Mary

Out of my distress, I called to God,
and God answered me;
From the midst of the nether world I cried for help,
and you heard my voice.

Jonah 2:3

This is the Feast of Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary. My mom had great devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus. My mom saw to it that my siblings and I all reference Mary in one way or another through our first and middle names. My mom’s devotion was evident in her prayer as well. Before I went to kindergarten, I joined my family in the living room often to pray an evening Rosary for our very sick grandfather. We repeated this exercise again and again when our uncle and then our own dad became ill.

My mom seemed convinced that, of all of heaven’s inhabitants, Mary best understood her heartbreak over each of these crises. My mom also understood that prayer can be difficult when ones heart is overwhelmed with grief. So it was that she engaged us all in repeating the consoling words of the Hail Mary.

Most of the time, I address the Lord God and all of my allies above in my own words. Still, occasions arise when my pain is so great that words escape me. It is then that I lose myself in the comfort of the Rosary just as my mom did so long ago. Knowing that Mary endured and survived difficulties far greater than my own really is comforting. So it is that I pray…

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed in the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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God’s Good Company

I sought God, and God answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:5

Loss is tough. Loss occurs in relationships cut short by a misunderstanding or a move. Loss comes in the passing of our loved ones. Loss comes with divorce, even when this choice is mutual. The loss of a familiar workplace or neighborhood brings heartache. When we find ourselves at odds with an institution which once felt as comfortable as home, we find ourselves at a loss as well. Feelings of abandonment and loneliness, hopelessness and solitude consume us in the midst of these events. It seems no one and nothing can fill the emptiness within us.

The good news for all of us is that we don’t face our losses alone. Rather, we find ourselves embraced in sacred moments of sharing. Sometimes, they come in human form through the voice of a knowing friend; in the song of a mother who will love her child forever; in an artist’s rendition of a father hugging his prodigal son; in the kindness of a colleague who takes over simply because she is needed; in the parents and grandparents, spouses and significant others, sisters, brothers and friends who teach us to hold onto one another in the best and worst of times. Sometimes, these sacred moments come in the reassurance we find in the depths of our own hearts. Always, God is with us in every loss. Always, God responds with healing love.

Loving God, thank you for being with us through our losses and everything else!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God… Our Constant Companion

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.

1 John 4:16

While trimming the rose bushes alongside our house, I heard firecrackers exploding in the distance. I wondered if one of the neighborhood kids had discovered a stash which he or she had forgotten to ignite on July 4th. As I continued the task at hand, my thoughts turned to the Independence Day fireworks.

We live near enough to an amusement park to enjoy their annual fireworks display. When our neighborhood trees were new, we gathered with our lawn chairs in the center of our cul-de-sac to watch the always-breath-taking display. As our trees have grown, our line of vision has changed. This year, my husband and I carried our chairs two blocks so we could watch from the local high school parking lot. The amusement park has also relocated its “launch pad.” Though our view of each colorful burst was unobstructed, the fireworks seemed especially far away to me. If only I could have been a little closer…

This minor disappointment gave me reason to consider how often I’ve wished I’d been a little closer. When life’s struggles threaten, I sometimes feel alone as I face them. It’s only after further contemplation and following my propensity to look upward for assistance that I realize that I’m never alone in anything. Regardless of the joy or sorrow I encounter along the way, God’s love is the one constant which will never ever change. God’s love accompanies me through everything! God’s love accompanies us all through everything!

God of Love, many of your children here and around the world struggle today. Touch them with tangible reminders of your love. Let them know that you are nearby.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

J… Joy!

God has sent me to bring
glad tidings to the poor…

From Luke 4:18

J is for Joy. Joy can be illusive. A recent off-the-cuff remark opened an old wound. Normally, I let go of hurtful events, burying them deep within. As of late, however, these things have resurfaced. As a result, this seemingly harmless remark sent me into a tailspin. In an effort not to succumb to my sadness, I distracted myself. I began by perusing the newspaper. This only increased my melancholy. I set aside the paper and picked up the remote. I surfed the channels until a news report caught my attention. The update confirmed that recent violence had been accomplished to “honor” God’s name. I sank into my recliner, looked out the window and asked, “Dear God, what are we doing?”

We humans have hurt one another in God’s name since the beginning of time. Before I could repeat my question, a lone dove perched on our bird bath. Almost on cue, she turned my way, seemingly to peer into my aching heart. Though a large blue jay joined her to dance on the rim of that bird bath, the dove continued to look at me. Finally, I prayed aloud, “Thank you, Lord!” Though that dove didn’t change the news that afternoon, she filled me with joy. When she eventually flew away, perhaps to spread joy elsewhere, God’s joy remained with me.

As long as we continue to nurture God’s joy within us and around us, there will be joy in this world. Rather than allowing myself to be overwhelmed by wounds old and new, I will allow God’s joy to overwhelm me. My joy-filled revelry will compel me to share that joy at every opportunity!

God of Joy, help us to focus on your joy in spite of this world’s continuing attempts to distort and disfigure it. Be with us as we bring your joy into every moment every day.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hold On To Peace

We’d just returned from a few days up north. While carrying in some leftover groceries, I slipped off my shoes in an effort to protect the carpet on the way to the kitchen. I set down my parcel and then returned to those shoes. While putting them on, I noticed a strand of Easter grass on my sock. Honestly, I thought I’d freed the house of this green stuff weeks ago! I couldn’t help laughing as I walked back to the garage to help my dear husband carry in the rest of our things. “What’s so funny?” Mike asked. I responded by voicing my surprise at having found that pesky cellophane. We’d celebrated Easter almost six weeks earlier. First Communion Day had come and gone. Our parish’s new deacons have been functioning for two whole weeks since their May 11 ordination and we’re on the verge of celebrating Memorial Day. Let me add that I’d vacuumed several times in the midst of these events and I’d washed the floor twice. “How can that stuff still be here?” I moaned.

Before my poor husband could respond, I reminded him that I’d written about this dilemma a few weeks ago. “I think I ended with something about Easter’s lingering joy. The grass I found back then was a reminder. You know, there’s another story here…” With that, Mike and I carried in the rest of our gear. He went on to get the mail our neighbor had collected for us while I emptied our bags and sorted the dirty laundry. While Mike tended to that pile of mail, I considered this reflection. I wondered what else that Easter grass had to tell me. Finally, I realized that this pest had attached itself to my sock with good reason. You see, in the busyness which has filled my days since Easter, I’ve managed to lose sight of Easter’s joy on more than one occasion. That grass reminded me to get back on task, not to get more work done, but to get to the things I have to do with a renewed attitude. When I turned to the scriptures, I realized that I’d failed to allow Easter’s joy to morph into peace. Sadly, this was my loss as this peace is no ordinary commodity. Jesus himself offered this very peace again and again before and after his resurrection.

Fortunately for us, our friends who were the early church paid better attention than I to the peace of which Jesus spoke. Acts (15:1-2, 22-29) describes a great dilemma within the early church. Jesus’ teachings had taken hold and were spreading quickly throughout the community. Those who embraced the faith were no longer limited to the Jewish community. Gentiles had also been drawn to Jesus’ teachings. Because these newcomers hadn’t been raised in the Jewish faith, they weren’t familiar with the numerous laws which the Jewish people had taken for granted. As a result, questions arose regarding what would be required of these perceived outsiders who wished to join the church. Because some of the laws required serious sacrifice, Paul and Barnabas appealed to the apostles for guidance. Perhaps because they were immersed in the peace Jesus had offered them, his closest friends responded with great love. The apostles sent representatives to the Gentiles with this response: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities…” In the end, compassion and acceptance renewed peace among and within Jesus’ earliest followers and the Gentiles found their places within the church. In the second reading (Revelations 21:10-14, 22-23), John underscores the early church’s efforts to welcome all who embrace Jesus’ ways. John described a vision he was given of the holy city Jerusalem coming out of heaven. Though the temple had been the center of Jewish worship in Jerusalem, John saw no temple building in this heavenly Jerusalem. John concluded that God cannot be confined in any building. God alone is the temple who provides light and life to the people. It is God who provides everlasting peace to us all.

Peace was such a tremendous gift that Jesus spoke of its value and its availability at every opportunity. John’s gospel (14:23-29) tells us some of what Jesus told the disciples in this regard: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of what I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” I wonder how often the apostles retrieved these words of consolation and promise while seeking comfort after Jesus ascended in heaven. How often since Easter had I forgotten these invitations to embrace God’s peace? Too often!

When I pealed that bit of Easter grass from my sock, I didn’t throw it away. Because it served as a better herald of God’s peace than I have as of late, it deserved a place of recognition. In an effort to keep God’s peace in the forefront of my thinking, I taped that straggly green reminder to my desk right beside my keyboard. There it reminds me to look outside of myself when I’m troubled. When I do so, I see evidence of God’s peace everywhere.

Whenever unrest threatens, peacemakers and peace-sharers rise and respond to the suffering around us all. They reside within our own households, down the block, at work and half-a-world away. These heralds of God’s peace make all of the difference in the world to those they meet along the way. When even their heroic efforts fail to move us, we must recall Jesus’ promise: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” What more do we need to know?

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Every Day A Good Day!

Cast your care upon the Lord
and he will support you.

Psalm 55:23

Early that morning, I’d engaged in my daily routine which begins with the few exercises which keep my aging frame more limber than it might otherwise be. Though I’m usually invigorated by this regimen, I found myself a bit melancholy. I hadn’t yet recouped the energy I’d expended as I prepared for Easter. Unfortunately, this didn’t deter the new and unwanted to-do list which was forming on my desk. Before I could voice a complaint to myself, a familiar photograph caught my eye.

I exercise in the same spot most days, but my thoughts usually prevent me from attending to the scenery. That morning, however, my sister Cecele demanded my attention. This particular picture was taken in the midst of the chemotherapy regimen which we hoped would destroy the cancer in her lungs. Only a bit of fuzz served as Cecele’s hair when she posed, but it’s difficult to notice. Every time I see that photograph, I’m drawn to my sister’s dancing eyes and her broad smile. That morning, those eyes twinkled and I’m certain that her smile grew even larger.

“Yes, Cecele, I get the point!” I told my sister. “I won’t complain and I will be grateful for this new day.” Cecele had been grateful for every day she was given after that final diagnosis took her by surprise. And, yes, after breakfast, I started working on that to-do list with my own grateful smile!

Patient God, thank you for the numerous reminders that this life is truly a gift!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved