We Remember…

God loves the people,
and God adorns the lowly with victory.

Psalm 149:4

Our Memorial Day observances honor those who gave their lives in service of this country. Whether drafted into service or enlisted by choice, each one fulfilled a mission. Though some wrestled with doubt, wondering if anything is worth dying for, we know the final outcome. They persisted for us. This weekend, thousands of flags decorate these heroes’ graves.

Today, we also remember our civilian loved ones. Though they didn’t endure the trials of battle, they endured the trials of this life. Whether our parent or spouse, our child, another family member or friend, we miss them. They also responded to their missions in this life and they completed them as best they could. At times, our loved ones achieved great success and their impacts upon our lives were sources of great joy. At times, they failed and their impacts were precisely the opposite. Still, we mourn those who have passed, sometimes because of their humanity and sometimes in spite of it.

There is something God-like about our remembering. When we reminisce, we tend to recall happy or amusing or glorious times shared. My dad died when most of us were very young. Within a year of his passing, this dear man had become a saint in our collective consciousness. I have no doubt that God agrees!
Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to celebrate the eternal joy of all who know that joy firsthand. There is something holy to be found as we relish our relationships with those whom we mourn. The selective memories which bestow sainthood upon our very human loved ones reflect the selective vision of God. Upon each of our arrivals home, God sees only a loved one who’s been away far too long.

Today, as we remember our military personnel and all of the loved ones who have lived their lives for us, let’s smile between the tears. God gives us good reason to rejoice for them all!

Loving God, be with all of our servicewomen and men today. Keep them and all of us safe until we return home to you.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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We Celebrate Each and Every One…

For the Lord loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.

Psalm 149:4

We first observed Memorial Day to remember the sacrifices made by service people who’d given their lives for this country. Whether they were drafted into service or enlisted by choice, each one fulfilled an obligation which he or she accepted to the end. Though some may have wrestled with doubt, wondering if anything is worth dying for, we know the final outcome. Today, tens of thousands of flags decorate the graves of those who completed, as best they could, what they set out to do.

Our Memorial Day remembrances have grown to include all who’ve passed from this life to the next. Though they didn’t don military uniforms to endure the trials of battle, those whom we mourn assumed roles of great importance to us. Whether our parent or spouse, our child, another family member or friend, those we mourn responded to their roles in this life and they fulfilled those roles as best they could. Sometimes, our loved ones achieved great success and their impact upon us was a source of great joy or growth or satisfaction. Sometimes, they failed miserably and their impact was precisely the opposite. Still, we mourn our loved ones because of their humanity and in spite of it.

There is something Christ-like in the way we remember those who have passed. After we bid them our final farewells, our memories focus less upon their failures. When we reminisce, we tend to recall the happy or amusing or glorious times we shared. In our family, my father died when most of us were very young. Within a year of his death, the man had become a saint in our collective consciousness. Years later, when our mother married a wonderful, but very different man, I marveled at his bravery. Following in my father’s footsteps was an impossible task. Yet, upon my step-dad’s death many years later, the same phenomenon occurred. A second father-turned-saint occupied our memories. Need I tell you that my mother-turned-saint resides above in all of her glory as well?

Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to celebrate heaven’s joy in memory of those who know that joy firsthand. When our selective memories bestow sainthood upon our very human loved ones, we see with the selective vision of God. Today, as we remember our military personnel and all of the loved ones who have lived their lives for us, let’s smile between the tears. God assures us that we have good reason to rejoice for them and for ourselves!

Thank you, Dear God, for the promise of heaven and for the loved ones with whom we will share it!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Good and Gracious God

I began to reminisce on Memorial Day. My husband and I had just returned from a few days up north. As we turned into our driveway, the small American Flags he’d placed in each of our planters caught my eye and my heart. Before unloading the car, Mike unfurled our large flag and placed it on the front of the house. These images of the Stars and Stripes prompted thoughts of many family members and friends who had served in the military and who currently celebrated the holiday in a much better place. I smiled and offered a prayer of thanksgiving for them and for all who have sacrificed so much for us.

Throughout the two weeks since, numerous memories of my departed loved ones have surfaced. At the same time, I’ve enjoyed flashbacks of interactions with the many others still with us who’ve also enriched my life with their presence. This line-up of amazing people began with my great-aunt Sister Gerard. She was born on Memorial Day and I assume her recent birthday elicited my thoughts of her. Our wall of family photos which includes Sister Gerard inspired further reflection. Her sparkling eyes seemed to assure me that my dear aunt continues to love me from her home in the hereafter. I admit to a few tears as I considered Sister’s kindness toward me. Though she was always attentive, Sister Gerard surprised me with an invitation to spend a few days with her the summer before I began sixth grade. She lived in St. Gall’s Convent on the South Side of Chicago where she’d been assigned during much of my childhood. While with her, I spent time with the other sisters as well. I also helped Sister Gerard to set up her classroom for the coming year. All of this boosted my self-esteem exponentially. Of course, Sister Gerard made whoever was in her company feel special. This trait was the hallmark of many of the adults who graced my life. With so much for which to be thankful, I prayed once again.

How I wished my grandchildren could sit on my dad’s lap! My mom made most of my clothes when I was little. How I wished she could sew just one dress for Ellie, Lauren and Claire. I was certain she’d fashion a colorful pair of Bermuda shorts for Danny which would rival those she made for his dad and uncle. My aunts and uncles loved all of their nieces and nephews. How they would have enjoyed Mike and Abby, Tim and Kim and their children! And so it has gone. Fond memories have filled my days and mercilessly interrupted my attempts at this writing. Frustration threatened to distract me further until I realized that these were not interruptions that took me from my work after all. They were gentle bits of inspiration sent to reveal the gift we celebrate today.

On this Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, we celebrate God’s presence among us. This phenomenon began when love impelled our Creator to fashion this universe and all who inhabit it. When humankind failed to grasp the goodness of God’s gifts and looked elsewhere for happiness, God relentlessly pursued us. When we continued to run from God’s loving ways, heaven touched the earth one again in the person of Jesus. From the moment Mary gave birth to her tiny son, God’s presence became tangible. Jesus emerged from this humble beginning to reveal God’s love firsthand. Jesus clarified what we had too long ignored and too long misunderstood. When some failed to see the precious gifts Jesus offered, they turned against Jesus and saw to his death. Jesus responded by rising and returning to ensure us once and for all that God’s love prevails over everything. To see to it that we will never lose sight of God’s loving presence, God’s Holy Spirit remains with us. Though the Spirit may not often be revealed in tongues of fire, the Spirit continues to be revealed in remarkable ways.

These nostalgic interludes with my precious loved ones provided me with tangible evidence of all that we celebrate this Trinity Sunday. God’s ongoing presence in our lives tops the list. God’s Spirit has nudged me along through the numerous people God has given me to love and through those who have so generously loved me. Whether I’m at my best or at my worst, God’s presence remains within me and within the people who journey with me through this life. The only response I can offer is gratitude. So it is that I celebrate the God of love –Creator, Son and Spirit– with thanksgiving. You know, we all have reason to be grateful because God remains present in every moment of our lives. Whether it is in the wonder of Creation, in the presence of a kindred soul or deep within ourselves, we experience God’s love whenever we open our hearts to it. Why do we celebrate this Trinity Sunday? We celebrate because God is with us and God loves us today and always!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Remember

For the Lord loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.

Psalm 149:4

This morning, my thoughts turn to our service men and women near and far, present and past. Each of these brave souls accepted an obligation which had or has the potential to take them to the point of death. Though some battled doubt, wondering if anything is worth dying for, each one responded to duty’s call. Today, while tens of thousands of flags decorate our lost service-persons’ graves, their present-day comrades carry on for us and for people of good will throughout this world. Today, I honor each one with my gratitude and with my prayers on their behalf.

My Memorial Day remembrances include all loved ones who’ve passed from this life to the next. Though some never wore a military uniform, they embraced roles which proved to be life-giving to the rest of us. Whether our parent, our spouse, our child, or family member or friend, those whom we mourn accepted their obligations as well. At times, they succeeded and their impacts upon our lives were sources of joy. At times, they failed miserably and their impacts upon us were precisely the opposite. Perhaps they walked away from us when we needed them most. Sometimes, we civilians can be tempted to be AWOL from a commitment that seems to require too much. Still, we mourn our lost loved ones, sometimes because of their humanity and sometimes in spite of it.

There is good news in all of this. Often, after we bid them our final farewells, our memories focus less upon our loved ones’ failures. When we reminisce, we recall the happy times we shared. In our family, my father died when most of us were very young. Within a year of his death, the man had become a saint in our collective consciousness. Years later, when our mother married a wonderful, but very different man, I marveled at his bravery. Following in my father’s footsteps was an impossible task. Yet, upon my step-dad’s death many years later, the same phenomenon occurred. We’d dubbed a second father-turned-saint.

This Memorial Day, we celebrate life after this life in the names of those who know it firsthand. We also celebrate the selective memory which prompted our beloved Creator to embrace them in spite of their frailties and perhaps because of them. This Memorial Day, we celebrate knowing that, when our time comes, God will offer the same welcome to you and me.

Thank you, Dear God, for the promise of heaven and for the loved ones with whom we will share it!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

M… for Memorial Day

For the Lord loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.

Psalm 149:4

Memorial Day observances traditionally recount the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives in service to this country. Whether they were drafted into service or they enlisted by choice, each one fulfilled an obligation which he or she accepted to the point of death. Though some may have wrestled with doubt, wondering if anything was worth dying for, we know the final outcome. This weekend, tens of thousands of flags decorate their graves. These flags herald those who completed, as best they could, what they set out to do.

Today, our Memorial Day remembrances include all of those who have passed from this life to the next. Though they may not have donned military uniforms to endure the trials of battle, those whom we mourn assumed a role of great importance to us. Whether our mother or father, our husband or wife, our child, our family member or our friend, those whom we mourn did something similar to that which our military personnel did. They responded to what they saw as their roles in this life and they fulfilled those roles as best they could. At times, our loved ones achieved great success and their impacts upon our lives were sources of great joy or growth or satisfaction. At times, they failed miserably, and their impacts upon us were precisely the opposite. Perhaps they walked away for a while from a father, a mother, a spouse, a child or a friend. Sometimes, we civilians can be tempted to be AWOL from a commitment which seems to require too much. Today, we mourn all of our loved ones who have passed, sometimes because of their humanity and sometimes in spite of it.

There is something very God-like about the way we remember those who have gone before us. Often, after we bid them our final farewells, our memories become less focused upon their failures. When we reminisce, we tend to recall the happy or amusing or glorious times we shared. In our family, my father died when most of us were very young. Within a year of his death, the man had become a saint in our collective consciousness. Years later, when our mother married a wonderful, but very different man, I marveled at his bravery. Following in my father’s footsteps was an impossible task. Yet, upon my step-dad’s death many years later, the same phenomenon occurred. A second father-turned-saint occupied our memories. Need I tell you that my mother-turned-saint resides above in all of her glory as well?

Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to celebrate the gift of eternal joy in the names of those who know that joy firsthand. There is something holy to be found as we relish our relationships with those among us and with those whom we mourn. The selective memories which bestow sainthood upon our very human loved ones reflect the selective vision of God. God’s welcoming eyes will greet each of us upon our arrival home.

Today, as we remember our military personnel and all of the loved ones who have lived their lives for us, let us smile between the tears. There is good reason to rejoice for them and for ourselves!

Thank you, God, for the promise of heaven and for the loved ones with whom we will share it!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Body of Christ

As is my custom, I began Memorial Day with morning Mass. Our young priest arrived a few minutes after I did with his Apple iPad in hand. I smiled in anticipation of the homily which Father Dave’s tablet assured me he had prepared. As I knelt to settle myself, an unexpected measure of peace filled me up. I mentioned to the Lord God that I appreciated this quiet departure from the sometimes frenetic pace which I so often experience on Sunday mornings. Mass continued and the peace remained until Father Dave surprised me with the gospel. I had not read it ahead of time as I normally do before Sunday Masses. This passage (Mark 10:17-27) referenced the rich young man who sought guidance from Jesus. He had observed the commandments since he was a boy and wished to know what more was necessary for him to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus asked the young man to do just one more thing. “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven,” Jesus told him. Apparently, this “one more thing” was more than the young man could manage because he had many possessions. The gospel tells us that he left Jesus and went away with a heavy heart.

Father Dave began his homily by citing Steve Jobs who sometimes ended corporate presentations with “one more thing.” These little add-ons often featured another Apple product which would transform our technological lives once again. Father Dave noted that Jesus also transformed the lives of his followers frequently with his numerous requests for “one more thing”. When someone struck a person’s cheek, Jesus said to offer the assailant the other cheek as well. When someone asked for another’s tunic, Jesus said to offer this borrower a cloak as well. When the disciples asked if they must forgive their enemies seven times, Jesus told them to forgive those who harm them seventy times seven times.

As I considered Father Dave’s observations, I realized that this “one more thing” business had taken root long before Jesus began his public life. When Mary agreed to be the Mother of Jesus, she also had to somehow explain the situation to her loved ones. When Joseph agreed to take the pregnant Mary as his wife, he then had to travel to faraway Bethlehem to participate in a census just days before Jesus’ birth. Though both Mary and Joseph had their hands full as all new parents do, they also had to flee to Egypt to save little Jesus from the wrath of Herod. There always seemed to be “one more thing” required of those who remained in Jesus’ company.

As Mass continued, it occurred to me that Jesus himself habitually did “one more thing” without being asked to do so. When Jesus left the comforts of heaven to become one of us, he might have come as a wealthy man. Rather, he joined the ranks of the poor. While Jesus lived a fully human life, he also revealed Divine Love in everything he said and did. Rather than seeking followers who wielded power among the people, Jesus sought out misfits and the forsaken. In spite of their frequent lack of understanding, Jesus taught his disciples day in and day out with both his words and his example. When asked for physical healing, Jesus offered spiritual healing as well. When asked to open the eyes of a blind person, Jesus opened his heart as well. The night before he knew he was going to die, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples. He had already given his followers everything he had to offer. Still, in the midst of their Passover supper, Jesus did one more thing to convince his friends that he would always be with them. Jesus took bread, blessed it and asked his disciples to take and eat it. “This is my body,” he assured them. Jesus also took the cup and said “This is my blood.” After doing one more thing by sharing himself, Jesus requested the same of the rest of us: “Do this in memory of me.”

This is the Feast of The Body and Blood of Christ and we have much to celebrate. These precious gifts foreshadowed the ultimate gift which Jesus offered when he gave himself up on the cross. In spite of the depth of this giving, Jesus did one more thing. He rose from the dead, not to return to heaven, but to spend forty more days among us. With each appearance, Jesus assured us that every effort to do one more thing is a sound investment which will yield everlasting profits. When we do one more thing to assist another soul along the way, we celebrate God Among Us as Jesus did. When we do one more thing to express God’s love to one another, we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ by bringing Christ to this world.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved