Proceed With Care and Love…

Every day we are called to do
small things with great love.

Mother Teresa

Our neighborhood school won’t open in the usual way this year. Like communities everywhere, administrators, teachers and parents collaborated with health experts and came up with a plan. As I prayed for all concerned, I also breathed a sigh of relief because I wouldn’t be returning to a classroom this year. Every person involved with educating our children, including moms and dads, grandparents and caretakers, deserves our admiration and needs our support just now.

In our family, the ongoing patience and ingenuity of my daughters-in-law and their husbands in this regard truly amazed me when their homes became classrooms last March. Our grandchildren responded in kind by cooperating as best they could. All of the educators and parents who kept their cool and the children who took their cues certainly made the most of what could have been an even more trying time.
In the end, the last quarter of the 2019-2020 School Year was indeed productive.

As the onset of the new school year approaches, let’s pray that this year will unfold even more productively for all concerned. It seems to me that the eleven words above which I cite from Mother Teresa make an important point. Countless acts of love -tiny, heroic moments at laptops and during Zoom lessons and in conversations about the assignment at hand- will bolster our children’s spirits rather than break them. When we choose calm over anger, patience over impatience, persistence in spite of our weariness and kindness in the midst of our frustration, we teach our greatest lessons and do our greatest work. Every single one involved will be better as a result.

Loving God, be with all of the adults and children who will work together to make this a nurturing and productive school year.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Little Acts… Great Love…

Every day we are called to do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa

Sometimes, the smallest kindness changes the world.

It was the first day of school. Two eight-year-olds made their way to the start of the new year. The problem was that Conner, who was anxious to begin the new year just an hour earlier, had lost his nerve and he began to cry. Conner’s autism amplified his fear. Little Christian noticed his schoolmate’s misery. Without delay, he took Conner by the hand. Together, these two new friends made their way into what now would become an amazing first day of school for them both.

Christian’s mom had her phone along when she took her son to school that morning. She likely hoped to capture a photo of him on his first day of second grade. She never suspected that she’d also capture her son offering a measure of kindness powerful enough to change another child’s world. Christian’s small gesture changed my world as well!

Every day, we witness countless acts of love, tiny heroic moments which change lives. Every minute we’re given holds an opportunity to make or to break one another’s spirits and our own. Whenever we choose love over anger, love over impatience, love in spite of our weariness and love in the midst of heartbreak, we do our greatest work. Whenever we take advantage of the tiniest opportunity to do good, we change this world for the better.

Loving God, thank you for making use of everything we do, especially our small, seemingly unimportant efforts. Even these tiny acts make this world a better place.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Idols

“Do the works that I do,
even greater ones than these…”

Inspired by John 14:12

Recently, I ran into a young man who’d sought my advice some years ago. He was going to be confirmed and he wanted to be certain about the saint’s name which he’d selected for the occasion. He looked to this holy idol for inspiration which he hoped would remain with him as he approached adulthood and beyond. I tried not to smile too broadly when he announced that it was Mother Teresa of Calcutta who’d drawn his attention. “Is Teresa as a viable option?” he asked. When I assured him that gender needn’t be a factor in his choice, he was elated. Fortunately, his parents and teacher agreed.

Years ago, a dear friend introduced me to Mother Teresa long before she’d become known worldwide. John was a young priest who deeply respected this Albanian woman who’d joined the convent very early on. As a sister, she was assigned to a high school in Calcutta. While teaching, she couldn’t ignore the extreme poverty beyond the windows of her classroom. She was so moved that she asked to devote herself to the poor. Mother Teresa eventually founded her own religious order dedicated to serving the poorest among us. Truly, her mark upon our world is undeniable.

My young friend chose Teresa for his Confirmation name with the hope of emulating her in his own life. My friend John did just that. He never drove a new car or owned a tailored suit. When he eventually held an important position in the archdiocese, he continued to live a simple life. When John passed away, all who knew him agreed that he was a truly good soul, perhaps our own saint-in-the-making. That young man who sports Teresa’s name may be on his way to doing the same.

Dear God, thank you for filling my life with holy idols like these!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Small Bits of Love Add Up!

Every day we are called to do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa

While my granddaughters chatted about their first week of school, I hoped that all of the kids who’ve begun this new academic year are equally pleased. Throughout August, I’d encountered numerous parents and children in a last-minute search for school supplies. I was amused by the interplay between parents and their children as they negotiated which items were and were not essential to the coming school year. My granddaughters and their parents had certainly done the same!

The parents I saw amazed me with their patience as they gently urged their children back to their supply lists. The children responded in kind as they agreed that their family budgets would go only so far. In the end, parents and children shared the load as they carried their treasures off to their cars. All the while, they chatted about new teachers and reunions with friends. This scene repeated itself over and over again over the past several weeks. Those parents who kept their cool and those children who took their parents’ cues certainly made the most of what can sometimes be a trying time for all concerned.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed countless acts of love -tiny, heroic moments in our every day lives. Our attitudes and our choices in the moments make all of the difference in the world to those around us. Whenever we choose love over anger, love over impatience, love in spite of our weariness and love in the midst of heartbreak, we do our greatest work. Those parents and their children did just that!

Loving God, Mother Teresa certainly got it right. Help us to love as she showed us to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Light The Way

Wherever we are, we are the light of God’s goodness.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I told you about this young woman a few years ago. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time until today. When I greeted her, she smiled in return. Still, I don’t think she remembered what she did for me six years ago. She’s probably extended so many kindnesses to others that she simply can’t keep track of them. As for me, I’ll never forget the day on which I caught a glimpse of her soul…

As she bagged my groceries, I told the cashier that I had a case of Snapple in my cart. The young woman eased my cart forward. She gently placed each bag next the Snapple being certain that nothing was damaged in the process. When the young woman asked if I needed help outside, I explained that I normally pride myself in being able to load up the car. However, this day was an exception due to my shoulder injury.

As we walked to my car, she said, “I’m sorry to hear about your shoulder. Did the doctor look at it?” I shared the saga of my surgery, post-op exercises and recovery which forced me into hibernation for weeks. “My goodness!” she said as she placed the groceries into my car. “Well, you take care of yourself. Listen to that doctor and rest. If you do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll be just fine. When I say my prayers, I’ll pray for you. I’m going to pray right now on my way back to work. Now you take care.” Her promise to pray for me touched my heart in ways that she’ll never know. That day marked a major turn in my recovery. No wonder I haven’t forgotten her. I never will.

Dear God, thank you for giving us the capacity to bring your light to one another and for those who so generously do so.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Saints One and All!

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind…
You Shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

From Matthew 22:34-40

All Saints Day brings me hope this year. I’ve read accounts by two favorites which shine a bright light on the realities of trying to be good. Not long ago, I referenced St. Therese of Lisieux who managed to make an art of turning small aggravations into opportunities to love. Life wasn’t always a picnic for Therese, her loved ones and her fellow nuns. Still, she made the very best of her efforts to be good during the twenty-four years she was given.

Anther woman with a similar name once said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love…” Mother Teresa of Calcutta left her family’s wealth behind to become a sister. While in training, she saw the poorest of the poor just beyond the convent’s windows. She begged her superiors to allow her to work with God’s poor. Eventually, the little nun who later became Mother Teresa began her own congregation of sisters whose only work is to serve the poor. After Mother Teresa’s death, her writings were released. I was surprised to learn that this obviously holy woman lived much of her adult life with doubt regarding God’s love for her. Still, she went about the business of caring for those she was given to love.

It seems to me that, in spite of our smallness, we can accomplish much good as well. You and I will likely never minister to our fellow sisters as Therese did or to the poor in the streets of Calcutta as Mother Teresa did. Still, we can interact with those we meet along the way with love.

Dear God, on this All Saints Day, remind us that our small efforts to be good are enough to earn our sainthood.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved