation unfolded. In this case, it was John who complained that an outsider had healed in Jesus’ name. John reported to Jesus that he told the man to stop, but the man refused. Jesus responded just as Moses did. “Do not prevent him,” Jesus said. “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” In other words, leave him alone! God is far more concerned with the hearts of those who do good than with their varied exteriors or affiliations.

You know, when Daniel’s parents drove to the hospital in search of the timely and safe delivery of their baby, they didn’t scrutinize the physical attributes or religious affiliations of their caretakers. They trusted that the Prentice Hospital staff would respond to their needs skillfully and appropriately. Indeed, they were not disappointed by their sisters and brothers in this human family of ours. This grandma is most grateful that God has fashioned the differences which make us who we are. Each of our carefully designated gifts is counted among the tools we need to heal, to encourage and to love one another along the way. Little Daniel offers amazing proof of power of the gifts which we bring to one another.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Judge Not

“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:7

Though I am probably more patient than most, this is not necessarily true when I’m tired. I can always tell when I have overextended myself because I become edgy and critical. Little things which are usually easy to let go become heavy burdens. Though I don’t verbally express my displeasure with the situation at hand, my face betrays me.

A few weeks ago, a friend emailed my husband to inquire about me. He wrote that I looked distressed at church, so much so that he opted not to intrude on the moment. His concern prompted him to check further. When Mike shared our friend’s observation with me, I thought back to that morning. This friend had attended the last Mass of the day. I attended the 7:30 Mass and then stayed to assist at our parish welcome desk for the remainder of the morning. By the end of the third Mass, I felt my fatigue. By the start of the 12:15 Mass, that fatigue overwhelmed me. My friend had waived on his way into church. I smiled half-heartedly as I cleaned up crayons and pencils and replaced chairs that had been strewn about. I’m certain I was silently wishing that people would return what they use to its proper place. I must add that I had done similar tidying up two hours earlier with a genuine smile and without complaint, silent or otherwise.

In the end, I asked my husband to reply to our friend that all was well and that I was simply tired. I asked myself to be as patient with myself as I usually am with others. When I’m tired, I must do what I would tell a loved one to do: Go home and get some rest. If I listen to my advice, I will likely eliminate these judgmental moments which aren’t helpful to anyone.

Patient God, thank you for these well-placed reminders to be patient with myself and with those you have given me to love.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Living God’s Love

“How is it that you are angry with me
for curing a whole man on the sabbath?.”

John 7:23

I lost a dear friend in September, 1998. The anniversary of his passing nudged numerous memories from my mental archives. I laughed as I considered this rebel who was like a dad to me…

I met Father O’Connell when he was a newly ordained priest assigned to my childhood parish. Our friendship took root immediately. Father always took the time to talk to me. He was the first person I told when my dad passed away. Father was also a bit of a rebel. Though he respected the letter of the law, he had great compassion for those in need. I remember his locking horns with the housekeepers of the rectory because he had “cluttered up” the basement with clothing which he collected for the poor. Years later, Father locked horns with a local mayor because he had hired some striking city workers to do odd jobs around the church so they could put food on their tables.

Perhaps it is because Father had such a good and generous heart that nothing ever came of the murmurs against him. In each instance, someone came to bat for him, perhaps out of fear that Father was a little too close to God to mess with. Though these words pale in the shadow of Father’s legacy, I am happy to share that a bit of his rebellious nature lives on in me. Though I never challenge the rules for my own sake, I habitually set them aside in the interest of love -God’s love, to be precise.

Dear God, be with us as we strive to live in accord with your love.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved