It is Always Thanksgiving

Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Many people gathered with family and friends over tables laden with delicious food.

It is good that we have a day on our annual calendar devoted to giving thanks. However, if we live our lives with the awareness that everything is gift from God, then every day is Thanksgiving Day.

An important step in the Ignatian Examen, something that has been part of my daily prayer for many years, is to review our day in gratitude. Dennis Hamm, S.J., suggests that we “walk through the past 24 hours, from hour to hour, from place to place, task to task, person to person, thanking the Lord for every gift you encounter.” The idea is to notice, as we look back over our day, all of the many gifts we were given over the course of the day. We recall quite specifically all of our gifts and we give thanks.

So, as you recover from a day of merriment (and perhaps overeating), take some time today for a prayer of thanksgiving.

For myself, I will give special thanks for my family today, as we gather this afternoon for the wedding of my niece Brittany – the first of my nieces and nephews to get married!

A Blessing for This Thanksgiving Day

I once before shared a blessing my friend and colleague Jennifer Wright sent to me. I can’t think of a better prayer for this day; it expresses well my wish for all of you as we celebrate this Thanksgiving Day.

May you be with people you love.
May you eat tasty, satisfying food that has been prepared with love and with laughter.
May you reach out to someone outside your immediate circle to share your blessings.
May you be overwhelmed with gratitude for the bounty that you have received.
May you be aware of the depths of your roots in your family and your past and of the infinite potential of your future.
May you repose in utter trust in God’s love for you and God’s amazing, overflowing, creatively stunning intention for good for all of God’s creation.

As I prepare to celebrate this holiday with my family, I wish you and yours a blessed and happy Thanksgiving Day.

And, as you gather with family and friends, I hope you will take some time to revel in gratitude at all that you have been given, and to remember the source of all you are and all you have.

For The Truths that Still Confound Us

As Mass yesterday morning at Our Lady of Lourdes, the post-Communion reflection (sung by Elena) was For the Fruits of All Creation, with text accompanying a traditional Welsh melody. The song is recites various thing for which we thank God: the fruits of all creation, the harvests of the Spirit, for the wonders that astound us, and so on. For all these things, “Thanks be to God.”

The line that struck me was “For the truths that still confound us…Thanks be to God.”

My first reaction was, “Why be thankful for the fact that there are things we do not understand?”

But before that question was even fully formed in my mind, I apprehended the beauty of the song’s line of praise and thanksgiving. For a God we could fully grasp, who said or did nothing that confounded us, would be a very small God indeed. A God as small as ourselves.

That there are things we don’t fully understand, “truths that still confound us” reminds us that our God is bigger than we are, that God is mystery. That whatever we think we understand about God and God’s ways, there is still even more we do not and cannot understand.

Thanks be to God for the truths that still confound us.

I Take Stock of How Much I’ve Been Given

Today the United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day.

In his pastor’s message in the Christ the King bulletin this past week Fr. Dale Korogi spoke of the fact that we are entering a time of year when things are even busier than usual for us, we we approach Christmas and the end of the year. With all that is happening, things can sometimes feel “a tad overwhelming.” His way of dealing with that feeling is a good one.

When I’m feeling stretched, I have only to take a deep breath and remember to be grateful. When a lot is asked of me, I take stock of how much more I’ve been given.

Useful advice for all of us. As i read Fr. Dale’s words, what came to mind was a video made by Br. David Steindl-Rast a few years ago about counting our blessings, titled A Good Day. It is a good one to watch on Thanksgiving morning. Here it is:

A blessed and happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

A Thanksgiving Prayer

If you do a search of my prior blog posts for “gratitude,” you’ll come up with quite a few, for it is something I speak of often. My daily Igantian Examen includes giving thanks for all of the gifts of that day and in talks I give, I often express my belief that if the only change we could make would be to replace an attitude of entitlement with one of thanksgiving and gratitude, that alone would change everything, making the world an infinitely better place.

While gratitude should be part of our daily prayer practice, today, Thanksgiving Day, is a day on which we collectively offer our thanks for all of our many blessings.

Recognizing that many people will go this day without good, we give thanks for the food we will eat this day.

Recognizing that many people lack adequate shelter, we give thanks or the warmth of our homes.

Recognizing that many people are without jobs, we give thanks for the job we have (and that it gave us a day off to celebrate this holiday).

Recognizing that many people will spend the day alone, we give thanks for the friends and family we will be with this day.

And as we give thanks for all of the many blessings we have been given, let us pray in a special way for those who are not as fortunate as ourselves…

…those who will wake up on the cold street or who will go to sleep on an empty stomach.

…those who are jobless or who work two and three jobs and still can not make ends meet.

…those who do not experience the loving embrace and support of family and friends.

And let us think of ways we might share our bounty with them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Happy Thanksgiving.

One of the follow-ups to the weekend vocation retreat for law students we have at the beginning of each semester is that a different participant shares somenting with the group each week. It can be a poem, a reflection, a prayer – whatever the person assigned for that week desires.

The person assigned for this week was my colleague Jennifer Wright, who joined the retreat team for the first time at our August retreat weekend. (A wonderful addition to the retreat team, among other things she led some sessions of Centering Prayer.) She shared with us the following prayer, which I reprint her with her permission, and with much gratitude. It expresses well my wish for all of you as we celebate this Thanksgiving Day.

May you be with people you love. May you eat tasty, satisfying food that has been prepared with love and with laughter. May you reach out to someone outside your immediate circle to share your blessings. May you be overwhelmed with gratitude for the bounty that you have received. May you be aware of the depths of your roots in your family and your past and of the infinite potential of your future. May you repose in utter trust in God’s love for you and God’s amazing, overflowing, creatively stunning intention for good for all of God’s creation.

