Saints One and All!

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind…
You Shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

From Matthew 22:34-40

All Saints Day brings me hope this year. I’ve read accounts by two favorites which shine a bright light on the realities of trying to be good. Not long ago, I referenced St. Therese of Lisieux who managed to make an art of turning small aggravations into opportunities to love. Life wasn’t always a picnic for Therese, her loved ones and her fellow nuns. Still, she made the very best of her efforts to be good during the twenty-four years she was given.

Anther woman with a similar name once said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love…” Mother Teresa of Calcutta left her family’s wealth behind to become a sister. While in training, she saw the poorest of the poor just beyond the convent’s windows. She begged her superiors to allow her to work with God’s poor. Eventually, the little nun who later became Mother Teresa began her own congregation of sisters whose only work is to serve the poor. After Mother Teresa’s death, her writings were released. I was surprised to learn that this obviously holy woman lived much of her adult life with doubt regarding God’s love for her. Still, she went about the business of caring for those she was given to love.

It seems to me that, in spite of our smallness, we can accomplish much good as well. You and I will likely never minister to our fellow sisters as Therese did or to the poor in the streets of Calcutta as Mother Teresa did. Still, we can interact with those we meet along the way with love.

Dear God, on this All Saints Day, remind us that our small efforts to be good are enough to earn our sainthood.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

All Saints

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind…
You Shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

From Matthew 22:34-40

An uncommon ray November of sunshine settled on the wing of a pewter angel which hangs in the midst of our family pictures. With arms outstretched, she watches over my loved ones. As I admired her, she beckoned me a bit closer. When I complied, I remembered that this angel is my favorite because the string of words carved into her sash quote Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Her tiny sash reads, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love…”

With that bit of truth in mind, I remembered that this is All Saints Day and that the saints know well the difference a few days make. Even a single moment can make all of the difference in the world. A few moments here and a few moments there are all it takes to mark the time between our births and passing. All the while, the significance of each day, hour and moment depends upon what we choose to do and what we choose not to do with them. This significance is enhanced, just as Mother Teresa tells us, not by the greatness or smallness of our deeds, but by the love with which we perform them.

In all that he said and did, Jesus acknowledged that, in spite of our smallness, we can accomplish much as well. Though you and I will likely never minister to the poor in the streets of Galilee as Jesus did nor in the streets of Calcutta as Mother Teresa did, we can serve those we meet along the way with love. Mother Teresa’s entire life acknowledged what Jesus taught us so long ago. There is joy to be found in love-filled moments and Jesus wants nothing more than for us to know the same.

Dear God, thank you for the lessons in love which Jesus taught through his words and actions. Thank you for Mother Teresa and those like her who help us to see that every moment offers us an opportunity to love.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Small Extraordinary Acts

Our granddaughters could not contain their excitement when they called. One proclaimed, “Grandma! I made four goals in my soccer game. Four goals, Grandma!” Daddy offered the details and then added that his older daughter had scored two goals in her game. After I countered with appropriate excitement, Daddy reported his youngest had also played soccer that morning. When asked if she scored a goal, the little one ignored the query and responded, “I had fun!” As I hung up the phone, I wondered how my son and his wife managed three soccer games on a single Saturday morning. I will find out a few Saturdays from now when Grandpa and I watch the girls. How they do so with smiles, I hope I will discover as well. As I write, it occurs to me that we did the same for our sons way back when…

My husband and I spent sixteen consecutive years on the periphery of the baseball fields adjacent to our local American Legion Hall. Our sons enjoy sports of every sort. Their love affairs with things athletic began early on and came to fruition at age seven when each of them began their baseball careers with T-ball. At the time, neither their dad nor I was particularly enthralled with sports. No, my husband has not always been a “cool” sports fan. However, we wanted the boys to enjoy the outdoors, team play and everything else wholesome which little kids did at the time. So, driven by the boys’ affection for the Cubs and our affection for the boys, off to T-ball we went.

These memories are but a few of the treasures that grace us these days. Our sons had the good sense to fall in love with our amazing daughters-in-law. Our soccer-playing granddaughters give us far more than their athletic ability to be grateful for. Our Wedding Anniversary celebration reminded us of our many good years together and the precious family and friends with whom we have shared them. Our trip to Alaska provided inspiring encounters with new friends who shared their stories with us and with numerous natural wonders which we had only previously read about. Of course, all of this brings to mind our own parents and the other family members and loved ones who touched us deeply before moving on to eternal life. These amazing people made many choices on our behalf which found their basis in love. We hope that we have done the same at one time or another for each one. Sometimes, we and our loved ones made choices in an effort to act in a loving manner, even when we knew in our hearts that the love simply was not there. At those times, I am certain that God filled in the blanks because things usually ended well.

In Luke’s gospel (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus offers a parable about Dives and Lazarus which illustrates the devastation that occurs when even the smallest opportunities to love are ignored. Dives, a rich man, indulges himself without restraint. Lazarus is a beggar who has fallen upon very hard times. Lazarus lies at Dives’ door, weak from hunger and ill, his body covered with sores. Only the dogs wandering the street attend to Lazarus by licking his wounds when they pass by. Dives overlooks Lazarus and is completely oblivious to Lazarus’ eventual death.

Later, when Dives dies, he finds himself tormented in the netherworld. Looking up, Dives notices Lazarus as he rests in the arms of Abraham. Finally, Dives acknowledges Lazarus because Lazarus may be able to help him. Dives begs Abraham to allow Lazarus to bring him a few drops of water to sooth his parched tongue. Indeed, Dives’ request is minimal, as minimal as the effort needed to provide Lazarus with the few scraps of food and clean bandages which would have saved his life. In the end, Abraham tells Dives that his failure to do the minimum has made all of the difference in the netherworld for both men. There, Dives became the needy one and Lazarus rested in splendor.

You know, most of what we do for one another, our families and those who cross our paths isn’t particularly extraordinary. What is extraordinary is the transformation our meager efforts bring about in one another’s lives. God asks only that we take advantage of the lifetime of opportunities we are given.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved