Monthly Archives: October 2016

Vocations View: Seminarian Practices Mercy in Orlando Hospital

by Duane Trombetta, Seminarian

As a seminarian of the Diocese of Shreveport, I relish every opportunity to grow in the intellectual, pastoral, spiritual and personal dimensions of my studies and formation at Notre Dame Seminary. Each summer, I look forward to practical ministry, such as parish ministry, volunteer service and spiritual exercises.  During the summer of 2016, I undertook a 10-week chaplaincy internship program called “Clinical Pastoral Education” (CPE) at Florida Hospital in Orlando.

CPE is a professional education program designed to teach pastoral care to ministers of all religious beliefs and faith practices. It includes a hospital component (visits with patients, medical staff and fellow chaplains) and a classroom component (dynamic interaction with a supervisor and a team of fellow chaplains). My goals for CPE were to increase my experiences in pastoral ministry to hospital patients, learn more about the spiritual care needs of medical care providers, and increase my ability to carry out the task of ecumenism – the promotion of unity among Christians.  I knew that successful accomplishment of these goals would serve me well as a Catholic seminarian and future priest.

Sadly, just after I arrived in Orlando, a terrible shooting was perpetrated at a nightclub located across town from my hospital assignment. It was the deadliest mass killing and worst terror attack in the U.S. since 9/11.  The unspeakable violence inflicted spiritual and emotional suffering upon not just those present, but upon all the people of Orlando. The victims of that shooting were taken to a trauma hospital downtown, but many ripple effects were felt at my hospital in the northern suburb of Altamonte Springs.  That brought about some of the most difficult challenges I faced as a chaplain serving the sick and suffering of Orlando.

My regular hospital work consisted of day shifts in my assigned unit, and overnight or weekend shifts throughout the entire hospital.  I encountered many diverse people with varied reasons for hospitalization. Some expressed gratitude, others grief, and still others just needed a sympathetic ear.  I prayed with many.  I experienced celebrations of the joys of new life and love, and I learned how to minister to families at moments of dying and death. One thing remained consistent: every time I entered a patient’s room, I received an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ in a fellow human being.  My work with patients proved to be a most fulfilling, rewarding and prayerful supplement to my seminary studies and formation.

During CPE, I maintained focus on the theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity – during patient visits and interactions with fellow CPE participants.  By faith, one believes in God; in CPE I learned I must not only keep faith, but bear witness to it and spread it by works of mercy and justice.  By hope, one desires the kingdom of heaven; in CPE I learned happiness is at times elusive to the sick, but remains accessible by the grace of the Holy Spirit in eternal life.  By charity, one loves God and neighbor; in CPE I encountered charity’s fruits of joy, peace and mercy.

Florida Hospital’s motto is the unambiguously Christian phrase “Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ.”  As I reflect back upon my summer CPE experience, I ponder anew what it means to extend the healing ministry of Christ as a Christian, as a Catholic and as a chaplain. I call to mind that familiar prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”  It seems to me that “extending the healing ministry of Christ” is very much like being an instrument of God’s peace. I am humbled and honored to have spent my summer being such an instrument of God.  •

Interested in a vocation to the priesthood or religious life? Contact Fr. Matthew Long, Director of Vocations, 318-868-4441, or mlong@dioshpt.org.

Second Collections: Catholic Campaign for Human Development

Catholic Campaign for Human Development
Collection Dates: November 19th & 20th    
Announcement Dates: November 6th & 13th

I am pleased to present to you the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, our second collection for the month of November. In this last month of our liturgical year, and the last month of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, this second collection reminds us of the work of Jesus Christ and his Church to transform the world with divine grace.  Through this “campaign” the Bishops of the United States work to permanently change the lives of people for the better.  This “campaign” embodies the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy of our Catholic faith.  It is a response to heed Pope Francis’ call to, “be merciful like the Father.”

The term “campaign” indicates a concerted and sustained effort to accomplish a goal.  The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is our unified effort to end poverty here at home. The campaign is a way out, not a hand out.  The collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development addresses the root causes of poverty in America through promotion and support of community-controlled, self-help organizations and transformative education.  Grants are awarded by the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development with the approval of local bishops.

November is a month of remembrance in the life of the Church.  We remember ALL the many saints of God. We remember our faithful departed.  We remember that Jesus Christ is King of the Universe. At the heart of remembrance is gratitude. We gratefully thank our God who has graced our days with family, friends and blessings, as we look forward to future graces in this life.  In our own diocese, CCHD funding made community organizing possible which led to day and night public transportation for workers, employer driven re-training of workers for “living wage” jobs, fair housing standards and other improvements.

I thank you in advance for your generous participation in the second collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.  Your donation is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty.  Give from your heart to the CCHD collection.  Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank You for Supporting South Louisiana!

I am so happy to express a heartfelt thank you from Bishop Duca for your generous participation in our Special Collection for Louisiana Flood Relief Fund. Your love for Jesus Christ and our brothers and sisters in south Louisiana moved you to dig deep and give $152,269 for the spiritual and material needs of our people so gravely affected by the floods of August 2016. Bishop Duca divided this collection among the Dioceses of Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Lake Charles. May our Lord greatly bless you for this tremendous outpouring of spiritual and corporal mercy. What a wonderful message to send to our bishops and their flocks in south Louisiana in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Your generous mercy resounds loud and clear to the glory of God.

Navigating the Faith: Holy Door Pilgrimages

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November is the Last Opportunity to Visit the Holy Door at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans.

Pilgrimage and Holy Door Spiritual Meaning
The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a visitor, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May our pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.  (Misericordiae Vultus)

Why a Holy Door of Mercy? 
The mystery of God, rich in mercy and compassion (Eph 2:4 & Jas 5:11), is manifested and brought about in Christ, the Father’s face of mercy (MV 1), and is continually at work through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:22-23).

The door is a symbol in recognition of Christ as the sole door through which we enter salvation (cf Jn 10:9) and the one way that leads to the Father (Jn 14:6).

The pilgrimage is representative of the Church’s ongoing pilgrimage toward “Jesus Christ (who) is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8).

What is a Pilgrimage? 
A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey to a sacred place for the purpose of venerating it or to ask for heavenly aid, and ultimately to come to know God better.  During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis asked that every diocese designate a Holy Door at a Cathedral or other church.  Pilgrimage is reflective of the journey each of us makes in life and the pilgrimage to the Holy Door should serve as an impetus to conversion. In the Diocese of Shreveport, the Holy Door is at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans.

Receive a Plenary Indulgence
All Catholics who visit the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans and its Holy Door of Mercy on pilgrimage and who fulfill the conditions ordinarily attached to a plenary indulgence (remission of temporal punishment for sins already forgiven, Canon 992) shall, with the proper intention and disposition, receive the plenary Jubilee Indulgence available during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. These conditions are:

1.  recipient must be a baptized Catholic in the state of grace (free from mortal sin) at time of indulgenced work (pilgrimage);

2.  recipient must internally express a detachment from and rejection of sin at time of indulgenced work (pilgrimage);

3.  recipient must make a sacramental confession within 20 days of indulgenced work (pilgrimage), preferably, but not required, on the day itself;

4.  recipient must receive Holy Communion within a week of indulgenced work, preferably, but not required, on the day itself;

5.  recipient must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father at the time of the indulgenced work (pilgrimage), and make a profession of faith, one “Our Father,” one “Hail Mary” and one “Glory Be” or other suitable prayers.

The Jubilee Plenary Indulgence may be obtained for the living or the dead and will be available only one time daily.

What is a Plenary Indulgence?
Temporal punishment can be thought of as a type of “penalty” that remains even after sacramental confession. Some type of restorative, purifying “process” can take place either in this life or in purgatory.  Because the baptized are members of the Communion of Saints, some or all of the temporal punishment for sin is removed by the Plenary Indulgence, and any remaining restoration/reparation happens when we exchange holiness with one another. A plenary indulgence, when conditions are met, is a way of recognizing that all of what we have and do comes from Christ.  •

by Shelly Bole

New Cycle of Catechesis on the Works of Mercy

The pope announced he will dedicate a new cycle of catechesis to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

“It is not enough to experience God’s mercy in our lives,” the pope observed. “It is necessary for those who receive it also to be a sign and instrument for others. … It is not a question of making great efforts or superhuman gestures. The Lord shows us a far easier path, made up of little gestures but which, in His eyes, have great value, to the point of saying that it is on these that we will be judged. … Jesus says that every time we give something to eat to a hungry person and give something to drink to one who thirsts, we dress the naked and welcome the stranger, or we visit the sick or imprisoned, we do this also to Him. The Church calls these gestures corporal works of mercy, as they assist people in their material needs.”

However there are also, as Francis recalled, another seven spiritual works of mercy, that respond to other equally important needs, “especially nowadays, as they affect the most intimate aspect of the person and often make them suffer more. We all surely remember one which has entered into common parlance: to bear patiently those who wrong us. … It may seem to be of little importance, or indeed make us smile, but instead it contains a sentiment of profound charity; and it is the same also for the other six, which are good to remember: to counsel the doubtful, to instruct the ignorant, to admonish sinners, to console the afflicted, to forgive offenses and to pray for the living and the dead.”

“It is better to start with the simplest ones, that the Lord shows us as the most urgent. In a world that is unfortunately afflicted by the virus of indifference, works of mercy are the best antidote. They educate us, indeed, in attention towards the most elementary needs of ‘the least of our brothers,’ in whom Jesus is present. … This enables us always to be vigilant, avoiding that Christ may pass by us without us recognizing him. St. Augustine’s phrase returns to mind: ‘I fear Jesus will go by,’ and I will not recognize him, that the Lord will pass by my side in one of these little people, in need, and I will not realize it is Jesus.”

The works of mercy “reawaken in us the need and the capacity to make faith live and work through charity. I am convinced that through these simple daily gestures we can effect a true cultural revolution. … If each one of us, every day, did one of these, this would be a revolution in the world! How many saints are still remembered today not for the great works they performed, but for the love they knew how to transmit! Mother Teresa, for example, recently canonized: we do not remember her for the many houses that she opened throughout the world, but because she stooped to all the people she met in the street to restore their dignity to them. How many abandoned children she held in her arms; how many dying people she accompanied on the threshold to eternity, holding their hands!”

“These works of mercy are the features of the countenance of Jesus Christ, who cares for the least of his brothers to bring God’s tenderness and closeness to every one. May the Holy Spirit help us; may the Holy Spirit kindle in us the desire to live in this way. Do at least one of them a day, at least! Let us learn again by heart the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and ask the Lord to help us to put them into practice every day and at the moment in which we see Jesus in a person in need.” •

from Vatican Information Services

Domestic Church: Don’t Be Just a “Fan” of the Saints

I own every Garth Brooks album. A fan since the tiny age of 3 when “Friends in Low Places” thrilled country radio, I soaked up nearly every line Garth ever sang. Seeing him live in 2007 was hands-down, the BEST day of my life (outside of family).

I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey. His principles make sense and following them has led Andrew and me on a road of financial hope. We facilitated his course and attended his Smart Conference in Dallas two years in a row. A friend told me to go work for him, and I joked that he can’t afford my enthusiasm.

But here’s the thing – I don’t know either of these guys. Despite all my lyrical and lucrative knowledge, I have no relationship with Garth or Dave. Tragically, we’re not friends and probably never will be. I’m a fan; and the nature of fan-ship is admiration from a distance.

I studied St. Elizabeth of Hungary my junior year of college. Most know her for her love for the poor, but what drew me was her devotion to her husband and their deep friendship. Freshly engaged, I tried to emulate her dedication in my relationship with Andrew; but, it occurred to me recently that I really haven’t invoked her aid in years. She’s at the top of my “Saints Who Inspire” list and I happily sing her praises, but there’s no connection. I had become a fan, admiring her from a distance.

The distance, however, can be breached.

Thanks to the grace of God, the saints who behold His face are accessible regardless of time or tongue. When we’re drawn to peers, they become friends; and friends go on to impact our lives by behavior and insight. Consider how a similar bond with a saint would be more powerful because they experienced the same earthly struggles, but won the imperishable crown. The saints are available as friends to those of us who have a bit of time before death. They hear us and offer us hope and strength through their written words and prayerful intercession while we fight the good fight. I’ve had favorite saints whose stories fascinate me or whose virtues I want to mimic; isn’t that admiration itself a nudge from God? Go on, He says, you guys will get along great.

There are incredible and fruitful friendships available to us now and all we need to do is speak up, “Help me out here.”

So I’ll talk to my friend St. Elizabeth when I need to love Andrew better. I’ll talk to St. Monica because I need to give selflessly to my children. I’ll ask St. Therese to give me her humility, and St. Matthew to guide me as I manage our cash flow. I’ll ask Mary, my Holy Queen, to help me choose Christ every day.

And you know what? They’ll respond. 100% of the time. Because a person who’s achieved perfect holiness isn’t going to snub a soul in need. The saints are happy to be in heaven and happy to help the rest of us get there.

My life has crosses and, along with Christ, who better to help me carry my part than those who are capable of conveying the Lord’s love to me? Don’t waste time being a fan of a saint when a connection deeper and more profound is just a prayer away.

by Katie Sciba

Faithful Food: Offering Comfort in Times of Grief

There is a stack of paper on my kitchen counter, mail that I have dumped there along with recipes, receipts and any number of things. It is how the order in my house begins to buckle. Finally, with an afternoon whose time is unaccounted for, I began to sort through them and I found two programs from recent funerals, for the fathers of two of my friends, my sisters with whom I worship, talk, pray and dance with.

About two years ago several women and I began meeting at church to learn Irish celli dancing, the social dancing of Ireland whose heritage we all share. Over time we have bonded, learned to trust being vulnerable in dance and in life. Our sisterhood was untested until the past couple of months.

My phone’s text alert woke me late one evening. The message on the brightly lit screen was simple, “Pray for my dad, it doesn’t look good.” My heart sank as I responded, “Praying.” Later another text came through, “He is gone.” My heart broke for my friend, my sister in sweat, as we laughingly call ourselves. I texted the rest of our dance group and they in turn sent messages of support. We attended the services as a group. She was glad to see us and, to be honest, I was glad to be in the company of prayerful women who share a common heritage and who care about one another, women who are closer than “just friends.”

A few weeks later a similar text came through, a bit earlier in the evening – a request for prayer. Another friend’s dad was preparing to make the journey to be with the Lord. We stayed in contact and the next day I received the expected message that he too was gone. We met together at the same funeral home to pay our respects and show our support and love.

As I looked around at the funeral home and saw us offering comfort and Christ’s love to each other, I recalled the passage from the Psalms telling us our mourning had been turned into dancing, that our sackcloth had been loosened and we were girded with gladness.

Our little dance group’s steps did not come naturally. We practiced for hours. Similarly, neither does gladness greet us the morning after a loss but we practice our faith, we believe and we trust that gladness does indeed comfort us when we are ready to accept it.

There is an old cookbook on my shelf, In My Mother’s Kitchen by Mimi Sheraton, it was the first ever cooking memoir I read. She writes an entire chapter on grief and food. As well as stories and recipes, there is a proverb I have never forgotten, “Don’t compound grief with hunger.” I find this to be true.

Many of us in the south have our “go-to” recipes for funeral food offerings: fried chicken, a variety of substantial salads and, of course, cake. I offer a comfort food from a dear friend’s larder. It isn’t considered funeral food, but is usually offered in the weeks after the funeral. It’s a gentle reminder that death is not the victor and life is not ended, but changed.

Becky’s Luscious Chicken Soup

Ingredients:
• 1/3 cup butter
• 3/4 cup flour
• 2 cups chicken stock
• 1 cup milk
• 1 1/2 cup cooked, diced chicken
• salt and pepper to taste
• Optional ingredients: shredded carrots, English peas & pinch of dried thyme

Directions:
1) Blend butter and flour over low heat.
2) Add chicken stock and milk. Blend slowly til thickened.
3) Add chicken and heat to boiling (stir so it doesn’t stick).
4) Add salt and pepper to taste.
5) Add optional items if desired.

Serve with bread or grilled cheese sandwiches or just a spoon!

by Kim Long

In Review: Messy & Foolish: How to Make a Mess, Be a Fool and Evangelize the World

Messy & Foolish: How to Make a Mess, Be a Fool and Evangelize the World
by Matthew Warner

I admit, as a mother of four young children the thought of making a mess as a means of changing the world was appealing to me. That, after all, sounded like something easily attainable for our lifestyle. But the mess Matthew Warner talks about in Messy and Foolish, is one that is a bit more challenging. Warner’s “mess” comes from the challenge Pope Francis made during 2013’s World Youth Day, “I want a mess,” said Pope Francis. “I want the Church to go out in the streets!”

This small book is broken up into four sections and aims to give concrete ways we can evangelize from where we are right now in our lives.

In the introduction, Warner states that the current “problem” of the Church in the world today is the constant decline of adults, and subsequently their children, maintaining their faith. He proposes the answer to this problem is to help others see the world differently.

Part One of this book focuses “On Messes.”  Warner describes a series of messes, that although seemed tough or bad, were ultimately good. He asks us to be artists of evangelization, moving past the vulnerability of sharing our art with the world. He then challenges us to start the mess within ourselves, with all the things we love more than God. Warner poses some pointed questions that help us to reevaluate how we see and love God in our personal lives.

Part Two describes “foolishness” as something to embrace. To define foolishness, Warner looks at what the world thinks it means to be successful, and how people who don’t spend every ounce of their lives striving for only themselves and their personal interests may seem foolish to others. He also addresses living faith positively, instead of viewing the Church as a set of negative rules.
“…instead of talking about how beautiful the faith is, let’s show the world its beauty.” And later he adds, “People will learn more from what you do than from anything you will ever say. We’ve forgotten this when it comes to changing the world.”

To live in a way that allows Christ to radiate through our lives, Warner says, we must be willing to embrace Christ every day, despite the distractions and overwhelming circumstances of our lives.

The third part of this book covers “Evangelizing the World,” and Warner starts the section by asking you to begin transforming your life and evangelizing at this very moment, and not to wait around for something to happen first. Instead, he urges you to trust God.

Warner also unpacks the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself, challenging you to reach out to your literal neighbor instead of getting hung up on the idea of finding a way to help many at once. He urges us to love a few deeply instead of casting a wide and shallow net.

Warner asks us to look at our lives, the messiness, the difficult things, and embrace them, making even more sacrifices to gain the love of Christ as the focal point of our lives. And in doing so, in loving God and embracing the people around us, we can begin to evangelize the world.  •

by Jessica Rinaudo

Mike’s Meditations: Hungering for His Majesty

I’m convinced that people everywhere today are starving for a great leader: someone who upholds all that is good and fights anything that remotely even smells of evil. If we look around, we actually do find people with such moral authority.  Pope Francis immediately comes to mind. So, let’s spend a few minutes and imagine that perfect, earthly leader who brings peace and wholeness to our world.

Our imaginary superior wants to overcome evil of every kind. They want to wipe out poverty, feed the hungry and heal the sick. They will annihilate oppression, ignorance and abuse. Respect for human life will be at the top of their priorities, and everyone will be immediately attracted to this upright and righteous guide.

Picture yourself as one of the helpers.  You are willing to do whatever it takes to change our world while following this person’s lead. He or she promises you that, if you will labor with them every day, and work hard to restore all that is good, you may share loneliness and sleepless nights; you may be hungry at times and your clothes may be ragged; but in the end, you will also share in the victory of a loving and peaceful world. In your mind you are trying to compare this pioneer you want to follow with others you have known or read about. This person fights for social justice with the fervor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and holds and cares for the hungry and sick with the compassion of Mother Teresa. You find yourself so inspired and exhilarated by the call of this godly leader, you volunteer to follow him or her until the victory is complete.
In his spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius Loyola begins one of his contemplations with a similar dreamlike exercise. He asks those on retreat to imagine making a commitment to follow such a holy hero that they are excited and dedicated to do anything it takes to bring about this cause to fruition. Ignatius wants those making the exercises to ask themselves: “How could anyone refuse the call of this moral and holy challenge?”

Then, once the person making the exercises has fully engaged in this scenario, Ignatius asks a better question:  “If you will give such passionate consideration to the call of such an earthly leader, how much more worthy of consideration is it to look on Christ our Lord, the eternal King?”  In other words, if we can get this excited about a good and moral human leader that we will give our time, our talents and even our money to follow, how excited should we be to follow the call of the King of kings and Lord of lords?

On the cross, Jesus faced the taunts of the crowds. The soldiers mockingly asked him if he was the “king” of the Jews. One of the criminals being crucified asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom. Pilate had previously asked Jesus if he was a king, and then had the words “King of the Jews” inscribed above his head on the cross. Revelations makes it quite clear he is the “King of kings.”

But how do we picture Christ as our king? Let’s use our imaginations, but this time, contemplating what it looks like to unreservedly follow King Jesus, the eternal royal shepherd who has promised us victory over sin, death and evil. What does your loyal discipleship really look like?  Are you still excited and inspired to follow him daily? Is your heart on fire to be his light to the world? Do your words and actions bring peace to those around you? Are you standing up for those who are oppressed and vulnerable? If you had an audience with King Jesus right now, how would the conversation go?  •

MONTHLY REFLECTION

In your daily prayers this month, spend a few moments picturing yourself in front of the eternal King of the universe. Ask him for the grace to show you exactly how he wants you to serve him that day. Ask him to be specific. Ask him for his perspective on how you are doing as his loyal follower. And be mindful, he is not like any earthly king who has ever lived. King Jesus brings us healing where there was sickness, food where there was hunger, justice where there was oppression and life where there was death. And most of all, King Jesus loves you more than you can think or imagine. Believe it, and proclaim him your King today.

Mike Van Vranken is a writer, teacher, and co-author of the book, Faith Positive in a Negative World. You can contact him at  www.mikevanvrankenministries.org

Bishop’s Reflection: Thankfulness: A Joyful Awareness of God’s Love

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by Bishop Michael G. Duca

Every first of November my thoughts go to Thanksgiving Day. I think this holiday comes to mind because I have been blessed with a lifetime of happy memories around this epic family meal. I also think of this holiday because the spiritual attitude of a thankful heart is a needed remedy to some of the wounds in our world today.  If given a chance, I think I would make Thanksgiving Day a holy day of obligation.

I grew up in a family where we were taught to say, “Thank you.”  It was so ingrained in me that in particular moments when my mom would put the question to me, “WHAT DO YOU SAY?” I knew that one of the answers to that question was “Thank You.” (The other possible answers were “I’m sorry,” or “Excuse me”). But this lesson was about manners and politeness.  There is a deeper and more profound importance to being thankful which is a needed lesson in today’s world.

Thankfulness means acknowledging that we have received a gift and an undeserved blessing. Being thankful is the fruit of our faith in God. Thankfulness assumes a loving God who provides and blesses us with the good things of our lives. When we live with a foundational attitude of thankfulness, life is not about our things, our accomplishments, what we deserve or are due, but rather about the blessings of God and being stewards of the gifts we have received.

If you listen you will hear a different language being spoken today.  In response to some good thing people will say, “I deserved this,” “I am finally getting what is owed me,” “This is mine… I earned it.”  In today’s world, as more and more people push God out of their lives, nothing is seen as a blessing. Instead a successful life can only be judged by how much stuff we have, by how much money and influence we have and, in spite of our age, how young and relevant we are. Of course the wise person knows that there is no end to this frantic merry-go-round quest because there is always someone with more power and influence, with more money, and we are destined to get old. The person who always wants more will never find peace because they will never be able to answer the question, “How much is enough?” They will never be able to see the blessings they already have because they always need more.

A thankful heart, in the deepest spiritual sense, is found only when we humble ourselves before God and admit that all things come from God as a blessing, especially our very lives. The truth that brings a man or woman of faith joy and peace are not the accomplishments or the amount of things they own, but their love of God, His faithful care and the knowledge of an even better life to come. All other blessings seen in this light are blessings to be enjoyed, but also shared as God has shared them with us. When I become aware of the blessings of my life as gifts from God, then I am more willing to likewise share these gifts with others. Generosity is not based on how much we have to give away, but rather on the awareness of how much we have received from God.

This frantic searching for happiness is unsuccessful because God is not part of the equation. This is why thankfulness is a balm, a cure for a modern world that continues to seek worldly recognition. Thankfulness, beyond simple politeness, is a freeing and joyful awareness of how much God has blessed us.  With this new way of viewing the world, we can see the blessings right in front of us: our homes, family and friends, our very lives, and, most importantly, a loving God who forgives and redeems us.

This is a truth at the center of our faith. We call Mass the “Eucharist,” which is the Greek word for Thanksgiving.  Our central prayer in the Church is first and foremost a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to the love God shares with us and the priceless gift of His own body and blood. Now that I write this, I realize we do not need to have a Holy Day of Obligation for Thanksgiving, because every day is a Eucharist, a thanksgiving to God.  And the more we understand this, the more our hearts are thankful, the more we will feel satisfied and peaceful and the more generous we will be to those in need.  •

The Challenges of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

Click to download this publication from the USCCB.