A Matter of Time

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long
a time and you still do not know me, Philip?”

From John 14:9

I shouldn’t have taken the comment to heart, but I did. My friend, who was under some serious duress himself, noted that others in our company joined him in questioning the amount of time I spend on “church stuff”. Because he was going through his own tough times, I should have let it go. Still, after we parted, I gave a good deal of thought to what I do and how it affects those around me.

The truth is that I’d already curtailed the time spent on my parish activities. I had said “no” in response to many requests in order to accommodate my own family, my extended family and my friends. I have held onto only those things which only I can do. I do what I do to keep others from experiencing some of the same suffering that this friend and those whom I love have endured.

In the end, I realized that my friend didn’t mean to hurt me, just as I don’t mean to hurt my loved ones by giving time to the things I consider to be important. Perhaps if I share the reasons I do what I do, all concerned will understand.

Gracious God, fill my friend with the energy he needs to face the strife in his life. Gift me with the wisdom to spend my time where it is needed most.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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God’s Greenery

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.

From Psalm 118:1-2

It is Arbor Day, a very special day for my husband who sports a truly capable green thumb. Mike takes an immediate liking to all plants great and small. Today, I must share Mike’s decades-long relationships with two plants. The first is a colorful, purplish-green Tradescantia Zebrina. His parents gave it to us as a housewarming gift when we purchased our first home. The plant is older than our sons! The second is a Philodendron which my husband’s teachers gave to him in 1987 when he was named a “candidate” for the diaconate. This designation meant that he would indeed be ordained the following year. Mike’s staff realized it had taken a good deal of effort for their principal to get to that point and they wanted to cheer him on. Needless to say, both plants are precious to him.

Most amazing is that these plants have survived outdoor transitions from spring through summer to fall when frost came unexpectedly early. The plants have also survived floods and dry spells when we were away and our designated plant-caregivers were either overly zealous or stingy with their task. After each incident, my husband painstakingly nursed his beloved greenery back to health for another season.

On this Arbor Day, it occurs to me that Mike’s plant adventures are a living parable regarding God’s ongoing and merciful care of each one of us. Like my husband’s plants, we could not be in better hands!

Gracious God, thank you for caring for us and for all of creation with such love and such mercy.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Let Them Hear

“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.”

John 10:27

I’ve been working hard not to do so. Still, I admit to giving in to a bit of discouragement here an there. Many people with far greater concerns suffer far more than I. Still, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that I’m getting nowhere fast and that no one seems to care one way or the other. When this occurs, I look beyond my circle of family and friends for support.

Since the Source of my hope resides above, I look upward for encouragement. When I do this, I discover that my discouragement has come from within. In the scripture passage above, Jesus observes that his sheep know him because they hear his voice and respond accordingly. It occurs to me that my family and friends do not often hear me say a thing about my heartfelt concerns. For the most part, they are unaware of the things which trouble me most. If this is the case, how can I expect them to respond with the encouragement I long for? It seems to me that I must not only listen well. I must also learn to speak up as often as needed.

Loving God, Jesus’ best lessons came in conversations with those who needed him most. Help me to speak from my heart to those who love me.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Spirit Made Me Do It!

“…the Holy Spirit whom the Father
will send in my name–he will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.”

John 14:26

A reasonably new radio station prides itself in playing vintage music from the 60s and 70s. This station is an offshoot of a television station which reruns programs from the same era. While watching an old favorite, my husband and I got into a discussion regarding our favorite old shows. Though I admit that I wasn’t an habitual viewer, I occasionally enjoyed episodes of The Flip Wilson Show while in college. It was during one such exposure that I first heard the expression, “The devil made me do it.” The comedian coined this line while portraying Geraldine, one of his most beloved character skits. Though Mr. Wilson was popular, this line became even more so. Regardless of what one was accused of, announcing “The devil made me do it!” was expected to absolve the offender of responsibility for any wrongdoing. I assure you that this didn’t actually work in most instances. Still, a similar phenomenon seems to work every time.

Throughout my life, when I have found myself in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, something nudged me in the direction of a solution. In these instances, there was never a logical reason for me to do what I did. I just did it because something from within nudged me in a given direction. When I look back upon these instances, I realize that somehow I survived what could have been devastating circumstances. When asked to explain myself, I can only respond, “The Spirit made me do it!”

Loving God, thank you for the inspiration which guides us through our troubles.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Inspiring Souls

“…whoever believes in me
will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these…”

From John 14:12

A recent discussion regarding confirmation names included references to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Catholics often choose the name of a saint or someone whom they greatly respect for this purpose. The most interesting aspect of this conversation was that it was a young man who was considering “Teresa” as a viable option. When I assured him that gender needn’t be a factor in his choice, he was elated.

Years ago, a dear friend talked about Mother Teresa long before she had become known worldwide. John was a young priest who deeply respected this Albanian woman who was drawn to religious life very early on. After entering the convent, she was assigned to a high school in Calcutta. While teaching her students, she could not ignore the extreme poverty beyond the windows of her classroom. She was so moved by their need that she asked permission to devote herself to the poor. Mother Teresa eventually petitioned the Holy Father for permission to found her own religious order which would be dedicated to serving those in dire poverty. Her mark upon our world is undeniable.

The young man who chose Teresa for his Confirmation name hopes to emulate her in his own life. My friend John certainly lived Mother Teresa’ spirit of poverty. He never drove a new car or owned a tailored suit. Though he held an important position in the archdiocese, he never ceased to live a simple life. When John passed away, all who knew him agreed that he was a good soul, perhaps our own saint-in-the-making. That young man who sports Teresa’s name may be on his way to doing the same.

Dear God, I am most grateful for all of those who inspire me to do my best.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Unexpected Peace

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you.

Numbers 6:24-25

During Lent, my parish hosted a Reconciliation Service. This gathering gave those present the opportunity to acknowledge God’s mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. Such gatherings usually begin with prayer followed by a gospel reading and homily. We continue with a short reflection which allows us to consider the things for which we might wish to express our contrition. The liturgy closes with an invitation to private confession for those interested.

It was my task to plan and to read at this liturgy. Because life was extremely busy during Lent and getting people to church on a week night can sometimes be challenging, I wanted to make this gathering as meaningful and comforting as possible. So it was that I invested my best effort. A few hours before I was to appear to serve as lector, my sister called with a request for my company. I determined that she needed me more than those who would gather at church that evening. When my husband offered to take my place, I drove off to my sister’s.

When we returned home later that evening, my husband shared what had transpired and I did the same. In the end, all went well and we both accomplished precisely what we had hoped. The peace we felt was tangible.

Thank you, loving God, for gifting us with your mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. Most of all, thank you for empowering us to share these with one another.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved