My Dear Friends:
Almost 20 years ago right before Thanksgiving, one of the kids in the youth group that I was leading in my first parish shared with me a homework assignment she had received in her religion class in Carrollton during her freshman year of high school. Her teacher asked the students to take out a piece of paper and write down 100 things that they were thankful for that Thanksgiving. The students looked at her perplexed because they thought that making a list of 100 things was too daunting, but here is the lesson behind the assignment: the Christian heart must always be a grateful heart. Whether it’s thanking God for the gift of the Eucharist or thanking God for the simplicity of a light switch that illuminates a dark room, we must always be grateful for everything we have around us.
Every year since then, I have given this assignment to our 8th graders. With close to 90 students in 8th grade at St. Theresa, it does take me a while to read each of their lists, but every year I learn so much from our kids and the insights they have about our faith. As you can imagine, their lists can also be quite humorous, but more often than not, they are definitely inspirational.
As I write this column, I am still working my way through reading this years’ lists from our students, so allow me to share some of the things St. Theresa’s 8th graders have been thankful for in the last few years, and remember these were written by 13- and 14-year-olds:
1. People who recognize injustices and suffering and take action to rectify them.
2. Love: because without knowing love we would almost be living for nothing because without love we cannot know God.
3. That God sacrificed his only Son for me so I can have the opportunity to go to heaven and live a loving life on earth.
4. Knowing that disappointment and hardships never last
5. For the grace to go to this school
6. Friends who care about me enough to tell me when I am not doing the right things.
7. The cross- for holding Jesus up while he gave up his life for us.
8. The Carmelite Sisters: everyone thinks nuns are weird and scary but those are the people who don’t know them. Those who know the sisters really know that they are one of the best people in our lives. These special women have impacted my life. Every day they strive to help me to grow closer to God and to always do His will. They are living saints sent down to teach me and all young kids that our faith is important.
9. Waking up every morning because I know that God has a plan for me.
10. I am grateful for the Eucharist because the Eucharist reminds us of Thanksgiving and how we need to be thankful for everything we have.
That last one is the very essence of the Eucharist because the Eucharist is quite literally thanksgiving. As Catholics, we don’t have to wait until the fourth Thursday of November to gather around a table to give thanks because we do that every Sunday at Mass.
I pray you and your family have a beautiful Thanksgiving. I hope you can join us for Mass on Thursday morning before you gather with your family. This is such a beautiful holiday, and if there’s one thing we can learn from our 8th graders is that every day should definitely be a Thanksgiving Day.
God bless you all,