U… Unity…

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
From Mark 11:17

U is for Unity… A few weeks ago, a groom-to-be took his beloved’s breath away with a lovingly orchestrated proposal. Just prior to his bending on one knee, this young man’s and his beloved’s families appeared to witness it all. This effort touched the bride deeply. This couple has drawn close to one another’s families. Their presence hinted at this couple’s intent to nurture these family ties while also laying the foundation of their own family-to-be. When Mike and I joined everyone afterward, we found that all concerned glowed in the love of these two young people.

This couple’s love is tangible. It’s evident in the way they look at each other and in the way they treat one another. Their love washes over all of those around them. It has certainly touched Mike and me. It seems to me that this should be true regarding the love we share as God’s family as well. We needn’t congregate in the same worship places, but we do need to respect one another and to see one another as God’s beloved child. We need to love one another as we love ourselves. We need to set aside the non-essential details of our differences and focus upon the essential needs of all of God’s family.

The couple we celebrated that evening will likely go on to raise children of their own. They’ll love their offspring and their potential mates and their potential grandchildren as only they can. They’ll celebrate the family they have become in everything they say and do. God has breathed life into billions of children and God loves each one of us. God’s only request is that we love each another and care for one another. U is for Unity, the unity we strive to create within God’s family.

Loving God, mold us into one family.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Enthusiastic Love

Love is patient, love is kind…
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

From 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7

My husband and I recently attended a family wedding. Katie and Casey are as loving a couple as I’ve ever encountered. In their case, I know in my heart that this will be an “until death do they part” union.

I truly enjoy weddings. We guests are included because the bride and groom are special to us. In this case, the bride is my cousin’s daughter. a daughter who’s made her mom and dad proud in so many ways. Her groom is special to us as well simply because Katie loves him. What more do we need to know?

Yes, we celebrated as this bride and groom offered one another their very best on their wedding day and for the lifetime together that follows. Though they may not realize it, Katie and Casey have inspired the family and friends who gathered with them to rekindle and nurture our own relationships. How could any of us have failed to be inspired by such tangible love?

Loving God, bless Katie and Casey as they embark upon their life together. Be with them in their joy and in their sorrow, today and always. Help the rest of us to emulate their enthusiastic love in our own relationships!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Responds With Love… Always!

The good deacon and I returned from a wonderful trip to Italy several days ago. For reasons unknown to me, I continue to struggle with a bit of jet-lag at the moment. I’ve found it difficult to settle into the routines which had structured my days before our travel. I puzzled over this while I walked the neighborhood. When I returned home with no insight, I retreated to our backyard. I ambled about the patio to bid my farewell to the colorful flowers and greenery which had delighted me this past summer. As always, my dear husband had put his green thumb to good use in selecting, arranging and nurturing the annuals which surround our home. Early every October, Mike reluctantly pulls up his handiwork, making mental notes about the coming year’s selections all the while. As I said good-bye to my floral friends, I added my apologies for ignoring them for days at a time. Before we left for our vacation, worry regarding many things had drawn me to my knees and away from much else. As I considered the flowers which would soon take their leave, I found myself painfully aware of this life’s fragility.

I went into the house for a glass of water and attempted to set aside my melancholy. I tried to focus on the things I had to do, especially this writing. As I drank that cool water, I wished that a few drops of inspiration would fill me up as well. With that, I refilled my glass. Rather than heading to my keyboard, I went out to our screened porch. I sat to gaze at the flowers of Summer 2018 for a while longer. Though I’m usually invigorated by our annual fall cleanup, I was glad that we wouldn’t get to it for a few more days. In spite of my affection for winter, the thought of losing everything in sight to make way for snow pained me. In spite of my certainty regarding the potential contained in every falling leaf, the leaves strewn about our yard distressed me as well. Though the browning petals and stems which Mike will soon pull from our flowerbeds also promised new life to next year’s plantings, melancholy overwhelmed me…

Sometimes, when life as we know it is threatened, pain engulfs us and threatens to rob us of our hope. For me, this is most often true when the solutions to the problems at hand are beyond my grasp. When I finally and reluctantly admit that there is nothing I can do on my own, I turn to God. Over the years, I’ve learned to take God’s love for us very personally. From the time I was a child, I’ve known that God’s love remains with us in the best and worst of times and through everything which occurs in between. It seems that I’ve known forever that hopelessness simply isn’t an option for God’s loved ones and that we are all God’s loved ones. With that in mind, I looked at our drooping blossoms differently. I looked at my worries differently, too. I admitted that I’d allowed these things to take their toll for far too long. I also admitted that pouring out my heart to God made all of the difference in the world. Pained as I was, I finally acknowledged that all will unfold as it should. Just as our dying flowers will nourish next spring’s growth, God’s presence in the midst of my troubles nourishes me.

I’m sharing all of this with you because I don’t want you to be thrown by Jesus’ stance in today’s gospel (Mark 10:2-16). Mark portrays Jesus with a stern and uncompromising attitude. I want to be certain that you realize that Jesus directed this harshness toward the Pharisees and not toward God’s suffering people. The Pharisees relentlessly attempted to trap Jesus in blasphemy. On this occasion, they tested Jesus with questions regarding divorce. Jesus’ response made it clear that he understood The Law regarding this issue. Jesus also made it clear that God’s intent is to support us in our loving relationships with one another. After this discussion, Jesus continued to respond with love and compassion to those he met along the way, including those steeped in marital strife.

God, who knows our suffering better than we know it ourselves, offers the same to you and me. Whether the life of a loved one or the life of a cherished relationship is threatened, God experiences our dread with us. It’s not God’s intent to cause those of us who’ve experienced divorce to squirm in our pews today. The decades I’ve spent assisting people with the annulment process have provided me a glimpse into their pain. Though my heart aches in response, God understands the pain of a failing marriage far better than I. Our human relationships can be sources of great joy and God asks that we do our best to nurture that joy. When these relationships become sources of great sorrow, God asks that we address this sorrow honestly. Sometimes, we can work through the sorrow and return to our joy. Sometimes, we have no choice but to walk away. In either case, we do so in the presence of our loving God. On the occasion I describe above, it took me far too long to turn my worries over to God. I encourage you not to make the same mistake!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thank You, Sister!

Doing the will of him who sent me
and bringing his work to completion
is my food.

John 4:34

While making salads for dinner, I was distracted by a familiar voice. My husband had tuned in to a rerun of The Flying Nun. I looked up to see Sally Field in her Sister Bertrille habit. She was in the midst of an adventure with her fellow nuns at their convent in San Juan. I didn’t watch the show when it aired because I was busy with homework and the part-time job which paid my college tuition. These days, I enjoy an episode here and there. Each one offers a glimpse into the humanity of Sister Bertrille and the hope with which she faced everything. Though the show wasn’t meant to be religious, it did highlight the best of what I encountered in the nuns I’ve met along the way.

Three of my aunts were nuns. From the time I realized what a nun was, I wanted to enter the convent, too. As it happened, I spent a lot of time with them over the years. Beside our encounters in the classroom, I spent an entire summer during college in a convent. Two remarkable nuns and I provided summer classes for immigrant children. We hoped to introduce them to English and ease their transition into school that fall. The truth is that this was one of the best summers of my life!

Looking back, I see that I was drawn to the nuns because of the good they did. Their dedication to caring for others appealed to me. They taught me that when we open our eyes and our hearts to others, we find amazing and unexpected ways to make God’s work our own. We also find amazing and unexpected joy. Wherever you are, I thank you all!

Dear God, bless the nuns and all who have opened my eyes to your loving ways.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love… Worthwhile Work!

Love is patient and love is kind…
From 1 Corinthians 13:4

This month, my husband and I celebrate a bit of a milestone in our marriage. Happy Anniversary, Dear!

Fifteen years into our marriage, Mike was ordained a deacon. As a result, he can witness marriages. As for me, I assist divorced persons with the church’s annulment process. Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two regarding both scenarios. I’ve come to believe that those whose marriages succeed find themselves integrating the bliss of their best days and the sadness of their worst arguments with their efforts to love one another. In the end, these fortunate souls view their partners both realistically and lovingly as much as possible and they proceed accordingly with love.

I’ve also learned that there are many reasons that some marriages don’t succeed. At times neither party has made the necessary commitment. At times, two very good people simply shouldn’t have taken their relationship to this lifelong level. At times, in spite of the stellar efforts of one party, the other simply does not or cannot live up to the responsibilities of marriage. Finally, domestic violence or other circumstances deem the relationship unhealthy at best. In the end, God wishes happiness to us all. I’m grateful to have been able to help those in these types of circumstances to pick up the pieces and to move on.

You know, God wishes us happiness in all of our relationships. This is the reason God asks us to be patient and kind and to do our best to coexist with all the love that we can muster for the long haul.

Loving God, thank you for trusting us with the amazingly difficult, yet life-giving ability to love.

God’s Surprising Plans

That is my joy, and it is complete.
He must increase, while I must decrease.

John 3:29-30

A recent conversation with a friend who was once in the convent elicited memories of my own aspirations in that regard. Though my friend found that a different calling better suited her, she continues to treasure the years she spent with her “sisters”. From the time I realized who the nuns and sisters were, I wanted to join them as well. When discussing this with my mom, I often shared potential “sister names” which I might have liked. My mom always responded by expressing the same sentiment. She would have been thrilled if one of her five daughters did just that.

As it happened, I spent a lot of time with these religious women over the years which included an entire summer during college. Still, I never did become one of them. Oddly, it was during that very summer that my “sister friends” encouraged me to accept a date with the young man who eventually became my husband. Who would have known?

In spite of my marital state, my desire to emulate the good sisters’ work among us has remained with me. Fortunately, my husband not only supports my ministry, but also joins me in it. Like my friend and the other nuns whom I encountered along the way, we have found amazing and unexpected ways to make God’s work our own.

Dear God, you never cease to surprise us with the direction of your call. During this new year, help each of us to respond generously to your heartfelt invitation to join in your loving work.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved