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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Peacemakers All

Blessed are the peacemakers…
From Matthew 5:9

Today’s date is etched in my memory. A chill travels up my spine in spite of the years that have passed. You likely recall precise details of where you were when you realized what happened in New York City, Arlington County, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. The good to be found in all of this unfolded among us during the days, weeks and months afterward. Uncommon selflessness and generosity became the norm. Political differences fell to the wayside. We joined hands as one people to do everything possible to heal this nation’s broken hearts.

I was convinced then just as I am today that our world is in dire need of peace. Our sisters and brothers who were directly touched on 9/11 as well as those in war-torn countries across the earth can attest to this. Our service men and women who continue to experience the horror of that day in the unrest both nearby and faraway attest to the same. If this isn’t enough, daily news reports regarding the violence we inflict upon one another here at home underscore our need to rid this world of violence.

My mother used to remind me often that charity begins at home. She expected me to show my own family the kindness that I so willingly extended to others. Today, I remind myself that peace begins at home as well -in our world, in our country, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our homes and, most importantly, in our hearts.

Loving and Merciful God, help us. Give us hearts which desire peace and hands which extend that peace to all.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I’ll Always Remember…

This week’s calendar includes a chilling anniversary which I’d like to forget. I still shiver a bit whenever I hear “911”. Whether in reference to an emergency call to the rescue squad or to the day which changed our lives forever seventeen years ago, I’ll never free my memory of the images those numbers elicit. Like many of you, I know exactly where I was when news of that airliner’s crash into the World Trade spread over the airways. I was filling my empty gas tank. By the time the second assault occurred, I’d arrived at my workplace, a school filled with local students and the children of United States Navy personnel.

I’ve never felt as helpless as I did that day. No one knew what would follow. I wondered what we would tell these children if the Great Lakes Naval Training Station was the target of a third or fourth or fifth assault. How could we protect these children if an explosion sent flying debris as far as the school building we occupied? At the end of the day, would we be able to house and feed and console these potential orphans? After I reviewed the building’s disaster plan, I played and replayed possible scenarios in my mind. The principal used a prearranged code to alert the staff that the building was on lockdown. There would be no outdoor recess and no solo trips throughout the building until further notice. Since I was a reading teacher who pulled children from other classrooms, I had no class of my own. That day, other support staff and I were assigned to walk the halls, to make certain that every door to the outside was securely locked and to allow no strangers into the building. During these rounds, I stopped in the office often to check the news, hoping against hope that a freak accident, rather than intense hatred, would explain what had occurred.

As I considered the gravity of the situation, Jeremy, a former student, tapped me on the hand. He was standing in line with his classmates. “Mrs. Penich, look what I got.” As the second grader pulled a picture from his pocket, he told me, “I know who she is. She’s God’s mom. I learned about her at church. You can have it.” I was so stunned by all that had happened that day that it took me a few minutes to absorb what Jeremy had said. When I realized that I hadn’t thanked him for the beautiful holy card, I followed his class down the hall to do just that. Afterward, I turned the card over and found my favorite prayer to Mary, The Memorare. Whenever I’d been in a seemingly desperate situation, this prayer had carried me through. What an amazing coincidence that Jeremy would gift me with this reminder to hope when things seemed more desperate than ever. I still have that holy card…

In the end, there was no third, fourth or fifth attack. Thank heaven for the brave group of airline passengers who responded to “Let’s roll” in an effort to keep their plane from doing more damage. Our school wasn’t pelted with flying debris that day and our students returned home to their parents that evening. Families remained intact at least for a while.

Though September 11, 2001, continues to be a source of sorrow over what was lost that day, it is also a source of gratitude over what was gained. In the face of the epitome of human evil, the epitome of human goodness stood tall. Do you remember the hundreds of human interest stories regarding Good Samaritans during the weeks and months afterward? I never grew tired of hearing them. What a miracle it was to watch the goodness of humankind cast a shadow on evil, even if for just a little while…

In today’s first reading from Isaiah (Isaiah 35:4-7a), the prophet tells us that we must “Be strong, and fear not!” Regardless of the disasters which befall God’s people, we and this world of ours will be replenished, refreshed and made new once again. If this isn’t enough, Mark’s gospel (Mark 7:31-37) follows with Jesus’ response to calamity. Once again, Jesus stunned those who followed him with his gift of renewed life. This time, the recipient was a deaf man who’s difference had isolated him from life within his community. When Jesus cured him, the man’s life truly began anew.

An immeasurable amount of renewal took place during the months after September 11, 2001. I cringe over the additional devastation which has occurred in the years-long aftermath. Still, I find consolation in the outpouring after these incidents. Though these selfless deeds seem less dramatic than what was accomplished in 2001, the renewal experienced by victims is equally poignant. I’ve decided to observe September 11, 2018, by remembering. I’ll remember Isaiah’s insistence to be strong. I’ll remember Jesus’ example of renewing others by responding wherever I’m needed. I’ll remember my own fear from that fateful day and I’ll sow seeds of peace wherever I go. I’ll remember that, in spite of our disagreements on so many levels, we can always come together to do good.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

They Serve and Protect Us

Upon their hands, the angels shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:12

On this Veteran’s Day, I cannot help thinking about those who serve and protect us both nearby and far away. It seems that every passing day gives reason for us to pray a bit more fervently for their safety. Whether they serve us overseas or here at home, these dedicated personnel have set aside their personal lives to do so. Ones politics doesn’t matter in their regard. They serve us and protect us regardless.

Though I know God remains with each one in spite of what may come his or her way, it is a worthy endeavor to keep them in our prayers just the same. At the same time, let’s add a prayer of thanks for the hundreds of thousands of veterans among us. Though it is only recently that we’ve acknowledged the toll taken by active military service, all of our veterans have suffered in one way or another simply because they have served this country of ours.

Happy Veterans Day, Dear Veterans and Veterans-in-the making. Thank you for everything!

Dear God, bless them generously and be with them all.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Peace Begins with Me (and You!)

A peaceful heart create in me, O God;
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.

Psalm 51:12

Today’s date sends a chill up my spine in spite of the years which have passed. Like I do, you likely recall precise details of where you were when you realized what happened in New York City, Arlington County, Virginia and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. The good to be found in all of this unfolded among us during the days that followed. Uncommon selflessness and generosity became the norm. Political differences fell to the wayside. We joined hands as one people to do everything possible to bring about healing.

I was convinced then just as I am convinced today that our world is in dire need of peace. Our sisters and brothers who were directly touched on 9/11 as well as those in war-torn countries across the earth can attest to this. Our service men and women who witness and endure suffering overseas continue to witness the same. If this isn’t enough, daily news reports of the violence we inflict upon one another underscore our need to rid our world of violence.

My mother used to remind me often that charity begins at home. She expected me to show my own family the kindness that I so willingly extended to others. Today, I remind myself that peace begins at home as well: in our world, in our country, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our homes and, most importantly, in our hearts. Today, I remind myself to do something to infuse peace into every moment I’m given.

Loving and Merciful God, help us. Give us hearts which desire peace and hands which extend that peace to all whom we meet along the way.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved