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Vere dignum et justum est!
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By Hugh McNichol
It is truly right to give Him thanks and praise!
There are a lot of things that come into my mind as reasons to be thankful each and every day, not just the Thanksgiving holiday season. Perhaps just a few thoughts on my appreciation of God's abundance to me and my family will sound a familiar point to all of us harried gobbling Pilgrim People of God.
I have given this a lot of thought and just recently decided that if anyone celebrated the McNichol family version of Thanksgiving...well, there would be a lot of shocked people out there. To start with my family never really sat down to the Norman Rockwell type of Thanksgiving as we all so idealize in our contemporary American psyche. Growing up in an urban neighborhood in Philadelphia, the notion of Pilgrims and Indians (sorry...politically correct...Native Americans) never really crossed our minds. Turkeys in our household came from ACME and took days to thaw. My Dad was a Philadelphia policeman, so our Thanksgiving dinner took place at very irregular times and focused around his work schedule. If he worked the previous night's "last out" shift, we ate about 4:00 pm. If he worked the day shift on Thanksgiving, we ate about 4:30 pm, and if he worked the middle shift (4-12 for the non-police world) we ate about 2:00 pm. So as you could see, Thanksgiving was always a very "flexible" eating arrangement.
Most times my Dad was working overtime, so he wasn't home for our Thanksgiving meal, he was out protecting society against crime, and making the money so we could all have the Thanksgiving dinner. That is the first thing I am always thankful for: a Father that always provided for his family, gave up holidays and special events not because he wanted to, but because it was part of his job. I am still thankful for him because even to this day, he goes out to work and provides for his grown children, and grandchildren more than we could ever expect. Just because your father isn't always around for the holiday meals...doesn't mean that he enjoys being away from family and friends on special holiday seasons. Thankfully, my mother and father are still around for holiday events, as dysfunctional as our family might celebrate the occasion, we still are thankful for each other. While I think about it, we all need to especially be thankful to all of the policemen, firemen, hospital workers and countless others that work on our Thanksgiving holiday, so our celebration can be safe and healthy. I am very thankful for them all as well.
Growing up in Gray's Ferry, I am thankful for having the experience of neighborhood living, where not only could I visit all of my grandparents and great grandparents in just a few blocks...I could visit every other blood relative within a 5 minutes walking distance as well. I am thankful for all of the times we huddled and squeezed into my grandparent's kitchen on Reed Street for holiday laughs, spirits and if everything went according to the plan some ...tears as well! In the true Irish Catholic tradition someone always got their feathers ruffled during family gatherings and went home crying (or on the verge), well I am thankful for that as well, our happy times sometimes led others to transitory periods of unhappiness, but they got over it, grew up and came back for the next holiday round. There is something unusually pugnacious about holidays and Irish Catholics and Irish spirits, when you get them all together, you never know what is going to be said or done...so I am thankful after all these years of family fun, that hopefully I am learning to keep my mouth shut. I guess part of the spirit of appreciating Thanksgiving is also learning the skill of forgiveness, especially when we sometimes offend the things and people we should all be thankful for.
I am most especially thankful for my Catholic faith. Every day, I am thankful for the power of the Holy Spirit that leads my life in its pilgrimage destination. Most importantly, I am most thankful for my continuing appreciation and development and understanding of the Paschal Mystery that makes us all members of the Body of Christ. Without this constant source of grace and continuing personal and global sanctification our lives would especially be an arid wasteland without the nourishment and sustenance of the Holy Eucharist. Of course I am thankful for the vast world of knowledge and learning my Catholic faith has offered to me and to the millions of others throughout history that have benefited from a Catholic education...the world would be a much less innovative place if Catholicism had not provided the vast network of educational facilities that bring Christ and learning to the world.
Let's not forget about thanking God for our continued good health as well. Every day despite all of my good intentions to get into a walking routine, watch my fats, don't eat sweets, drink 8 glasses of water and so on, God is blessing all of us healthy hypochondriacs with the gift of life. Let's be thankful for the abilities we all have to lead healthy lives and pray for those people that suffer from sickness and disease. As global Catholics we need to become acutely aware of the many forms of illness that afflicts our world, and pray for a universal sharing of knowledge and medical resources to reduce poverty and disease.
Most often, living in the United States of America, we forget to be thankful for the successful experiment we call American democracy. Our unique manner of government and lifestyle is something that tyrannical governments throughout the world and throughout history have tried to dissuade. I am thankful for our human freedom as Americans. We cannot forget to mention all of the people that have fought and died, and continue to fight for our appreciation of freedom. Thankfulness for all of our military forces that serve throughout the world and inspire other nations to a life of human freedom and liberty cannot be forgotten as well.
Finally...the ability to be thankful to those around us that have offered all of us the same graciousness of thankfulness...every time we say that phrase, "Thank you" we are helping the world become a kinder and gentler and hopefully more Christ loving society!
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