Probably my most memorable Thanksgiving was the one I spent in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2010. I became friends with a family from Minnesota who ran a center for children with disabilities. They wanted me to join them on Thanksgiving Day, even though it is not celebrated in Kenya. They somehow knew where to purchase not only a plump turkey but also cranberry sauce. I don’t even like cranberry sauce but it tastes pretty good when you are overseas and missing home!
Arriving at their home on Thanksgiving morning, I met people from Sweden, Holland, England, America, South Africa, and of course, Kenya. It became clear that people around the world are intrigued by the concept of American Thanksgiving. Before the meal was served, my American friend stood up to explain the history and meaning of Thanksgiving. All listened with rapt attention. Then he asked each of us to say what we were most thankful for at that moment. We were all moved by what everyone shared. Though far from home, this was a Thanksgiving meal that I will never forget.
On Thanksgiving Day, we have a similar tradition at Holy Redeemer Parish. During the time of the homily, a young parishioner carries a microphone around to those who wish to share the reasons why they are thankful. I find it quite moving. It also makes clearer the similarity between the celebration of Thanksgiving and what we do at each Eucharist. For every time we gather for the Eucharist, we are giving thanks to God for his rich blessings and are sharing a sacred meal around the table of the Word and of Christ’s Body and Blood.
Wherever you will spend Thanksgiving, try and take some time to count your blessings. It is a great spiritual practice to focus on what makes us feel grateful. It is so easy to focus on our problems and miss seeing all the goodness and beauty around us.
We should also try to extend a loving hand to the poor and homeless, to the elderly, and to those who might otherwise spend Thanksgiving Day alone.
I thought that this quote from Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker movement, sums up the spirit of Thanksgiving quite well:
“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.”
I wish you all a beautiful Thanksgiving. I thank God for the gift of each of you and for the privilege of serving as your Pastor.
Yours in Christ,