Family,  Welcome to our e-Newsletter

Christmas 2015 

 Online Issue #22

In Memory of Penny Lord




From My Pew

Penny Remembers a Childhood Christmas

Saint Clare's Last Christmas on Earth

Saint Francis made a Creche at Christmas

Saint Therese's Last Christmas as a Child

God Brings us Love today...

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Bob and Penny Lord

From My Pew

Thanks for the Memories…..


Family, many of you will recall the theme song of Bob Hope.  He sang a few chords from a song he had sung in one of his earlier movies.  But it had great meaning to Bob Hope and the people he sang to, especially the troops overseas during his annual Christmas tours from 1944 to 1990. 

Well, the view from my pew has been a little different this last year and a half since Penny left me to go to Heaven.  I’ve gone through our writings and selected some personal stories which you may not have read or heard before if you’re not familiar with all our writings.  I tried to find particular ones where Penny was the sole author because she was such an inspired writer, and also because I love her very much.  One, which you will find interesting, is written by both of us from our particular vantage point of the day we met, September 23, 1957, her birthday.  That was taken from our book, “The Journey and the Dream

She had such a vivid recollection of her childhood, especially of holidays when she was young.  One of them tells about how she remembers Christmas in an Italian neighborhood, the sights and smells of the holiday.  She writes so beautifully, so descriptively.  This one comes from our book, “Miracles of the Child Jesus” 

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These are just some of the memories I want to thank my precious girl for, and also for you, who have traveled with us over the years through our books, television programs and lecture series.  You have been an important part of our lives and ministry. 

Memories never get old

At this most important time of the year, you might want to turn your mental vision inward to the memories which have been important to you over the years.  Think back on the people who have made such a difference in your lives.  Most likely they would be family, spouses, children, grandchildren and so on.  Try to remember a Christmas that meant so much to you and them.  It may have been long ago, or it may have been more recent.

Try to remember other important times in your lives.  For those of you who are married, dig deep into your soul to the day you married, or the days leading up to your marriage.  Think about the day you met, and the bond that was created between you as a couple and as children of God began.

If you are a priest or a religious, think back to the day you fell in love with Jesus, and Mother Mary, and when you decided to give your lives to them.  Bring back to memory the day of your ordination, or for religious, the day of your final profession, where you made the lifetime commitment to give up your lives to your spouse.

These times, these memories are treasures you and your loved ones have, that no one else has.  Hold on to them; cherish them.  If your loved one is still with you, reminisce those times in your lives that have meant so much to you.  If you are separated by death, get together spiritually, perhaps at the end of the day, and relive these memories.  It’s the best Christmas gift you can give one another.  They are truly priceless.

And if I may combine Mr. Hope’s sign off with ours,

“Thanks for the memories…..We love you!”


Stay Tuned here this week

We are adding one article per day for next few days

Penny Remembers a childhood Christmas



For those of you who do not know our story, Bob was born in the Bronx and I in Brooklyn. We were city children who lived in a small town called a neighborhood. Customs from different parts of the world filled and permeated our little world. Often a neighborhood became like a little country unto itself, as members of families and friends from the “old country” moved close to each other. My family was originally from Sicily, Italy, as were most the people on our block. Many of our neighbors did not even know the English language, so out of necessity we were a multi-lingual society. But we were more like a big family, our traditions making us one. 

Christmas, like all holidays and Feast Days was a neighborhood thing, a shared experience, what with doors open, the fragrance of sauce and pizza filling the air, the freshly baked Italian cookies on a plate by an open door for one to bring home to share with the family. We were all poor, but I never felt poor. I always felt like a princess in wonderful wonderland. Christmas in my life was filled with, you might say, two days of gift giving and receiving. I opened gifts on the morning of Christmas and again on the Feast of the Epiphany. My parents striving to be American, adopted all the customs of their new land and gifts were placed under the tree, Christmas Eve. But my grandmother, clinging to the customs of her people, exchanged gifts on the Feast of the Epiphany.

Early in the evening, Christmas Eve, we were told we had to go to sleep or Santa Claus would not stop at our apartment and bring us gifts. I never questioned why the Santa who visited us, early in the evening, looked different each year. I believed in Santa Claus and that was enough for me. Now, one of my brothers, a sophisticated giant, who was tall while I was petite, with six years on me, decided he would burst my balloon and expose Santa Claus as a myth. Needless to say, this brought about much wailing and torrents of tears in its wake. My mother, who plainly adored him, gently challenged him, “Oh, you don’t believe in Santa Claus. Well let’s see what he brings you!” Now, although there was no question about my mother’s open affection and preference toward her little boy, a lesson had to be given and brother received coal in his stocking and nothing else. Needless to say, the subject of Santa was never brought up again. 

I never questioned why my Nana (grandmother) brought gifts on the twelfth day of Christmas, the sixth day of January, rather than on Christmas Day. No one told me about the Magi; they got shoved out of the way by Christmas Trees and Santa Claus coming down the chimney bearing gifts in his sack. Although in our cold-water flat, we had only a coal stove in the kitchen to warm us in the daytime and a kerosene space heater in the front room to provide heat in the bedrooms in the evening, I never questioned which chimney he was going to climb down.

To those of us who grew up in the North, Christmas and snow were synonymous. When I think about it now, how awesome and wonderful is our Father, to place that Bundle of Joy in our midst amid the gloom of winter. We speak of Spring as new beginnings and it is, especially with the new hope of Easter. But the new beginnings began at Christmas with the Baby Jesus. Our Hope was born into the world. Do you ever meditate on why God chose to come as a Little Baby into the world? Why not a grown Man? What was God trying to tell us? Was the Omnipotent God showing us the way, through His Son Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, that the way to know eternal happiness is in becoming as innocent and vulnerable as a little child fully dependent on the Father’s Will?

The Feast of the Child Jesus

It was not till I returned to Jesus and Mother Church that I learned about the Magi and the reason my ancestors gave gifts during the Feast of the Epiphany. They were truly reliving the days of the first Christmas! It was then that Bob and I began our long journey to understand the full meaning of Christmas. As we got closer to understanding the Treasures of our Church, Christmas became to us the Feast of the Christ Child, the Babe born to die for our sins, the Feast of our Heavenly Mother who said Yes and brought Our Little Savior into the world. The awe and wonder of that much love alone brought a touch of sadness mixed with great joy. We knew we were loved and we would never be alone again. This was a truth no one could take away from us. Jesus chose to be born a Helpless Little Child, He became One with us His creation in all things but sin. All for us, for you and me.

The time between Christmas and Easter seems to fly faster and faster, as we grow older. No sooner have the Christmas decorations been safely stored away, than the days swiftly pass till Ash Wednesday begins our forty days of Lent. I remember one year, at our parish, the children enacted a Passion Play on Good Friday in our church hall. The curtain opened up to the Crucifixion scene, which showed our little ten year old grandson playing Jesus dying on the Cross. Our eyes, fixed on this little boy, bleeding and wounded, were filled with tears.But it wasn’t until our eyes followed a dim light off to the side - Mother Mary and the newly born Infant Jesus - that the stark truth came to us that Our Lord, the Baby Jesus began His walk to Calvary the night He was born. Or was it the day Mother Mary said Yes to the Angel Gabriel and Incarnation came about!

The gloomy, rainy days of Lent pass and the sun comes out on Easter Sunday and with it new hope, new life and new beginnings. And if we are not careful we soon forget the price paid for our new springtime, by the One born in the cold of winter, the One Who would die on the Cross. Those who plant harvests and flowers know that in order to have new growth, a plant must die and produce a seed for life to go on. With our change of climate, the cold and rainy weather changing to sunny and balmy, we forget the One Who died that we might live.

And what has this to do with the Child Jesus and Christmas? If we meditate on why He was born, and contemplate the price He paid, alone having to witness His dear Mother’s suffering at the foot of the Cross, we look at Christmas and we think of what the word means, Christ - Mass, the same Mass that is the ongoing Sacrifice of the Cross, the reenactment of the Birth, Death and Resurrection of Our Savior Jesus Christ. 

We go full cycle. At the Annunciation, it all began and on the Cross it was finished. At Christmas, a Baby was born, Who would be the God-Man Who came to save the world, and at Easter we celebrate the hope He left us that we too would rise - Christmas and Easter interwoven - the ongoing circle of life eternal.

There is something about Christmas that changes men’s hearts, even for a day. It is truly a time of Joy to the world and Peace to all mankind. For a short time, out of our busy lives, we pause and think of others. We take time to try to bring happiness into the world. During war time, even battles cease during Christmas Day. Even those who do not believe in Our Lord Jesus respect the solemnity of Christmas. Or is it that our love and more importantly the Love of Our Savior somehow breaks through the tough, hard shell the world has formed on our hearts, and we take time to love, to care. And think of it, it is in the Form of a Baby that such metanoia comes about.

Take Christ out of Christmas

Two strong anti-Christ movements have been insidiously polluting our society and sadly at times our parish churches: One, Take Christ off the Cross and Two, Remove the Crèche and the Baby Jesus. Why has the enemy of God been so dedicated to removing these two life-giving symbols? It is said that one of the reasons Lucifer said He would not obey and took One third of the Angels with him, was that God was going to become One of us, One with those He had created - a Creature. And insults of all insults, he, Lucifer, top Angel, would have to have as his Queen another creature - Mary. His pride could not handle it and he left. But he was not satisfied with having taken one third of the Angels with him, to spend an eternity in the nether world. He has spent the rest of his time on earth trying to woo God’s beloved creatures away from Him. One way: The proud one who would fill our heads with Pride, would take away any reference to the Birth of our Savior, remove any evidence of Jesus choosing to be born under humble circumstances. 

I still remember parking on Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica and walking past the living scenes of the Birth of Jesus, with live animals keeping watch with Joseph and Mary. Here in a town not far from downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, Christ was remembered, Crèche and all. On every corner where there was a church, the Nativity scene was there, more often than not, a living enactment. Families made elaborated Nativity scenes on their front lawns. Then the enemy of God was able to use a few (it’s always a few) to end this awesome tribute to the Child Jesus. Now, it may be only where we now live. I don’t know what came first, but it appears after September 11th and that disaster, that there is barely a church or a home that does not have a Nativity scene on the front lawn. Along with our American flag that had been at best put away and worse burned, the Baby Jesus returned and became the Reason for the Season! After September 11th, you could not see one home or car without an American flag flying bravely for all to see. And so it was with the Crèche and the Nativity Scene. God was back for all to see, as was our love for our country.

The second movement Lucifer was hell-bent on eradicating was the Price Jesus paid for sinful man, His weak creation - take Jesus off the Cross. As we recall, Lucifer, right up to the last seven words Jesus uttered, did all he could to get Jesus to come down off the Cross. Why was this so important to him? He promised Jesus anything, he would do anything if He would only come down off the Cross. Why? Lucifer knew that the only way man could be redeemed was through the Cross. No Cross, no suffering, the Gates of Heaven would not be opened and we would be lost. Another reason Lucifer did not want Jesus to die on the Cross is that this One Act showed man how very loved he was, how very precious he was. 

But man has forgotten how precious he is in the Eyes and Heart of Jesus. In the lunacy of the topsy turvy world we live in, where one can barely tell a man from a woman, at times; where often confusion reigns and sin spreads like the lava of an exploding volcano, a battle rages between God and Lucifer, all for our souls. That’s how very important we are to God and His enemy. There is nothing as angry as a person who has lost his soul. He will do anything to make you lose yours. He needs the company; he doesn’t want to go to Hell alone. 

We saw a movie the other evening, and at the end, the soldier died because he wouldn’t allow someone to take the flag from him. His words were: “No one can take the flag away from us; it is our flag.” And with that he hoisted the flag on high, as bullets ripped through his body. No one can take our flag from us. It is our flag, the red stripes signifying passionately the price the generations have paid for that flag and the right to fly that flag over our land. Likewise, no one can take God away from us; He is our God. The Father sent His only Begotten Son to the world as a tiny Baby. They can take our Nativity Scenes from us; they can take Our Lord off the Cross; but they cannot take Him from us. He dwells in the deepest caverns of our hearts, His Love permeating our entire existence, crying out I love you.”

St. Clare’s Last Christmas on Earth

Saint Clare of Assisi minibookWe would like to share one of Clare’s experiences, which is recounted in the Fioretti, the Little Flowers of St. Clare.  It is the foundation for the title she was given, Patron Saint of the Airwaves.  It took place on Christmas Eve, 1252, the year before she died.

Clare was too ill to go to Midnight Mass services with her Sisters.  She was too feeble to get out of bed.  She lay there, her heart breaking as she was to be deprived of our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist on this special night.  Her thoughts brought her back to the time in Greccio, when Francis made the first Nativity Scene, after which all Nativity scenes in the future would be fashioned.  Christmas had always been a joyous time for both Clare and Francis.  She missed not having him with her on earth, but especially at this, so important a time.

She looked about the bare room that served as the sleeping quarters for the Sisters.  Suddenly, there was a great light in the room.  She could hear the sounds of Christmas hymns being sung at the great Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.  She felt herself being lifted out of her bed.  The cool breeze of the December night brushed across her face; she was transported to the church amidst what sounded to her like the voices of angels.  She could smell the sweet fragrance of burning candles, and altar incense.  She was taking part in the Midnight Mass at the Basilica. 

Then she was whisked off to the east, to the Bethlehem of 1200 years before.  She was brought down to the cave where the Infant Jesus was born.  St. Joseph and Mary were there, in the company of the animals whose cave the Holy Family shared.  Our Lord Jesus came to her as a grown man, and placed the Sacred Host in her mouth. 

Then she was transported back to the convent of San Damiano in Assisi.  When her daughters in Christ came back upstairs from the Church, their joy was overshadowed by the great sorrow they felt because their Mother had missed the beautiful service.  She smiled weakly.  Her face was flushed, but not from the illness.  She told them of her experience, and how the Lord Himself had given her Communion.  They sat by her bed listening and smiling.  As they all fell off into a peaceful Christmas slumber, the soft, distant sound of angels singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo could be heard.

More information about Saint Clare of Assisi

St. Francis made a Crèche at Christmas

Francis of Assisi

Family, the traditional Nativity Scene put up with great joy in anticipation of the coming of the Savior is something we do, but we don’t really think about where it came from.  We want to tell you the story of St. Francis of Assisi at Greccio one Christmas eve in 1223.  We are quoting from Celano’s First Life of St. Francis, as put forth in the Omnibus of Sources.

“Francis’ highest intention, his chief desire, his uppermost purpose was to observe the Holy Gospel in all things and, with perfect vigilance, with all zeal, with all the longing of his mind and his heart, ‘to follow the teaching and footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’ He would recall Christ’s words through persistent meditation and bring to mind his deeds through the most penetrating consideration.  The humility of the Incarnation and the charity of the Passion occupied his memory particularly, to the extent that he wanted to think of hardly anything else.

What he did on the birthday of Our Lord Jesus Christ near the little town called Greccio in the third year before his glorious death should especially be noted and recalled with reverent memory.  In that place there was a certain man by the name of John, of good reputation and an even better life, whom blessed Francis loved with a special love, for in the place where he lived he held a noble and honorable position in as much as he had trampled upon the nobility of his birth and pursued nobility of soul.

Blessed Francis sent for this man, as he often did, about fifteen days before the birth of the Lord, and he said to him: ‘If you want us to celebrate the present feast of Our Lord at Greccio, go with haste and diligently prepare what I tell you.  For I wish to do something that will recall to memory the little Child who was born in Bethlehem and set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of His infant needs, how He lay in a manger, how with an ox and an ass standing by, He lay upon the hay where He had been placed.’  When the good and faithful man heard these things, he ran with haste and prepared in that place all the things the saint had told him.

