All God’s Messengers

I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
From Matthew 16:19

At church, we’ll celebrate the Easter Season for nine more days. I laughed as I typed “At church” because I don’t feel that I’ve celebrated Easter more than a day or two afterward. Easter seems so long ago. Perhaps in an effort to alleviate my own guilt, I considered the plight of Peter and the rest during those early days after Jesus’ resurrection. Though they’d seen Jesus since, they continued to huddle in hiding for weeks afterward. They remained frightened and confused at best. The truth is that I find this quite consoling these days.

Jesus’ uncertain band of followers was assembled one by one. Each was chosen by name. Peter had no idea of what being given the keys to the kingdom entailed, yet Jesus entrusted them to him. Jesus entrusted each one of his friends with his news regarding God’s love and the wonder God has in store for us when our journeys on this earth are complete.

When I was a child and realized the disciples’ uncertainty, I told myself often that I would’ve been much different if I had walked with Jesus. I couldn’t understand how anyone would’ve questioned a thing Jesus said or did. Of course, I eventually realized that I am no better than Peter and the rest. In spite of the numerous ways I’ve experienced God throughout my life, I question and worry and despair just as the disciples did. Still, God’s message of love and hope rests in my hands.

Trusting God, you have made me a caretaker of your message and your love. Give me the courage to share both honestly and generously.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thank you, Blaise!

I will fulfill my vows…
Psalm 22:26b

During my second visit to the Holy Land, I allowed myself to tune inward on occasion because Israel had become familiar territory to me in some ways. After our return last year, I spent months researching further and writing about this experience. This time, I allowed myself to simply breathe it all in…

One recurring theme was the stance of religious leaders of Jesus’ day and today. The scribes and Pharisees had great influence over the people. They sometimes used their power to leverage Roman rule. At times, temple leaders compromised at the people’s expense to protect their own authority. It was no wonder that, when Jesus began his ministry and embraced the poor and outcasts, the people took notice. Finally, someone who spoke in God’s name also behaved as God asked. Today, similar conflict continues between conservative religious Jews and their more secular counterparts. Everything from world politics to daily life in Israel is affected by this.

You know, a portion of our spirituality results from our interactions with religious leaders. When they exhibit the beliefs we hold dear, they enhance our faith communities and our own relationships with God. When they err, they sometimes drive us away. We respond by finding comfort with other believers in other places or we dismiss these imperfect communities as non-salvageable. We retreat into ourselves to form a mini-community of God and self. While some of my greatest inspiration comes in “God and me” moments, I also benefit greatly from sharing God’s wonder with my family-in-faith.

On this is the Feast of St. Blaise, my thoughts turn to one of my religious leaders, Blaise Cupich. This remarkably humble man leads Catholics throughout Chicagoland and the world in ways great and small. Pope Francis has certainly placed a lot of faith our cardinal! The people of Chicago have done the same because Blaise has consistently walked with them in their joy and in their sorrow. While keeping up with all of this, our Blaise oversees the archdiocese with wisdom and his visible commitment to live as God asks. Those who work in close proximity to our Blaise have great respect for his intelligence and humility, his personal work ethic and his love for us all. I’ve met Blaise Cupich twice. Each time, he behaved as though the moment at hand was the most important of his day. I don’t know how he does it…

Happy Feast Day, Blaise Cupich! I offer you my thanks for all that you do and my prayer that you will remain for as long as the job takes.

Loving God, please be with Blaise Cupich and all of our spiritual leaders as they strive to do your work as you would have them.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Patience…

He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd guards his flock.

Jeremiah 31:11

A friend’s recent visit to Rome conjured thoughts of Pope Francis. Just as he stole my heart from the balcony over St. Peter’s Square after his election, he did the same to my friend when she caught a glimpse of him. Francis’ humble demeanor characterizes his efforts to lead God’s people as one of God’s people.

Francis stuns some while touching the hearts of others with his approachable demeanor and his openness to reform in the church and in the world. Francis seems keenly aware of Jesus’ propensity to embrace outcasts. This pope is also keenly aware of Jesus’ generous and indiscriminate rendering of healing and mercy upon all who require them.

If you have a family, you understand how difficult it can be to fix things which have gone awry over the years. Sometimes, delicate urging is all that is needed. Sometimes, strong and deliberate effort is required. In this family which I call “church”, it seems that Francis faces both. When I become impatient because change seems to come too slowly, I consider our dear pope’s smile and the considerable effort it must require of him at times.

While Francis sorts out what is and isn’t essential from his perspective, we must try do the same. Regardless of our religious affiliations or lack thereof, we all have relationships with God. It is up to us nurture these relationships lovingly, just as God does.

As for change… all in God’s time…

Loving God, give me patience with what is. Be with me as I make the best of it as best I can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Lead Us Well

I will fulfill my vows…
Psalm 22:26b

On this Feast of St. Blaise, I can’t help thinking of our relatively new archbishop, Blaise Cupich. The truth is that I don’t often give the poor man much thought. This is not the result of any disrespect or lack of concern. It’s just that my daily life doesn’t often require reliance upon or interaction with him. Still, I can’t help offering a prayer for him today and I do so with good reason.

You know, a good portion of our spiritual awareness is partially the result of the efforts of archbishops, popes, pastors, rabbis, imams, preachers, deacons, priests, nuns and teachers of many sorts. When these people exhibit the beliefs we hold dear in their work, especially their leadership, they enhance our faith communities and our own relationships with God. When these people err, whether in big or small ways, they drive us from those communities. Sometimes, we find comfort with other believers in another place. Sometimes, we dismiss those imperfect communities as non-salvageable and we retreat into ourselves. We form a mini-community of self and God. While some of my greatest inspiration comes in “me and God” moments, I admit that I do enjoy sharing God’s wonder with others.

So, today, I pray for Blaise Cupich. I ask God to grace him with the wisdom, stamina and love he needs to bring God into everything he does as archbishop and as one of God’s people. I add another prayer for everyone in leadership in the faith communities which fill this world.


Loving God, help our spiritual leaders to align their hearts with your heart. Help them to lead with love, compassion and mercy just as you lead each of us from within. Give them the vision and the courage to look at all things with your eyes and to respond accordingly.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Family

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd guards his flock.

Jeremiah 31:10-11

A few weeks ago, a headline drew my attention to Pope Francis. He stole my heart when he appeared on the balcony over St. Peter’s Square just after his election. Rather than donning the ornate cape normally placed over the shoulders of a new pontiff, he chose to greet God’s people without it. This pope intended to lead God’s people as one of God’s people.

Throughout his relatively short tenure, Francis has stunned some while touching the hearts of others with his approachable demeanor and his openness to reform in the church. Francis seems keenly aware of Jesus’ propensity to embrace outcasts. This pope is also keenly aware of Jesus’ generous and indiscriminate rendering of healing and mercy upon all who require them.

If you have a family, you understand how difficult it can be to “fix” things which have gone awry over the years. Sometimes, delicate urging is all that is needed. Sometimes, strong and deliberate effort is required. In this family which I call “church”, it seems that both lie ahead for Francis. Both lie ahead for you and me as well. While Francis sorts out what is and isn’t essential from his perspective, you and I must do the same. Regardless of our religious affiliations or lack thereof, we all have relationships with God. It is up to us nurture these relationships by treating one another with love, just as God does.

Loving God, we try to do our best when it comes to our relationships with you. Help us to make this evident in our acceptance and our love of one another.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Home Away From Home

Since I was a little girl, my parish church has been extremely important to me. I grew up around the corner and down the block from Presentation Church on the West Side of Chicago. Though I am unsure of when my affection for this building took root, I do recall that my family and I were always very much at home there. We celebrated the happiest of times and endured the saddest of times in this home away from home. We found joy at our family baptisms, on First Communion days, when we were confirmed and at the Christmas and Easter liturgies. We found consolation as we sat in Presentation’s dark wooden pews during Funeral Masses for my uncle, my grandfather, my grandmother and my dad. We enjoyed our fellow parishioners during social events such as talent shows and annual picnics. When we moved the summer after I completed sixth grade, I had to be dragged to the car because I didn’t want to go. Presentation Church was my home away from home and our parish family was my auxiliary family. It was very difficult to leave them behind.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. On November 9, 324, Pope Sylvester I dedicated what would become the cathedral church of Rome. Though we most often associate St. Peter’s Basilica with the pope, St. John Lateran is actually the Holy Father’s parish church. The papal throne is located in St. John’s, and it is from St. John’s that the Holy Father offers his most important teaching. Though all of this sounds quite formal and official, I imagine that Pope Francis finds great consolation within the walls of this holy building. Throughout the course of history, only a few will serve as pope. Since 324, at one time or another, each one who has held that office has knelt in the Basilica of St. John Lateran to beg the Holy Spirit’s guidance, to thank God for blessings received and to share the burden of caring for God’s family here on this earth. Just as Presentation Church became my home away from home because of my own history and the many people who enriched me there, so St. John Lateran is for Pope Francis.

I’m happy to share that the same holds true for me and my husband regarding our current parish. Years ago when news circulated that our town would be home to a new church, Mike spoke with Father Farrell, the founding pastor. While Mike investigated his transfer as deacon to this new parish, Father Farrell investigated where to hold weekend Masses. We gathered for our first Mass in a public school gym. For what seemed like decades, we and a crew of tireless volunteers prepared that gym for Mass every Saturday afternoon. We also disassembled everything after the last Mass every Sunday. Though it was some time before we actually constructed a building, we had built a very strong church of people during those years. When we opened the doors of our church building for the very first time, we simply moved that church of people into its tangible home.

It has been 1,690 years since Saint John Lateran Basilica was dedicated. As we celebrate the church which the Holy Father calls home, we celebrate even more so the church of people among whom Pope Francis walks. As a child, I called my parish church “home” because of the people who welcomed, nurtured and consoled me there. I found God amidst my parish family just as tangibly as I found God at Mass, in the sacraments, during my prayer and in the world around me. I am who I am today because of my relationship with my church family. It occurs to me that the same is true for us all regardless of what our faith happens to be. There is only one Francis I. There is only one “you” and only one “me” as well. Our church family is enriched greatly by the special gifts only Francis, you and I offer. When Francis, you or I aren’t here, our entire family misses out.

Today’s feast of the Holy Father’s “official” church is the perfect time to celebrate our worldwide church family which Pope Francis so lovingly embraces and our parish family here at St. Paul’s. It is also a good time to talk about our faith with our children. Let them know just how blessed we are to have this auxiliary family with whom we can pray, celebrate, mourn and do good. Together, we have made a place for God and for God’s other children in our lives. One day, our parish children will walk this familiar aisle for their weddings and their own children’s baptisms. My husband and I can personally attest to that! What precious times there have been, there are and there will be in the parish and in the church which are our family and our home!

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved