Make It a Heartfelt Thanksgiving

I’m a Catholic, and we’re heavy into liturgical prayer – “Say two Our Fathers and three Hail Marys” sort of thing. One might think that back in history the clergy didn’t trust the common folk to come up with prayers on their own. The truth is that many people seem a little unsure as to what we should do or say when we pray.

The Lord’s Prayer appears in the Bible as the answer to the disciples request for Jesus to teach them how to pray.

Liturgical prayer has its advantages, but its main disadvantage is that the more routine it becomes the harder it is to concentrate on its meaning. I know my mind wanders…

“Give us this day our daily bread… Did I remember to pick up salt when I stopped for bread? Oh wait, I never checked to see if we needed milk…”

As such, I tend to try to put my thoughts into a prayer and pray spontaneously. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When I say the grace before meals, I tend to thank God for family, home, the fact that our kids are in a good school and we’re generally safe. It’s a good list, but sometimes it becomes too comfortable and I say it without really thinking about it, much less meaning it. “I don’t see the salt on the table. Did I remember to pick up salt when I stopped for bread? Oh wait, I never checked to see if we needed milk…”

Jesus taught us that the two greatest commandments are to love God with everything we are, our heart, soul and mind. The second He said is “like it” and calls for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Perhaps when He said they are alike he was also telling us that they go together.

Perhaps, this Thanksgiving we can pair up what we are thankful for with some way to put that into action.

If I’m thankful for family, maybe I should call Aunt Edna and give her twenty minutes to ramble on about how much she dislikes this or that.

If I’m thankful for the meal, maybe I should gather up cans of my favorite foods and donate them to the food drive or food bank.

If I’m thankful for the freedoms we have in this country, maybe I should sit politely and listen to the guy at work who enjoys discoursing on his personal interpretation of some particular law or lack thereof.

If I’m thankful for my relationship with God, maybe I should pray for all who seek Him whether through my belief system or not. I suspect that when all is said and done, God is going to grade us on a curve and the “A” for effort will outweigh the “D-” in subject matter expertise.

“Freedom from Want”
Norman Rockwell

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for this family. You know we love one another, but out of gratitude may we accept one another as individuals and celebrate that each of us is unique – created in your image and exactly as you wanted each of us to be.

I thank you for my home. Size and neighborhood don’t matter. It’s a home because it’s one little spot in the universe where this family can come together to love and be loved. Please always be here with us and make this home yours as well.

I thank you for this meal, and every meal we have. We don’t go hungry and are so blessed that we can pick and choose those things that are our favorites and avoid those that are not. May we realize how extraordinary it is to be blessed to this degree.

I thank you for this country in which we live. A country for which young men and women will dedicate their very lives because of the principles on which we are built.

Finally, Father, it was You who breathed life into each and every one of us – a gift that only You can give. May we look to you always as a child looking at a parent, for You to show us the way, correct us when we’re wrong, then forgive us. We’re especially thankful for your unconditional love.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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