By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
A young man grew up in a large religious family. One day he and his sister announced to their parents that they were interested in joining the religious life. His father, a quiet, philosophical man, made this observation. “You know, if you become a nun or a priest you will never enjoy the privilege of having your own children. Like your mother, you will not be able to celebrate Mother’s Day. Nor, like me, you won’t be able to celebrate Father’s Day. However, both of you will have two days to celebrate: Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day.
On Thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day. We celebrate this day because of the perseverance of one woman, Sarah Josepha Hales. The official description of Thanksgiving Day is, “A national holiday in the United States commemorating the harvest of the Plymouth Colony in 1621, following a winter of great hardship.”
During the first harsh New England winter, over ninety people were sick. Only seven people were well enough to care for the others. Fifty one people out of 102 died that first year. Yet, on that first Thanksgiving Day, they found so much to be thankful for. ‘Thanksgiving Day,’ the day to give thanks, was born in Puritan New England in the 1630’s. It was shaped by four traditions – the Harvest, the Home, Christmas ans proclamations of civic and congregational days of thanksgiving and prayer.
Early in our history, this day was celebrated by only a few eastern states. But Sarah Josepha Hales was determined to have the entire nation celebrate this day of giving thanks to God from whom all blessing flow. She sent endless articles and letters to journals and newspapers expressing her desire to make this day a national holiday. She wrote to President Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan in the mid 1800’s. In 1852 she succeeded in uniting 29 states in marking the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.
Then, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln took action. He proclaimed the last Thursday of November as the day set apart for the national giving of thanks to Almighty God. The day was not to celebrate military victory but to be grateful for “a year filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” Lincoln reminded the citizens that, “No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the precious gifts of the Most High God.”
It has been reported that Thanksgiving Day is the most celebrated day in the United States. The airlines tell us that air traffic is the heaviest over Thanksgiving weekend. Families will travel across the nation to be home for Thanksgiving. Already we can smell the wonderful aromas from the kitchen. The Thanksgiving meal is mom’s best.
They say that people speak about 18,000 words a day. In the course of the day, how many times do we use the word: “Thanks.” We have so much to be thankful for. And no one deserves ‘thanks’ more than our God who has given us everything. In the midst of our festivities on Thursday, let us take some time out to say “Thanks.” Our God must be on the top of our list. We can start the day by attending a Thanksgiving Day Mass at St. Gerard. At 9:00 a.m. we will gather to say, “Thank you, God.”
I want to say “Thank you” to all parishioners of St. Gerard, for your goodness and generosity. Thank you for the wonderful spirit. For your friendship; for your sharing and caring. For the many gifts of volunteering your time and expertise to this faith community.
One week after Thanksgiving St. Gerard Men’s ACTS retreat will be held at the Moye Retreat House in Castroville. About 25 men are serving on team with Daniel Thatcher as the Director. James Cazares and Peter Caliendo are the co-directors. All these men have been meeting once a week for the past three months, to prepare themselves for the retreat weekend. Let us keep these men in prayer as we ask the Holy Spirit to come upon them. We are looking forward to a spiritually dynamic weekend with the team and first time retreatants.
King Frederick the Great visited the jail of Potsdam. He had a special audience with the inmates. Surprisingly, each inmate informed the King that he was totally innocent of the charges against them. Near the end of the King’s visit, one of the inmates said to the King “Your excellency, I am guilty and deserve the punishment I am receiving.”
The King immediately ordered that man to be released. Totally surprised, the inmate thanked the King as he was escorted out of the prison. With a smile, the king said, “After all young man, I don’t want you to corrupt all the innocent people in here.”
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.