Thanksgiving - Related Content
Thankfulness, flaming rolls and the illusion of perfection
Americans are hungry to dine on the tradition of Thanksgiving next week. It’s a race to the table as young and old vie for the seats closest to the food of their dreams. The stuffing. The cranberries. I especially look forward to the fluffy mounds of mashed potatoes and homemade rolls—carbohydrate bliss! While visions of these perfect dishes dance in the heads of guests who’ve arrived, the cook may be fretting over the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes and battling against lumpy gravy. What happens if the turkey is inedibly dry? Should we all go home? In focusing mostly on the beautiful, bountiful food, is the purpose of the gathering lost on idealism and expectation?
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This question conjures one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories: the year my aunt nearly burned the kitchen down. Somewhere in the hurried process of transferring rolls from the oven to a paper grocery bag (in which she put them to keep them warm—do not try this at home!) part of it touched a burner on the stove and a fire broke out. The flames that shot through the kitchen were matched in height only by the screams of those in harm’s way. Logic was lost as my aunt created more oxygen by waving the bag to put out the flames. The fire was eventually extinguished and a gush of relief and laughter took its place. While the rolls were burned—resembling nothing like the golden brown expectation we all had come clamoring for—they were still good. And the heroic effort to put them on the table made them taste even better.
Sometimes in discernment, when visiting different congregations, we carry with us notions of ethereal utopia. (Perhaps sisters in the convent that float through the air rather than walk with their feet on the ground?) Yet observing the real, making those moments matter the most, requires leaving your illusions at the door. Letting go of the idea of perfection can also be freeing as you evaluate your own feelings about who you are and why God calls you to discern religious life. Open your Bible and read the stories of Moses, Jeremiah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Peter and others. God called on the most unlikely people to accomplish great tasks. And each person had to let go of their own perceived weakness to let God lead them to the next steps in their lives.
When you visit a community, ask the members about their vocation stories and the ups and downs they’ve experienced. Look past the image of a sister you hold in your mind and take in the reality of the person who’s sharing the gift of who they truly are with you. (Click here to "Meet Our FSPA Sisters.") Ask how it is that they seem to remain joyful on the natural roller coaster ride that is life while living as a woman religious. You might find (as they most certainly do) that the deepest spiritual lessons we learn come from the realities that don’t resemble the superlative.
What expectations do you have about the vocation you’re discerning?
What illusions do you carry that are holding you back from knowing the truth?
Photo of the Week - Week 10
For all of you who have been praying for Carlita, thank you!
Carlita is a young woman of 15 who lives in a poor part of town with her family. Her grandmother lives with the family, is disabled and can't walk, being confined to a bed most of the time. We visited the family the first day that I worked with Sister Yanira and she was at school. She has recently been battling leukemia, but her family was happy with her progress. It was only a few days later that we heard Carlita wasn't feeling well and went to visit her in the hospital.
When we got there, she was in a bed and couldn't stop crying and moaning. It was probably the most difficult thing I have seen here. They were very concerned that she had COVID, especially because she is battling leukemia and it would be a terrible blow. She was in urgent need to get to a larger hospital in Santa Cruz where they could treat her, but there was difficulty getting the approval.
That is when I asked the sisters at St. Rose to pray for her and then after, all of the people who read these reflections.
Praise God she is much better and back at home. She didn't end up having COVID, another thing to be very grateful for!
A great big thank you to everyone who spent a moment or more saying a prayer for her. She is precious with a bright spark of life about her. The miracle that is Carlita is an example and a joy to me. I hope her spirit shows in this photo!
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A transformative moment
Next week marks the beginning of travel for many as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. Millions of people will board planes and trains and drive cars to gather with loved ones. Traffic, in one way or another, will most likely frustrate excited travelers dreaming of warmth and comfort once they arrive at their destinations. All of the stress melts away as joyful greetings and mouth-watering aromas greet each weary, nerves-worn-thin traveler finally crossing the threshold. This is the moment many dream of all year.
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Hours of love and care for guests start long before the time of celebration. Ingredients for favorite dishes along with a mix of new recipes are carefully considered as each cook desires to both satisfy and expand the horizons of guests gathered. The festive table beckons each person to linger amidst glowing candlelight as rich fall colors of gold, orange and brown compliment the trays of colorful foods nestled between gleaming, stark-white plates. Beauty intensifies as each person adds the gift of their presence around the table.
Months of exile from one another fade as thankfulness for the moment grows. New memories are created and traditions of assembling grow deeper roots. Holiness pervades as the blessing initiates not only the beginning of the meal but also conversation laden with rich moments of the year’s harvest of blessings and challenges since last the group congregated. This is a eucharistic moment; bread is broken and life is shared. As we move beyond the static moment to see the mystery, we glimpse the transcendence of life.
Through the eyes of faith, holidays can become an experience of holy days and Thanksgiving highlights, in extraordinary ways, many of the markers of thoughtful discernment.
Gathering: moving outside of your own daily routine to join trusted friends and family and recognizing in new ways God’s activity in your life.
Contemplation: reflecting on blessings and challenges in your life.
Preparation: recognizing what you need in the moment, and also what the road ahead may require.
Beauty: being present to the moment at hand.
Abundance: recognizing that God provides more than we could ever consume.
Awareness: eyes wide open to the needs of others.
Food for thought this week as you prepare for your own pilgrimage to the banquet table …
How is discernment leading you to see beyond the surface meaning of an experience?
What are you thankful for in life and along your discernment journey?
Who will you invite to the table of your life?
*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.
This day of thanks and giving
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May this day be a time of contemplation as you gather with family and friends and recall the many gifts God has blessed you with throughout the year.
In the spirit of thanksgiving to God
Gather with gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day.
As we gather around the table in a spirit of thanksgiving to God for the blessings of friends, family, community and food, may we also reach out to those who are separated from loved ones, those who are mourning losses, and those who are homeless or hungry. May we also remember in our prayers of thankfulness all those who have grown, harvested and prepared the food that graces our tables today.
Gathering in gratitude
As we gather around the table this day, may we call to mind and heart all the reasons to be thankful.
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