Sometimes it’s easier to think of all the bad things—bombings, murders, illness, misfortune—in the world than the good things. But we must realize that there are good things, even in difficult times, for which we can give thanks.
If your family comes together to share good food and happy memories, you are blessed. Unfortunately, some family gatherings are stressful because of long-held grudges and lack of forgiveness. But I don’t want to focus on just Thanksgiving Day itself but being thankful every day as a basic virtue that can brighten our lives.
“Make a plan.” That’s what I was told when I asked a friend for some advice about facing the holidays after my husband and daughter were killed in a drunken driving accident. I asked the question because I felt completely lost. It was hard to face any day, let alone a holiday. I had no idea how I would manage a season of joy. Pain and confusion were my reality, not happiness.
Starting at the end of October, we are often inundated with images of happy, harmonious families gathering around the table to enjoy a huge Thanksgiving feast. The implication is that all families are joyfully united at Thanksgiving because, well, it’s Thanksgiving and everybody’s happy at Thanksgiving. Not true.
Often when asked to name a special family time, people’s responses cluster around meals: Christmas dinner, birthday parties, a vacation cookout by the shore, a wedding banquet. Their intuition is sound: these special times are also sacred times. What better day to celebrate that connection than Thanksgiving? It’s a holiday designed for thanks and feasting (though turkey and football have become a cultural accretion). The first pilgrims who celebrated it were simply glad they had survived a precarious ocean crossing in 1620 and had harvested enough corn to carry them through winter. They were grateful—not for a blissful, pain-free experience—but for the presence of God in whatever circumstance they met.
We've got plenty to be thankful for! For Catholics, gratitude is more than a way to boost happiness or show others we appreciate them. It's a moral imperative that keeps our focus on God, the source of all our blessings. So it only makes sense that Franciscan Media would offer several Catholic books reminding us to be thankful for all we have. Here are five of our favorites.
Our existence at its most elemental dimension depends on food. Once when we asked my little nephew to lead our family in prayers before our Thanksgiving meal, he said, glancing at his mother: “God is grace. God is good. Thank her for this food. Amen.”
When my daughter, Madison, was beginning to talk, my husband, Mark, and I found ourselves frustrated that we couldn't get her to say "thank you." She easily caught on to using "please," "excuse me" and other expressions, so we were stumped as to why she didn't pick up "thank you."
As much as I would like to cut to the chase and reveal the eternal interplay between good food and spiritual growth, there is an unavoidable question I need to ponder: Do bad food and negative attitudes toward eating cause us physical as well as spiritual harm? My reply to this question—one especially worth considering with Thanksgiving right around the corner—is an unequivocal yes and here is why.