For many years after the Vatican Council, many bishops of the world pleaded with the various popes to make Thanksgiving a holy day of obligation. Their theory was that Thanksgiving Day was an ideal time to thank God for all the benefits America had received. Also, to point out to Rome that many other holidays such as the Feast of The Immaculate Conception and the Feast of the Assumption, do not really have as much immediate significance to the average American as the Feast of Thanksgiving. I would like to share thoughts with you that will enable you in your own personal way to make Thanksgiving a holy day.
Most of us in life might not have all the things that we want, but most of us have the basic things that we need. When you consider what our grandparents did not have and what many of our parents did not have, you can realize that this generation is more blessed than the past two generations. That, in itself, should prompt us to be thankful. But what is happening is that most of us become so preoccupied with the things that we are searching for, that we really don't take time to thank God for the gifts we have today. We are overly concerned about paying off our mortgages, and about what schools our children are going to go to. Much of our thinking has became so futuristic, that we do not enjoy our daily bread. We don't appreciate the daily health that God gives us, the daily ability to get up and go to work or to school. We take even our basic freedoms for granted. When you think of the fact that the first Thanksgiving was the occasion that people selected to get out of a land that denied them freedom, it should remind us of what our personal gift of freedom is all about. When you think that in many parts of the world people are not allowed to vote, it should remind us that this quality that we call freedom is something sacred, to be cherished. But when you think of it being sacred and to be cherished, how do you explain the fact that the freedom to vote, to cast a ballot, is ignored by vast majority of the American people?
Thanksgiving should be a family day, but for many it is not. I receive thousands of letters from aged people whose families won't so much as give them a telephone call on this feast of Thanksgiving. Just think of this, over 60 percent of the people in our nursing homes in this country never receive a visit from any of their relatives from the day they enter the nursing home. Thanksgiving should be a family day, a day when the members of the family really get to the Thanksgiving table not just to celebrate a glorious meal, but to celebrate the fact that they have each other. Just think of the fact on the day when you and I sit down to thank God, a kind of genocide will be taking place in the Sudan. Our country and all of us should remind ourselves that for the grace of God, go each one of us. 'Thanksgiving is the one day when you should set aside the time to reflect upon what God has given you, not on what you should expect to receive in the future. If you have good health, good faith and good friends, then you are blessed among men and women. If you are constantly concerned about what tomorrow is going to bring, then you are going to run the risk of not appreciating in full what God has given you today. Think of all the things our country has been spared - major earthquakes, major epidemics and the famines of the Sudan. After the tragedy of September 11th, think of all the tragedies your family has been spared, all the good things you have received and know that others have not. Think, as a young person, all the health, the brains, the good parents you have been blessed with. Isn't Thanksgiving an ideal day to thank God, and to thank them? Chaucer, in one of his Canterbury Tales, made the statement that, "The poorest person in the world is the one who doesn't know how to say thank you."
Thanksgiving should be sacred and spiritual. It should be made as such by your words and actions to others. This is the occasion to thank God for the gift of faith. This is the occasion to thank God for the gift of family. And this is the occasion to thank God for the gift of friendship. Failing to understand this, is missing the importance of a day that God wants us to enjoy, but never to take for granted.
Prayer for the War
Our Father, who art in Heaven:
give us, we pray You,
the courage and the strength
to stamp out
the threat of paganism and slavery
that hangs over the world today.
Be merciful to all those
who have died in the service of our country.
Console those who have lost their loves ones
in the struggle.
Help our fighting men
to be always clean of heart
and therefore unafraid.
Soothe the wounded in battle.
Sustain the courage of those who suffer persecution
for conscience sake.
Have pity on all who have been insulted,
robbed, tortured, defiled, enslaved by their conquerors.
Grant wisdom to our leaders,
civil and military,
that they may most effectively direct our efforts,
at home and abroad.
Teach us all to walk humbly with You,
so that we may be worthy to conquer,
and having conquered
may build a peace with justice,
based on the Brotherhood of Man,
under the Fatherhood of God.
- John Fulton Sheen
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