Always Welcome

People will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
to sit at God’s table.

Luke 13:29

I was raised in a welcoming household. Looking back, I see that this was actually quite an accomplishment on my parents’ part. Our ten-person family filled our modest second-floor flat which threatened to burst at the seams. Still, my parents opened the door to friends and family who happened by. This included my playmates who sometimes timed their stays to overlap with dinnertime. Perhaps this is the reason I enjoy large gatherings of people. Perhaps this is the reason that I responded quickly when I heard about the new parish planned for our community.

My husband and I immediately contacted the pastor-to-be to offer our assistance. Father Farrell welcomed us with open arms. After asking my husband what he hoped to bring to the mix, Father Farrell asked me the same. I responded immediately, “I want to be welcoming. I want anyone and everyone to feel that there’s a place for them among us regardless of their story. I just want them to know that this church is their home.” Apparently, our new pastor agreed. He made “welcoming” a top priority and he empowered the rest of us to do the same, just as my parents had so long ago.

These days, many who once found solace in their parish churches find themselves put off by the terrible sexual abuse scandal. It’s difficult to understand how these things occurred in the very place which should serve as an oasis of peace in our troubled world. In light of this tragedy, it seems to me that welcoming has become more important than ever. All of us have been hurt by these terrible events. All of us need an oasis of peace in which to deal with them. Today, I welcome you into whatever place God provides you for this purpose… your parish church, the company of an equally upset or angry friend, the quiet of your room where you tell God exactly what you think about all of this. Wherever you go, God welcomes you with love.

Loving God, thank you for being with us in everything.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Dearest Mary

God who is mighty has done great things for me;
holy is God’s name.

Luke 1:49

On this Feast of the Assumption of Mary, my thought turn to her…

My mother had great devotion to the Mother of Jesus. My siblings and I all reference Mary in one way or another through our first or middle names. My mom’s devotion became evident in her prayer as well. I joined my mom and the rest of the family in the living room often to pray an evening Rosary for our very sick grandfather. We repeated this exercise again and again when our uncle and then our own dad became ill.

My mom seemed convinced that, of all of heaven’s inhabitants, Mary understood the heartbreak each of these crises incurred. My mom also understood that prayer can be difficult when ones heart is overwhelmed with grief. So it was that she engaged us all in repeating the consoling words of the Hail Mary as we prayed.

Though I pride myself in addressing the Lord God and all of my allies above in my own words most of the time, occasions arise when my pain is so great that words escape me. It is then that I lose myself in the comfort of the rosary as my mom did so long ago.

This is what the Hail Mary has come to mean to me…

Dearest Mary, full of God’s love,
God is with you and you are now with God.
Blessed are you among women because
you share in our joy and in our sorrow.
You were blessed with Jesus and he was blessed with you.
Holy Mary, Mother of Jesus, pray for us
in our goodness and in our weakness,
now and until we make our way home with you.
Amen.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Dear Sweet Cubby

…the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
From Luke 18:14

At a recent gathering with my sisters, I lamented the closing of a once favorite restaurant. Though the food was wonderful and the atmosphere was welcoming, the owner was even more so. We chose this eatery often, especially when we had our mom with us. You see, that owner was Ron Santo and our mom was a fan.

It was around 5:00 when we arrived that evening so long ago. On the way into the restaurant, our mom wondered aloud if Ron Santo would be there. As it happened, the Cubs’ famed third baseman made one of his frequent appearances to mingle with his patrons that night. When Mom saw him, she flew out of her chair to greet him. Ron Santo graciously shook her hand. Unfortunately for him, our mom didn’t let go. She pulled the poor man to our table. “You have to meet my five daughters,” she insisted.

Mr. Santo never stopped smiling as our mom dragged him along. When they arrived at our table, we apologized for our mom’s enthusiasm, but he would have none of it. Ron Santo looked at us and said, “Well, you sure have beautiful daughters, just like their mother!” He chatted with us for several minutes, gave our mom a hug and then went on his way. When we left the restaurant, Mr. Santo made a point of saying good-bye to Mom. Though this beloved Cubby is remembered for so much more, I’ll never forget his kindness to our mom.

Loving God, help me always to appreciate the good people who grace my life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

So Loved!

When he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20-21

We cherish our best friends. They know what’s on our minds before we do. They can finish our sentences. They help us through the most difficult times of our lives and they share our greatest joys. The impact that a best friend has upon any of us is beyond words. That being said, I’m going to share one of the greatest things my dearest friend has done for me…

I’ve often told those who are close to me that I truly appreciate the way Jesus of Nazareth asked us to live. I like Jesus’ acceptance of each of us for who we are and I agree with his insistence that we love one another. Jesus valued humility and service and so do I. Most of all, I appreciate knowing that there is nothing I can do that is unforgivable in God’s eyes. When he offered The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus offered me one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. Imagine a dad who has been forsaken by his own child in so many heartbreaking ways welcoming that very child home! This illustration of God’s unconditional love removes any doubt that I am loved even more so. Though I or any one of us can spend an entire lifetime rejecting God’s love, God’s embrace awaits us just the same.

Loving God, the most wonderful aspect of these powerful words is your assurance that they are true.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Strong

Our enemies mock us.
O Lord of hosts, restore us;
if your face shines upon us
we will be safe.

From Psalm 80:7-8

I seem to be making an extended visit to Memory Lane. Here I go again…

My friend Glenda and I had been classmates since first grade. It was during sixth grade that we endured some troubles. Glenda began to blossom into womanhood quite noticeably and I managed to annoy our teacher on a daily basis regardless of my effort to do just the opposite.

One day, Sister assigned essays to read to the entire class. Glenda and I were shy and we trembled in unison at the thought. AS it happened, I managed to read my work without a fumble. When Sister called upon Glenda, I closed my eyes and prayed that she’d experience the same. A classmate’s giggle interrupted my prayer. A second giggle prompted me to open my eyes. By the time I focused on Glenda, everyone in the classroom was laughing except for me. When I noticed Glenda’s unbuttoned blouse, I couldn’t laugh. I was mortified for her. Fortunately, Sister quickly took control and sent Glenda and me into the hallway where I was to explain what had happened.

While I told Glenda about her blouse, Sister mercilessly reprimanded our classmates. Poor Glenda sobbed until I convinced her that we were the lucky ones. After all, the rest of the class was in deep trouble. In the end, our classmates ostracized Glenda and me for a few weeks because we “got them into trouble”. Never mind that their laughter had caused Glenda’s tears. As for Glenda and me, our friendship grew stronger. In the end, my friendship with Sister grew a bit as well.

Dear God, you inspire the courage which helps us to do the right thing.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Is There Something I Can Do?

If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

Luke 16:31

The most frustrating times of my teaching career, and throughout my life for that matter, have occurred when mean-spirited adults refused to do the right thing. At school, it was a teacher who refused to admit an error, a principal who refused to support a teacher whom she didn’t much care for, a lunch monitor who exhibited an attitude toward certain kids or a custodian who took his time when his least favorite teachers called for help. This list, which goes on and on, exists in just about every human institution including our circles of friends and our families. Our school secretary often observed, “Jesus himself could show them different and they’d still act that way!”

Luke’s gospel tells us that a hungry homeless man died on a rich man’s doorstep simply because the man didn’t notice him. When I consider my own annoyance with those who refused to do the right thing at work, I wonder how many times I’ve been guilty of the same. How many times have I avoided or simply not noticed a situation in which I could have done some good? Would it have mattered if Jesus himself had tapped me on the shoulder to get me moving? It occurs to me that perhaps Jesus is tapping at the moment. For some reason, I’m compelled to ask, “What might I have done to help those seemingly mean-spirited people to embrace a more positive stance?” Hmmm… What might I have done?

With that, I see that it’s time that I forget about the omissions of others. Rather, I need to tend to my own ability to take notice and to take care whenever the opportunity arises.

Patient God, help me to see those who need me with your eyes and to respond to them with your heart.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved