Free To Do Good

Brothers and sisters,
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another,
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

My last position in education was at the county level. This position allowed me access to many people and opportunities to serve which I might otherwise have never encountered. I very much appreciated working with others at this level to benefit our area children.

One new friend had been elected to a state level office. This person understood the possibilities that came with this position and was anxious to add good will and good sense to the mix. Over time, frustration mounted. Every attempt to transform a good idea into practice required support of not-particularly-good ideas in return. In the end, my friend found that too many bad ideas became reality as a result of the “deals” which had to be made to gather support. In the end, my friend moved on to a place where there were no strings attached to anyone’s good deeds.

We all occasionally find ourselves holding things over the heads of others to get our way. In the end, I never feel very good about this arrangement. I’d much prefer that the other person simply did the right thing because it was right. I’m quite certain that God prefers it when I do the same.

Dear God, please give all of your children the wisdom to discern what is right and to act accordingly. Help us not to hinder our own goodness or the goodness of others by attaching strings to good deeds.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

No Strings Attached, Honest!

Brothers and sisters,
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another,
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

I retired from my career in education with a county level job. This position allowed me access to people and opportunities I might otherwise have never encountered. I very much appreciated working with others at this level to benefit our area children.

One new friend had been elected to a position at the state level. This person understood the possibilities that came with this position and was anxious to add good will and good sense to the mix. Over time, frustration mounted. Her every attempt to transform a good idea into practice required her support of not-particularly-good ideas in return. In the end, my friend found that too many bad ideas became reality as a result of the “deals” which had to be made to gather support. In the end, my friend resigned her elected position and moved on to a place where there were no strings attached to anyone’s good deeds.

We all occasionally find ourselves holding things over the heads of others to get our way. In the end, I never feel very good about this arrangement. I would much prefer that the other person simply did the right thing because it was right. I’m quite certain that God prefers it when I do the same.

Dear God, you’ve given us the wisdom to discern what is right and to act accordingly. Help us not to hinder our own goodness or the goodness of others by attaching strings to our good deeds.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Time To Make It Right

This is The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. When we’re not immersed in the major seasons surrounding Christmas and Easter, we observe Ordinary Time. “Ordinary” in this context refers to the numbering of these weeks in “ordinal” fashion one by one. Though this is the case, I can’t help focusing on the more common meaning of “ordinary” during these quiet times of year. When we’re not celebrating special feasts, it seems natural to turn our attention to the more mundane aspects of our daily lives. What is remarkable in all of this is the selection of scripture passages featured during this time. Each one encourages us to embrace the ordinary aspects of our lives and to make the most of them. Even when we begin by putting the wrong foot forward, God insists that we always have the opportunity to change direction and to make things right. I like God’s thinking in this regard!

Because this is October 1, I’m going to take us on a bit of a detour from Ordinary Time. October 1 is the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and I’m compelled to acknowledge this favorite Carmelite Saint. Thérèse made an art of transforming the ordinary moments of her life into opportunities to do small things which proved to be truly great in God’s eyes. I was drawn to her in fifth grade when I first read her autobiography. Though I didn’t understand much of what I read at the time, I did realize that Thérèse’s childhood was no more extraordinary than my own. Still, throughout her short life, she illustrated the point of our Ordinary Time scriptures and our ordinary time efforts quite eloquently. Today’s gospel in no exception.

Matthew (21:28-32) shares Jesus’ parable about a vineyard owner who asked his sons to work his fields one morning. The first refused, but had a change of heart and worked as his father asked. The second son immediately agreed to assist his father, but then failed to lift a finger that day. When Jesus questioned his audience as to which son did his father’s will, those present agreed that it was the first son who did so. This son reconsidered his choice and then made things right. Thérèse did the same again and again throughout her life. One memorable example occurred when she was thirteen years old. Thérèse is her parents’ youngest child. Because she was quite frail, a nurse cared for Thérèse her first eighteen months of life. Not long afterward, Thérèse’s mother observed that, though she and the entire family loved her dearly, Thérèse was an amazingly stubborn child. When her mother died a few year’s later, Thérèse’s father and older sisters parented her. The result was an extremely spoiled child who’d learned to expect her family’s ongoing doting. On Thérèse’s fourteenth Christmas Eve, while her family prepared to share gifts, Thérèse went up to her room. Not realizing his youngest daughter would hear him, Thérèse’s father remarked that he was anxious to be through with that evening. He had tired of Thérèse’s selfishness and would have preferred not to witness it once again. When Thérèse heard her father, she felt deep regret. She loved her father and was devastated to learn that she had hurt him so. That evening, Thérèse resolved to put her dear father and her sisters ahead of herself in everything. From that day forward, she put her stubbornness to good use and adhered to her resolve. This thirteen-year-old’s choice transformed Thérèse’s family’s life and her own forever.

Year’s later, when Thérèse was a Carmelite Nun, she fell victim to another nun’s unintentionally annoying behavior. While doing laundry, the nun next to Thérèse repeatedly splashed her with dirty water. Thérèse was quite annoyed by this. Still, before she opened her mouth to complain, she thought better of it. Rather than giving in to her anger and hurting the other nun’s feelings, Thérèse decided to patiently welcome those splashes. Every time she was doused and said nothing, she developed a kinder and more patient heart. Thérèse did the same when another Carmelite who sat nearby during prayer ground her teeth continuously. Once again, Thérèse’s impatience threatened to get the best of her. After reconsidering, Thérèse incorporated that grinding sound into her prayer time and showered the offending nun with kindness at every opportunity. Please note that this is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church, who engaged in these seemingly trivial battles with herself. The lesson here is that Thérèse did as Jesus’ parable suggested. She reconsidered and revised her behavior in order to make things right. She is titled “Doctor of the Church” because her seemingly simple efforts provide important lessons for us all.

Though we sometimes face far more difficult challenges, it seems to me that the ordinary times of our lives are filled with opportunities to make small things right. The more we practice, the more fit we’ll be when faced with making things right on a grander scale. God’s faith in our ability to do better is unshakable. Regardless of the imperfect choices we sometimes make, God’s hope remains in what we will choose to do next.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Invest In Our Future

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man,
says the Lord, but rather in his conversion…

Ezekiel 33:11

A recent family gathering gave me reason to smile. Most of my nieces and nephews joined the party that day. It’s been a pleasure to watch them evolve into adulthood. In spite of some of their trying circumstances while growing up, they are all contributing members of society these days.

Today, many young people, including little children, have much to worry about. Distractions of every sort stunt their evolution into adulthood in numerous many ways. It’s no wonder that some kids don’t graduate from high school. Just getting there safely each day is more than they can manage. Some of the kids who do make it into the school building are reluctant to enter classrooms where they deal with failure on a daily basis. In my experience in education, the children involved were rarely at fault. The adults who were entrusted with their care failed them. This is the reason I often found myself at odds with those “in charge”. I couldn’t deal with allowing any of our students not to live up to their potentials.

I know that School Year 2016-2017 is over and that next year is almost two months away. Still, I worry. The smile I sported in celebration of my nieces and nephews has morphed into a frown. In my home state, legislators wasted precious time arguing about budget concerns. Now that this has been worked out, I hope that our children and many special-needs adults will receive the education and services they have a right to. Hopefully, all concerned will remember that an entire generation of future contributing members of society is in our care and deserving of our best.

Loving God, inspire those “in charge” with your foresight and your undiscriminating love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Speak Up And Step Up

So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him
because his hour had not yet come.

John 7:30

Since childhood, I’ve been surrounded by people who realize that sometimes we take chances in order to do the right thing…

When my husband and I married, our first parish was led by a priest I’d known since I was a little girl. Father O’Connell was like a dad to me. He was the first person I told when my own dad passed away. Father was also a bit of a rebel. Though he respected the letter of the law, he also had great compassion for those in need. He locked horns with the housekeepers of the rectory because he had “cluttered up” the basement with clothing which he’d collected for the poor. Not long after, he locked horns with a local mayor because he’d hired striking city workers to do odd jobs around the church so they could put food on their tables. Though he was threatened a few times, nothing ever came of the these things. In each instance, someone came to bat for him, perhaps out of fear that he was a little too close to God to mess with.

Over the years, when I protested the war and my employer’s unfair treatment of migrant workers, I worried just a bit about the job I needed to pay college tuition. Still, I felt certain that God would take care of everything. Later, when I had to stare down my principal and then face the superintendent, I worried a bit more as my family depended upon both my husband’s and my salaries. Still, I persisted. My crusades continue even today because God indeed takes care!

Dear God, give us the courage to speak up and to step up when it is up to us to do the right thing.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

No Strings!

Brothers and sisters,
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another,
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

I retired from my career in education with a county level job. This position allowed me access to people and opportunities I might otherwise have never encountered. I very much appreciated working with others at this level to benefit our area children.

One new friend had been elected to a position at the state level. This person understood the possibilities that came with this position and was anxious to add good will and good sense to the mix. Over time, frustration mounted. Her every attempt to transform a good idea into practice required her support of not-particularly-good ideas in return. In the end, my friend found that too many bad ideas became reality as a result of the “deals” which had to be made to gather support. In the end, my friend moved on to a place where there were no strings attached to anyone’s good deeds.

We all occasionally find ourselves holding things over the heads of others to get our way. In the end, I never feel very good about this arrangement. I would much prefer that the other person simply did the right thing because it was right. I am quite certain that God prefers it when I do the same.

Dear God, please give all of your children the wisdom to discern what is right and to act accordingly. Help us not to hinder our own goodness or the goodness of others by attaching strings to good deeds.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved