So Generously Restored!

…he leads me beside still waters
and restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

I ran from the moment I woke that morning. Before thinking about a little volunteer pitch which I’d deliver at Mass that evening, I forced myself to complete my morning exercises. Afterward, I did two loads of laundry while working on a few more of these daily reflections. Completing this little to-do list put me in the perfect frame of mind to ask others who are able to step up and occasionally help out with some fairly easy tasks at church.

After practicing my one-minute and fifteen-second speech, I noticed that the November rain had let up. Though the red line on my thermometer had not edged beyond forty-five that day, I couldn’t resist the oddly peaceful setting which lay beneath the cloudy sky. Though the beautiful fall colors which adorned my neighborhood were muted on that seemingly dismal day, the scene before me nudged me back to Psalm 23.

Though I had a bit more to do inside, I headed outdoors to walk. Every step of the way, God restored my soul. Even on that gray-hued day, God refreshed me.

Loving God, thank you for the many gifts with which you refresh us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved


Just For Me…

The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone…

John 8:29

I’m afraid that I haven’t completely shaken my frustration over being needed a little too much as of late. This past Sunday morning, I set out for church with a heavy heart. Indeed, I felt completely overwhelmed. As I drove, I decided to listen to a favorite CD which always lifts my spirits. When I attempted to sing along, I found that an irritated throat left me without my voice. “Great,” I moaned.

I like to sing. I can lift myself out of the dumps with just a line or two of the right song. When I arrived at church, I checked the music selections for that morning’s Mass. I happily found that our choir director had selected hymns which were among my favorites. Still, I was unable to join in the singing. Much to my surprise, someone sat nearby who has a wonderful voice. With every new song, he seemed to be singing just for me. Though I know this impression was not accurate, this gentleman’s singing helped me just the same.

Over the days ahead, I will listen carefully for those unexpected lyrics of encouragement which God sends “just for me” in so many creative ways. At the same time, I’ll try again to do this for those who rely upon me. Hopefully, I will let them know somehow that I’m singing, listening, driving or being there just for them.

Loving God, Jesus could not help stopping for the needy souls he met along the way. Help me to do the same.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Begin At Home

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

From Mark 12:30-31

“You’ve got to have charity in your heart!” My mom spoke these words often to me, not so much to nag as to teach me an important lesson. Apparently, I was more interested in demonstrating my love for God than I was in demonstrating my love for my own family. Usually, my mom’s remark referenced my tardy arrival home because I had stopped at church to pray or rose early to attend morning Mass while leaving my chores undone. Mom was correct in her assessment at the time. I hadn’t yet realized that chores done with love are at least as honorable as time spent in church.

If you are a person who is involved, you have stepped up to the plate once too often, just as I have. Worse yet, you are probably quite good at the things you do. It’s difficult to walk away from something we enjoy doing or that we feel will be left undone if we fail to take it on. To help remedy this situation, read today’s scripture again. If you love God with your whole heart, you will care for the things God loves. If you love your neighbors as yourself, you will take care of them as only you can. No one else can be the spouse, parent, child, sister, brother, grandparent or friend that you can be. So feel no guilt in opting to care for them before you step up to the plate to do anything else.

Loving God, just as you love each of your children, help me to love those you have given me to love as only I can.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Where Two or Three are Gathered…

Decades ago, when my husband and I were newlyweds, we helped out at our parish church. I had known the pastor from my home parish in Chicago. He saw me through my dad’s death and numerous other tragedies which resulted in a lifelong friendship. My husband was in high school when he met Father O’Connell. Father had been assigned to St. Joseph’s Parish which served a very large Hispanic population. As president of the Spanish Club, Mike invited Father to come to speak to the members. Father did a great job which eventually led Mike to join St. Joseph’s. As a result, another life-long friendship began.

Before our children came along, Mike and I spent time at the parish overseeing the religious education program and assisting wherever else we were needed. This allowed for occasional opportunities to chat with Father O’Connell on a variety of topics. Sometimes, we laughed our way through these conversations. Sometimes, we commiserated in response to world events, trauma within the parish or our own concerns. One evening, as Mike and I prepared to go home, Father returned to the rectory after a rather contentious meeting. He smiled in spite of his headache and asked, “What was it that Jesus said? Where two or three are gathered in my name, there will be a fight?” Though I laughed in response, I sensed Father’s weariness. In an effort to help, I reminded him of what he often told me when I was frustrated with others. “Just remember, Mary, they’re all God’s kids,” Father would say. “Yes, they are,” he added. “Yes, they are.”

Over the years, though I experienced a measure of Father’s frustration, I also came to another amazing realization regarding parish life. I think Jesus would put it this way: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, they will accomplish much good!” In the early days, Mike and I would never have succeeded in managing and growing our religious education program if others had not stepped up to teach. Volunteers staffed every activity in our church, and they flourished because of this concerted effort. I suppose it is no wonder that when a new parish was founded nearer our home years later that it so quickly became home to Mike and me.

Before this fledgling church had a name or anything else, the my husband called the new pastor to offer his services. Astute pastor that he was, he recognized a good volunteer when he saw one and another friendship began. Throughout those months of planning, Father went on to welcome numerous others who made themselves known and who made our first weekend of Masses a huge success. With that, Father Farrell set the welcoming tone which remains the hallmark and the life of our parish family. Father proved without a doubt that where two or three are gathered in God’s name, we do accomplish much good!

Next weekend, this home parish of mine will celebrate Ministry Weekend. Though Father Farrell handed the baton of leadership over to our current pastor long ago, his initial invitation to be a part of our parish family remains. The numerous ministries and activities which continue in our parish indicate that Father Ray echoes this invitation loudly and clearly. To celebrate our accomplishments and to extend that welcome once again, our parish Ministry Directory will be available to our parishioners this weekend. As they browse through its pages, I hope they will find that our parish family is indeed alive and well. Perhaps they will also find a ministry or cause which appeals to them. Perhaps they will hear the photos of our ministry chairs calling their names? If they listen carefully, perhaps they will hear the Spirit who urges them to become one of the two or three or hundred who will gather in God’s name to accomplish much good.

Over the years, my husband and I have adjusted our schedules often to accommodate our family and our evolving responsibilities. At times, we pulled back. We needed to step up as dad, mom, spouse, child or friend to do what only we could do. At other times, we found the time to do more. This coming week, consider your own situation. Remember, a benefit of volunteering is making your own hours. Is there some ministry or cause out there that is tugging at you? If something appeals to you, learn more. Though you may not be available regularly, perhaps you can offer your services on an “as needed” basis. If you cannot spare a minute away from your other responsibilities these days, pray. Pray with us and pray for us that, however we participate in this life of ours, we continue to gather in God’s name to accomplish much good.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved


Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long
a time and you still do not know me, Philip?”

From John 14:6-14

I should not have taken the comment to heart, but I did. My friend, who was under some serious duress himself, noted that others in our company joined him in questioning the amount of time I spend on a major voluntary commitment. Because he was going through his own tough times, I should have let it go. Nonetheless, after we parted, I gave a good deal of thought to what I do and how it affects those around me.

The truth is that I had already curtailed the time spent on this work. I had said “no” in response to many requests in order to accommodate my own family, my extended family and my friends. I had held onto only those things which only I can do. Indeed, I do what I do to keep others from experiencing some of the same suffering that this friend and those whom I love have endured.

In the end, I realized that my friend did not mean to hurt me, just as I do not mean to hurt any of my loved ones by giving time to the things which I consider to be important. Perhaps if I share the reasons I do what I do, all concerned will understand.

Gracious God, fill my friend with the energy he needs to face the strife in his life. Gift me with patience and good judgment as I try to respond to your call in my life.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved