My lover belongs to me and I to him
He says to me:
“Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
for stern as death is love…”

From Song of Songs 2-8

On this date some decades ago, my husband and I married. (Happy Anniversary, Dear!) The passage I cite from Songs of Songs was read at our wedding.

I’ve shared before that my husband is a deacon which allows him the opportunity to witness marriages. As is often the case during the summer months, our home has evolved into “Wedding Central” once again. I’ve also shared that I assist divorced Catholics who wish to pursue the annulment process. I’ve recently felt that I’m in “Annulment Central” because several people have sought my help as of late. Though I hope our encounters ease those concerned through a difficult time, I know that the pain of a failed marriage lingers on.

On this anniversary of my own wedding day, I pray for married couples everywhere, that they truly work at their love and maintain their respect for one another. I also pray for those who find themselves in a troubled relationship. May they rediscover the love which drew them to one another, if they can. May those who cannot do so find the courage to do what is best for each other and for their families. Sometimes, that “best” is living apart. In both cases, God will remain to see them through.

Loving God, bless those who find the love and the courage to marry with all that they need to truly enjoy their life together. Bless those who struggle with their commitments with peace. Be with them as they choose what is best for all concerned.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Reconciled!

“…go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:24

When I became engaged, my parish priest provided all of the required marriage preparation. I appreciated this effort because I had known Father O’Connell since I was four years old and my fiancé had known him since high school. Father was like a second dad to me and I was happy that he wanted to ensure that my future husband and I started this marriage with our best foot forward. Though Father’s talks were all helpful, one bit of advice has proven to be most beneficial over the years. Father encouraged my future husband and me never to go to bed angry with one another. The longevity our relationship is evidence of Father’s wisdom in this regard.

It occurs to me that I need to apply this advice to my other relationships. It’s never helpful to allow recent hurts to age into old scars. When I spend time nursing my wounds rather than dealing with their source, I bring their pain to every subsequent encounter. How much better off I’d be if I sought out my perceived adversary and explored the problem with him or her. Though the result might not always be what I prefer, the air between us will certainly be clearer. Isn’t fresh air always more energizing than smog?

Loving God, it has taken me too long to apply Father’s decades-old lesson to my other relationships. Thank you for giving me the sense to figure this out!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Lessons In The Snow

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1

In spite of the cold, I treated myself to a stroll through the neighborhood. Snow piles on either side of the walk reached well above my knees. There would be no cutting corners this time around. The occasional blocked sidewalk caused me to detour into the street where the village snowplows left a clear path. It was there that I discovered the gray-stained snow that I would otherwise have missed. When I returned to the sidewalk, images of that gray snow remained with me. I found myself identifying with its lost luster. “You’re still snow,” I whispered reassuringly.

I smiled as I recalled reassuring voices from my past who made similar observations. The encouragement I felt was tangible. As I walked on, I sought out similarly afflicted bits of nature: A mighty birch bent low under heavy snow; the invisible pond near Village Hall which hid under a blanket of white; that row of proud arbor vitae reduced to a mass of tangled branches pointing everywhere but up. “Don’t worry,” I promised. “You’ll all be back to normal before spring.”

You know, when God created this earth, God also created a great source of hope for humankind. In the greatness and foibles of nature, God revealed the greatness and foibles which beset us all. When we take the time to learn from the gifts around us, we find great encouragement, amazing mercy and God’s awesome unconditional love. We also find the promise of another chance it become our best selves again.

Thank you, Creative God, for the gifts of Nature and for the lessons in life which we find among them.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Little Way

Dearly Beloved, we are God’s children now…
From 1 John 3:2

A few weeks before Christmas, I helped to plan a reconciliation service. My hope was to move those who would attend beyond their guilt to certainty of their forgiveness and their goodness.

As I looked through my notes, I found the service we’d used a few years earlier. Our associate pastor had given me a copy of his homily for that evening. I searched for inspiration as I perusing his words. Early on, I found Father Dave’s reference to St. Therese of Lisieux. He’d cited Therese’s realization -at age thirteen- that she’d seriously harmed her family and herself. Therese was prone to tantrums whenever things upset her. On Christmas Eve, she overheard a comment from her father which opened her eyes to what she’d done to her family and to herself. She’d held her family hostage with her outbursts. She’d also transformed herself into an extremely selfish person. With that realization, Therese resolved to change her ways. The timing prompted Therese to call this her “Christmas Conversion”. This change did take hold and Therese began to live according to what she would later call her “Little Way.” All the while, Therese knew that God loved her just as her family had loved her in spite of herself. As a result, in all that she said and did, Therese hoped to convince others that God loves them just as thoroughly.

As I continued my planning, I considered my contributions to my family’s well-being and to that of the world around me. Was “Mary’s Way” as honorable an endeavor as Therese’s had become? After reflecting upon that for a while, I realized that my efforts would be well placed if I did as Therese had done. I would encourage those who attended as Therese had encouraged me.

Loving God, you love us and you forgive us everything. This new year, be with us as we work on our own little ways of doing good.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Unexpected Peace

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you.

Numbers 6:24-25

During Lent, my parish hosted a Reconciliation Service. This gathering gave those present the opportunity to acknowledge God’s mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. Such gatherings usually begin with prayer followed by a gospel reading and homily. We continue with a short reflection which allows us to consider the things for which we might wish to express our contrition. The liturgy closes with an invitation to private confession for those interested.

It was my task to plan and to read at this liturgy. Because life was extremely busy during Lent and getting people to church on a week night can sometimes be challenging, I wanted to make this gathering as meaningful and comforting as possible. So it was that I invested my best effort. A few hours before I was to appear to serve as lector, my sister called with a request for my company. I determined that she needed me more than those who would gather at church that evening. When my husband offered to take my place, I drove off to my sister’s.

When we returned home later that evening, my husband shared what had transpired and I did the same. In the end, all went well and we both accomplished precisely what we had hoped. The peace we felt was tangible.

Thank you, loving God, for gifting us with your mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. Most of all, thank you for empowering us to share these with one another.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Joyfully Reconciled

They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, “What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?”

John 11:56

My husband is very good about staying in touch with his extended family. He frequently calls his elderly aunts and uncle, partly to catch up on the latest family news and mostly to check up on their well-being. Things have not always been this way. It was some time ago when my husband took the first step in making things right…

It had been years since they had seen one another or spoken. Still, when my husband heard that his uncle had passed away, he went to his visitation. My husband’s generation was not privy to the numerous events which had brought about their parents’ strained relationships. In the end, he decided that his generation should not propagate these unknowns which had kept them apart for too long.

It was with great relief that he returned from the funeral home. His cousins very much appreciated his gesture. Later, when my mother-in-law passed away, my husband’s cousins graciously returned his thoughtfulness in kind.

Loving God, give us the courage and generosity to comfort those in need, especially when it is most difficult to do so.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved