God’s Open Door

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs
under the table eat the family’s leavings.”

Mark 7:24

I grew up in an Irish and Italian neighborhood. Since only the tiniest drop of either bloodline flows through me, I had no preference for either group. The truth is that I envied them both, especially on St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s Days when my Irish and Italian friends celebrated their heritage with great flourish. For the most part, I am French Canadian and there was no designated day for me to do the same. Though my family celebrated rich traditions which are the direct result of my ethnicity, as a child, I longed for a more colorful and universal display. Later, new neighbors of African American dissent moved nearby and we became fast friends. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone in my envy of those whose ethnicity was celebrated.

This childhood disappointment evolved into a lifetime of effort to honor the plethora of ethnic differences which make our human family the treasure it is. That disappointment also fueled my effort to work around the numerous other differences which often separate us. Perhaps it was providential that I spent my career working with children. My classroom provided the perfect forum in which to honor both our personal uniqueness and our common qualities. Though I left my classroom behind long ago, I find that the lessons I learned there regarding God’s “Open Door Policy” are more important than ever these days.

Welcoming God, it seems that wherever we are we manage to separate ourselves into differing factions. Help me and all of my sisters and brothers to welcome one another into the moments of our lives just as you welcome us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Set The Table!

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

When I was a little girl, dinner time was the best part of my day. Though I enjoyed our meals which were typical of a blue-collar family of the day, I enjoyed the family which gathered to partake of them far more. Because my dad worked nights, dinner time was our first opportunity to spend quality time with him most days. Because this was “morning” to him, my dad always exhibited his pleasant demeanor and his sense of humor as we ate. I believe that we laughed as much as we chewed throughout these shared meals.

Happily, my parents’ love for shared meals remains with their children. We all take every opportunity to open our homes, our tables and our hearts to others. I’m particularly grateful that my parents’ example taught me to extend hospitality to those who are less than friendly to me as well. At my parents’ table, I found the tools and the willingness to invite in any of God’s children who want to take a seat and “chew” on whatever is on their minds. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

Welcoming God, no matter the hour or the occasion, you make place at your table for everyone who calls your name.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Welcome

People will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
to sit at God’s table.

Luke 13:29

I was raised in a welcoming household. Looking back, I see that this was actually quite an accomplishment on my parents’ part. Our ten-person family filled our modest second-floor flat which threatened to burst at the seams. Still, my parents opened the door to friends and family who happened by. This included my playmates who sometimes timed their stays to overlap with dinnertime. Perhaps this is the reason I enjoy large gatherings of people. Perhaps this is the reason that I responded quickly when I heard about the new parish planned for our community.

My husband and I immediately contacted the pastor-to-be to offer our assistance. Father Farrell welcomed us with open arms. After asking my husband what he hoped to bring to the mix, Father Farrell asked me the same. I responded immediately, “I want to be welcoming. I want anyone and everyone to feel that there’s a place for them among us regardless of their story. I just want them to know that this church is their home.” Apparently, our new pastor agreed. He made “welcoming” a top priority and he empowered the rest of us to do the same, just as my parents had so long ago.

These days, many who once found solace in their parish churches find themselves put off by the terrible sexual abuse scandal. It’s difficult to understand how these things occurred in the very place which should serve as an oasis of peace in our troubled world. In light of this tragedy, it seems to me that welcoming has become more important than ever. All of us have been hurt by these terrible events. All of us need an oasis of peace in which to deal with them. Today, I welcome you into whatever place God provides you for this purpose… your parish church, the company of an equally upset or angry friend, the quiet of your room where you tell God exactly what you think about all of this. Wherever you go, God welcomes you with love.

Loving God, thank you for being with us in everything.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Welcome!

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

When I was a little girl, dinner time was the best part of my day. Though I enjoyed our meals which were typical of a blue-collar family of the era, I enjoyed the family which gathered to partake of them far more. Because my dad worked nights, dinner time was our first opportunity to spend quality time with him most days. This was “morning” to him and my dad almost always exhibited his sense of humor as he started his new day. We often laughed as much as we chewed throughout these shared meals.

Happily, my parents’ welcoming spirits remain with their children. We all do our share of opening our homes and our hearts to others. I’m particularly grateful that my parents’ example taught me to extend hospitality even to those who are less than friendly toward me. At my parents’ table, I found the tools and the willingness to invite in any of God’s children who want to take a seat and “chew” on whatever is on their minds. These tools have served me well all of my life.

It seems to me that we have no better example of welcoming others than we find in God. Jesus did an amazing job of revealing God’s loving ways toward all of humankind. In our goodness and our sinfulness, God finds us worthy of the present moment and of the amazing things to come!

Welcoming God, you respond to all who call your name. Even when we fail to turn to you, you welcome us into your embrace.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Come On In!

People will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.

Luke 13:29

I was raised in a very welcoming household. This was actually quite an accomplishment on my parents’ part. Our ten-person family filled our modest second-floor flat which threatened to burst at the seams. Still, my parents opened the door to any friends and family who happened by. This included my playmates who sometimes timed their stays to overlap with dinner which sometimes ended with their sharing our meal. Perhaps this is the reason I continue to enjoy large gatherings. Sometimes, I ease myself toward the fringe of things so I can more fully appreciate the joyful activity before me.

Recent tragedy has given me reason to celebrate large groups of people once again. In the aftermath of the recent hurricanes and earthquakes, scores of volunteers poured into the ravaged areas to offer assistance and hope to their fellow humans. Weeks later, the tragedy in Las Vegas transformed anonymous concert attendees into a collage of the best that humanity has to offer. Tales of uncommon heroism filled the news in the aftermath. All of these kindnesses reminded me of home, the one I shared with my parents and the one to which God welcomes us all.

You know, though some of the rhetoric we hear these days is unwelcoming at best, it’s good to know that most of us continue to be about the business of welcoming one another into our lives. In good times and bad, we open the doors of our hearts and say, “Come on in!”

Loving God, thank you for creating us with a propensity to imitate your welcoming ways.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Prepare The Table

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

When I was a little girl, dinner time was the best part of my day. Though I enjoyed our meals which were typical of a blue-collar family of the day, I enjoyed the family which gathered to partake of them far more. Because my dad worked nights, dinner time was our first opportunity to spend quality time with him most days. Because this was “morning” to him, my dad always exhibited good humor and his sense of humor as we ate. I believe that we laughed as much as we chewed throughout these shared meals.

Happily, my parents’ welcoming spirits remain with their children. We all do our share of opening our homes and our hearts to others. I am particularly grateful that my parents’ example taught me to extend hospitality to those who are less than friendly to me as well. At my parents’ table, I found the tools and the willingness to invite in any of God’s children who want to take a seat and “chew” on whatever is on their minds.

Welcoming God, no matter the hour or the occasion, you respond to all who call your name. Give us the courage and good will to reveal your welcome in all that we say and do, especially to those who need our company most.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved