Bishop Steven J. Raica | Photo Credit: Public Domain Image | November 2021

Rejoice in Your Blessings

Bishop Raica Celebrates Mass on Thanksgiving Day

Dear sisters and brothers, on this day of Thanksgiving, we take a moment as a nation and as a family to reflect more deeply on the blessings we have received in our lives. Thanksgiving is probably the closest we get to a common celebration with some religious themes that almost everyone – believer and non-believer alike – shares. It is our hope that this opportunity to celebrate something good, true, and noble doesn’t disintegrate in cynicism over national imperfections. It can be a driver and engine to spur us on to become a “more perfect nation” and “more complete individuals.”

Even our Eucharist is to help us “give thanks” to Almighty God for the blessings we have received. Nothing that we do can repay God adequately, and even partially, for the gifts He has bestowed upon us, but, now we have a moment in which we can truly say “thanks!”

For some families, it is a monumental occasion. For others, it is a bit more modest as children move away. For still other families, because of tragedy or loneliness, today can be a painful day itself [like many families in Waukesha, WI]. Living alone, abandoned individuals can find aches in this day, even when various places host community dinners to extend hospitality and welcome to those who may be alone. It also gives another moment to introduce our visitors, guests, and others from other nations to a very beautiful and evocative national tradition.

Perhaps, as we find ways to count our blessings, we might think of what we are truly thankful for. I’d like to say, “For your penance,” but this shouldn’t be a penance. We are here to rejoice in blessings.

Think of three individuals you need to thank for what they have done in your life.  Think of three blessings you received unexpectedly by surprise. Think of three ways we can thank God for the forthcoming Advent season as we prepare for Christmas over the next four weeks. Afterall, Christmas is one month away from today.

As for me, I thank God for my family. My mother Mary and my brother Joe are in Marquette, Michigan and celebrating themselves. When I lived in Gaylord, they would typically come down to be with me, provided there was no snowstorm. I give thanks also for my cousins and family members who stay in touch with me, checking up on me and seeing that I’m OK. I give thanks for my friends, for my priest and bishop friends, and for my cousins and friends abroad who are closer now because of WhatsApp.

For me here, I give thanks to the priests and people of the Diocese of Birmingham who have welcomed me so warmly. As St. Paul observed to the people of Corinth, “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in Him you were enriched in every way ….” Indeed, “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Gathering around our Thanksgiving table we echo the psalmist who praises and thanks God, “The earth has yielded its fruits; God, our God, has blessed us.”

A blessed day to you all!