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


Enduring Love

Your love endures through all generations.
From Psalm 145:13

We celebrated our wedding anniversary a few weeks ago by going out to dinner. Our sons managed to surprise us by alerting the restaurant of this event beforehand. Our waitress seemed genuinely pleased to be in on the secret as she smile broadly when she welcomed us with, “Happy Anniversary!”

Went we went home afterward, I suggested to my husband that we celebrate further by revisiting our wedding album. As we poured over our wedding photos, tears threatened several times. I pointed out many loved ones with us that day who have passed on from this life. Each one left a significant mark on my life. Our own family continues to benefit from the love these good souls showered upon my husband and me so long ago.

Though I know my loved ones present and passed on are not perfect, they have all added to the richness of my life. It seems to me that the most important gifts we give one another are time well spent together and love.

Thank you, God, for the people you have given me to love in this life and for those who have so generously loved me.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Work

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

John 4:34

Several weeks ago a couple of sisters visited our parish. Not long after, another sister appeared to make an appeal for missions in the Philippines. These women were not siblings, but religious sisters who immediately elicited memories of my own aunts who were also nuns. From the time I realized what a nun was, I wanted to enter the convent. While cleaning house with my mom, I asked her opinion of some “sister names” I had come up with. She smiled in response, always adding, “Well, I have five daughters and I think it would be nice if one of them became a nun.”

Though I spent a lot of time with the sisters over the years, including an entire summer during college, I never did join them. Oddly, it was during that summer away that the sisters encouraged me to accept a date with a young man who volunteered at the parish. Though this puzzled me at the time, their counsel proved most helpful. I happily invited these sisters to our wedding the following summer!

You know, I was drawn to the sisters because of the good they accomplished. Nothing appealed to me more than the lives of service they lived. These decades later, I realize that God’s call to service has less to do with ones marital status than the status of ones heart. When we open our eyes and our hearts, each of us finds amazing and unexpected ways to make God’s work our own.

Dear God, help me not to miss any opportunities to bring your goodness into our world,
especially during these troubling times.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved


My lover belongs to me and I to him
He says to me:
“Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
for stern as death is love…”

From Song of Songs 2-8

On this date some decades ago, my husband and I married. (Happy Anniversary, Dear!) The passage I cite from Songs of Songs was read at our wedding.

I’ve shared before that my husband is a deacon which allows him the opportunity to witness marriages. As is often the case during the summer months, our home has evolved into “Wedding Central” once again. I’ve also shared that I assist divorced Catholics who wish to pursue the annulment process. I’ve recently felt that I’m in “Annulment Central” because several people have sought my help as of late. Though I hope our encounters ease those concerned through a difficult time, I know that the pain of a failed marriage lingers on.

On this anniversary of my own wedding day, I pray for married couples everywhere, that they truly work at their love and maintain their respect for one another. I also pray for those who find themselves in a troubled relationship. May they rediscover the love which drew them to one another, if they can. May those who cannot do so find the courage to do what is best for each other and for their families. Sometimes, that “best” is living apart. In both cases, God will remain to see them through.

Loving God, bless those who find the love and the courage to marry with all that they need to truly enjoy their life together. Bless those who struggle with their commitments with peace. Be with them as they choose what is best for all concerned.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Come, Sit at My Table

My husband and I have just returned from a wedding rehearsal. I don’t usually attend the good deacon’s wedding rehearsals, but this one was different. Our dear friends’ daughter will marry her beloved tomorrow and Mike will officiate. Because we’ve known Morgan’s parents since long before they discovered she was on the way, I was also invited to enjoy the festivities. Now I’m familiar enough with these events to know that my husband usually begins by teasing those involved. He explains with his most serious voice that the most important reason for a wedding rehearsal is the rehearsal dinner. When Mike gathered the wedding party to begin, he did just that. I rolled my eyes in Mike’s direction to encourage him to get serious about this particular rehearsal. As is his custom in such circumstances, the good deacon ignored my prompt and proceeded as though I wasn’t there.

I have to admit that in this case Mike’s humor was well-placed. Many of those involved in the wedding had traveled from out-of-state. As a result, Morgan and husband-to-be Mike had to deal with the logistics of getting everyone in place happily and on-time. Just a few days earlier, the bride’s brother learned that the final interview for the job which would begin his career was scheduled a few hours before this rehearsal. Poor Mitch had to ace that interview and then negotiate the rush hour traffic to the church. In spite of the worry involved, the result of all of this was a very relaxed rehearsal with everyone present. In the end, all concerned left smiling with a good idea of what would occur the next day and Mike’s promise to provide signals throughout the ceremony as needed.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I had to acknowledge that the value Mike had given to wedding rehearsal dinners was well-placed. When Mitch’s phone rang just before we went inside, I looked upward and made a humble plea on his behalf. When Mitch’s worried expression morphed into a smile, I realized that the news was good. Mitch’s girlfriend Tess hugged him tightly in response. In addition to celebrating his sister’s wedding, Mitch would toast his new employer. The bride’s parents couldn’t believe their good fortune regarding both of their children. This gathering at table with loved ones would indeed be the highlight of the day.

With the wedding planning complete, the bride’s and groom’s parents relaxed and enjoyed their guests. The food was delicious and the meal served as a fitting backdrop to the festivities. Smiles and loving gazes filled the room as Morgan’s parents admired their lovely daughter and the young man who would soon become a permanent member of their family. I admit to observing the bride’s parents as they breathed another sigh of relief over their son’s new job! The groom’s parents shared the same experience as they observed their son, a fine and successful young man who has had the good fortune of falling in love with a terrific woman. On the way home, I apologized for my “eye rolling”. The good deacon’s seemingly flippant remark that the rehearsal dinner was far more important than the wedding rehearsal proved to be absolutely true this evening.

I share my rehearsal dinner adventure with you because it echoes all that we celebrate on this Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Throughout his life, Jesus relished the opportunity to eat with those he loved. This practice likely began during Jesus’ childhood in Nazareth around the family table he shared with Mary and Joseph. The scriptures tell us that throughout his adulthood Jesus often ate with the people of the towns where his preaching took him. The scriptures also report that the temple authorities frequently criticized Jesus for keeping such close company with sinners, especially at their dinner tables. The scribes and Pharisees were so distracted by “the rules” that they failed to appreciate what Jesus was doing. Jesus gave us himself not only at the Last Supper, but also during every shared meal and every shared moment of his life among us.

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ falls on Father’s Day this year. Fathers and their families everywhere will gather at all sorts of tables to share meals. If all goes well, the joy found will echo my rehearsal dinner experience. If all goes well, that joy will result in all of our deeper appreciation of those we’ve been given to love. If all goes well, each of these gatherings will reveal a glimpse of the gift Jesus offers in the Eucharist, the gifts to be found in one another and the gift of God’s presence in every moment of our lives.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Dance Like You Mean It!

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:4

This summer, my husband and I will attend three weddings. Two of these involve the offspring of dear friends. As a result, both promise ample opportunities to reconnect with special people from near and far. Both will include numerous well-wishers who have good reason to make merry.

Though my husband is never anxious to dance for any reason, I consider every wedding invitation to be an invitation to dance the night away. This ritual usually begins with a slow dance or two in my husband’s arms. Afterward, he retreats to join anyone who is not dancing while I continue the fancy footwork with whoever else needs a partner. This “whoever else” is usually a friend or relative whose spouse has also “retreated”. In the end, I spend an hour or more allowing the dancer within me to take over. Though she has a difficult time guiding my feet into the “right” steps, she always succeeds in freeing me to abandon my inhibitions and to rejoice in the music at hand.

It occurs to me that God intentionally created us with the ability to “party”. This is one of God’s most creative ways of reminding us to take the time to relax and not to take ourselves too seriously. There is no more effective way to do this than to dance with abandon… and so I will!

Gracious God, thank you for caring for all of us: Our hearts, our bodies, our souls and our need to enjoy this life.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved