For a very long time I found it puzzling that of all the holidays that we celebrated as a family, the one that my father loved the most was Thanksgiving Day. It appeared strange in part because there is no comparable holiday in Italy. Growing up, I always connected the fact that Thanksgiving involved eating a grand meal as the reason for my father’s love of the day since he was no stranger to enjoying a great meal!
However, in my father’s later years, it became clear to me that his love for Thanksgiving had little to do with the meal we eat (usually lasagna followed by turkey and the trimmings). Rather, I began to sense a deeper reason. I realized that it was the one day in the year that allowed my father the opportunity to honor the community that he chose to join and for which he was deeply proud. Thanksgiving was the day that my father celebrated being part of the great, honorable, diverse and sometimes unruly community we form as Americans. He belonged to a community for which he was proud to be a part and considered one of his great blessings.
My father’s example gives me pause as we prepare to celebrate this Thanksgiving Day. For to remember and give thanks for the tangible blessings in our lives is both necessary and obvious. In contrast, we often forget the spiritual, intangible gifts that God has given us. One of those gifts are the very people around us, with whom we live, work, share life as our neighbors, with whom we raise our children, dream of a better future and come together in times of challenge and crisis.
It seems to me that we often take for granted the blessings we share together in our common life as a nation. If we take it for granted, it can easily suffer and even fall apart. For this reason, I ask that you and I recommit ourselves this Thanksgiving to recognize, celebrate and foster the community we form, as one nation under God, in all our diversity, disagreements, and common hope for the future. Let us recommit ourselves to patient listening, a spirit of understanding, a willingness to speak the truth with respect and to stand in solidarity with whomever is our neighbor.
My father loved Thanksgiving for all the right reasons. I pray that I will always follow his example.
The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos!