Still Celebrating Easter?

“My God, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me…”

From John 17:24

Last Wednesday was the first warm and sunny day we’d had in a while. Early on, my husband headed to the garage to begin his planting. Mike worked on his pots and planters while I trimmed a few boxwood bushes which had done serious battle with the frost. I swept the patio and arranged the furniture there while Mike ran to the garden shop for a few more plants. After lunch, my favorite gardener returned to his flowers and I reluctantly headed upstairs to begin this writing.

Since Memorial Day was only five days away, I had a difficult time returning my thoughts to Easter. After all, we’d sung our alleluias and enjoyed that wonderful lamb dinner almost five weeks earlier. Even those pesky remnants of Easter grass (Which continue to linger!) didn’t help much. It was the sunshine pouring through the study window which finally drew my thoughts to Easter’s joy. “How can I have lost sight of that?” I asked myself aloud…

At church, we actually celebrate Easter for eight weeks. On paper, the Easter Season closes on Pentecost Sunday. Still, the warm rays which caused the window and study floor to glow said otherwise. Regardless of the calendar’s date, the sun persisted in doing its job. Even through clouds and the worst of storms, the sun’s warmth makes its way to us. The sun is always there. It occurred to me that the same is true regarding Easter Joy. It’s always there, too.

Those who walked with Jesus celebrated Easter for what remained of their earthly lives. Their faith in the things to come inspired them to share what they knew with everyone they met along the way. The sun lingering overhead reminded me that you and I are invited to do the same.

Generous God, thank you for the gentle nudges which remind us to celebrate Easter Joy always.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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It’s Halloween!

…From every nation, race, people, and tongue.
they stood before God…

From Revelation 7:9

My Catholic roots compel me to celebrate Halloween by attending to the trick-or-treaters at my door and to those who have gone to the hereafter before us. Every Halloween in elementary school, we focused on the point of our celebration. We dressed for our class Halloween Party as one of the saints responsible for our annual inordinate intake of sweets. After complying with the good sister’s wishes in school and trick-or-treating afterward, we attended Mass in honor of All Saints on November 1.

I look upon my childhood fervor with a smile. I’m grateful for numerous Halloween memories and for the All Saints Day celebrations which followed. After all, this was the day that we celebrated everyone who had entered into eternal life, not just the saints whom we knew by name. This was the day on which I celebrated my uncle, two grandfathers and my own dad who had passed away. Even today, I acknowledge all of my loved ones in heaven.

As I dole out candy to this year’s trick-or-treaters, I’ll also give thanks for the gift of eternal life to our generous God who ensures that we’ll all enjoy it one day.

Loving God, thank you for welcoming us all to join you one day. In the mean time, take special care of our trick-or-treaters. Keep them safe and give them joy.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hope-full Halloween!

Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.

Matthew 5:12

When I was in elementary school, the good sisters made it clear that there would be no Halloween without All Saints Day. Sister taught us that Halloween evolved from “The Eve of All Hallows” which is the day before the saints’ holy day. In centuries past, adults in some European countries paraded in costumes on the Eve of All Hallows. They depicted various stages of our lives and our positions in the human hierarchy. This was all to remind us that no one is exempt from death. Today, children dress up as princesses and super-heroes, witches and ghosts with the hope of gathering as much candy as possible. I’m quite certain that none of them will give a thought to their mortality today. Though the children who come to our doors aren’t thinking much about life after this life, they do come with their hope intact. Trick-or-treaters hope more than anything that we’ll drop their favorite treats into their bags.

As for me, I plan to embrace a bit of hope. Between doorbell rings, I’ll consider the hopeful lives of my loved ones who have passed away. I’ll pray to them and request their help in keeping hope alive in my own life. I’ll allow my trick-or-treaters to teach me to look beyond the masks we sometimes wear to the gifts buried deep within those around me. Each one will remind me to hope for the best for and within others. I’ll also look beneath the surface of the tricky situations which trouble me today with absolute hope in God’s ability to turn these troubles into treats of opportunity.

Yes, this Halloween and every day give us reason to hope!

Loving God, thank you for getting us through life’s tricky times by filling us up with the treats of your love and companionship.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Easter Again

“Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me…”

From John 17:24

Our Easter baskets, chocolate bunnies and colored eggs are long forgotten. We celebrated Easter the last Sunday of March and my thoughts have since turned to flowers for our yard and summertime with our grandchildren. This changed two weeks ago when I ran into a friend who is an Orthodox Christian. This year, she celebrated Easter on May 1. I ran into her in the midst of Holy Week shopping for her long-anticipated Easter meal. “Easter is so late this year!” she observed. I offered her my best wishes for a wonderful holy day both at church and with her family and then watched as she continued on her busy way.

We Christians celebrate the Easter Season for eight weeks. Those of us who observe the Gregorian Calendar will end those eight weeks with tomorrow’s Feast of Pentecost. I can’t help asking myself, “Where has the time gone?” I was extremely busy for most of Lent and all of Holy Week. Though most of my activities were church-oriented, I somehow lost the focus of my efforts once Easter had come and gone. My “Easter Spirit” seems to have disappeared along with that lengthy to-do list.

It occurs to me that those who walked with Jesus two millenniums ago kept their Easter Spirit for what remained of their lives on this earth. It was their faith in the things to come which gave them the courage and the drive to share what they knew with everyone they met along the way. My Orthodox friend will officially celebrate Easter for another six weeks. Her kind and faith-filled demeanor tell me that she will celebrate far longer, just as Jesus’ first friends did. Thanks to her, I am reminded that I am invited to do the same.

Generous God, thank you for the gentle nudges which remind me to celebrate your gifts every day in all that I do.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Happy Halloween!

After this, I had a vision of a great multitude
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb…

Revelation 7:9

My Catholic roots compel me to celebrate Halloween by attending to the trick-or-treaters at my door and to those who have gone before us. Every Halloween in elementary school, Sister kept us focused on the point of our celebration. She invited us to dress for our class Halloween Party as one of the saints responsible for our annual inordinate intake of sweets. After complying with Sister’s wishes in school and trick-or-treating afterward, we attended Mass in honor of All Saints on November 1.

I look back upon my childhood fervor with a smile. I am grateful for numerous Halloween memories and for the All Saints Day celebration that followed. After all, this was the day that we celebrated everyone who had arrived in heaven, not just those saints whom we knew by name. This was the day on which I celebrated my uncle, two grandfathers and my own dad who had passed away. This was the day on which I acknowledged that these loved ones and so many others were indeed in heaven.

As I dole out candy to this year’s trick-or-treaters, I will give thanks for the gift of eternal life to our generous God who ensures that we all have every chance in the world to enjoy it.

Loving God, thank you for affording each of us the opportunity to join you as a saint one day. In the mean time, take special care of our trick-or-treaters. Keep them safe and give them joy.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Celebrate St. Patrick

The Lord of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come! Behold the deeds of the Lord,
the astounding things God has wrought on earth.

Psalm 46:8-9

When I taught, I enjoyed celebrating special days with my students. Our activities included lessons regarding these observances of our holidays and heroes. We decorated our classroom and completed related projects. Occasionally, we engaged in impromptu discussions. One year, this occurred on St. Patrick’s Day. A colleague sported a green hat, shamrock pin and a temporary name tag which misspelled her name with an “O” before it. Had she provided the same for me, it would have read “Mrs. O’Penich.” Some of my students were intrigued by this display and asked me to explain. I responded with St. Patrick’s story.

As a teenager, Patrick was captured, taken from his home in Scotland and imprisoned in Ireland. While there, Patrick spent much of his time in prayer. This helped him to feel close to God. When Patrick escaped and returned home years later, he became a priest. Eventually, Patrick felt that God wanted him to go back to Ireland to teach the people. I explained that our Irish friends celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because the Irish people were and continue to be grateful to Patrick for sharing his faith with them. Good teacher that I was, we continued this discussion by listing other important people and the reasons we honor them. In the end, all concerned hoped to accomplish something worth remembering as well.

Trusting God, you call each of us to do important work in your name. Help us to respond as Patrick and so many others have. Fill us with the dedication and the courage we need to answer your call.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved