Pray Always, All Ways

Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 86:3-4

I admit that there are times when the tone and the topics of my prayers amaze me. More than once, I’ve stepped back from a monologue directed at the Lord God to ask myself what I am thinking. Each time, after getting over the unmitigated gall with which I dared to approach The Almighty One, I take a deep breath and begin again. It is during these second beginnings that I apologize for my nerve in ordering God around, I give thanks for God’s unconditional love, and I invite God into a real conversation with me. Though I never actually “hear” a single word from above, God communicates just the same in the peaceful assurance which fills me up and urges me on.

It occurs to me that we humans are quite fortunate that we are created in God’s image and likeness. God’s love is so great that it spilled out and took form in Creation. God tells us that you and I are God’s greatest handiwork. Part of that greatness comes in the traces of God’s love which remain entrenched in our DNA -a constant reminder that we are loved and therefore listened to. No wonder we are not only compelled to pray but also to assume that we will always be heard.

Loving God, thank you for caring.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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God’s Best

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
From Luke 11:11-13

It was heartbreaking. Someone near and dear to me confessed her conviction that she was completely unforgivable. Before I could utter a word of consolation, she enumerated her alleged evil-doing and the resulting sorrow which had filled her life. My friend ended her lengthy monologue with a deluge of tears. When I moved closer to her on the couch we shared, she collapsed in my arms.

I waited some time for her sobs to fade into whimpering and for her tears to run out. When my friend had no energy left with which to fight off my consolation, I told her that I was glad I could be with her and that I loved her. We sat for a few more minutes and then I asked if she felt a little better. She smiled and admitted, “I feel a lot better. Thank you!”

I was most grateful that my friend gave me that opening. “You know,” I said, “I would never hold your past against you. You lived through some seriously difficult times and I certainly understand what drove you to those things. You know what else? My humble opinion doesn’t matter. God’s opinion does. If little ol’ me can be here for you and forgive you and love you, just think how much more God does all of those things for you. God will never ever give up on you!”

I think that my friend believed me. She left smiling. When she called to thank me later that day, I could hear the smile in her voice.

Thank you, Loving and Merciful God, for always out-doing our best.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ever Merciful

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd guards his flock.

Jeremiah 31:10-11

I admit that whenever Pope Francis is mentioned in the news I tune in with great interest. He stole my heart when he was elected and first appeared on that balcony over St. Peter’s Square. He refused to don the ornate cape normally placed over the shoulders of a new pontiff. Francis chose to greet God’s people as one of us.

Since that first “Francis sighting,” Francis has continued to stun some and to touch the hearts of others with his openness to all people and to reform in the church. His remarks indicate that he is keenly aware of Jesus’ propensity to embrace outcasts and to invite them back into the fold of the faithful. This pope is also keenly aware of Jesus’ generous and indiscriminate rendering of forgiveness and mercy upon all who need them. His declaration of the current Year of Mercy was no accident.

Pope Francis has empathy for divorced Catholics who have remarried outside of the Church and are therefore kept from receiving communion. This issue troubles me as much as it does Pope Francis and I’m pleased that he has made their plight a priority. Because I have helped many Catholics and others through the Church’s annulment process and I have witnessed their pain, I am anxious for the Church to do as Jesus did in this regard. After all, Jesus never ever excluded anyone from his table. I’m in your corner, Francis, as you work to see that we do the same.

Loving God, thank you for Pope Francis. Give him and all of us the wisdom and stamina to transform this world as you would.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

M… for Memorial Day

For the Lord loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.

Psalm 149:4

Memorial Day observances traditionally recount the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives in service to this country. Whether they were drafted into service or they enlisted by choice, each one fulfilled an obligation which he or she accepted to the point of death. Though some may have wrestled with doubt, wondering if anything was worth dying for, we know the final outcome. This weekend, tens of thousands of flags decorate their graves. These flags herald those who completed, as best they could, what they set out to do.

Today, our Memorial Day remembrances include all of those who have passed from this life to the next. Though they may not have donned military uniforms to endure the trials of battle, those whom we mourn assumed a role of great importance to us. Whether our mother or father, our husband or wife, our child, our family member or our friend, those whom we mourn did something similar to that which our military personnel did. They responded to what they saw as their roles in this life and they fulfilled those roles as best they could. At times, our loved ones achieved great success and their impacts upon our lives were sources of great joy or growth or satisfaction. At times, they failed miserably, and their impacts upon us were precisely the opposite. Perhaps they walked away for a while from a father, a mother, a spouse, a child or a friend. Sometimes, we civilians can be tempted to be AWOL from a commitment which seems to require too much. Today, we mourn all of our loved ones who have passed, sometimes because of their humanity and sometimes in spite of it.

There is something very God-like about the way we remember those who have gone before us. Often, after we bid them our final farewells, our memories become less focused upon their failures. When we reminisce, we tend to recall the happy or amusing or glorious times we shared. In our family, my father died when most of us were very young. Within a year of his death, the man had become a saint in our collective consciousness. Years later, when our mother married a wonderful, but very different man, I marveled at his bravery. Following in my father’s footsteps was an impossible task. Yet, upon my step-dad’s death many years later, the same phenomenon occurred. A second father-turned-saint occupied our memories. Need I tell you that my mother-turned-saint resides above in all of her glory as well?

Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to celebrate the gift of eternal joy in the names of those who know that joy firsthand. There is something holy to be found as we relish our relationships with those among us and with those whom we mourn. The selective memories which bestow sainthood upon our very human loved ones reflect the selective vision of God. God’s welcoming eyes will greet each of us upon our arrival home.

Today, as we remember our military personnel and all of the loved ones who have lived their lives for us, let us smile between the tears. There is good reason to rejoice for them and for ourselves!

Thank you, God, for the promise of heaven and for the loved ones with whom we will share it!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Those Curve Balls…

“I have told you this so that you might have peace
in me. In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

John 16:33

He said it again. When life throws my husband a curve ball, he usually responds by observing, “God sure has a sense of humor!” I admit that my response differs a bit when I am the recipient of that curve ball. I tend to keep my initial reactions to trauma to myself. If I didn’t -well who knows what I might say? There is usually too much to do to allow myself the luxury of complaining aloud. So I converse with myself and then the Lord God in silence until I reconcile myself to the situation at hand. When I have calmed myself down –or God has stepped in to do this for me- I finally respond with my own observation: “This is just a small reminder that we’re not in heaven yet.”

The curve balls have been flying fast and furiously as of late. As a result, I find myself most grateful that God’s keeps the promise to be with us always. Though havoc reigns around me, gentle peace calms me from within -even when I fail to notice it for far too long.

Consoling God, knowing that your care is constant makes all of the difference in my little world.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Dear Daddy

“I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.”

From John 14:3

May 3 will always be special to me. I celebrated my First Communion Day on this date decades ago. I had learned a good deal about Jesus by then, and I liked what I heard. In my mind, it was quite enough to have received Holy Communion for the very first time that day.

Later that afternoon, however, my mother surprised me with another very special encounter. My dad’s heart ailment resulted in his hospitalization the previous week. This kept him from attending my First Communion Mass. My Uncle Gerard offered us a ride to the hospital so my dad could see me. Though children under twelve years of age were not allowed to visit hospitals back then, the nurses made an exception for the little girl who was dressed like a bride. I’ll never forget my dad’s smile as I stood next to his hospital bed.

Before my dad had become ill himself, he prepared my siblings and me for the passing of our grandfathers and uncle. Each time, he assured us that these loved ones would end happily in heaven, never to be sick again. When my dad passed away two months later, his lessons regarding the promise of heaven made his devastating loss bearable. How could I want anything less for him than the new life that he wished so fervently for others? Oddly, this terrible loss contributed to my increased devotion to Jesus. After all, it was he who welcomed my dad home.

Dear God, thank for my brave and faithful father who trusted in your promises and taught me to do the same.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved