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From Turkeys To Eternity

by Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

Late one afternoon I happened to spot six of them slowly strutting across the back lawn of the rectory. They must have exited the plentiful woodland surrounding the Church grounds in search of food. Except for being native to North America and possessing a somewhat dignified gait, why Benjamin Franklin considered the Wild Turkey an apt choice for the official bird and, therefore, a primary symbol of the United States escapes me. I know that he recognized other qualities in this drab fowl, but I'll take the American Eagle. Of course, there is one day on which we all agree that the turkey reigns supreme: the last Thursday of this month - Thanksgiving Day.

Although nearly four centuries have past since the first Thanksgiving feast, I am heartened to observe that our nation has not lost devotion for this meaningful occasion. Studying the history of human societies as well as our own families, we find the elevation of the ordinary meal to one of particular significance or celebration to be universal. How wise of Our Lord Jesus Christ to take a common religious meal and raise it to the highest level of thanksgiving. The great mystery of sacrifice and salvation is brilliantly immersed in an eternal meal of thanksgiving. Not unlike so many of our ritual meals, the Mass gathers a family together to celebrate an event which strengthens an individual's, a family's and a community's bond to its past, present and future. Eucharist is the rendering in English of the Greek word meaning "to give thanks." It is the perfect appellation for this commingling of elements human and divine and the sharing of gifts and food for now and forever. Regardless of the circumstances, the feeling of being thankful is spiritual in itself. One needs only to think of the One to whom this urge to thankfulness is directed. There is much to be said for appreciation of the worldly benefits that have befallen us, but the recognition of its ultimate end provides thankfulness with its complete meaning. The following states the case well:

"The worst moment for the atheist
When he is really thankful
and has no one to thank."

- Dante Gabriel Rosssetti

On this Thanksgiving Day, I pray that people everywhere may be able to give thanks to God for surviving the challenges of life and, through human love and good fortune, appreciate the spiritual and material gifts they have received. Thanksgiving is a celebration of human perseverance and hope, compassion and altruism, industry and purpose, and cooperation and creativity anchored in faith in God's munificent love. I believe that President Abraham Lincoln may have considered these qualities when he (three months to the day after the battle that saved the nation) declared this once parochial event to be a National Holiday.

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation
Abraham Lincoln
October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God...I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens, in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday in November next as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

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