A Good Guy

“Joseph did as the angel of the Lord directed him.”
Matthew 1:24

Today is my father-in-law’s birthday. Like my own dad, he passed away far too early. The good news is that I knew him for ten years before he took his leave. Though our older son knew and loved his Grandpa, our younger son never met him. They would’ve liked one another! If his interactions with my elder son are any indication, this dear man wouldn’t have been able to contain his love for his five great-grandchildren either! How I wish I could have seen him holding each one of them!

Life wasn’t easy for my husband’s dad. Just after he married, he had to leave his wife behind to serve in the army. When he returned, the two had a tough time having children. When their first child was born, he lived only a few hours. Years later, my father-in-law told me that carried his son’s tiny casket to his grave for burial. Fortunately, my husband and his younger brother eventually came along.

My father-in-law was one of those good guys who worked hard at his regular job. He also took on part-time work to provide a few “extras” here and there. All the while, he cared for his aging parents who lived next door. This dear man actually had three jobs if you count the care-taking and home maintenance for which he was responsible. Still, he persisted in his roles as son and husband, dad and friend. Yes, he was a good man.

I cite the line above from Matthew’s gospel because it illustrate’s my father-in-law’s approach to things. Though I don’t think he actually saw an angel, I do believe he followed his heart in everything. This means that he followed God because God certainly resided within him.

Happy Birthday, Dear Father-in-law! Enjoy!

Loving God, thank you for this man and all of those who grace my life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Love Them Well

“Joseph did as the angel of the Lord directed him.”
Matthew 1:24

A recent family gathering with my siblings, all of our children and their own offspring conjured memories of my mom and my two dads. I wondered what the three of them think of this family of ours. How I wished I could see each of them hugging each of their grandchildren! How I hoped they could see my sons in action as dads!

Parenting wasn’t easy for either of my dads. My mom and dad had produced six children during their seventeen-year marriage. Together, they dealt with everything involved with our infancy, toddler and elementary school days. Together, they sent my older sister off to high school. Not long after, they lived their last year together knowing that my mom would be left on her own afterward. Some years later, my mom and step-dad fell in love. Bill joined our family with four of us in elementary school, one in high school and one in college. Because he had never had children of his own, I’m certain he had no idea of what he was getting into. Still, Bill and my mom worked together to make our “adjusted” family work.

I cited the line above from Matthew’s gospel because it seems to indicate the best plan of action when we’re faced with the daunting tasks before us, especially parenting. Joseph gave up everything when he agreed to provide a home for Jesus. Indeed, all parents give up life as they once knew it when they welcome their children. So it was that Joseph trusted God’s wisdom in placing Jesus in his care. All any of us can do is to trust God’s wisdom and to love those we have been given to love as only we can.

Loving God, help all of us to nurture the children in our care and all of our relationships, especially our relationship with you.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Prayer for Happiness

From the day we heard about you,
we do not cease praying for you…

From Colossians 1:9

I’m finalizing Father’s Day plans with our family. My husband relishes his roles as “Dad” and “Grandpa” and we’re doing our best to ensure him a worthy celebration. All of this has put me into nostalgia mode. I clearly recall the day my husband found out he would be a dad…

After a years-long struggle to have children, poor Mike feared this doctor’s appointment. Those which preceded it had brought much disappointment. Doctor Wool was fully aware of this which is the reason he couldn’t refrain from smiling in the midst of my exam. “By God, you’re pregnant!” he announced. While, I giggled uncontrollably, he sent the nurse to the waiting room to get Mike. There was no reason to tell Mike anything as he’d heard my giggle.

From that moment, we knew our baby. We had no idea of what he or she would look like or who this child would be. Still, we loved our precious offspring. On that day, I began to pray above all else that this child would be happy and that we would be worthy parents. When our baby arrived, he proved to be all we had hoped for and more. Still, I continued to pray for him.

The truth is that this is my ritual regarding our second son, their wives, our grandchildren and, of course, my husband. I do this for all whom I’ve been given to love. These days, I’ve added all or our world’s suffering to my list. After all, if people were happier the world would be far more peaceful. And, I’m certain God wishes happiness for us all.

Loving God, bless us all with happy hearts!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thank You, Dear Friend…

For those of you who aren’t members of my parish, please bear with me as I offer my gratitude to a dear friend who has served of well for the past sixteen years…

The Chicago Cubs’ recent World Series run certainly made sports history. Though the last few innings of Game 7 elicited heart palpitations, I endured through that third out at the bottom of the tenth. I cheered and wept and clapped and wept again after that tag at first base. As those lovable Northsiders jumped and hugged and waved, tears of joy streamed down my cheeks for the team, the fans, the city, baseball -for everything! Funny, while the Cubs were bathing in champagne, I bathed in the blessing of community. In spite of frightening foibles throughout those ten innings (and the preceding games!), I was united with every single person affiliated with the Cubs. Yes, I was a part of the Cubs Family and I enjoyed every minute of it. As I wiped away my tears, I thanked God for this taste of heaven. It gave me just what I needed to get back to life-as-usual with a bounce in my step.

Though he hasn’t done this with the Cubs’ flourish and fanfare, Father Bernie has often done the same for me and for our parish family for the past sixteen years. He frequently touched on something in his homilies which gave us reason to persist with a spirit of joy rather than drudgery. For some of us, these bits of wisdom have also come in conversations before and after Mass. In all cases, Father Bernie’s words have become more passionate over the years. Like the Cubs, he seems to appreciate the value of every opportunity to make his point. Perhaps this is the reason he has been so generous in making himself available to us whenever he’s here. This weekend, as we thank Father Bernie for the time we’ve spent together, let’s revisit the journey which led him to us…

Father Bernie was born “Hans Bauerly” in Germany eight decades ago. Life proved difficult for him and his family who were driven from their home by French authorities during the war. While he completed elementary school, Hans’ family discussed sending a grandchild to the United States where his grandmother and an aunt and uncle lived. While his father’s whereabouts in the war were unknown, Hans was selected for this journey. His aunt and uncle had no children and Hans would be a great help to them in their bakery. Obviously, his amazing work ethic was apparent even back then! When his father surprised the family with his return from the war, Hans had already left. Hans spoke only German when he arrived in the United States. When local authorities insisted that he attend school, he returned to eighth grade to begin his immersion into English. The following year, Hans enrolled at Joliet Catholic High School. He must have acquired English-speaking skills quickly because he graduated three years later. All the while, Hans worked in his aunt’s and uncle’s bakery. While the family expected him to continue full-time as a baker after high school, the Carmelites saw something special in this student. They encouraged Hans to explore the possibilities. Persistent soul that he is, Hans worked in the bakery for a full year after graduation to express his appreciation for his family’s support. He also took the Carmelites’ urging to heart. Afterward, he joined a group of his high school classmates in entering Mount Carmel, the Carmelite college in Niagara Falls. This began his official affiliation with the Carmelites. As Father Bernie says, the rest is history!

Father Bernie’s involvement at our parish began just after we moved from the Woodland School gym to our new church. At the time, he served on the faculty at Carmel High School and as a Provincial Administrator. Father Farrell and Father Bernie had been classmates in the seminary and Father Farrell felt his friend would bring something special to our parish family. Father Bernie accepted this invitation to assist with weekend Masses. The following year, when Father Bernie became Commissary Provincial for the Carmelites, his office was moved to Darien. In spite of the lengthy commute, Father Bernie has kept his promise to help all this time. It seems that Father Bernie has come to love our parish as we’ve come to love him –another blessing of community!

In my case, Father Bernie has been here when I’ve I cheered and wept and clapped and wept again, much as I did during the Cubs’ historic run. In every instance, Father Bernie has encouraged and inspired me to get back to life-as-usual with a bounce in my step. If the numerous people who wait after Mass to greet Father Bernie and who make his the longest line at our Penance Services are any indication, I know I’m not alone in this assessment. So it is that I write for our entire parish family when I express deep gratitude to you, Father Bernie, for sixteen wonderful years among us. Though we may have erred, missed a base and overthrown like a Cub or two, we’ve also become a family just like Cub Fandom. Life-as-usual will be different, but we will continue to persist with a bounce in our steps because of the time we’ve shared with you. We love you, Father Bernie! Thank you!!!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Birth and Re-Birth Day

Give thanks in all circumstances…
1 Thessalonians 5:18

I’m celebrating two special women today. This is my niece’s birthday. She is my brother’s first child and her arrival changed his life forever. My brother truly loved his wife. Yet, when his daughter was born, love took on a whole new dimension. Suddenly, this child’s happiness and well-being became his focus. Suddenly, nothing else was quite as important as this little girl. Though her parents smile upon her from above these days, I know they join me in thanking God for the gift that Sue is to us all. Happy Birthday, Sue!

My sister is also celebrating a birthday of sorts today. In her case, this is a “re-birth” day. Four years ago, my sister took her leave after raging a determined war with cancer. After doing her best to endure rigorous treatment and to remain hopeful in the process, the day came when my sister embraced another journey. When the medicine no longer helped, Cecele took over. After getting her house in order, she spent every minute with her children, her grandchildren and the rest of us. On the day she passed, I know that no one celebrated more than Cecele.

Though this event threatened to cast a shadow on my niece’s birthday, it did the precise opposite. Cecele had a special place in her heart for our niece Sue. I’ve often wondered if she did her best to share this special date with her. One day, I’ll know.

Loving God, bless Sue as she continues her journey here. Bless Cecele with your attention when she comes to you on our behalf. Bless the rest of us with grateful hearts as we celebrate every day we are given.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Remember

God has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Each year, our Independence Day observances conjure up recurring memories which will never escape me…

My earliest memories of July 4th include our family’s quest for the nearest fireworks display. This was particularly important July 4, 1959. My dad, who had been ill for the past several months, passed away early that morning. Later in the day, helpful relatives whisked us away for our annual family picnic. They no doubt wondered if fireworks would be appropriate on that particular night.

Though I don’t recall the events of that evening, I do recall finding great solace in the fireworks displays I have observed every year since. The wondrous light that bursts out of black nothingness in the sky above suggests resurrection to me. My dad’s passing into eternal life must have been a million times more glorious. While the wondrous flashes above me consistently dissolve into smoke and ash, my dad’s transformation continues with each moment of his eternity.

Loving God, thank you for the freedom we celebrate in this country today and for the freedom we will all experience one day in your embrace. You could not have chosen a better day to welcome my dad home!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved