My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,
The school year is well underway. We have gotten used to our new schedule and settled into our classes. College freshmen have become involved in campus life. Residential students have gotten to know their roommates. We are comfortable. As November begins, we look forward to the upcoming Thanksgiving vacation. Those who go to college far away have probably already bought plane tickets home. Anyone who has flown on the day before Thanksgiving knows how many people fly that day. Everyone wants to be home for Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving evokes strong feelings. We all have fond memories of our families celebrating together. We see cousins we do not see the rest of the year. We tell stories that we have heard many times before. We recall family members who have gone before us. We recall God’s blessings. We ask Him to continue blessing us. And mostly, we eat. Thanksgiving is essential to us as Americans.
Thanksgiving is also essential to us as Catholics. Every Sunday, we come together to celebrate. Our readings tell us stories of our past. We recall the saints who have gone before us. We remember God’s blessings. We remember the many graces God has bestowed on us. We ask for His blessings on us. And we eat. The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving.”
The center of our Catholic faith is thanksgiving. Every morning, the Church prays three songs in Morning Prayer. The third psalm is always a prayer of thanksgiving. Even on the darkest days of the Church year, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Morning Prayer includes a psalm of Thanksgiving. We realize that in any situation, the proper response is thanksgiving.
It is said that the grateful man is the happiest man in the world. He realizes that everything he has is a gift. He rejoices in everything he receives. Think about it. Much of our unhappiness comes when things do not turn out the way we wanted. Our feelings of expectation and entitlement leave us feeling unfulfilled. What is the antidote? Thanksgiving. Rejoice in the God’s blessing.
So when things do not turn out as we expect, where can we turn? Mary is the perfect example of a grateful person. Her song of thanksgiving, the Magnificat, is a recognition of her need for God and a declaration of her thanks for His goodness. Mary rejoices that God has “looked upon His servant in her lowliness. Henceforth all ages will call me blessed.” Mary rejoices that God has “done marvelous things for me, and Holy is His Name.” What a magnificent outpouring of thanksgiving! Mary understood that everything she had was a gift from a loving God. If Mary’s prayer could be on our lips every day, how happy we would be!
So, as you look forward to Thanksgiving, remember, gratitude is the secret to happiness. Thank God for the blessings we have received as Americans. Thank God for the blessings of your family. But most importantly, thank God for the blessings He gives us every week. Every week is a Thanksgiving dinner. Rejoice!
On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,