Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Once again we approach the Thanksgiving holidays with much to be thankful for, and still more to pray for and seek. This week, the Pastor’s Desk will be a bit of an “omnium gatherum,” which is fake Latin for a “grab-bag,” much like the little junk drawer in every kitchen that has scissors, broken pencils, tape, batteries (dead or alive), a used Starbucks card, whatever. I hope you find something of use.
We will have our usual two Thanksgiving Day Masses – the 8:00 am “early bird special,” for those who want an early start for cooking or travel, and the whole-parish bilingual celebration at 10 am. At the Masses, a large table will be set up in front so that before the Mass you can place your family food items to be blessed, and then retrieve them after Mass for use at your own table at home. This practice of blessing food in common for use in private homes has historical precedent in the earliest decades of Eucharistic communities.
From years back, most of us can visualize the homey Norman Rockwell image of a grandmother lowering a plump and glorious turkey on a platter onto the middle of the family Thanksgiving table, entitled “Freedom From Want.” This was in the middle of World War II, and that painting was criticized not only by millions of starving Europeans, but by some of our own troops overseas, as going far beyond “freedom from want” to something resembling borderline luxury. Rockwell came close to destroying the painting, but relented. It was later used to raise $132m in war bonds.
Conditions may not be much better for many in Ukraine and the Middle East today due to war, and many other regions know little else regardless of politics and seasons. A blessing may not be a whole turkey, but a can of something edible, some baby formula, a fever that went away.
Today, “freedom from want” often happens against a backdrop of astounding plenty and the efficiency with which it is distributed to a nation of 333,000,000. Grocery carts and flat bed trolleys groaning under hundreds of pounds of food items that trundle out of warehouses, super-duper-markets, and humongous yet unremarkable stores, in quantities so unfathomable that they can be tabulated and recorded only by miniature laser beams.
Once in awhile, amid this choking of industrial scale blessings, strange blessings will slip in, originally unseen and difficult to understand. Several months ago, a close friend of mine close to my age, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. He’s middle-aged, with a busy academic career, and travels frequently. It was a gut punch. But he also found strange comfort in finally knowing the causes of his apparent lapses (though we all have them). He began anticipating his future limitations, and considered it unwise to travel. He began to put his affairs in order, and to accept that life exactly as he had known it was over. And he found some humor in it. Then two weeks ago, a second shock: he was (as he calls it) “undiagnosed.” A review of his data found an alternate explanation for his symptoms. Meanwhile, he (and we) will have time enough to sort out or reinterpret the blessings of our lives.
Fr. Bill Donahue