Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
Tomorrow, as a nation, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. While there were local traditions of offering feasts in thanksgiving to God in the United States dating back to the 17th Century, it was not until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November be set apart for all Americans as "a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."
I studied in Rome when I was in the seminary. There, Thanksgiving Day was just a Thursday in November. However, our seminary was primarily made up of men from the United States, so on Thanksgiving, we celebrated. Hundreds of us gathered in our large dining room, the seminarians as well as our guests: Americans working in Rome or the Vatican. After our meal, the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican would read the president's Thanksgiving Proclamation. It was a wonderful day to give thanks for all of the blessings in our lives. It felt good to share something of what we remembered from home. It was certainly unusual, though. Many of the people were unknown to me. Our families were back in the United States. The meal was good, but always a little off. For example, the first course was invariably pasta, and the Italian kitchen staff had no interest in mastering pumpkin pie. Even so, it was a much needed day of celebration, gratitude, and prayer.
Thanksgiving will be different for most of us this year as well. Like many families, mine will not be together this year because of the coronavirus. This is par for the course in 2020 when nothing seems comfortable.
However, Thanksgiving Day is still a day of celebration, gratitude, and prayer. We celebrate with those around us, the people who make our lives special. If we can't be with them, let's call them or videoconference with them, that we can share the joy we know on this day. That joy comes from our gratitude, and we want those who surround us to know how much we appreciate them, even when we don't always get along with them. Our Lord directs all things to guide us to holiness. He chooses our families for us and places the people in our lives that will help all of us get to heaven. Sometimes our family members teach us virtue by the way that they display it. Sometimes, they help us grow in virtue by presenting us the opportunity to forgive, or to be generous, or to patiently bear wrongs, or to love when they are unlovable. Families always provide a means of salvation because they are the garden where true charity grows. Let's always remember this and be thankful for it.
Thanksgiving is also a time for prayer. In his proclamation, Abraham Lincoln set apart this day for "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." At its origin, it is a day to be thankful to our God for all that he has provided us. We do this with faith, knowing that we probably do not even recognize all of the gifts in our midst. When I look back on my life, I see doors that were closed, prayers seemingly unanswered, and crosses I bore that at the time I saw as injustices at the hands of God. Through the years, however, I can see how His divine hand helped guide me to where I am today through those events. Now I am grateful because of the turns I did not want at the time. Now I can have faith that even when I do not understand because I trust in God's will. Now I can be thankful for all things - triumphs and failures, crosses and crowns - knowing that they all come from God's loving hand. Now, I'm not saying that I am always thankful. My faith is still weak. I'm just saying that I have the capacity to be grateful because I know that logically and spiritually, it makes sense. God directs me to holiness in all things. Peace and gratitude come from this realization.
This Thanksgiving Day, we will have Mass at 8:45 AM. It is a perfect way to practice the celebration, gratitude, and prayer that are fitting on this day. I invite all who are available to join us at Mass this Thanksgiving for the celebration of the Eucharist. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for "thanksgiving." It is a reminder of how blessed we are to have a Creator who loves us as he does, a God who sends his Beloved Son to lay down his life for us and to offer Himself in the Eucharist that he might nourish us and remain with us always.
I am thankful for the gift of being your pastor here at St. Andrew the Apostle. It is a blessing to minister with Fr. Bresnahan, with the church and school staff and faculty, and with all of our volunteer ministers. It is a blessing to have such generous parishioners, and I desire that we as a parish will authentically strive to become saints with the help of God's grace. I hope it is your desire as well, for this will be the source of our peace and joy in this life and the next. Let's continue to build up the Kingdom of God in our families, our workplaces, and our neighborhoods.
Finally, let me offer one more reminder about the change in Mass times that begins on Sunday when all 8:45 AM Masses will be moved to 9:00 AM. I don't want to catch anyone off-guard!
Please know of my prayers and my gratitude! May God bless you and your families and answer your prayers according to his loving will!