Each year as we come to the close of the Church year and anticipate the Advent season in which we are asked to prepare for the coming of Christ — both commemorating his birth 2,000 years ago and looking toward his coming again at the end of time — we find ourselves celebrating this absolutely wonderful American holiday we call Thanksgiving Day.
It is truly appropriate that as we end the liturgical year in our Church, we look back and reflect on this past year and give thanks to God for all the blessings received.
It is true, we have experienced some difficult times since our last Thanksgiving holiday: the lagging economy has given many of us some real heartache and anxiety; unemployment rates have soared; families are struggling to meet the needs of all members and are quite anxious about the future; and many, especially the elderly on fixed incomes, wonder if they will be able to make ends meet.
However, it is also true that there have been many signs of hope and a host of inspiring stories about people reaching out to others in need.
Because of the hard times, many people have been forced to focus on what things are really important in life: family, friendship, faith and outreach to those suffering.
Once again, this year the diocese is in the midst of sponsoring a massive food drive among all the youth groups in the state. Last year the drive resulted in almost 30,000 pounds of food. This year I have asked that a goal of 50,000 pounds be set — and it looks like we are going to reach that goal.
Statewide, Catholic Charities has assisted thousands of people; and the various mission activities of religious sisters in Kingstree, Johns Island, Charleston, St. Helena Island, Gloverville and Georgetown as well as so many parish St. Vincent de Paul groups have made a real difference in the lives of many people.
Our Catholic schools also have been working hard in their communities to collect food and offer varied assistance to the poor.
The list goes on and on and it is inspiring to see so much hope and love in the midst of hardship.
The words of Jesus that we hear in the latter part of this month from Matthew’s Gospel are truly encouraging for us: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.”
As Catholic Christians we give thanks to God for our many blessings by reaching out to those who struggle even more than we do. So let us be thankful: celebrate with family, enjoy a festive meal, be grateful for God’s presence in our lives, love freely and well, and be open to all God’s graces.
At Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico where I spent many summers as Catholic Chaplain, we offered grace before all meals and that prayer seems most appropriate for this holiday: “For food, for raiment, for life, for opportunity, for friendship and fellowship, we thank thee, O Lord. Amen.”
A blessed Thanksgiving Day to all.
+Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop, Diocese of Charleston