Before it became a retail-driven celebration of gluttony, the idea of a national day of thanksgiving was rooted in the understanding that we are owed nothing by our Creator.
The years since 1945 (and particularly since 1991) have convinced many of us otherwise. Western civilization has unconsciously absorbed the lie that peace and unprecedented prosperity are the default setting for humanity. The fact that no other society has achieved our level of affluence is merely proof of their stupidity and our genius. It's a secular form of Calvinism with us as the Elect.
The last two years have proven this belief badly wrong, and while I try to be optimistic, I do not see the trajectory changing any time soon.
Violence will continue to rise, civil institutions will collapse and shortages of basic items will multiply and spread. Even medicine, once the crown jewel of Western scientific knowledge, is in a state of collapse.
For all that, in fact because of that, I am more grateful this year than ever before. I think it is fair to say that 2021 has already been the worst year my family has seen, but I am filled with joy when I think of God's many blessings.
Call it 'the attitude of gratitude' if you want, but once you change your assumptions to be that you deserve nothing, that everything you have is a gift, your entire worldview changes.
That's where I am. A few weeks ago I confronted the nightmare that torments every parent - the death of a child. It pleased God to ultimately spare me that trial, but standing in the hallway watching the emergency room staff play their trade with increasing urgency, I had to confront that awful possibility.
All I could do was pray, so that is what I did, saying the Hail Mary over and over again as I paced. A calmness came over me, a peace that is hard to describe. Several times since then I've felt overwhelmed and I've turned to Lorenzo Scupoli's prayer from The Spiritual Combat: "My Lord and My God! Holy Mary! Do not abandon your soldier! Help me in my need!"
(It works best when you say it out loud.)
And I was instantly comforted.
That's something to be thankful for.
I hope your day is filled with joy and that a reflection on the struggles of the past two years bring you the same peace that I have found.