Always Teaching…

The child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

As soon as I saw his face, I knew the young man before me and I had walked the same hallways decades earlier. Though I was never his teacher, this bright and talented student and I interacted frequently due to our involvement in special projects and the close proximity of our classrooms. We talked almost every day.

Though Charles was far too bright to require the academic support I offered, I gave this young man as much attention as possible. His amazing abilities sometimes put him at odds with his classmates. I hoped to encourage him to be himself and to do his best in spite of the teasing and worse which his peers doled out. In the end, he persisted. This brave young man is now a happy, well-adjusted and productive adult.

Many years ago, I was fascinated by the title of a book regarding all of the things the author had learned in kindergarten. This writer was convinced that he’d acquired life’s most important skills during that single year. While I agree with him regarding those all-important life-skills, I’d like to think that we have the potential to learn something new every day. I also think we have the potential to teach something new every day. This is the reason that we need to be ever-mindful of the gift of the children among us. The things they learn at home, at school and in the neighborhood remain with them for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, our instructive example contributes to their development, their productivity and their ability to nurture and to teach others even better than we have.

Loving God, help us to bring a bit of your wonder and your love to the little children and to the grown children nearby.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Treat One Another With Love

The week before Halloween, I went through two boxes of my childhood photos in search of a picture for my sister. Though I didn’t find the one she’d hoped for, I did unearth numerous other treasures in the process. These included my class pictures and a myriad of photos from special events. They chronicled Halloween, First Communion, our school talent show and May Crowning. Though I was featured in the latter because I crowned Mary in second grade, I lingered over the photos of my costumed classmates far longer. Perhaps the approach of Halloween 2018 piqued my interest. I wondered if Gurnee’s trick-or-treaters would compete with my classmates’ and my efforts to disguise ourselves. I wondered if they enjoyed second grade as much as I had. I hoped that their trick-or-treating friends would one day elicit sweet memories for them. With that, I hung onto my memories and stowed those photos for another day…

I gave up on trying to be productive during trick-or-treating hours long ago. In recent years, the good deacon and I have made a party of it with our kids and grandkids. Since their communities celebrate Halloween on October 31, they joined Mike and me in treating the candy-seekers who came to our door last Saturday. They also engaged in a bit of candy-seeking themselves. In the midst of this circus, I celebrated the revelry around me and those memories of Halloween Past, especially from second grade. My teacher that year had determined that ours would be the best Halloween Party in the school. It would also be the most saint-filled.

Sister took the world’s inattention to the November 1st feast of All Saints Day personally and she decided to do something about it. She believed we all need heroes to imitate and that the pool of saints provided the perfect place to find one. When Sister announced her plans for a “heavenly feast” made up of all the goodies we could convince our parents to supply, she added that saintly costumes would add to the fun and food we’d enjoy. Sister’s sweet tooth and her love of parties were second only to our own. That year, my classmates and I spent far less time on our costumes than we did begging our parents to provide those treats for us.

When Halloween arrived, our class boasted the Mother of Jesus, St. Joseph, St. Francis, several apostles and other popular patrons. Sister’s face glowed until my friend Eddie arrived. I couldn’t believe that he’d forgotten to dress as a saint! Sister had been very clear about this. Still, in spite of Sister’s effort, Eddie had donned a crisp white shirt and a tie, both of which lost themselves under a very large suit coat. Eddie’s eyes were hidden under a handsome hat which must have belonged to his dad. From the frown on Sister’s face, I knew Eddie was in big trouble. Sister took Eddie into the hall for a little talk. Though it seemed an hour to me, Sister and Eddie returned a few minutes later. A smile had replaced Sister’s frown. Before I could check Eddie’s expression, Sister called us together to share some very big news.

Eddie produced a huge grin as Sister announced that Eddie deserved an “A” in catechism on his report card. Our wide-eyed amazement must have amused her as Sister went on to explain. She told us that Eddie’s costume represented his very clear understanding of sainthood. Eddie had told sister that his mother often called his dad a saint. The dear man put up with Eddie and his sisters and brothers. He worked very hard to make enough money to feed and clothe them. Tired as he was after work each night, Eddie’s dad always helped his mom with dinner. After dinner, Eddie’s dad asked his children how things had gone that day while assisting with their homework. When his dad helped at bedtime, Eddie’s mother often said, “Honey, you’re a saint!” Being the good kid that he was, Eddie listened to his mother. Though his status was still “saint-in-the-making,” the saint Eddie chose to portray was his dad.

Though Halloween has come and gone, I share this Halloween memory because Eddie’s dad truly exhibited the intent behind each of today’s scripture passages. Deuteronomy (6:2-6) tells us that Moses called the people to “Fear the Lord, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life.” A better translation might be, “Be inspired by God whose laws provide the basis for truly lasting relationships.” God seeks friendship with each of us and God rejoices in the potential for lasting friendships among us. The passage from Hebrews (7:23-28) reminds us that Jesus remains with us in our efforts to love one another as God intended. In the gospel (Mark 12:28-34), Jesus underscored all of this when he taught the greatest commandments of all: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

You know, the rules which were most important to Jesus were those which helped his followers to love God and to love one another most completely. Since Jesus takes his lead from our benevolent Creator, it seems wise for us to concern ourselves with the same. I lingered over those Halloween photos because they rekindled the love I felt for my friends. Sister asked us to dress as saints for Halloween because she wanted to inspire us to be loving people. Eddie dressed up like his dad that day because his parents filled their seemingly ordinary life with extraordinary love. Today, God invites you and me to do the same.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Friend Therese

“If God grants my desires… I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth…”
Saint Therese of Lisieux

This is the feast day of Saint Therese of Lisieux. I’ve felt great affection for Therese since fifth grade when I read her autobiography. I identified with this young saint because her circumstances reflected my own. Therese and I share our French heritage. Therese grew up with several sisters as I did. She wanted to become a nun from very early on. I wanted to become a nun for as long as I can remember. Most importantly, Therese spoke her mind to God probably from the day she learned to pray. So have I. Therese never doubted God’s love for her and she felt free to share everything with God. I grew up feeling the same.

Years later, when I revisited Therese’s autobiography, I appreciated Therese’s approach to this life more fully. Within the seemingly mundane experiences, frustrations and worries of her young life, Therese found small ways to do good. When she left home in her teens to join the Carmelite Nuns, Therese quickly discovered that she would spend her short life perfecting what she called “The little way.” Therese realized that the best opportunity to do good is in the everyday circumstances of our lives. Indeed, Therese perfected her little way by the time she passed away at age twenty-four.

As for me, my circumstances are ordinary as well. I plan to celebrate Therese’s feast by taking full advantage of this ordinary day. Today, I will transform every ordinary moment into an opportunity to do good.

Loving God, thank you for Therese and for all of the wise souls who lead us closer to you.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Little Way

“If God grants my desires… I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth…”
Saint Therese of Lisieux

October 1 is the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Because tomorrow is Sunday, I’ll honor Therese with today’s reflection…

I’ve felt great affection for Therese since fifth grade when I read her autobiography. I identified with this young saint because her circumstances reflected my own. Therese and I share our French heritage. Therese grew up with several sisters as I did. She wanted to become a nun from very early on. I wanted to become a nun for as long as I can remember. Most importantly, Therese spoke her mind to God probably from the day she learned to pray and so have I. Therese never doubted God’s love for her and she felt free to share everything with God. I grew up feeling the same.

Years later, when I revisited Therese’s autobiography, I appreciated Therese’s approach to this life more fully. Within the seemingly mundane experiences, frustrations and worries of her young life, Therese found small ways to do good. When she left home in her teens to join the Carmelite Nuns, Therese quickly discovered that she would spend her short life perfecting what she called “The Little Way.” Therese realized that the best opportunity to do good is found the each of the everyday circumstances of our lives. Indeed, Therese perfected her little way by the time she passed away at age twenty-four.

As for me, my circumstances are fairly ordinary as well. So it is that I’ll celebrate Therese’s feast by taking full advantage of an ordinary day. I’ll begin on this eve of her feast day to transform every ordinary moment into an opportunity to love.

Loving God, thank you for Therese and for all of the wise souls who lead us closer to you.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Teach Them Well

The child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

As soon as I saw his face, I knew the young man before me had walked the same hallways with me three decades earlier. Though I was never his teacher, this bright and talented student and I interacted frequently due to our involvement in special projects and the close proximity of our classrooms. We talked almost every day.

Though Charles was far too bright to require the academic support I offered, I gave this young man as much attention as possible. His amazing ability sometimes put him at odds with his classmates. I hoped to encourage him to be himself and to do his best in spite of the teasing and worse which his peers doled out. In the end, he persisted. This brave young man is now a happy, well-adjusted and productive adult.

Many years ago, I was fascinated by the title of a book regarding all of the things the author had learned in kindergarten. The writer was convinced that he’s acquired life’s most important skills during that single year. I’d like to think that we have the potential to learn something new every day. I also think that we need to be ever-mindful of the gift of the children around us. The things they learn at home and at school remain with them for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, our instruction contributes to their development, their productivity and their ability to nurture and to teach others even better than we have.

Loving God, help us to enrich the children among us as you would.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Little Flower

“If God grants my desires… I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth…”
Saint Therese of Lisieux

This is the feast day of Saint Therese of Lisieux. I have felt great affection for Therese since fifth grade when I read her autobiography. I identified with this young saint because her circumstances reflected my own. Therese and I share our French heritage. Therese grew up with several sisters as I did. She wanted to become a nun from very early on. I wanted to become a nun for as long as I can remember. Most importantly, Therese spoke her mind to God probably from the day she learned to pray and so have I. Therese never doubted God’s love for her and she felt free to share everything with God. I grew up feeling the same.

Years later, when I revisited Therese’s autobiography, I appreciated Therese’s approach to this life more fully. Within the seemingly mundane experiences, frustrations and worries of her young life, Therese found small ways to do good. When she left home in her teens to join the Carmelite Nuns, Therese quickly discovered that she would spend her short life perfecting what she called “The little way.” Therese realized that the best opportunity to do good is in the everyday circumstances of our lives. Indeed, Therese perfected her little way by the time she passed away at age twenty-four. As for me, my circumstances are ordinary as well. I will celebrate Therese’s feast by taking full advantage of this ordinary day. Today, I will transform every ordinary moment into an opportunity to do good.

Loving God, thank you for Therese and for all of the wise souls who lead us closer to you.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved