Have you ever noticed how these final two months of the year seem to fly by faster than the previous ten? I like to summarize it this way: we start with Halloween, the next day is Thanksgiving, and the next day is Christmas, then—surprise!— it’s a new year. We get so caught up with shopping, decorating, entertaining, and preparing food that we can often lose sight of the deeper and more significant meaning of the activities and celebrations swirling around us. So, let’s take a moment and concentrate a little on the one coming up quickly—Thanksgiving Day.
Although not much has been made of it so far, 2021 marks the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims and Native Americans in November of 1621. It was decades later that George Washington proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving after the success of the war of independence and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Other presidents have made similar proclamations calling for Thanksgiving. However, a prolific writer and publisher, Sarah Josepha Hale (author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), became known as the “Mother of Thanksgiving” for her 36-years campaign for a national Thanksgiving holiday. She wrote numerous letters to governors, senators, and presidents pleading for the special day. Her efforts finally proved fruitful when Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday at the height of the Civil War.
The historical perspective notwithstanding, we take this annual occasion to thank God profoundly for the myriad blessings that He has showered on our country and our individual lives. A meditative look around us reveals the abundance we so routinely enjoy. However, as Vincentians, we are also aware of the many who do not fully share our nation’s bounty. Although it may seem counterintuitive, we can even be thankful for the less fortunate among us. Why? Because they provide us with opportunities for grace as we serve them on our spiritual journey to our heavenly home. This grace is growth—growth that we should be thankful for as we bring relief to an equally grateful population.
This anniversary year, let’s expand our Thanksgiving beyond the merely physical gifts we enjoy as we contemplate and embrace the spiritual largess of our loving Lord. For many of us, Thanksgiving Day begins with the celebration of the Eucharist, as well it should. After all, even the word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek meaning “thanksgiving.” Hopefully, that hour at Mass will allow us to slow down, hit the proverbial pause button, and focus on all those blessings for which to be thankful. We can even be thankful for Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy!