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A Word From Bishop Medley: Thanksgiving in a Time of Pandemic

If we played a word association game and said November, the most likely response is Thanksgiving. In Catholic circles we might also hear the replies of All Saints Day, All Souls, and prayer for the dead. Others might say pumpkin pie, harvest.

Thanksgiving Day properly claims our minds and hearts when we think of November. An American tradition dating to the earliest colonies has nobly established itself a favorite event and time of year.  Maybe second only to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it is a time of family gatherings. And as with the best of family gatherings the day is centered around a bountiful meal.

As we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving Day in a time of pandemic, many are already thinking about the limitations that might be a part of our family celebrations. It may well be that the usual crowd will not all be present. Some may not be able to travel at this time. Others may be anxious about exposure to the COVID-19 virus or even be actively infectious. Families that might gather at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house may be seeking another host to protect the frail or those with medical conditions that place them at high risk. 

In other words, for many of us our Thanksgiving celebration will not be the same as usual – like so much of life this year. It might be easy to feel cheated out of yet another ritual or life’s pleasure. How many times have I said of the restrictions that are required of us, “This is getting old. How much longer? How long, O Lord, how long?”

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I remind you and myself that we embrace wearing facial coverings, accepting physical distancing and other inconveniences out of an abundance of charity.  Though as individuals we might feel very confident of our health and well-being and be willing to relax on some restrictions, we do what we do out of love for neighbor. Some are quick to say that we are requiring too much. Jesus said, “If anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him.” (Matthew 5:41)

So, what the heck is there to be thankful for? If you have been tempted to say this, and I have, let’s step back and take a deep breath. Let us look at a world where night and day people are caring for one another with compassion and kindness. First responders – police, firefighters, healthcare workers – are reporting to work to keep us safe and well. We have the miracles of telephone, FaceTime, Zoom meetings that permit us to stay in contact that even a generation ago may not have been possible.  (Though I must say my experience with Zoom is not without frustration!) And for the most part all those things that were in short supply in the grocery stores are now abundant again.

We have hope. We have hope that our God is watching over us and giving us grace we cannot always see or measure. We are never beyond the reach of God’s love and kindness. Be thankful.

Most Reverend William F. Medley
Diocese of Owensboro

Originally printed in the November 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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