My Childhood Friend Thérèse

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice,
here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right
and doing it all for love.”

From Thérèse of Lisieux

It is October 1, the feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. She’s been a favorite of mine since childhood. Our parish sisters and priests were thorough religion teachers. In fifth grade, Sister decided to add some reality to her lessons by introducing us to the saints. She didn’t select those who seemed to be on the right track from birth. Rather, she focused upon people like Thérèse who began their lives imperfectly and then went on to turn things around.

I was drawn to Thérèse because she was one of several children born to French parents. So am I. Thérèse worried about her older sisters and their interactions with boys. She wanted her sisters to remain chaste and pure. Though I had a minimal understanding of what this meant, I wanted the same for my older sister. Thérèse also hoped to join the convent from very early on. So did I. Thérèse was quite spoiled as the youngest child whose mother died when she was only four years of age. Her family doted over her so much so that she became quite spoiled. Though I didn’t have the luxury of being spoiled, I did have very specific ideas regarding this life and I fully expected things to go as I intended.

One Christmas Eve when she was only fourteen, Thérèse overheard her family talking about how difficult she was. That moment, her eyes were opened to her selfishness. She immediately decided to live for others with love rather than expecting those around her to live solely for her. I was thoroughly amazed that a girl only a few years older than I could change her life in an instant. Thérèse inspired me never to stop believing that we can all do the same when we choose to.

Dear God, thank you for Thérèse and the many other wonderful souls who show us how to live as best we can in spite of our very human circumstances and our very human selves.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Loved, No Matter What!

My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, whom you will always love.

Inspired by Psalm 51:17

“You are much harder on yourself than anyone else would ever be!” my dad observed.

I knew he was right. I’ve been convinced of God’s love for me since I was a little girl. Still, when I’m in error and have done something which I deem unforgivable, though the rest of the world views this otherwise, I’m inconsolable. As a child, I hid in my room or in our backyard. As I grew older, I hid in busyness, good deeds and anything else which would distract me from my guilt. Yes, since childhood, it’s been almost impossible for me to forgive myself for being human.

The good news is that God has intervened in my foolishness. God has used the wisdom of the psalmist cited above, my forgiving parents, a perceptive priest, a kind teacher (Remember Sister Imelda whom I wrote about yesterday?), an understanding sibling, my aunts, my friends, my spouse, my children and grandchildren again and again to reach me. Each time, these helpful souls have reminded me in a variety of ways that I’m NOT expected to be perfect, but only to do my best as best I can. Each time, I sigh with relief, gratitude and the resolve to remember that I am loved and forgiven -ALWAYS!

Patient God, thank you for your mercy and for the wonderful people who offer numerous reminders of the mercy which you send my way today and always.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Specially Made

“You have made them little less than the angels,
and crowned them with glory and honor.”

Psalm 8:6

I come from a very large family. My dad is one of twelve children and my mom is one of eight. My earliest memories include large gatherings filled with our relatives on a multitude of occasions. I also grew up down the block from our church. Numerous people passed our house on their way to Mass each week. I worked at a grocery store throughout high school and college where the entire neighborhood shopped. Afterward, I married and began my teaching career. Throughout all of this, amazing people of every sort have come into my life.

I’m especially grateful for the moments I’ve shared with those around me. During these encounters, I’ve received glimpses of many remarkable souls. Several of them have no idea of how richly they contribute to this world of ours. As a result, I take great pleasure in pointing out their unique gifts at every opportunity.

You know, each of us has been made “little less than angels”. As God’s children, each of us is “crowned with glory and honor”. God sends us out to enrich those around us and this world with the unique gift of our selves. Let’s take a long look in the mirror today. What is it that you and I have to offer those around us? What can only you and only I do to make this world a better place?

Thank you, Dear God, for loving us so much that you trust us to bring our own variety goodness into this world!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Are Family!

How great is the goodness, O Lord,
which you have in store…

From Psalm 31:20

A month or so ago, my husband and I attended Mass at church we’d never visited before. Though the building was much different from our own parish church, we felt most welcomed and very much at home. As we joined in to pray, we felt as though we’d been a part of this community forever…

I’m always inspired by our gatherings to pray together. Whether for a wedding, a funeral or weekend worship, I find cohesiveness in our common intent and in our shared meal. Regardless of what seems to separate us outside– our politics, our tendencies to the left or to the right, our likes and dislikes, our opinions regarding just about everything– when we gather at God’s table, we’re God’s children in the truest sense. Indeed, we are one.

Sometimes, I turn from my prayer or the hymn at hand to take in those around me. I never cease to be amazed by the beauty in the variety of faces who’ve gathered to pray together. Not one of us is exactly like another. Even identical twins cannot hide their uniqueness. Still, we are welcome. All of us are welcome to God’s house. The truth is, we are welcome, every one of us, into this world and into this life. Why? We’re God’s family -all of us!

Loving God, be with us as we open our arms and our hearts to each other. Help us to see those around us as family -your family- wherever we meet..

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Better Than The Movies!

I believe I shall see the good things of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Psalm 27:13

My to-do list had become an annoying burden. I wondered aloud how I’d gotten myself into all of the work it represented. Before answering, I decided I needed to rest The weather precluded a walk and I couldn’t concentrate enough to read so I grabbed the TV remote. When nothing piqued my interest, I settled for an old movie which I already knew would end happily. Because I didn’t recall many plot details, I decided to watch it again. In the end, I’d be relaxed and ready to tackle that list…

When the movie ended, I wondered why life in the real world doesn’t always unfold as pleasantly. Television’s “happily-ever-afters” allow heroes to save those in trouble in the nick of time. Lonely widowers meet loving widows, organ donors are unexpectedly found, wayward children reunite with their families and absentee fathers become stellar dads. I asked aloud, “Why can’t real world troubles be remedied as easily?”

While looking upward for a response, I considered all that God has already done. God provides for our needs with the gift of Creation, particularly our human family. Though television’s happily-ever-afters seem to come about a bit too easily, they do have a place in reality, even if that place is to inspire us to assume our own roles as heroes as best we can. After all, we’ll find all of the inspiration we need in God’s love for us. If we truly get into character, we’ll do as God does. We’ll make happily-ever-afters a reality for those we’ve been given to love as only we can.

Dear God, inspire us to make happily-ever-afters a way of life for everyone.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Welcomes Us All

But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:44

A dear friend recently suffered a broken heart. While attending a worship service, her zealous pastor made it quite clear that there is only one true church and that those who do not belong to that true church will not enter heaven. Now my friend is a convert to her faith and her entire family is of a different faith. To complicate matters further, a family member is a minister in that “different” faith. The final blow came in the recent passing of someone dear to her who was also a member of that “different” faith.

As I responded to my friend, I admit that my heart vacillated between absolute empathy with her and complete anger with her pastor. In the end, I reassured my friend with everything I know about God’s indiscriminate love and I joined her praying for her pastor.

It seems to me that, just as God has sprinkled this earth with a variety of us humans, God has also revealed the Divine in a variety of ways. God leaves it to us to find what fits and to live accordingly. God also leaves it to us to allow one another the same courtesy.

Loving God, help us to emulate your inclusive and loving ways in our attitudes and actions toward all of your children.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved