Vincentian View: Remembering to be Grateful
Just about two weeks have passed since we celebrated Thanksgiving. I spent the day with many members of my family and felt the blessing which accompanies such a gathering. Leading those closest to me in prayer before we began our meal came easily to my heart and lips. The table, heavily burdened with delicious food, was packed all around with loved ones, both young and old. The fact that I was the second oldest at the feast was not lost on me. (I have a slightly older sister.)
These past weeks have provided me with several other opportunities to acknowledge my need to be grateful, and I am confident that those chances are dwarfed by the missed moments. One powerful invitation to be thankful took place this past weekend.
On December 9-10, the Diocese of Brooklyn takes up its “Religious Retirement Fund Collection.” On the previous weekend—December 2-3—religious of the diocese have been invited to speak at the Sunday masses to invite a generosity for this upcoming collection. I took advantage of the opportunity to speak in our local parish near St. John’s University.
On Thanksgiving, you will remember, the Gospel was that of the ten lepers and only the one who returned to Jesus in thanksgiving. I preached about the need to remember to be grateful. It is a decision that we make. I would maintain that the other nine were grateful but did not choose to express it as they moved into their new lives. The one remembered to tell Jesus “Thank you.”
Giving a talk for the benefit of the religious retirement fund flows powerfully for me from any remembrance of how I have been blessed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. For eight years in St. Saviour’s elementary school in Brooklyn, I was educated by these Sisters. And it was a good education across the academic spectrum beginning and ending with faith. All of my brothers and sisters would agree.
At one point, my older sister was in eighth grade, I was in seventh grade, my twin brothers were in sixth grade, my younger sister was in fourth grade, and another brother was in second grade. Another brother had not started yet (I don’t think), but when we spilled out at the top, we filled in from the bottom. What family in the modern era would be able to support all these children?! Even then, for us, it was only possible because of the parish and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. And this was true for more than my family.
This essay is not about how things should be today or “the good old days.” It is about my genuine need to remember to be thankful. I could write about the myriad ways in which the Vincentian Family has contributed to my education and formation from high school to graduate school. The training which gives vitality to my ministry did not just appear. My brothers could speak of the Xaverian Brothers; my sister, of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The donation, as they say, of “the time and the talent and the resources” of so many made an education possible.
Religious communities of women and men have made a great contribution to my life, that of my family, and the Church. I am thankful to be able to speak on their behalf and pray for the gift of eloquence during my 3 minutes of stage time. I am also aware that some of that eloquence must be directed at myself and my resources.