The Golden Rule

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

Several years ago, when my husband and I visited New York City, we included the United Nations complex on our “must see” list of sites. Our visit to the Conference Building at UN Headquarters did not disappoint. Regardless of ones politics, the concept of world leaders gathered in one place to care for this one world seems beyond our human expectations. Still, our world’s leaders continue to meet. Through the numerous disagreements which plague their discussions, they continue to talk. This is a notable accomplishment!

While all of this filled me with hope, a beautiful mosaic in the conference building took my breath away. This piece by Normal Rockwell was presented to the UN as a gift from The United States by First Lady Nancy Reagan. The eight-foot mosaic features a montage of adults and children of every race and color. In the midst of this gathering of humankind are the words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When the mosaic was refurbished and rededicated in 2014, the Secretary General, Mr. Jan Eliasson, remarked, “…it also reflects the very essence of our mission as set out in our charter.” Before my husband and I left the UN that day, we purchased a small copy of that mosaic. I needed it (Yes, I needed it!) to be a constant reminder of the standard by which I must live.

This will likely be the last reflection in which I reference that terrible shooting in Las Vegas. While I’m quite certain that the shooter wasn’t much concerned with either The Prayer of St. Francis or The Golden Rule, I hope both assisted you as much as they did me in processing your grief. Though I’ll focus my writing on other things, those effected and those who can do something about such incidents will remain in my prayers. I guess that means I’ll be praying for us all!

Compassionate God, be with us in our efforts to mirror your love in all that we say and do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Understand?

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand…

From The Prayer of St. Francis

Before my students arrived to begin each school year, I reviewed their records which included report cards and other pertinent information from their previous years in school. I wanted to understand the history which accompanied my new students into our classroom.

When I noticed that prior behaviors were “troublesome”, I watched carefully. These are the children with whom I made eye contact and conversation often. I also seated them near my desk. Those with poor grades also found their desks upfront. This close proximity helped them to absorb the wisdom of the day. Previous teachers’ notes regarding family losses or other trauma were also taken into consideration as was the new information I gathered throughout the year. All of this increased my understanding and impacted the quality of our interactions on an ongoing basis.

We all need to be understood, to have a voice, to be heard and to be valued. We all also need to allow these essentials to one another. If I feel I’ve been discounted in some may, I have good reason not discount the feelings, opinions and attitudes of others because I know how devastating this can be. At this writing, I don’t know what motivated the violence in Las Vegas twelve days ago. In this instance, the shooter seemed not to have cared about being understood. Still, his actions didn’t speak for the rest of us. Those victimized by his evil-doing and all of us who witnessed it do wish to be understood. We want it to be very clear that this must never happen again. How we communicate this and make ourselves understood on this issue is up to each of us.

Dear God, help us to understand one another and to make ourselves understood, especially by those whose voices can bring about meaningful change.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved Much

Therefore I tell you, her sins
are forgiven —for she loved much.

From Luke 7:47

My parish’s Respect Life Ministry recently sponsored their annual Baby Bottle Campaign. They provide empty baby bottles which we’re invited to fill with spare change. Cash and checks are also happily accepted. This effort provides assistance to women in the midst of difficult pregnancies. Whether they face single parenthood, poverty or a combination of issues, they receive help in providing for their babies. I happily support this effort. I’ve always believed that if we showed ourselves to be a more compassionate society, women who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy would be more likely ask for help than for an abortion. Unfortunately, our willingness to pass judgment is sometimes more visible to these poor souls than our willingness to walk with them.

It’s been two years since Pope Francis issued a statement regarding those who have chosen to have an abortion. Still, I will never forget his merciful words…

“I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision… The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails… Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option… I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal.”

You know, I’ve spent a lifetime getting to know our loving and merciful God who never chooses to be alienated from any of us. Francis put into words the message Jesus spent a lifetime teaching and the message which drives my writing and all that I do: God loves us no matter what. God asks only that we do our best in the moment at hand as only we can. When we do good, we rejoice. When we fail, we acknowledge our guilt, ask God’s forgiveness and begin anew.

Dear God, thank you for your deep love for us. Bless Francis and us today and every day with the courage and strength to teach this world your merciful ways.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love…

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

Lead with Compassion

Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man,
and not man for the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27

Though our neighborhood had been plagued by flooding, the water receded enough to allow the village to continue with plans to replace an old water main. We’d have no water for a few hours and no drinkable water for another day. I admit that I grumbled over this inconvenience. The flooding had put our neighborhood through enough and this water issue added insult to injury. As I reread the letter which announced this water-delivery improvement, I grumbled over the boiling directives. It occurred to me that I’ve been grumbling over directives for a lifetime…

Though far from perfect at home, I behaved at school. Still, there were occasions when I questioned “the law” laid down by a teacher or principal. I failed to see the value of classmates being driven to tears over minor infractions such as having no pencil or forgetting homework. It seemed easier to give that student a pencil or to allow homework to be returned the following day. This is likely the reason I preferred college to elementary and high school. Professors provided a syllabus and it was up to us students to fulfill their demands. There was no public demeaning of anyone. If a student didn’t keep up, there were opportunities to seek out the professor privately for guidance.

Throughout adulthood, my stance has remained the same. Rules, like having to boil water for five minutes to make it drinkable, are very important. This directive kept my neighbors and me from getting sick. Still, other requirements are handed down by a variety of “powers that be” which aren’t actually helpful. I can’t change these things, but I can see to it that I don’t place my own demands of others over their well-being.

Dear God, be with me as I try to care for those you have given me to love with more compassion and fewer demands.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Try…

Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Luke 4:24

My sister called to tell me that one of the sisters who taught us in elementary school had passed away. I immediately recalled that she was the single teacher in my school career with whom I had difficulty until…

Glenda and I had been classmates since first grade. All was well until sixth grade when we endured some troubles. Glenda began to blossom into a young woman quite noticeably and I managed to annoy our teacher daily regardless of my genuine effort to do the opposite.

One day, Sister assigned essays which would be read to the entire class. Because Glenda and I were shy, we trembled in unison at the thought. Somehow, I managed to read my essay without a fumble. When Sister called Glenda, I closed my eyes to pray that Glenda would also do well. A classmate’s giggle interrupted my prayer. A second giggle prompted me to open my eyes. By the time I focused on Glenda, everyone in the classroom was laughing except for me. When I noticed Glenda’s unbuttoned blouse, I was mortified for her. Fortunately, Sister took control and sent Glenda and me into the hallway.

I explained what had happened while Sister mercilessly reprimanded our classmates. Poor Glenda sobbed until I convinced her that we were the lucky ones as the rest of the class was in deep trouble. In the end, our classmates ostracized Glenda and me for a few weeks because we “got them into trouble.” Never mind their merciless laughter which elicited Glenda’s tears. As for Glenda and me, our friendship grew stronger and Sister managed to muster a bit more patience with me.

Dear God, it isn’t always easy to do the right thing. Still, help me to try.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved