In a few days, we will be observing the American celebration of Thanksgiving – my most favorite of all. For the longest time in recent memory, it was meant to be the beginning of the “holiday” season.
Sadly, it is not so today. Christmas has been in the air since we put our Halloween costumes back in the closet, and once December 26 comes around, the Valentine candy and greeting cards will be on the shelves.
It is too bad that there is no season of Thanksgiving. One day is a good start. But we have been so blessed in life that it will take a week to say thanks to God.
For many centuries, the Church has kept three days (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) near the beginning of each season as times of penance and intercession.
We called them ember days. They are not presently part of the church calendar, but it is good for us to set aside days for fasting, works of charity, and prayer. Our consciousness of the inequality that pervades the world and how we give thanks would grow if the days before Thanksgiving were set aside for deeds of charity, for penance, and for the poor. This is one of the reasons why Thanksgiving food drives are so popular. Canned and packaged food and turkeys are often left in collection boxes in church gathering spaces in the weeks before for distribution at Thanksgiving. On Tuesday, Catholic Charities workers will be distributing turkeys and food at the Kennedy Center up in Harlem.
There are lots of preparations necessary to serve a holiday dinner: last-minute marketing, the turkey needs to get into the oven, and the guests will be arriving. These and many other reasons for not going to Mass on Thanksgiving often interfere with our giving thanks. Why not go to your parish church to give your first thanks to God? Most Masses only last about an hour. If you are cooking, consider that, at 20 minutes per pound, if you have a 15-pound turkey, you would be safe putting it in the oven before leaving for Mass with no worries. I’ll bet it will make you feel better.
About a week after Thanksgiving, December 3 is the beginning of the season of Advent and a new year of grace. People often look for good ways not to rush into Christmas and to enjoy the four weeks of Advent. For several years now, the adult faith formation office has been offering to parishes our version of Catholic NetFlix. It is called FORMED.ORG. It offers a variety of weekly study programs, movies, and stories, not only during the season of Advent, but throughout the year. This innovative online platform gives you a wide range of top-quality faith formation resources. Now, the best Catholic study programs, movies, audio presentations, and eBooks from the most trusted apostolates are all just a click away. Visit www.formed.org, click on “sign up as a parishioner,” and search for your parish name. You will like the Advent series, The Spirituality of Advent, and The Daily Advent Reflections and The Search series. Invite someone to watch it with you and then share your thoughts after each video. Prepare yourself for the great feast of Christmas in a most perfect way.
The Sheen Center has many wonderful presentations from now until the new year, including its benefit Christmas on Bleecker, Celebrating the Reason on December 11. Visit www.sheencenter.org.
I hope you enjoy your time of holiday, whether with family or friends, or even by yourself. A very happy, safe, and blessed Thanksgiving, and a wonderful season of Advent to all.