One of Baseball’s Stars

“…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”

From Luke 18:14

The World Series will begin next week. I share disappointment with fellow Cub Fans because our beloved North-siders won’t be playing. At the same time, I can’t think of the Cubs, without recalling a close encounter of the amazing kind with my my mom’s favorite player…

It was almost two decades ago when my sisters and I took our mom to Santo’s, a local restaurant owned by the Cubs’ famed third baseman. While we were there, Ron Santo made one of his frequent appearances to mingle with his patrons. When Mom saw him, she flew out of her chair to greet him. Mr. Santo graciously shook her hand. Unfortunately for him, Mom didn’t let go. She pulled the poor man to our table, saying, “You have to meet my five daughters!”

Mr. Santo never stopped smiling as Mom dragged him across the room. When he arrived at our table, we tried to apologize for our mom’s enthusiasm, but he would have none of it. Ron Santo looked around at each of us and said, “Well, you sure have beautiful daughters, just like their mother!” He chatted with us for several minutes, gave Mom a hug and then went on his way. When we left the restaurant, Mr. Santo made a point of saying good-bye to his seemingly greatest fan.

Though this beloved Cubby is remembered for so much more, I’ll never forget the kindness he showed to Mom that day. Since his arrival in the hereafter, I’m quite certain that my mom has renewed their acquaintance and that she’s told him the same.

Loving God, thank you for good people everywhere who do what they can for others regardless of how busy they are.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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U… Unity with Everyone

And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.

Mark 3:25

U is for Unity. Although the Chicago Cubs won the World Series more than three months ago, their January visit to the White House brought me back to the last inning of Game Seven. I was glued to our television set throughout. When the Cubs finally won, I tuned in for days afterward to enjoy the extended coverage of their appearances and celebrations. I also attended carefully to the nightly news and sports segments as they featured numerous snippets of Cubs Fans and their stories of lifelong loyalty and hope. It was very difficult for me to let go of all of this because of the single-heartedness of Cubs Fans of every age, size, color, socioeconomic, ethnic and religious background. I think all concerned would agree that Cub’s Fans became one family as they endured this World Series run and they will remain so for a very, very long time.

Unity is extremely important to families, especially to God’s family. There is nothing more wonderful for parents than to see their children get along. When our children appreciate one another for who they are in spite of their numerous differences, we experience heaven on earth. No one understands and appreciates our uniqueness more than God and no one has greater expectations regarding our ability to get along than God. It seems to me that our only response can be to work with one another as best we can. In the process, perhaps we’ll finally become one family, too.

Loving God, help us to love one another like the brothers and sisters we are.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Are Family

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

Psalm 133:1

I admit that I can’t quite let go of the Chicago Cubs’ recent World Series win. No matter where I went before the Series and where I’ve been since, I encountered Cub Fans. It didn’t matter that we’d never met before. None of us could resist making a comment about the possibilities at hand. Since the Cubs secured that win, the talk continues. Hope-fulfilled is a beautiful thing!

Living together in unity is also a beautiful thing! It seems providential that the World Series played out in the heat of the pre-election day frenzy. For a little while, ones political party meant far less than ones sports affiliation. Since Cubby Blue was visible everywhere, there was nothing to argue except the number of games it might take to pull off a World Series victory. Even these discussions were less arguments than litanies of hope in the things to come.

Though I suffered with everyone else during Game 7, I watched through that final tag at the bottom of the tenth. I cried and cheered in unison with the rest of Cub Fandom for the team, the fans, the city, baseball -for everyone and everything! Being a part of the Cubs Family is indeed a taste of heaven.

As I consider just how wonderful this sense of family is, I wonder what I can do in the greater scheme of things to bring about unity among the rest of us. If the Cubs can do this after 108 years, I can certainly do something…

Patient God, we find so many reasons not to get along. Light our way with your loving ways and help to love one another a little more.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Thank You, Dear Friend…

For those of you who aren’t members of my parish, please bear with me as I offer my gratitude to a dear friend who has served of well for the past sixteen years…

The Chicago Cubs’ recent World Series run certainly made sports history. Though the last few innings of Game 7 elicited heart palpitations, I endured through that third out at the bottom of the tenth. I cheered and wept and clapped and wept again after that tag at first base. As those lovable Northsiders jumped and hugged and waved, tears of joy streamed down my cheeks for the team, the fans, the city, baseball -for everything! Funny, while the Cubs were bathing in champagne, I bathed in the blessing of community. In spite of frightening foibles throughout those ten innings (and the preceding games!), I was united with every single person affiliated with the Cubs. Yes, I was a part of the Cubs Family and I enjoyed every minute of it. As I wiped away my tears, I thanked God for this taste of heaven. It gave me just what I needed to get back to life-as-usual with a bounce in my step.

Though he hasn’t done this with the Cubs’ flourish and fanfare, Father Bernie has often done the same for me and for our parish family for the past sixteen years. He frequently touched on something in his homilies which gave us reason to persist with a spirit of joy rather than drudgery. For some of us, these bits of wisdom have also come in conversations before and after Mass. In all cases, Father Bernie’s words have become more passionate over the years. Like the Cubs, he seems to appreciate the value of every opportunity to make his point. Perhaps this is the reason he has been so generous in making himself available to us whenever he’s here. This weekend, as we thank Father Bernie for the time we’ve spent together, let’s revisit the journey which led him to us…

Father Bernie was born “Hans Bauerly” in Germany eight decades ago. Life proved difficult for him and his family who were driven from their home by French authorities during the war. While he completed elementary school, Hans’ family discussed sending a grandchild to the United States where his grandmother and an aunt and uncle lived. While his father’s whereabouts in the war were unknown, Hans was selected for this journey. His aunt and uncle had no children and Hans would be a great help to them in their bakery. Obviously, his amazing work ethic was apparent even back then! When his father surprised the family with his return from the war, Hans had already left. Hans spoke only German when he arrived in the United States. When local authorities insisted that he attend school, he returned to eighth grade to begin his immersion into English. The following year, Hans enrolled at Joliet Catholic High School. He must have acquired English-speaking skills quickly because he graduated three years later. All the while, Hans worked in his aunt’s and uncle’s bakery. While the family expected him to continue full-time as a baker after high school, the Carmelites saw something special in this student. They encouraged Hans to explore the possibilities. Persistent soul that he is, Hans worked in the bakery for a full year after graduation to express his appreciation for his family’s support. He also took the Carmelites’ urging to heart. Afterward, he joined a group of his high school classmates in entering Mount Carmel, the Carmelite college in Niagara Falls. This began his official affiliation with the Carmelites. As Father Bernie says, the rest is history!

Father Bernie’s involvement at our parish began just after we moved from the Woodland School gym to our new church. At the time, he served on the faculty at Carmel High School and as a Provincial Administrator. Father Farrell and Father Bernie had been classmates in the seminary and Father Farrell felt his friend would bring something special to our parish family. Father Bernie accepted this invitation to assist with weekend Masses. The following year, when Father Bernie became Commissary Provincial for the Carmelites, his office was moved to Darien. In spite of the lengthy commute, Father Bernie has kept his promise to help all this time. It seems that Father Bernie has come to love our parish as we’ve come to love him –another blessing of community!

In my case, Father Bernie has been here when I’ve I cheered and wept and clapped and wept again, much as I did during the Cubs’ historic run. In every instance, Father Bernie has encouraged and inspired me to get back to life-as-usual with a bounce in my step. If the numerous people who wait after Mass to greet Father Bernie and who make his the longest line at our Penance Services are any indication, I know I’m not alone in this assessment. So it is that I write for our entire parish family when I express deep gratitude to you, Father Bernie, for sixteen wonderful years among us. Though we may have erred, missed a base and overthrown like a Cub or two, we’ve also become a family just like Cub Fandom. Life-as-usual will be different, but we will continue to persist with a bounce in our steps because of the time we’ve shared with you. We love you, Father Bernie! Thank you!!!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Cub-full of Hope

“…and hope does not disappoint.”
From Romans 5:5

This commentary is a little late, I know… The day after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, I was stricken with a bit of illness which kept me from celebrating. Though I cried and cheered and wept and jumped for joy as I watched that last tag in the tenth inning, there was no more revelry for me as I was confined to my pajamas and my recliner shortly thereafter. The good news is that the situation did allow me to nap and to watch television. Though I lost numerous hours to sleep, I did watch as the post-World Series merrymaking unfolded. The City of Chicago provided a worthy tribute to the remarkable team who has changed baseball history forever.

As I watched, tears appeared on my cheeks more often than I’d expected. Though I was as pleased as every Cub Fan with the end of that 108-year drought, I was more pleased with the character the team exhibited. Their humility after all they’d accomplished and their gratitude to their fans touched my heart. Still, it was that precious rain delay which allowed the time for a team meeting which touched me ever more deeply. Though his teammates seemed to feel that all was lost, Jason Heyward seized the opportunity to rally them. Jason reminded his Cub’s family that at that point a score of 6-6 was the same as 0-0. All they needed to do was to play like the best team in baseball, for, indeed, this is who they are. This player who struggled himself during post-season play filled his teammates with hope, hope that was not disappointed!

As I dozed off for another nap, it occurred to me that Jason Heyward’s speech has something to say to all of us. Regardless of the score, every new moment brings a new opportunity to score one for the good. Go Cubs! Go us!

Loving God, thank you for giving us the wisdom to hope. Thank you also for the cheerleaders like Jason Heyward who remind us that it is up to us to make hope a reality.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Cub, Sweet Cub

“…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”

From Luke 18:14

Baseball fever has taken over Chicagoland in full force these days. Even non-Cub fans admire what this young team has accomplished in spite of the lore regarding that goat’s curse. I admit to a soft spot in my heart for the Cubbies which took hold many years ago at the hands of one of their best…

My sisters and I took our mom to Santo’s, a local restaurant owned by the Cubs’ famed third baseman. While we were there, Ron Santo made one of his frequent appearances to mingle with his patrons. When our mother saw him, she flew out of her chair to greet him. Mr. Santo graciously shook her hand. Unfortunately for him, my mom didn’t let go. She pulled the poor man to our table. “You have to meet my five daughters,” she told him.

Mr. Santo never stopped smiling as my mother dragged him across the room. When he arrived at our table, we tried to apologize for our mom’s enthusiasm, but he would have none of it. Ron Santo looked around at each of us and said, “Well, you sure have beautiful daughters, just like their mother!” He chatted with us for several minutes, gave our mom a hug and then went on his way. When we left the restaurant, Mr. Santo made a point of saying good-bye to our mom.

Though this beloved Cubby is remembered for so much more, I’ll never forget the kindness he showed to my mom that day. In recognition of this and the current Cubs’ great performance, I can’t help singing, “Go, Cubs, go!”

Loving God, thank you for good people everywhere who do what they can for others regardless of how busy they are.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved