We tend to think of Thanksgiving as uniquely American, and in some ways it is. Over 400 years ago the Pilgrims in the Plymouth colony shared a harvest meal with the people indigenous to the area. Who knows, maybe there were turkeys involved. We do know that first Thanksgiving helped bring people together; it helped build relationships.
Over 200 years later in the midst of the destruction of the Civil War, President Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving, again trying to unite the nation. It wasn’t until 1942, during World War II, that Thanksgiving Day was declared a national holiday, again uniting the country.
But “thanksgiving” didn’t start in America. Gathering around a table to give thanks has been part of our Christian tradition since the time of Jesus. The last meal Christ ate with his apostles on Holy Thursday night was a thanksgiving celebration. The word “Eucharist” is Greek for “giving thanks.” We continue to give thanks each time the Mass is celebrated.
We, as Vincentians, have much to be grateful for. Personally, I am grateful for my now deceased parents, my wife and sons, as well as my friends. I have a good career, as well as my health — that is a lot, but there are other things for which I am also grateful.
As each of us live our lives, we are instinctively searching to find our place in the world. We each have a place where God wants us to be; our mission is to find it. Some people do, sadly some do not. We Vincentians are uniquely blessed in that we have found our vocation through the Society. We are where we ought to be, with our Vincentian friends, nourishing our spiritual growth through service to our neighbors in need.
Whether we serve through Home Visits, visiting those without homes where they are, helping at a homeless shelter or food pantry, or serving the Society in other ways, we are all doing the same thing together — building relationships with those who need it most.
Notice I didn’t focus on the material which we may provide. That is important, but not paramount. What is most important, and for which we should be most grateful, is the opportunity that is given to us to listen to those who may not have been truly listened to in years, to form friendships with those who may have no friends. Even if our Conference is low on funds, just being present can be the most valuable gift.
Vincentians visit those in need in pairs. We do the work together, so we can lean on each other. The task before us may be large, but nobody is expected to do it alone. We give thanks for our Vincentian friends with whom we share the burdens. We cannot do it all ourselves, but together we can do almost anything.
As we gather around our Thanksgiving Day tables, in addition to all the other thing we recall, let’s be thankful for finding our vocations as Vincentians.
Peace and God’s Blessings,
1st Vice President and Chair of the National Governance Committee