Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On Thanksgiving Eve....

I will say that so far this has been a crazy week. I'm not going to talk about it now, mostly because I'm pretty tired and I have to work the holiday tomorrow. But I will share the following. It is my friend Fr. Don's homily for tomorrow. Definitely worth reading and thinking about.

Enjoy the holiday tomorrow, and be safe.


THANKSGIVING DAY 2007

Only in America is Thanksgiving celebrated in these hours, setting us apart from other nations. I spent Thanksgiving in Venice once. We looked all over the city for an American celebration. The USS KENNEDY was in port....5000 sailors, all looking for Thanksgiving dinner, to make a connection with home. Their Thanksgiving is called La Festa del Rin-gratzi-amento, which means Chinese take-out on the Ponte dei Sospiri, "Bridge of Sighs", on the Venetian Canal. But...it was a connection with home, with chicken wings and crab rangoons. Only in America do we pause on the 4th Thursday of November, to give thanks! It’s practically holy...OUR day.

I once went to a bank in Sherbrooke on my day off. Our destination was Montréal for a couple of overnights. We had to get to a bank to convert our money for the best exchange rate to spread the funds as far as we could. I remember walking up to the huge bronze door. The French poster greeted us: CLOSED. THANKSGIVING. Darn!!! It was the second Monday in October. Thanksgiving Day is in November, NOT October! Thanksgiving is practically HOLY....but, NOT our day alone, and, good to be reminded again, that a day of Thanksgiving should be any day.

THANKSGIVING...Seems like it’s starting to take a back seat as our national celebration. Did you notice that storekeepers couldn’t decide in October whether to have aisles filled with Halloween or Christmas decor? One TV network reported the day after Halloween that six billion dollars was spent for one single day, 60% of that for adult Halloween trick or treaters. Good Lord...six billion dollars would be better spent on cancer research, I thought to myself. Then the Christmas stuff...it starts earlier than ever. It seems that retailers went straight from Halloween to Christmas in their sale emphasis. What happened to Thanksgiving? It’s the one American holiday, which does not have a Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, red hearts, or green clothes. It has not been adulterated aggressively...till we hit the new millennium.

THANKSGIVING....One tradition that the Puritans started was that in times of abundance they would put 5 kernels of corn on their plates as a reminder of their lean times. They remembered that in difficult times all they could have was a ration of five kernels. At Thanksgiving, they would set this amount aside on the plate in order to recall God’s goodness and His provision even in their most difficult days. That’s worth holding on to in America. But, that’s the kind of stuff we never hear about on this day of thanks.

THANKSGIVING....The very word conjures up images of pilgrims, pumpkins, turkeys and pewter-gray November skies. Thanksgiving celebrations have been a part of our history for many centuries. In more recent times we fondly remember annual family journeys to the cozy homes of friends and relatives for the purpose of sitting at table, contemplating a delicious meal with all the trimmings. Thanksgiving is the annual sentimental recollection of blessings in our lives. We have much to be thankful for. Most of us live in secure, warm homes. Many of us drove to church tonight in vehicles that are, if not flashy, at least reliable and comfortable. A shortage of food, while a painful reality for much of the world, is not likely to be high on our list of personal dangers. Most of are on the threshold of a long four-day weekend. Life is good.

One way we can show our thankfulness for our blessings is to open-handedly and faithfully share them with others who are less fortunate than ourselves. In the early 80's, I was assigned to St. Catherine’s in Manchester. It’s a large and fairly wealthy parish membership. I opened the garage door to find an elderly man sitting on an overturned 5 Gal paint can in our unheated garage. I asked "Can I help you?" He replied. "I hope so. You the new guy?" I told him I was and asked his name and why he was there. He pointed to a large coffee can filled with cigarette butts and said, "You see this? I am a personal friend of the Monsignor. Is he here?" I explained the pastor was sick with the flu. Looking into the coffee can I saw that he was indeed a ‘regular’.

I knew what was going on. I was born at night, but not last night! The man was looking for a handout, probably for a bottle of ‘vino’. I told him I would be right back and went in to see the Pastor, who told me that I had met Bob, a regular visitor for years. Tom handed me $20 and asked if I could give Bob a ride into the city because he had difficulty walking. Bob asked me to take him to BURGER KING. I remained in the car. Bob eventually returned with two huge plastic bags and asked if I could take him to the Granite Street Bridge. When we drove up, as close as I could to the bridge, I saw all these men wrapped in blankets under the bridge. In 1981 you could get many more burgers than we can today. BURGER KING knew Bob too...they were ‘personal friends’ of Bob’s too. They gave him three burgers for a dollar. Bob had spent the whole $20 on burgers and cups of water for his buddies. Bob benefitted from the ‘bounty’ of another man, and gave from what little he had to his friends. I sat with them and had a burger and Pepsi. He bought the Pepsi for himself. He gave it to me instead-a great Thanksgiving! Bob’s wealth was the depth of his spirit.

In a short while we’ll leave this beautiful, warm church. Our presence here represents 105 years of parish celebrations of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of the Mountains, St. Charles and St. Joseph. The candles on this altar, will be extinguished, the lights turned off, our heavy maple doors locked for the night. Our gratitude should not stay confined within these walls. As we depart for our respective celebrations and gatherings, let’s reflect upon the quantity of our blessings, and give joyful thanks to God. This is OUR holiday, OUR HOLY time to give thanks. Wherever we are, no matter the day, Thanksgiving is a sermon all in itself...God desires that we receive and share our blessings with the spirit of Bob under the bridge. When I left them, I realized they were staying there and I was going home to a warm house. Bob said, "God bless you!" I should have been saying "God bless you!!!" How ironic, is that?


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1 comment:

Heather said...

Happy Thanksgiving from North Country!! Hope you folks are having a wonderful day.