Share God

When they fulfilled the prescriptions
of the law, they returned to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom,
and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:39-40

When our sons were born, we planned for their baptisms shortly afterward. No discussion was necessary. In our minds, it was only natural to share our faith with them. This endeavor went far beyond the day the priests poured water over our their heads. Their dad and I weren’t simply sharing membership in the church. We were sharing our relationships with God.

I discovered early on that my parents did a good job of this. Though times were often tough, they never missed the silver lining in their circumstances. They had no doubt that God watched over them. Even when my young dad faced his own passing, he referenced this God who would see to everything for us and for him. My mom shared this conviction which saw her through the tough years which lay ahead. As for me, knowing that God understands has sustained me through many trials and tribulations throughout my life.

When Mary and Joseph first took Jesus to the temple, they planted the seeds of faith in him. It was up to him to make the most of this gift. When we introduce our children to God, our efforts are no less important. However we relate to our Maker, let’s share this with our kids.

Dear God, thank you for reaching out to us in such a variety of ways. Help us to share the treasure of knowing you with those you place in our care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Never Fear…

“As for you, every hair of your head has been counted;
so do not be afraid of anything.”

Matthew 10:30

A friend from church passed away just before Christmas. George* is an octogenarian who’d been battling cancer for some time. Though he’d done remarkably well, treatment had taken its toll and his body was simply too tired to deal with any more. The last time I saw him, George told me he was feeling quite well and doing great. Still, when we parted, he gave me an unexpected hug which lasted longer than anticipated. I couldn’t help thinking at the time that he may not have been completely honest with me. Knowing George as I did, he likely didn’t want either of us to have to say good-bye. I admit that this gesture was generous to us both. I couldn’t have offered my farewell to him without a stream of tears.

Though my friend’s protective spirit saved me from my tears that day, I admit that they flowed freely when I received the news of his passing. Our conversations were always so lively and informative that I couldn’t imagine George any other way. This attitude remained throughout everything he’d endured. More importantly, his faith remained as well. George’s main concern seems to have been for those he would leave behind. As for George, he knew he was going home, the home we’ll all occupy one day.

Loving God, thank you for sharing George with me. Bless us all with a measure of his unshakable faith.

*I call my friend “George” because I erroneously referred to him with this misnomer when we first met.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Surprising Plans

That is my joy, and it is complete.
He must increase, while I must decrease.

John 3:29-30

A recent conversation with a friend who was once in the convent elicited memories of my own aspirations in that regard. Though my friend found that a different calling better suited her, she continues to treasure the years she spent with her “sisters”. From the time I realized who the nuns and sisters were, I wanted to join them as well. When discussing this with my mom, I often shared potential “sister names” which I might have liked. My mom always responded by expressing the same sentiment. She would have been thrilled if one of her five daughters did just that.

As it happened, I spent a lot of time with these religious women over the years which included an entire summer during college. Still, I never did become one of them. Oddly, it was during that very summer that my “sister friends” encouraged me to accept a date with the young man who eventually became my husband. Who would have known?

In spite of my marital state, my desire to emulate the good sisters’ work among us has remained with me. Fortunately, my husband not only supports my ministry, but also joins me in it. Like my friend and the other nuns whom I encountered along the way, we have found amazing and unexpected ways to make God’s work our own.

Dear God, you never cease to surprise us with the direction of your call. During this new year, help each of us to respond generously to your heartfelt invitation to join in your loving work.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

To Serve With Love

Stephen was a man filled with grace and power,
who worked great wonders and signs among the people.

Acts of the Apostles 6:8

In the event that you were too busy to go online yesterday, CHRISTMAS BLESSINGS TO YOU! I hope that your Christmas preparations came to fruition with great love! Today, there’s nothing more to do than to continue to enjoy yesterday’s successes and to forget the rest. As I consider my own list of positives, I give thanks. I’ve been generously blessed. At the same time, I’m opting to forget the things which weren’t to my liking and are out of my control. I’ll work on my own contribution to those negatives in the new year!

With that, I turn my thoughts to today, December 26, The Feast of Stephen. Stephen is among the first chosen to serve as deacon to assist the apostles in carrying out Jesus’ work. While the apostles tended to preaching, Stephen and those like him tended to serving the corporal needs of the people. They saw to it that widows and orphans were fed and that those who needed care received it. Today, I hope to continue my Christmas observance by engaging in good deeds as well. The truth is that we’re all called to be good and just souls who live lives of service just as Stephen did.

On this feast of the first deacon, I offer my thanks to the many deacons among us for all they do for us and for those in need!

Dear God, thank you for the gifts of Christmas 2017, the Gift of the First Christmas and the gift of those who live the Christmas Spirit throughout the year.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Room In The Inn

“For my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Isaiah 56:7

With just a few days left until Christmas, my husband confirmed the church decorating plan with all concerned. When he was assured all was well, we laughed over our annual futile attempts to provide seating for everyone who will come to worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Though such discussions might include comments about the “Christmas Birds” and “Easter Birds” whose only appearances for worship occur on these two holy days, this wasn’t the case. Mike and I take seriously the quote from Isaiah which I cite above. So it is that we will come up with more ingenious ways to squeeze in as many chairs as possible. We will make all of God’s children welcome as best we can. If we do a good enough job, perhaps some of our semi-annual visitors will feel welcome to join us more often!

In the mean time, all concerned work extremely hard to prepare our beautifully adorned church, amazing music and engaging liturgy. Everyone from our youngest parish children to our devoted seniors is involved. Yes, we’re making our church welcoming to everyone. After all, it’s God’s house and it’s Christmas!

Loving God, you open your house to all who come to your door. Help us to echo your welcome in all that we say and do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Come To Me…

Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome,
and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

As I drove along the dark wintry road for a gathering at my parish, I longed for the days when I walked to church…

The parish church of my childhood stood just a block down and around the corner from our two-flat on Polk Street. My parents married there. My siblings and I were baptized there. We celebrated First Communions, Confirmations and funerals there. This place was almost an extension of our home. Our close proximity gave us ample opportunity to interact with the parish staff. These included five priests at any given time, the three women who worked as cooks, housekeepers and receptionists, the sisters who staffed our parish school and the janitors. Many of them passed our house on the way to their cars or to the bus stop to and from work. The sisters didn’t drive by, but they often walked to local stores or simply to enjoy the weather.

When life was difficult, I walked or ran down to church to find consolation. I habitually looked up at the ceiling to read the inscription overhead: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” Every time, I found rest from one childhood burden or another. Years later, though those words were absent from the other churches I frequented, I discovered that their promise was fulfilled just the same. The truth is that wherever I am, I am in God’s company. I need only to open my heart to find God’s comfort at hand.

Loving God, help me to echo your promise of hope on my way through Advent and always.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved