A Gift of Peace

Salvation is nearer now than we first believed;
…the day is at hand.

From Romans 13:11

Some days ago, I shared that a young man I taught long ago had passed away. Though Robert was eight years old when I taught him, his fifty-one years seemed young to me as well. Because I also know Robert’s older sister whom I’d taught the year before him, I attended his funeral. I’d hoped to bring a bit of consolation to her and to all of Robert’s family.

I admit that from the moment I turned onto the street where their church is located, I felt as though I was headed home. I’d lived in this community when I was first married and I taught there for thirty years. When I entered the church, this homecoming took on a life of its own. Though I thought I knew only Robert’s sister, I encountered several familiar faces among those gathered there. After paying my respects, I settled into a pew to pray with them all.

As it happened, though I intended to be the bearer of consolation and encouragement, I was the recipient. In the kindness extended to me and in the pastor’s words to the family, I clearly heard…

“Have you forgotten that I am with you?
I know what’s bothering you.
You can’t do everything.
I’ve commissioned others to help. Let them!
Just do your best where you are. That’s all I ever ask.
I will take care of the rest.”

Though the pastor’s words were meant for Robert’s grieving family, he also spoke to me.

Loving God, thank you also for leading me to Robert’s funeral. Since I took so much from their special moment, please bless Robert and his family doubly today.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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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

Take The Time To Talk and To Listen

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night talking to God.

Luke 6:12

For several years, my husband and I taught aspiring Catholics. Though we covered a myriad of topics, my favorite was prayer. We introduced commonly known prayers first and then shared our own preferences. Mike and I agree that we do our best praying when we simply engage in conversation with God. Jesus spent his public life convincing us of God’s unconditional love, acceptance, mercy and concern for each of us. When we take these teachings to heart, we realize just how intimately God wishes to be connected with us. In my case, I share my deepest concerns only with those by whom I feel accepted and with whom I feel comfortable. It seems to me that God tops this list of my most precious friends.

After hopefully convincing the group that talking to God is as natural as talking to a good friend, we also reminded them to listen. When I share my deepest thoughts or worries with a friend, I fully expect a response. Sometimes, this will come in a knowing smile, a pat on the back or a similar story from his or her experience. Sometimes, we simply sit together, knowing that each of us understands the other. The same is true in our conversations with God. Though I’ve never heard a word spoken from God’s lips, I have received God’s response in the quiet of the moment, in an unexpected remark from someone or in a forgotten line from a favorite book. Sometimes, God speaks in the autumn breeze and sometimes God speaks deep within me. Whenever we take the time to talk with God, God finds a way to respond.

Dear God, let’s talk…

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Poor

For the Lord hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.

Psalm 69:34

Sometimes, when we hear or read about the poor in the scriptures or via the media, we assume that the term references those with dire material needs. Though this is often the case, God’s definition of “the poor” is all-inclusive. It seems to me that God attends to each one of us whether our needs are material or otherwise.

Sometimes, when we find ourselves doing well in the world’s eyes, we also find ourselves in need, deep within us where it matters most. Just as the materially poor climb a slippery slope when it comes to establishing a secure life for themselves and their loved ones, the materially rich sometimes invest so much energy holding on to what they have that they lose their grip on the things that matter most to them.

We all take turns being counted among God’s poor. This much-loved group includes you and me and all of our brothers and sisters whenever this life robs us of the things we need to continue on. Whether we are lacking money enough for a loaf of bread or love enough to care for our aging parent, God knows our suffering. Whether we are besought by the enemy before us or by the demons within us, God stands at our sides. In spite of our other needs, we will always have enough of God’s love to get by.

Loving God, thank you for recognizing our poverty in all of its forms. Open our hearts to your generous love, that we may share that love with one another.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All God’s Beloved

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.

Wisdom 3:1

While in college, I enrolled in a class entitled Death and Dying. It was in this context that I first encountered the work of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. She was a physician engaged in groundbreaking work regarding the stages of death. In the process, she stumbled upon patients’ accounts of “visits” from loved ones who’d passed away and the experiences of resuscitated patients who claimed to have “seen” doctors working on their bodies while they were “dead” and who had also visited “heaven” during the same time frame.

By that time, I’d lost many loved ones to serious illnesses. I dealt with these losses by relying on my faith. In my heart, I believed that each one had gone off to heaven to enjoy eternity. Though I never questioned my belief in the afterlife, I was intrigued by Kübler-Ross’s findings. How amazing it was that the line between faith and science had blurred a bit! I admit to having read every book I’ve encountered on these topics since. Today, medical doctors and scientists continue to add to this body of knowledge.On this All Souls Day, I’m pleased that the secular world is taking a peek at what occurs after this life.

You know, God created humankind out of absolute love. God gifted us with this world and one another. Each of us is invited to make the best of our journeys from this life to the next. Today, we celebrate all of the souls who did this, each in his or her own way. Though none was perfect, all of them did the best they could with the moments they were given. This is all God asks of any of us poor souls.

Creator God, thank you for the gift of this life and the life to come!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A God Day? Yes, Indeed!

You shall rejoice in every good thing
which the Lord your God has given you.

Deuteronomy 16:11

I know I’ve shared this before. I also know that I’d convinced myself that I’d eliminated this particular typo from my repertoire. Nonetheless, I repeated this error in every personal email I sent today. Duh! Let me explain… I normally close my emails by typing “Have a good day.” However, each time I reread a message today, I found that I’d actually typed, “Have a god day!” Though my typo did not begin with a capital letter, the meaning of my error didn’t escape me.

Some years ago, I caught myself making this particular error on almost every email I sent. I had wished others “God days” several times during a single week. The funniest part of this is that I didn’t catch my error for so long. It was only when I looked back at one week’s messages in my “Sent” box that I discovered the magnitude of my mistake.

After chiding myself over my carelessness, I realized that there was no error in my work after all. If I shared what I truly wished for those who are a part of my life, I would type “Have a God day!” intentionally. I wish everyone realized from morning til night that God loves them more than anything. I wish that this knowledge would ease their burdens and give them hope regardless of the trials and tribulations which befall them day in and day out. I wish that they understood that God’s loving hand wipes away our failings long before we have the sense to regret them. I wish that this life would become do-able for them simply because they know that wherever life’s path leads them, God is with them. The most unique gift God gives each of us in the opportunity awaiting us in each new day. Yes, indeed. I wish us all a God day every day!

Loving God, you make all of our day’s “God days” even when we fail to notice. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved