Thanksgiving is upon us — time to remember there’s so much to be grateful for, even if we feel we have little, even if we suffer, even if things look dark, even if we in some ways (and we all do) lack. We cannot know the joy of the resurrection except through the passion, crucifixion and burial of our Lord.
Being grateful and giving thanks for all the gifts of our lives when it would be (and always is) easier to focus on all the wrong in the world, in our lives, in our relationships, is an act of rebellion against the fallen nature of the world. It is a habit Catholics ought to cultivate 365 days a year.
Thanksgiving seems a great day to start a new habit, of being thin on criticism and fat in thanks. Begin with God, since He’s due all our praise and prayer, all our thanks without ceasing. Summon your family and begin counting your blessings. Use each of your fingers, challenge each person to come up with 10 using their own hands, with no repeats. Have someone keep a list. It will get silly, it will get emotional, it will eventually become real, and it will be an exercise in joy. Title it “Thanksgiving 2018.” Save until next year as a reminder and for comparison.
As a side dish of gratitude, before dessert, write a letter to someone you perhaps need to tell, “I am grateful to you for…” Again, make it a family thing, hand out the pens, papers, envelopes and stamps. Make it part of the tradition, so that everyone stuffs someone else’s heart with an extra serving of love. It will stick to their hearts better than the stuffing.
Celebrate each other’s gifts. In my family, everyone helps with the making of some dish, so that everyone participates in the preparation of the meal. Some work on the stuffing, others the dessert, others the cranberries and others the table. It means no one person is completely spent at the end, and everyone appreciates the meal more. Everyone partakes, everyone celebrates the fruits of all the labor, and no one is made anxious about many things.
Throw open the door. Invite people to the feast. We all know the Eucharist means thanksgiving, and it is so much more than a mere meal. Likewise, inviting people to the feast at our homes, into our hearts, can mean much more than a mere dinner. Invite until you get a full table plus. Your cups will overflow with joy more than the table with food.
In the evening, after everything is done, pray for each other. A family Rosary on Thanksgiving allows each person to offer petitions on the Hail Mary’s for their intentions, both for existing needs and anticipated trials and joys. It is again, a way of making sure the day isn’t a feast of gluttony, but of gratitude. Love is revealed when we exercise our will to pray/serve others both when we could do otherwise, and when it would be justified to do otherwise. Stopping to pray is a gift of self (better than any dessert one might enjoy), and less fattening. It also makes sure we don’t just give thanks in the moment, but all day long.
Happy Thanksgiving. We are all beyond blessed.
This article originally appeared Nov. 22, 2018, at the Register.