God Bless You and Keep You Safe

Upon their hands, the angels shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:12

This is Veteran’s Day. Today, I cannot help thinking about those who serve and protect us both nearby and far away. It seems that every passing day gives us reason to pray a bit more fervently for their safety. Whether they serve us overseas or here at home, these dedicated personnel have set aside their personal lives to do so. Ones political stance doesn’t matter in their regard. They serve us and protect us regardless.

Though I know God remains with each one in spite of what may come his or her way, it is a worthy endeavor to keep our service people in our prayers just the same. All the while, let’s add a prayer of thanks for the hundreds of thousands of veterans among us. Though it is only recently that we’ve acknowledged the toll taken by active military service, all of our veterans have suffered in one way or another simply because they have served this country of ours. We owe each one of them a great deal.

Happy Veterans Day, Dear Veterans and Veterans-in-the making! Thank you for all you have sacrificed for us!

Dear God, bless each one of our veterans generously and remain with them all.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Gift of Eternal Peace

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.

Wisdom 3:1

I know I’ve shared this before, but on this special day, I’m impelled to repeat myself…

While in college, I enrolled in a class entitled Death and Dying where I encountered the work of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. The good doctor engaged in groundbreaking work regarding the stages we humans pass through when facing our own deaths. In the process, she stumbled upon patients’ accounts of “visits” from loved ones who’d passed away and the experiences of resuscitated patients who claimed to have “seen” doctors working on their bodies while they were “dead”. Some claimed to have visited “heaven” during the same time frame.

By that time, I’d lost many loved ones to serious illnesses. I dealt with these losses by relying on my faith. In my heart, I believed that each one had gone off to heaven to enjoy his or her eternal reward. Though I never questioned my belief in the afterlife, I was intrigued by Kübler-Ross’s findings. How amazing it was that the line between faith and science had blurred a bit! I admit to having read every book I’ve encountered on these topics ever since. Today, medical doctors and scientists continue to add to this body of knowledge.

On this All Souls Day, I’m pleased that the secular world is taking a peek at what people of faith have known all along: God created humankind out of great love. God gifted us with this world and with one another. God invites to make the best of our journeys from this life to the next. Today, we celebrate all of the souls who’ve done this each in his or her own way. Though none was perfect, all did the best they could with the moments they were given. This is all God asks of any of us poor souls.

Creator God, thank you for the gift of our lives. WE are most grateful that you remain with is as we live every day as best we can.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Blessed Are We!

When I woke that morning, I was quite relieved to see the rainy weather. The conditions outdoors absolved me of running the few errands I allow myself these days. With that, I decided to take care of a few phone calls, catch up on email, finish the laundry and attend to this writing. I’d convinced myself that this was the most productive and satisfying way to spend the day until I looked out the patio doors on my way to the kitchen for breakfast. Raindrops pelted the blanket of leaves which covered our lawn. A gentle breeze nudged tree branches just enough to shake another layer of fall color to the ground.

“If I could do exactly what I want to do,” I told myself, “I’d go out and rake the leaves in the rain.” I smiled as I imagined my poor husband’s face when he’d drive up to the mounds of wet leaves that would greet him in the parkway. I smiled more broadly when I recalled raking leaves with our sons not so long ago. What fun it was to watch them flit about the yard, happily dismantling our leaf hills. Indeed, though rainy-day raking would have left me soaked to the bone, that autumn adventure would have been worth the trouble. Afterward, those efforts would have given me very good reason to huddle at the kitchen table with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book.

I looked longingly out the window as I finished my oatmeal. Much to my dismay, the eagerness with which I’d begun that day had disappeared in short order. I had a long to-do list which didn’t allow me the luxury of raking those leaves. So it was that I started the laundry and then clicked my way through email. The phone rang three times during the first hour and a new email popped up every time I tried to get offline. Though those loads of laundry began to disappear, each cycle ended at the most inopportune moment. By the time I finished folding the clothes I’d retrieved from the dryer, I’d forgotten the brilliant ideas which would have made that day’s writing much easier. Though I’d started my chores by 8:30 that morning, I didn’t give a thought to this reflection until 3:15. It was then that I retreated to my favorite chair to treat myself to another view of our leaf-blanketed yard before perusing today’s scripture passages.

I admit that I smiled when I realized that the rain had continued to fall and that the breeze had continued to shake leaves from our trees as I read. I laughed aloud over my desire to rake leaves that day. Had I actually done so, it would have mattered little because our trees held on to countless more leaves which will find their way to earth over the next few weeks. Images of my sons and me traipsing through those leaves filled me up once again. This time, Grandpa and our granddaughters and grandsons joined us.

Finally, the resentment with which I’d approached most of that day’s tasks subsided. When I finally turned to those scripture passages, I smiled again, this time more broadly than before because I remembered that I was preparing to write for All Saints Day. Since childhood, I’ve loved this feast day because it acknowledges God’s greatest gift to us. All Saints Day is a celebration of God’s promise of eternal life, eternal life that is fulfilled in those who have already joined God’s good company and promised to the rest of us who continue to struggle along our way. After reading today’s gospel, I realized that a day full of demands was a small, but important step that I took in God’s direction.

Matthew’s gospel (5:1-12a) tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds, his compassion penetrated their sadness. Jesus understood too well the burdens we carry as we make our way on this earth. On that day, Jesus saw everything that weighed upon the hearts of the people. So it was that he offered them peace. When Jesus taught the beatitudes, he spoke to the things that rob us of our joy just now and to the reward that awaits us because we endure: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy… Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Once again, I find myself humbled by God’s concern for us. I find myself a bit embarrassed, too. After all, that busy day pales in the shadow of the trials and tribulations that touch so many of God’s people. When I consider all that the saints, both canonized and those I’ve known in my lifetime, have endured on their journeys back to God, I wonder what it was that I thought I had to complain about. So it is that I celebrate All Saints Day with deep gratitude. After all, you and I have been promised a home in eternity with God. When we acknowledge all that awaits us, how much easier it is to plod along in the midst of Year 2020 and always!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Treated With Hope

Rejoice and be glad
because your reward will be great in heaven.

Matthew 5:12

My Catholic upbringing compels me to acknowledge that Halloween is the Eve of All Saints Day. Because I count many loved ones among the saints above, I think it is appropriately inclusive and wise to acknowledge them. Like the many “official” saints whom we call on for help (Joseph and Jesus’ Mom, Anthony, Jude and Therese of Lisieux, to name a few), our loved ones have earned their places in God’s forever home. On this somewhat subdued, pandemic-ridden Halloween, I cheer myself with fond memories of the people I love who’ve made their way through this life. Today, they reap the harvest of their earthly efforts above. They remind me that one day we’ll all enjoy the same.

I’ll keep all of this in mind as Halloween unfolds. Far fewer children will trick-or-treat door-to-door. The efforts of creative parents, neighborhoods and park districts are providing many alternative safer means to satisfy our children’s need to get out and to gather as much candy as possible. In the process, our children will engage in their own exercises in hope. They hope that the treats they come upon will be their favorites!

As for me, I plan to celebrate hope today as well. I’m going to contemplate the hopeful lives of my loved ones in the hereafter. Just as they remained hopeful throughout troubling times, I’ll ask their help in keeping hope alive in my life. Though Halloween’s usual parade of masked visitors will be minimal, I’ll also pray for all of them and for all of us: May we all look beneath the surface of our tricky circumstances with absolute hope in God’s ability to transforms them into treats of opportunity!

Loving God, thank you for getting us through life’s tricky times with the treats of your ongoing love and companionship!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

X… X-ray

For they bring down evil upon me,
and with fury they persecute me.
My heart quakes within me;
terror has fallen upon me.

Psalm 55:4-5

X is for X-ray. Sometimes, we need x-ray vision to get to the bottom of things.

During a college theology class, a distraught classmate couldn’t help seeking guidance from our “God-centered” gathering. Though it was off-topic, the professor allowed this student to elaborate. When my classmate took a breath, the professor voiced a reference to John of the Cross’s “dark night of the soul.” The professor likened this student’s situation to the trauma experienced by John and others as they deepened their relationships with God. Though this student didn’t know much about St. John’s experience, he appreciated the professor’s willingness to take his dilemma seriously. As the discussion continued, the entire class became involved. We agreed that our classmate was likely immersed in the closest thing to a “dark night of the soul” that any of us had ever seen. We also agreed that our support at the moment was far more important than attending to the course syllabus that day.

You know, there are many suffering souls nearby. The problem is that most of us remain unaware because we don’t have the time or the wherewithal to take a closer look. We can’t peek deep within the strangers who wait in line with us at the grocery store or within our own family members for that matter. Because we can’t x-ray one another’s souls, we miss a lot. This is where my professor’s example comes into play.

First, we need to make ourselves approachable. Replacing a cranky scowl with a smile goes a long way. Second, we need to set aside our own agendas. Problems don’t arise in accordance with anyone’s syllabus. They just happen. Finally, we need to listen. When we get this far, leave the response to God. God will give us the words to help. After all, God sees what lies deep within us more clearly than any x-ray ever will.

Compassionate God, help us to see one other with your x-ray vision and to respond to one another with your love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Bless You! We Thank You!

Upon their hands, the angels shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:12

This is Veteran’s Day. Today, I cannot help thinking about those who serve and protect us both nearby and far away. It seems that every passing day gives us reason to pray a bit more fervently for their safety. Whether they serve us overseas or here at home, these dedicated personnel have set aside their personal lives to do so. Ones political stance doesn’t matter in their regard. They serve us and protect us regardless.

Though I know God remains with each one in spite of what may come his or her way, it is a worthy endeavor to keep our service people in our prayers just the same. All the while, let’s add a prayer of thanks for the hundreds of thousands of veterans among us. Though it is only recently that we’ve acknowledged the toll taken by active military service, all of our veterans have suffered in one way or another simply because they have served this country of ours.

Happy Veterans Day, Dear Veterans and Veterans-in-the making! Thank you for everything!

Dear God, bless each one of them generously and remain with them all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved