Giving Thanks for the Hard Things in Life
Catholic Home and Garden 2006
"Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (Thess. 5:18)
As November draws to a close, nearly everyone looks with anticipation to the Thanksgiving Day feast. Families and friends gather around tables bursting with good food, a signal that the season of winter Holy Days is about to begin.
There are plenty of websites that will offer tips for decorating, entertaining and more recipes for turkey, pumpkin pie, and stuffing than you will ever be able to use in this life. They are delightful and a lot of fun and we'll even offer a list of them for you to explore.
We invite you to give consideration to another aspect of Thanksgiving -- a Catholic perspective.
On Thanksgiving Day, many Catholic will attend Mass, although it is not a Holy Day. It is a day when the secular culture and the Church meet. Over 400 years after the first Thanksgiving, the missals used in Roman Catholic parishes throughout the United States now present special readings for Thanksgiving Day. In some parishes, processions of children dressed as Pilgrims and Native Americans will be incorporated into the liturgy.
This year there are growing similarities between the plight of the Pilgrims and that of modern Americans. They gave thanks for having enough food, shelter and warmth to get through the winter - considerations that are now weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of many in our nation as jobs and pensions disappear.
Give Thanks for the [Catholic] Church in America
This Thanksgiving, we invite you to give thanks for the Gift of the Catholic Church in America. While there are certainly problems in the American Church, we as Catholics take a lot for granted. Pray for the suffering Church, particularly in India where modern day martyrs are all too common.
One good friend of ours often experiences Sunday without the Mass.
It's not because she and her family don't go to Church. The issue is the lack of a priest to offer the Mass. She doesn't live in the outback, or on a remote island in Micronesia. She lives in Western Canada. They don't live in a cabin in a remote wilderness area. They live in a thriving municipality, but their parish is considered a mission, so if the Priest assigned to minister to them has another obligation, they have to make do with a lay minister and a Eucharistic service.
Think about that.
Give thanks to God for the Church in your community.
Give thanks for your pastor.
Even if you don't like him.
Especially if you don't like him.
Give Thanks for the Suffering Church in America.
The truth is that many Catholics in America suffer. Some suffer from the effects of a too-liberal interpretation of the documents of Vatican II which have resulted in a wide variety of liturgical abuses.
Others suffer in the knowledge that so many of our Priests have fallen to the temptations of this secular, not-so-holy world, a few in worse ways than others.
Still others suffer from a lack of catechesis and unbridled feminist agendas in the Church leading them to truly believe that there is grave injustice in the lack of a female priesthood and deaconate, and even in the rejection of same sex marriages.
There are many forms of suffering among the laity, and certainly among the clergy and religious as well.
A question: when we assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the true unbloody Sacrifice identical to the humiliation and scandal of Calvary - the purest offering of Love ever to have taken place, can we expect, as Catholics, that we are exempt from the suffering of the Cross?
Let us each take our biases, our notions, whether misguided or not, and accept that the burden of what we may carry in our hearts and minds is our cross to bear. Give thanks for the suffering of the Church. Give thanks that we care enough to suffer.
It is ironic that we, as Catholics, have embraced the journey of the early Protestants who fled to America to escape religious persecution only to practice persecution of Catholics and others in a more vicious manner than they had ever experienced.
John Francis Maguire in 1868 wrote:
The Puritans of New England outdid, in their fierce intolerance, those whose milder tyranny had compelled them to seek relief in exile. The contrast offered by the different policy pursued by Catholic and Puritan colonists should put to shame those who are so lavish in their accusations of Catholic persecution. When the Catholics had power or influence, they proclaimed the broadest toleration, the fullest liberty to every sect of Christians; while, on the contrary, not only were Catholics in a special degree the objects of persecution in every colony, and by every governor or legislature, but the zealots who persecuted them did not refrain from persecuting people of other denominations. We may refer to the conduct of the Catholic settlers of Maryland, and of the Catholics during the only time they ever possessed any influence in the State of New York, and contrast their enlightened policy with the laws against Quakers and Catholics--the latter of which laws were not erased from the statute-book until after America had accomplished her independence. Read more
An additional resource on Thanksgiving Day and persecution is here.
The persecution of Catholics is far from over.
In some parts of the world, being a Catholic, particularly a Priest or Religious Nun, is the equivalent of a formal death sentence, or at best, imprisonment. Christians in India are being slaughtered almost daily. In China, the Catholic Church is illegal. Read more
In other, more "civilized" circles, Catholics who hold fast to the entirety of Church teaching are also persecuted in any number of ways. Anti-Catholicism is rampant in America. Give thanks for those who are willing to take up the cross of truth and to give their lives or, at the very least, their reputations up for the love of Christ.
Give Thanks for Illness and Physical Suffering
If we are able to accept that all things come from God, and that He is incapable of giving us anything that is not for the good of our souls, we have come a long way.
While He walked the earth, Our Lord cured many who suffered with physical ailments and took pity on them. In turn we know that by imitating Him, we attain sanctity. The Lives of the Saints teach us that it is in physical suffering that we are able to bind ourselves more closely to God.
Even the little sufferings of a weary body are not without merit if we offer them in love to the One who made us. St. Therese, whose illness prevented her from fulfilling her desire to serve in the mission fields would offer her weariness to alleviate the toil of those who were able to directly serve in that manner.
Many Saints, whether they suffered the stigmata or more ordinary illnesses offered them for the salvation of souls, a heroic sacrifice for the greater glory of God. Don't waste your suffering. The phrase "offer it up" has more depth than we can begin to imagine. Give thanks today for your physical suffering. Read more
Give Thanks for Financial Setbacks Precarity is a gift from God
What is precarity? In the conventional sense, it is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. In the spiritual sense, it is the complete dependence on God's Will for us.
When we are comfortable and enjoying material welfare, it is the rare individual who truly gives thanks to God. In fact, the business of acquiring wealth, taking care of our possessions, updating them, accessorizing them, attending the functions that go with certain stations in life -- all of these take up so much time that we have little left for God. (see note from the Pew Research Center)
When we have little -- or don't know where the next influx of needed funds is coming from -- it is then that we turn to God. It is easy to say, "Oh, God, give me a good high paying job," or "Please Lord, let me win the lottery so I can buy a house." It is less easy to say, "Lord, You know what my material needs are. You know what is best for the salvation of my eternal soul. I surrender to Your Holy Will. I trust in You." It is the latter prayer, we think, that is the one most pleasing to Him.
This year in the face of the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, many are jobless. While some of these individuals are on the lower end of the economic spectrum and are accustomed to a level of precarity, there are many more on the other end of the spectrum for whom this is a shocking new reality. Give thanks that more will be drawn to prayer for their basic needs.
Give thanks to God for your financial setbacks because they will draw you closer to Him. Read More about Precarity.
Give Thanks for the Death of a Loved One
What a harsh concept this is. Your heart is broken. A death that has come suddenly, unjustly, too early in life, perhaps the death of a child.
How can you possibly give thanks?
If we trust in God completely and have faith that whatever He permits is for the good of our souls, then we must rejoice in the death of a loved one. Particularly of a child or young person. Death comes to each of us. How many days will we have on this earth? Will I die in middle age? As an octogenarian? Perhaps I will die as soon as I am born.
God alone knows the number of our days. He created each of us as an act of incredible love. He treasures each soul as though it were the only one He created. It follows that God also knows how many days are needed for each soul to reach salvation. For some of us, that means a very long life. Perhaps these are the ones who are slow learners, or to whom He has given the task of touching the hearts of many in long decades of service. For others, it may mean snipping the golden cord very early in life. He alone knows whether a child might wander down a dangerous path later in life -- one from which he or she might not emerge with his or her soul intact.
In His infinite wisdom, He knows the exact number of days, of hours, that we each need to be drawn up into His Eternal Heart. This life is passing. Eternity is forever. Give thanks that God has loved the one that you also have loved and that in His Charity, has gathered up that soul.
NOTE: A New York Times editorial (Let Us Pray for Wealth, 11/03/07) cites a global survey recently conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that the wealthier you are, the less likely you are to be religious. Pew found that there is a strong relationship between a countrys religiosity and its economic status. The poorer a country, the more religion remains central to the lives of individuals, while secular perspectives are more common in richer nations. Catholic Home and Garden bases our own conclusions on hundreds of visits to estate sales where we have noted, with rare exception, that the more opulent the estate, the less likely we are to find evidence of any Catholic religious devotional objects and conversely in the most modest homes they are likely to appear in abundance.
Get Fed on
The Word of God
No matter what you serve at your Thanksgiving Day meal think about consciously setting aside a few moments to share a reading from Scripture at the dinner table - perhaps after the main meal has been served and everyone is enjoying coffee.
Make a Thanksgiving Tree
In our family, I was always the slightly "off-kilter" creative person. This was one idea that had everyone groaning, "Oh, no. Now what is she up to!" But when this centerpiece was missing one year, they all complained!
The Idea: Create a center piece resembling a tree. Use cut out leaves as a place mark with each person's name written on the leaf - leaving room for each person to write something he or she is thankful for. On the back - hidden until later - write out a Bible verse and let the Grace of God speak to that soul through scripture.
Directions: Find a small tree limb with some small branches or grab a potted plant or mini Christmas Tree (you'll be using it soon again). Cut colorful leaf shapes from construction paper. Here are some templates to print (scroll down). If you really want to get crazy, attach a green or brown pipe cleaner as a stem. You can use this for hanging on the tree and to prop the leaf up as a name tag. Ask each guest to write a short thought about what they are thankful for.
How to find the verses. God has a wonderful way of speaking to us through Holy Scripture. Sit quietly for a time and prayerfully think about each guest. Open your Bible at random and find the short verse meant of that soul and inscribe it on the back of the leaf ...
After Dinner ask everyone to share what they are thankful for and invite them to read the verse you have written and let God speak to their hearts.
Thanksgiving Dinner Menus
In all the world, the United States of America is the only nation that sets apart one day each year to be devoted to thanksgiving to God for the blessings He has accorded. This is a tradition we can well be proud to carry on. The foods that the Pilgrims served on the first Thanksgiving Day are still served today as the basis of the feast turkey, cranberries, pumpkins, root vegetables better in quality, prepared more elaborately, but still regarded as fundamentals.
Visit Catholic Culture for a wonderful array of recipes and activities including Latterwaerick!
(It's everyone's favorite, isn't it? Perhaps not)
Come, Lord Jesus,
our Guest to be
And bless these gifts
Bestowed by Thee.
And bless our loved ones everywhere,
And keep them
in Your loving care.