by David Carollo –
The whole month of November is focused on gratitude. On Nov. 1, we honor All Saints, those who have been found worthy to stand before the Lord and whose lives are models for us. Many are well-known as the Church has canonized them. Many more lived quiet lives sanctified by grace, or through repentance, returned to sanctifying grace.
On Nov. 2, we remember All Souls, especially those who languish in purgatory needing our prayers and sacrifices to bring them into the glory that they will certainly attain. We recall what they left us, both materially and, more importantly, spiritually. This year for the entire month of November, we can gain an indulgence by visiting a cemetery. How better to illustrate gratitude than to pray for the souls of our deceased loved ones and those who are forgotten and need our prayers. The souls of the saints in heaven and in purgatory are our greatest allies in this struggle for salvation. We need to show tremendous gratitude for their friendship. Our Lady of Fatima confirmed the existence of heaven, hell and purgatory, as well as our need to be focused on their reality.
On Nov. 11, we remember the veterans who fought and died for our homeland. Today there seems to be a distain for patriotism amongst the revisionists. This is a direct insult to those who selflessly stepped forward to defend our country. The freedom to detract, that many of these people enjoy, is made possible by those whom they now disrespect. Gratitude for their service expresses patriotism.
There is a cemetery attached to our parish in New Jersey. The site dates to the mid 1800’s. My wife and I often walk there after Mass to say a prayer for the dead. On All Souls Day, our pastor leads a candlelight procession along the pathway. Many interred in this burial ground have been deceased for many years. Many are veterans. There is one grave that we are drawn to, a man who fought in the Spanish/American War. The stone is worn, and we feel a need to pray for him. Many more gave their service in World War I, World War II, and other conflicts that our military engaged in. We know nothing about them or their families, but we feel connected, as we should. Our freedom to worship in that church and freely walk the grounds is because of people like this and their selfless acts. Our Church historically has held those who served and especially those who gave their lives in service, in the highest esteem. Patriotism has always been an underlying foundation of Catholic teaching aimed at forming the faithful in a spirit of gratitude. To form a proper future, we must possess an appreciation for the past.
On the fourth Thursday of November the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated. The picture of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock is the iconic view of this holiday that many of us grew up with. Presidents beginning with George Washington called for this celebration, but it was not officially proclaimed a national holiday until much later. President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, proclaimed a day of “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
In all these commemorations, gratitude to Almighty God is the theme and the purpose of the day. Today, as we drift further down a secular road, football, turkey and a four-day holiday are the focus. Do not get me wrong; I enjoy the time as much as anyone, but we always make it a point to attend Mass to put all the celebrations into perspective. Without a focus on God, we fail to acknowledge the source of all that we are thankful for.
The month of gratitude ends with the season of Advent, which begins on Nov. 28 this year. During this time, we should prepare and be eternally grateful for the gift that will be celebrated on Dec. 25, the birth of Christ. Adam and Eve were promised a Savior after their sin separated us from God. They knew immediately the gravity of their actions and were then living with the consequences. The promise of redemption gave them hope in what must have appeared as a hopeless situation.
Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year. It is appropriate that its focus is on the beginning of a new life, one that will be deemed worthy to be counted among those who will inherit the joy meant for us at creation. In modern times, it has been looked at as the beginning of the shopping season. Today there are many more ads for Black Friday and shopping bargains than for preparing for the greatest gift ever given. The secularization of our culture engenders an atmosphere of selfishness and entitlement, not one of gratitude. Ingratitude has never entered heaven. Our Advent reflections, which will be released before each Sunday in Advent, focus on St. Joseph and our gratitude for the life he models and the many favors he obtains for us, as we come to the end of the Year of St. Joseph. We hope you will enjoy them.
Despite the pressure of revisionists to ignore the facts, the United States was founded on a noble foundation and set a course to correct its shortcomings, maturing into a nation which has brought great good to the world. On this Thanksgiving Day, let us be eternally grateful for the blessings that God has given us in this country. In his 1877 Thanksgiving Proclamation, President Rutherford B. Hayes stated: “I earnestly recommend that, withdrawing themselves from secular cares and labors, the people of the United States do meet together on that day at their respective places of worship, there to give thanks and praise to Almighty God for His mercies at to devoutly beseech Their continence.”
Nov. 30 is “Giving Tuesday.” If you are able, please consider a gift to help us in our mission and know of our gratitude for your generosity.
Have a happy Thanksgiving and a fruitful Advent.
God bless you and Mary keep you in her Immaculate Heart.
David Carollo is the Executive Director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA and National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.