But the day of joy drew near, the time of great rejoicing came.  The brothers were called from their various places.  Men and women of that neighborhood prepared with glad hearts, according to their means, candles and torches to light up that night that was lighted up all the days and years with its gleaming star.  At length the Saint of God came, and finding all things prepared, he saw it and was glad.  The manger was prepared, the hay had been brought, and the ox and ass were led in.  There simplicity was honored, poverty was exalted, humility was commended, and Greccio was made, as it were, a new Bethlehem.  The night was lighted up like the day, and it delighted men and beasts.  The people came and were filled with new joy over the new mystery.  The woods rang with the voices of the crowd and the rocks made answer to their jubilation.  The brothers sang, paying their debt of praise to the Lord, and the whole night resounded with their rejoicing.  The Saint of God stood before the manger, uttering sighs, overcome with live, and filled with a wonderful happiness.  The solemnities of the Mass were celebrated over the manger and the priest experienced a new consolation.

The Saint of God was clothed with the vestments of the deacon, for he was a deacon, and he sang the holy Gospel in a sonorous voice.  And his voice was a strong voice, a sweet voice, a clear voice, inviting all to the highest rewards.  Then he preached to the people standing about, and he spoke charming words concerning the nativity of the poor King and the little town of Bethlehem.  Frequently too, when he wished to call Christ Jesus, he would call him simply the Child of Bethlehem, aglow with overflowing love for Him; and speaking the word Bethlehem, his voice was more like the bleating of a sheep.  His mouth was filled more with sweet affection that with words.  Besides, when he spoke the name Child of Bethlehem, or Jesus, his tongue licked his lips, as it were, relishing and savoring with pleased plate the sweetness of the words.

The gifts of the Almighty were multiplied there, and a wonderful vision was seen by a certain virtuous man.  For he saw a little child lying in the manger lifeless, and he saw the holy man of God go up to it and rouse the child as from a deep sleep.  This vision was not unfitting, for the Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but by the working of His grace, He was brought to life again through His servant St. Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory.  At length the solemn night celebration was brought to a close, and each one returned to his home with holy joy.

The hay that had been placed in the manger was kept, so that the Lord might save the beasts of burden and other animals through it as He multiplied His Holy Mercy.  And in truth it so happened that many animals throughout the surrounding region that had various illnesses were freed from their illnesses after eating of this hay.  Indeed, even women laboring for a long time in a difficult birth, were delivered safely when some of this hay was placed upon them; and a large number of persons of both sexes of that place, suffering from various illnesses, obtained the health they sought.  Later, the place on which the manger had stood was made sacred by a Temple of the Lord, and an altar was built in honor of the most blessed Father Francis over the manger and a church was built, so that where once the animals had eaten the hay, there in the future men would eat unto health of soul and body the flesh of the Lamb without blemish and without spot, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who in highest and ineffable love gave Himself to us, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, eternally glorious, forever and ever.  Amen.   Alleluia, Alleluia.” Omnibus of Sources – First Life Celano

Family, I think we have lost a great deal of the reverence and love that was exhibited first by St. Francis in Greccio that Christmas Eve, and then magnified by the presence of Jesus in the form of the living baby, as testified by John of Greccio.  Miracles abounded after that night when anyone touched the hay of the Holy Manger.  Just a little hay from the Manger would bring about cures, help with difficult pregnancies, and heal hearts and souls.  But the real miracle was the love which poured out from the people in the neighborhood of Greccio, where there had been no love before, and“overcome with love, and filled with a wonderful happiness.”

How would you like to have that experience this Christmas Eve?  Do what St. Francis did.  Set up a Crèche in your home, a Nativity Scene if you will.  Put it in your front window, where people outside can see it.  Make it a Christmas Eve celebration.  Get your neighbors to take part in your Christmas Eve celebration.  Keep the image of the Baby Jesus out of it until after midnight on that Holy Night.  Sing hymns to the Newborn Child, the Savior of Israel, the Savior of the world.  We need a Savior, brothers and sisters.  The world is moving in a tailspin, not in a good direction.  We need a Hero who will stop the downward momentum and bring us up from the black hole we are descending into, and save us from a world without God.  You can do it.  Just call on Him.  Call on Our Lady, the Angels and the Saints, especially St. Francis.  Have a Blessed Christmas.  We love you!

More about Saint Franis click here

St. Thèrése’s Last Christmas as a Child

Saint Therese of Lisieux“…on December the twenty-fifth, 1886…
I was given the grace to leave my childhood’s days behind…”

“…God had to perform a miracle on a small scale to make me group up’ grow up all in a moment.  And the occasion He chose for it was Christmas, that night of illumination which somehow lights up for us the inner life of the Blessed Trinity.  Our Lord, newly born, turned this darkness of mine into a flood of light; born to share my human weakness.  He brought me the strength and courage I needed.  He armed me so well, that holy night that I never looked back.”

St. Thèrése, the Little Flower, God’s bundle of love and energy and joy, had to go through her dark night of the soul at a very early age, four to be exact.  Her mother, whom she loved dearly, and who was so close to her, died after a long illness.

Almost immediately, the loving, outgoing, beautiful child became introverted, frightened, closed from the whole world except her family.  She spent the next nine years in deep depression.  The slightest look, or cross word, could send her running off to her room, in tears.  She feared being separated from her family.  She was traumatized by going to school at the local Benedictine Convent in Lisieux.  She refused to grow up.

“Yes, it was on December the twenty-fifth, 1886, that I was given the grace to leave my childhood days behind; call it, if you will the grace to complete conversion.  We’d just got back from Midnight Mass, in which Our Lord had come to me with all His strength and vigor.  On such occasions, there was a treat in store for me at Les Buissonnets (Thèrése’s home).  I would go off to find my Christmas boot (Lace or button boots which were set out in a row in front of the empty grate and filled by the parents with sweets made in a variety of shapes – pipes, mice, pigs, etc.)  in the chimney corner; we’d loved this so much in our childhood that Celine went on treating me as if I were a baby, being the youngest.  Papa was always so fond of seeing my happiness, and listening to my cries of delight as the magic boot revealed, one after another, my surprise presents, and part of my enjoyment was the pleasure he took in it.  But this time, Our Lord meant to show me that I ought to be getting rid of my childish defects; so this innocent joy was denied me and he allowed Papa to be the means of my disappointment.  He, Papa, was tired after the Midnight Mass, and the sight of my boots in the chimney corner annoyed him.  Imagine my distress when I overheard him saying:  ‘Well, thank goodness it’s the last year this is going to happen!’

“Our Lord meant to show me that I ought to be getting rid of my childish defects.”

I was going upstairs at the moment, to take off my hat.  Celine, who know how touchy I was, saw my eyes shining with tears, and was ready to cry herself; in her loving sympathy, she knew exactly what I was feeling.  ‘Oh Thèrése, don’t go down just yet; it’ll only make you miserable looking inside your boots now!’ But she didn’t know the Thèrése she was dealing with; Our Lord had changed me into a different person.  I dried my tears and went down at once; my heart was beating fast, but I managed to get hold of my boots and put them down in front of Papa, and as I took out my presents you would have thought that I was as happy as a queen.  Papa smiled, his good humor restored, and Celine thought she must be dreaming.  But no, it was a sublime reality; little Thèrése had recovered the strength of mind which she’d lost at four and half, and recovered it for good.”

Thèrése was a suffering servant of Jesus all her life.  She was not aware of it while she was experiencing it, but He was preparing her for the Kingdom, and for the work He would have her do, from her very earliest age.

Her mother died when she was four years old.  Thèrése didn’t want to give her mother up.  The Lord asked her for self-abandonment from the very beginning.  Thèrése began to develop her “Little Way” from that early age.  But it wasn’t until that Christmas of 1886, in that one instant, that she realized Jesus was asking her to give up her mother and her childhood together.  None of her family, with possible exception of Celine, had any idea what a high place she had reached with that one act of self-abandonment.  No one was aware, not even she, that this would give her the courage she would need to go back down into the valley, and accept all the valleys in her life.

“If you would be perfect…”

There’s a strong message in this, which comes across loud and clear.  The Lord had a reason for asking this act of abandonment from Thèrése.  And Thèrése said “Yes” to the Lord.  The reason was most likely us, you and me.  The walk towards Jesus is full of boulders to climb, big obstacles which we have to overcome.  Strangely enough, these are the easiest to surmount.  It’s after we’ve given up the obvious things that Jesus wants, that we find ourselves walking on small rocks and pebbles, twisting our ankles as we go along.  It becomes the small things, which we never thought of as being obstacles to our relationship with Jesus.  It becomes attitudes, prejudices, and judgments that Jesus asks us to give Him.  These little things are sometimes the most difficult to turn over to Him.  “If you would be perfect…”

Thèrése fought her natural instincts all her life to walk the road to perfection.  She invites us to do the same.  We never really get there, until we meet Jesus in the Kingdom.  But the Journey is what He asks from us.  Thèrése gave these two important things, her mother and her childhood, to Jesus as a Christmas present.

Do you have a Christmas present to giveJesus this year for His Birthday?


More about Saint Therese  http://www.bobandpennylord.com/St_Therese_of_Lisieux.htm


God brings us a today to love....  _

God brings us a today to love,

                             a yesterday to remember,

                                      a tomorrow to count on



          When Bob and I met, who would have thought God would use us to spread the Good News that He is alive and He is in our Church, and in our lives.  I only knew I liked Bob; I trusted him.  He was not like the other young men in our school.  He respected women.  The other male students frightened me.  He was different; he was polite, considerate and protective; he was honorable.  When other young men in the school spoke ill about a girl, he would always defend her.  He never gossiped about anyone.  He always saw the good in everyone.  At times, to my frustration, when I judged some took advantage of his generosity and ongoing Yes, he would gently answer my objections with a smile. 

          I always saw greatness in Bob.  From the day I met him, I knew that God had something special for him to do.  I would say, quoting Shakespeare, "Thou hast great Glamis that which would make thee great, if thou wouldst be great."  What it was, I did not know.  I just had a feeling!


          For Penny and me, there is no doubt in our minds, hearts, or souls that the events of Monday, September 23, 1957 were definitely orchestrated by Our Lord Jesus, Our Lady and all the Angels and Saints.  A new class session had just begun in school.  We can envision a grand meeting in Heaven, in which it was determined that these two children (us) had work to do for the Lord, and it would not begin until they met and married.  And with that goal in mind, a Heavenly contingency descended slowly to the earth, with Angels carrying our Lady on a cloud, singing songs of praise to God.  O.K., that's my vision!

          On earth, we were positioning ourselves for the execution of the Heavenly plan, although we didn't know it.  We were busy familiarizing ourselves to a new school year, and new people, whom we had not met the school year before.  I had never met Penny.  I only knew her by sight, or rather, from a distance, from where I looked at her the previous semester.  She was breathtakingly beautiful, lively and buoyant, truly a product of Heaven.  In my mind, she was definitely a creation of the Master Artist, God.  We had never been introduced, and I was kind of shy.  She was shy, too, but covered it up by appearing standoffish and antisocial. 

          We were just getting used to being back at school.  For me, it took a certain amount of discipline, after having been off all summer from school.  I worked nights at United Press International, down on 35th Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan.  As I got home from work at 6:30 in the morning, and my school hours were not till the afternoon, I was sure, I would be able to get a few hours’ sleep in the morning.  It should have worked out all right.  The only problem was, I never wanted to, because there was too much activity going on.  But after being back to school for two weeks and being exhausted from burning the all-night oil, I vowed that this night, Monday night, September 23, 1957, I was going to sleep after dinner, and not get up until absolutely necessary. 

          Besides, that night, I had to be particularly alert, as I had to go to the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, to cover a prize fight between Carmen Basilio and Sugar Ray Robinson.  That was my agenda, not our Heavenly Family's agenda.  My roommates told me they were going to give a birthday party for one of the girls they knew, who was away from home.  Oh man, I thought, there goes my sleep time.  But I had vowed discipline, and I was going to sleep.  To be honest, if I didn't get some sleep, I was going to die.  So I buried myself in the bedroom and tried to block out the noise of the party going on in the next room. 

          Penny arrived.  She was outside in the living room with all the guests making a big fuss over her.  She later confided that, as she missed her family, she was just looking for an excuse to make a quick getaway, back to the Barbizon Plaza, which was a women's residence in Manhattan.

          It was very difficult.  The Angels had to get me out of the bedroom into the living room in order to meet Penny.  I was exhausted.  To me, the people out there had no consideration for anyone.  They just wouldn't let me sleep.  Finally, I gave into the plan from Heaven.  If I couldn't sleep, I thought, I might as well join them, but I was not going to be happy, and I certainly wouldn't be friendly. 

          It was as if Choirs of Angels raised their voices in praise of God, as I opened the door to the living room.  Among the crowd of people there, who should I see across the room but the girl I had been admiring for so long, from a distance, (actually ogling) my Penny.  She was so-o-o-o beautiful.  Then I realized, it was her birthday!  I had to meet her, but I had to be cool.  I would also have to be nice.  So I put on my best James Dean look, tousled hair, frown and squinty eyes.  For those of you who were not on the earth yet, ask your parents about James Dean.  It wasn't really difficult to put on this posture, as my hair was messed up, from having just gotten up from bed, my eyes were slits because I had been in the dark, and now was blinded by the light.  So it didn't take a whole of lot of creativity to do my James Dean thing.

          Now, here's where I believe the Heavenly Family came in.  Penny was on one side of the room, surrounded by all the young men in the room, actually encircled by them.  I'm sure some of it had to do with the fact that it was her birthday and it was her party, and also because she was a knockout.  But the moment I came out the door, the Angels cleared a path between her and me.  The closest I can think of was the parting of the red sea, only in this case, it was the parting of wall-to-wall people.  Our eyes met.  It reminded me of when St. Bernadette's eyes met Our Lady's for the first time in the grotto of Massabielle.

          We sat down at the kitchen table, and began talking.  I have no idea what we talked about, but we talked for hours, lost in each other's gaze.  It seemed like we were both in a state of hypnosis, but it was more like Heavenly bliss.  At the beginning, people may have tried to break in, like when they wanted Penny to blow out the candles on her cake, but the Angels blocked us from them with their wings, and after a while, they knew they couldn't get between us and they just left us alone.  It was like we were not there.  We were shielded by the Angels.

          I had been excited about the prospect of covering the prize fight at Yankee Stadium, but now, I hated the clock ticking away, getting ready to separate us.  This was a mystical, magical moment.  I didn't want it to end.  She did not want it to end.  But the clock struck seven.  I had to get to the Yankee Stadium.  I felt like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight.  I was furious because I had to leave; I was so much in love.

          At the Yankee Stadium, I met Ernest Hemingway, who was sitting ring-side and asked him to autograph one of his books, I just happened to be reading.  Now, not even the boldest bettor would give a-thousand-to-one odds that something like that would happen.  As I was an ardent fan of his, you would think this would be the highlight of the night.  But the experience dims obscurely in the brilliant light of having met the love of my life, my future wife and soul-mate, my Penny.

          After having gone through my usual grueling routine, working all night, getting home at about 7 in the morning, I looked forward to getting some much needed sleep; but because my roommates were just getting up and, and as I said before, they had absolutely no consideration for me or my need to sleep, this was not about to happen.  However I managed to fit in a few hours of sleep; then got up, shaved, showered and left the apartment in search of the girl I loved. 

          I started that next day convinced that the meeting with Penny had to have been orchestrated by the Heavenly Family, and I still believe that to be true.  Everything that happened that evening was so perfect.  It could not have been of man. 

          But then proof of that came crashing down on me the next day.  I knew I would have a chance to run into her; we were in the same class.  We would rekindle the flame, lit the night before.  I hurriedly walked to the coffee shop near the school, in hopes of finding her there.  I knew she always spent time there with her friends.  But she was not there!  I walked quickly towards the school and found her, standing off by herself, looking at a notebook, as if to remember an appointment.  I rushed up to her, and I gave her a big hello.

          She looked right through me as if I didn't exist.  I reminded her that we had met the night before at her birthday party.  She didn't seem to know what I was talking about.  Bottom line, she had forgotten completely our evening together.  The most important day in my life, and she forgot it the next day!

          Needless to say, I was crushed!  I had also aroused my Irish temper.  In my mind and heart, I called her every terrible name in the book.  But I never said a word to her directly.  I vowed I would never speak to her again, even if she were in danger of death and it would take my being nice to her to save her life.  I was really hurt.  But now, over 50 years later, I realize it was just the enemy trying desperately to keep us apart.  God had put us together, and we would be together for the rest of our lives.  Satan had to try to pry us apart.

          It didn't take much time for me to back down on my firm commitment never to speak to her again.  She was so pretty.  It also didn't take long before she remembered that she did know me, she had met me, and she did like me.  Little by little, our love bloomed.  We had the most romantic courtship the world has ever known.  We did little things together, which young couples should always be allowed to do.  We walked through Central Park together hand in hand.  It is a perfect place for young lovers, or at least it was in 1957-58.  We sat on the grass and studied there.  We talked about our lives and our dreams.  We went to the movies together, and shared dutch-treat Italian dinners (cost 35› each).  Every day, after school, we would walk down to a fruit and vegetable store on 8th Avenue and 51st Street, where I would buy Penny one golden apple.  She loved golden apples.  Somewhere down through the years, we stopped the practice of golden apples, until we began to write this book.  Then I remembered buying Penny the golden apples, and we started to buy them again.  They are the most delicious apples.


The best birthday gift I ever received - the day I met Bob

          I was away at school.  My first marriage had ended long before our divorce.  I came from a family who believed (and rightly so) that marriage is forever.  But there came a day, when even my dear mother would tell me it was time to make a life for myself and the children.  There was nothing left of the 17 year old girl and the 20 year old boy who met and got married after knowing each other three short weeks.  The differences became, over the years, unsurmountable.  But that is another story.

          Mama suggested I return to school and seek a career; she offered to take care of the children.  I reluctantly started to scan the newspapers and magazines, trying to choose where I would go, and as God would have it, I ended up in New York City, going to school in the daytime and returning home at night.  At the beginning, I could be home before the children returned from school.  But after the first year, as I had to travel fifty-seven miles on not the best of roads, and then to compound the situation, in the second semester I had classes in the morning and the afternoon, it became impossible to go home, except on week-ends. 

A day to remember

          It was September 23, 1957, and my birthday.  Some of the students decided to give me a surprise party at one of their apartments.  Whatever this party was trying to accomplish, it missed its mark.  While everyone else was dancing and having a great time, I was sad and downcast.  It was my birthday; I was away from home, from my children and parents, and I was homesick!  Little did I know that I would meet the one who would become the most important person in my life, that night. 

          Then the bedroom door opened and although I did not know it at the time, so did my life.  Out walked a tall, slim young man dressed in a black shirt and black jeans, his hair tousled from sleep, and not very happy to have been awakened by music blaring, and voices trying to top the noise.  I remember his eyes were barely slits.  Never able to stay angry for long, his annoyance soon turned to friendship and warm congeniality.  He came over to me and the next thing I knew we were sitting in the little kitchenette off to the side and I do not know how, but we were talking!

          Sadly, as I was still too wounded and not very trusting, the next day came, and I had blocked him out of my thoughts and, I thought, my life.  I was not like the other girls; I was older; I was not there to meet someone, but to learn a career and a way to support my children.  So the next day, when Bob saw me, and said hello, I looked at him as if I had never met him.  It wasn't a game; I had psychologically blocked out any possibility of friendship with someone of the opposite sex.  I just wanted to be about the reason I came, in the first place.  I was also very wary, because there were all kinds of little games being played, to entice me to go out with some of the young men of the school.

          Bob and I were thrown together in the same class.  When we had a small break between classes, Bob would ask another girl and myself out for a cup of coffee (or as I was a tea drinker, a cup of tea).  I thought it was she he liked, as she was Irish, like him, and was part of the same clique who socialized together on the weekends, when I went home.  I thought he was asking me to go along, because he was too shy to ask her alone; and he didn't want her to know he was serious about her, in case she did not share his feelings.  You can see, even in those days, I was writing scripts. 

          Then, I got sick and was out for a few days.  The phone rang at least two or three times a day, and it was Bob asking how I was.  My parents began inquiring about the young man who kept calling.  When I said "He is my best friend," little did I realize how true this was, and that this truth would become a reality.  What I didn't add was, "I really cannot think about a tomorrow without him in my life."  Understanding, more than I, how deeply I felt about Bob, my father turned to my mother, "Oh, oh Mama, it is the old best friend routine." 

          Bob was different!  Now that I think of it, he has always been a little like my father.  Bob would give me little gifts, like stop at the fruit market a couple of blocks from our school, each night after class, and buy me the largest golden yellow apple, he could find.  Then carefully scanning it to make sure it was perfect, without blemish, my knight would hand it to me, like it was a precious jewel.  And to me, it was!

The time came when poor Bob had to meet the family!

          So many memories, such sweet memories.  I remember when the time came for Bob to pass muster and meet the family!  Within a short time, Bob had won my parents' hearts; but now it was time for my brothers' approval.  It was Thanksgiving.  By this time, I was out of school, I had an apartment in New York with my children going to Catholic School in Manhattan.  It was a tiny apartment with an even tinier kitchenette.  But nevertheless I cooked a great big turkey with all the fixings.  As cabinet space was at a minimum, I had to get on a step-stool to reach platters on the top shelf.  Bob, seeing me, ran over and insisted on getting the dishes.  And to my sisters-in-law's horror, that was not all; he was taking the bird out of the oven!  One of them spoke up, "In this family men do not do women's work." 

          Now first of all, I don't know where she got that idea; my father and mother never played man and woman roles; but instead, always partners in all they did, shared in whatever tasks came their way.  To my delight and their amazement, this dear young man, who desperately wanted to be accepted, stood up to the women and said, "In our family this is the way it is going to be.  Penny is too delicate and I don't want her to hurt herself."  Needless to say, that won him a great deal of "brownie points"_ with my father and mother.

          My father had only one deep concern.  He called Bob over to my closet and showed him my wardrobe.  The spoiled youngest child and a girl at that, my parents had given me every advantage and then some.  He pointed to my shoes.  "She pays more for one pair of shoes than you make in one week."  And turning to me he said, "You know you can only wear a Fenton shoe."_ I protested I could do without the shoes and all the luxuries, as long as I had Bob.  And Bob said, "I promise she will never want for anything.  I will take care of her the rest of my life."  And he has!  When we could not afford the clothes I was used to, I did not desire new clothes; nothing appealed to me.  I had everything!  I had Bob and my two children and life was wonderful!


          We had the most delightful, up and down, courtship of fifteen months, we believe the world has ever known.  We went from being good friends, to boy friend and girl friend.  We were kids together, experiencing life with all its glory.  Then the time came, when we wanted to get married.  But there was a problem: Penny was a divorced woman.  She had two children, who loved me; her mother and father loved me; and I loved them all.  But we were both Roman Catholics, and the Church would not allow divorced people to marry in the Church.  So the dilemma was what to do about our love for each other.

          Penny was the best Catholic I had ever met.  Granted, she knew very little about our Faith, as opposed to me, who knew whatever you learn in Catholic Grammar School, High School, and two years of Catholic college.  But she loved Jesus and everything that had to do with being in the Catholic Church, while I, on the other hand, had embraced the world, and walked far away from the Church.

We sat before a chubby Priest in the Fall of 1958

          This was my frame of mind when Penny and I sat before a chubby priest in northern New Jersey, in December of 1958.  We were going to be married and that was all there was to it.  At her request, we went to talk to the Catholic priest about being married in the Church.  I knew there was no way.  Her first marriage had been blessed in the Church, some 10 years after she had been married civilly, in an effort to save her marriage.  This priest had performed the marriage himself.  As far as he was concerned, he had dotted all his i's and crossed all his t's.  He was not about to tell us it could be annulled.  The Church didn't do things like that, especially not in 1958.

          I tried to appear calm, cordial, and respectful, while inside I was nervous and upset.  I had convinced myself, we weren't doing anything wrong, and this whole interview was so much nonsense.  My cordiality went out the window, when the priest told us we would be living in sin.  I had all to do to keep from exploding.  There were many thoughts, which rang through my mind.  Instead, I told him what Penny's and the children's lives had been like, not being able to practice their religion openly, being Catacomb Catholics.  I went on that the marriage should never have been blessed in the Church, in the first place.  He knew Penny's first husband better than I; it had been clear to me that he never had any intention of fulfilling a Catholic marriage contract.  It should have been obvious to him, as well.

          I went on, how could this priest possibly say, in all good conscience, that by being married to me, where she and the children could practice their religion without any hindrance, we'd be living in sin; while being married to her first husband, where religion was a constant obstacle, an irritant and cause for major arguments, was not.  The priest told me it would be next to impossible to prove that her first husband had no intention of living up to the marriage contract he had made when they were married in the Church.  But I wasn't listening.  I was on a soapbox.

          I accused this priest, and the whole Catholic Church of condemning Penny and the children to a life of misery.  I ended my tirade with "If that's the stand the Catholic Church wants to take, then we don't want any part of it.  We don't need the Catholic Church to worship God.  We don't need any Church."

          How foolish are the young.  How prone we are to make brash statements that we can't ever expect to live with.  That day, in front of that priest, I truly believe that Jesus, Mary, all my friends, the Angels and Saints, were there, rooting for me, praying I wouldn't make a fool of myself.  How they must have wept when I turned my back on them.  I know for myself, no sooner had the words slipped out of my stubborn mouth, than I wished I had never said them.  Tears welled up in my eyes; my tongue became thick.  I couldn't talk.  I told Penny I always got this way when I became angry.  But truly, I was sorry for my big mouth.  I wanted to cry.  In my mind's eye, I could see my Heavenly Family, so sad, but mostly, my best friend Mary.  I had betrayed her so cruelly.  Could she ever forgive me?

          Penny and I loved each other.  Our love was good; my anger with the priest was that he seemed to be making it into something ugly, and it was not ugly; it was beautiful.  We wouldn't let anything or anyone stand in our way.  Love would conquer all.  The one thing we did not accept, or believe we had to accept, above all else was Obedience. 



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