If you can take one “action item” from this prayer to heart, may it be that you think about how you can share your blessings with someone outside of your immediate circle.

Blessings to you and yours this Thanksgiving Day.

Spring

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of winter. The short days and the cold weather are no friends of mine. But, ah, Spring.

My first sing of Spring was that the amaryllis that my friends Maria and Michael sent me after their November visit started blooming last week. For months I watched the hard bulbs do nothing. Slowly the green shoots started forming and growing. Then, suddenly, a week or so ago, beautiful red flowers appeared. I look at them and smile (and whisper words of thanks for this wonderful gift from my friends).

I love watching the buds forming on the trees, listening to the birds, feeling the warmth in the air (even amid some remaining cold days), and seeing the sunshine. I love that I can take long walks and bicycle rides rather than going to the gym. I look, I listen, I feel – and I smile, and give thanks to God for spring.

I’ve written before of my love of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Not being a poet myself, I share today his poem, Spring:

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

We Give Thanks

Today those of us in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The first national observance of Thanksgiving came at the recommendation of President Washington that the people of the United States observe Thursday, November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.” Washington’s proclamation asked the American people to “beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

Later this morning, we will go to Mass and engage in “public thanksgiving and prayer” with our parish community. But I also rise and begin this day in thanks for so many gifts…

….the gift of friends who love me despite my failings and who support me in times of need,

….the gift of my sixteen-year old daughter, who still likes to hang out with me and who puts up with my bad jokes and worse singing,

….the gift of a husband who accepts my running hither and yon, only sometimes remembering to tell him what I’ve scheduled for me or for us,

….the gift of enough food to eat, a warm bed at night, the ability to see a doctor when I’m sick,

….the gift of God’s love and presence.

And on this Thanksgiving Day when I am so cognizant of the many blessings I have been given, I ask for God’s blessing in a special way for those who feel alone and friendless this day, for those who lack the basic necessities for human flourishing, and especially for those who have trouble finding God in the midst of their suffering. May the Lord bless and keep all of them…all of us…always.

Walking with Awareness

We take so many things for granted. The air we breathe. The sights and sounds around us as we walk through our day. We’re so used to them being there that we don’t even think about them…or the gift that they are.

At least here in the Twin Cities, this is a good time of year for taking walks (not too hot, not too cold, just right). And so I encourage you, as I often encourage retreatants, to take some time engaging in a walk of conscious awareness of your sense experiences. The instructions I generally give retreatants are taken from A Walk of Thanksgiving and Praise, by Sr. Thelma Hall, RC.

Sr. Thelma writes, that “[s]ome of God’s richest gifts to us we tend to accept as “standard equipment” somehow rightfully ours as fully equipped human beings. It may prove a revelation to consciously cancel this presumption in an experience we call ‘A Walk of Thanksgiving and Praise,’ and rediscover, under the plenitude of God’s goodness to us the unique gifts of love He has made to us, in each of our 5 senses.”

She suggests a walk of about half an hour. To be conscious of the time as a time of prayer, she instructs one to begin the walk as one would begin any prayer period, taking time to be aware of God’s presence.

As you begin your walk, she encourages you to “take a deep breath of fresh air, and reflect upon how rarely you consider it to be the sustainer of your life, day and night, the unceasing providence of God whose love holds you in existence, and is continually creating you.”

Then, as you walk, spend time consciously experiencing the use of each of your senses, starting with the sense of sight. “Use your vision to revel in, caress, enjoy, discern: colour, shape, depth, texture, movement, etc. in everything around you. Reflect upon all that sight has contributed to your life experience to enrich it; beauty, non-verbal communication with others, knowledge through reading and observation, protection, happiness, pleasure, etc. Try to realise, how different your life, and you would be, had you been born without this sense gift, or had lost it. Recognising in all these reflections the loving gift of God, express ALOUD to Him your thanksgiving and praise.”

After sight, engage in a similar conscious process with the sense of hearing. “Stop for a while and really LISTEN, even to the seeming silence, in all reality teeming with sounds. Again, reflect upon all this sense of hearing has contributed to your life experience to enrich it, the sound of human voices, music etc. and how different your life and you would be without it. Recognising in these reflections another loving and personal gift of God, express ALOUD to Him your thanksgiving and praise.”

And then engage in the same process for touch…taste…smell. Finally, conclude your walk by expressing thanksgiving and praise to God for all of these wonderful gifts that we tend so often to ignore.

Enjoy!

Songs (and Gifts) of the Season

My daughter sings in several choirs.  Given the season, our weekend included four concerts.  Two featured solely youth choirs, one was a mix of adult and youth choirs, and last night’s was a performancy by the local Symphony Orchestra, which included a portion of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in which my daughter and another high school girl sang the echo to the soprano aria.

Although the repertoires included the likes of Silver Bells, Sleigh Bells and Deck the Halls, most of the music celebrated the impending arrival of Christ.  It was lovely…it was moving…it was prayer.   I listened to the young voices sing out their Gloria’s and their Allelulia’s and I watched the joy in their faces as they used their beautiful voices to give praise.  

Through it all, I gave thanks to God.  Thanks that I have a daughter with the gift of song.  Thanks that there is support in our community for choirs such as these to exist and to thrive.  Thanks that I have ears to hear and the ability to take the time to sit and listen.  And, then, as I listen to the words of the song, my heart fills with gratitude at the gift we receive by God’s birth into the world. 

One of  the songs the girls sang asks, what will I give the Christ child as a gift?  Ten days from Christmas, if we haven’t yet asked ourselves the question, now is a good time to reflect on: What gift will I offer as I kneel before the creche on Christmas morning?  What gift will I give in return for all the Lord has given me?