Thank You For Being a Friend

Most people know this song as the theme from The Golden Girls, but I remember when it was in the Top 40 in the late 1970’s.  We all have friends.  They come in many sizes, colors and ages.  Some of them are family members while others are not.  Some you’ve known since childhood, while others you’ve met at different points in your life.  They say you can always tell who your real friends are.  They stick by you through thick and thin.  They don’t desert you in times of need.  They are a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and sometimes the person you call to share a half-gallon of ice cream with.  They are with you on all the important days of your life.  They’re the first person you call on when receiving bad news as well as good.  When looking back on favorite memories, they’re usually in them or know all about them.

Growing up in the1970’s, we were taught in school that Jesus was our friend.  The Doobie Brothers even released a song in 1972 called Jesus is Just Alright (oh, yeah!).  But let’s get serious.  How often do we thank our best friend, Jesus?  How often do we thank God, our heavenly Father?  Let’s reread the 1st paragraph above—the sentences that define a friend in particular—don’t they depict God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?  Who do we always turn to?  Who is always there for us?  OK so maybe we can’t share a half-gallon of ice cream with Him, but how many times when eating our favorite flavor do we say, “This tastes heavenly”?  I rest my case.

This week marks Thanksgiving.  If we were competing on the game show, Family Feud, the top 5 answers for activities associated with Thanksgiving would be: turkey, football, parades, family fighting, and Christmas shopping.  No mention of giving thanks to God for all the blessings bestowed upon us.  Once again we are forgetting our history.

The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians.  Not much is known about this first thanksgiving other than two paragraphs written, one by Edward Winslow and the other by William Bradford.  Both accounts tell of a good harvest season with no want and a 3-day celebration with the Indians, including the “the greatest king Massasoit” and ninety of his men.  It’s debated exactly what they ate but there is good cause to believe by both Bradford’s account that wild turkey may have been on the menu and Winslow’s account of duck and geese were definitely served up.  According to both men the Indians supplied the venison.  Cranberries were a staple of the Wampanoag; however, potatoes were not found in North America at that time.  Pumpkin was available but probably not in any pies.

For the Wampanoag Indians, it was not unusual to thank the Creator on a daily basis and especially for a good harvest.  Celebrations, complete with great feasts were also common in England and throughout Europe for successful harvests and the Pilgrims celebrated their harvest tradition.  However, for them, as Christians, it was not just a cause for a feast, they, like the Wampanoag, gave thanks to their God with a joyous outpouring of gratitude.  What a beautiful story.  It’s too bad it’s been hijacked by commercial shopping markets, marginalized by the secular mainstream media, and trashed by a hostile academia lying and “teaching” our children that the Pilgrims were America’s first terrorists.

On January 1, 1795 President George Washington issued a Presidential Proclamation1 setting aside A National Day of Thanksgiving & Prayer.  The proclamation included 5 things every American should be thankful for:  1. mercy on our nation; 2. our constitution; 3. preservation of peace; 4. control against insurrection and; 5. prosperous course.  He also included 8 items to specifically pray for: 1. solemn sense of obligation to Him; 2. teach us to know His immense value to us; 3. preserve us from arrogance of prosperity; 4. not to abuse His favor upon us and show gratitude and conduct ourselves as fine citizens; 5. render our country as a safe asylum for the unfortunate of other countries; 6. extend true knowledge; 7. habits of sobriety, order, morality, and; 8. blessings for ourselves and others.  This proclamation was for all US citizens of all denominations and to those without a religion as well.

On October 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln, expressing gratitude for the Union Army victory at Gettysburg, issued a Thanksgiving holiday on November 26th.  The fourth Thursday of November remained the annual day of Thanksgiving from 1863 until 1939 when then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, moved it to the 3rd Thursday of November to boost the economy.2  Hmmm, so we know when Thanksgiving first took a turn to become a day associated with shopping.

So now you know your US history, but what about our religious history?  Thanksgiving is a day of feasting, yes.  But more importantly it was initially installed as a day of giving thanks to God for providing us with the people and things that keep us free, alive, and allows us to prosper—think life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  We share the good fruits of our labor with our family and friends.  The Wampanoag didn’t know the Pilgrim’s God and neither did the Pilgrims know the Wampanoag’s Creator.  But what they did know was to thank the “Invisible Hand” that gave them the gift of plenty, the freedom to worship as they chose, and each other’s company.  This message has been lost.  I say, let’s revive it!

Did you know that every day is Thanksgiving Day for those who believe in God?  Well it is.  The religious function of giving thanks to the Divinity for favors received is an ancient one.  The Jews in the Old Testament offered sacrifice and offerings in thanksgiving to God.  Eucharist, taken from the Greek word eucharisteo, means thanksgiving.  The Holy Sacrifice is the greatest act of thanksgiving that can be offered to God, so yes, every day is thanksgiving to Christians.  When we attend Mass we are basically doing the same thing the early Pilgrims and Native Americans did.  We are celebrating together as a community and thanking God for allowing us to receive Jesus in the form of communion or consecrated bread and wine.  The word communion itself means the bonding or uniting of Christians and groups with each other and with Jesus Christ.

On Thursday morning, why not attend Mass as a family?  I remember a time when the churches were full on the fourth Thursday of November.  For those of us not cooking for family and friends, why not donate an hour or two at your local soup kitchen?  Nothing feels better than serving your fellow man.  If you can’t do that, donate a bag of canned goods to your church pantry or better yet, deliver it to a neighbor in need.  We have so much to be thankful for.  Let’s thank Him for the graces he has bestowed upon us and our great nation.

1 Washington’s first proclamation was a Call to Prayer on October 3, 1789, just six months after his inauguration.

2 It wasn’t until 1941 when Roosevelt reversed himself, permanently setting the fourth Thursday of November as the official Thanksgiving holiday.

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When I’m Sixty-Four

Will you still need me when I’m Sixty-four? All Beatles fans recognize those lyrics. Will you still love me when I’m no longer young, trendy, or attractive? With that in mind, I often wonder what Sunday Mass will look like when I’m sixty-four. Look around any church and see the age demographics. Middle age adults are sometimes the youngest in the group.

This is a far cry from when I was a child. You either went to Sunday Mass or you were sick—very sick. My entire family lived in the same neighborhood. We lived, worked, ate, played, and worshipped together. Mass was a family event and your life revolved around it. If something weighed heavy on your heart—you consulted Father—he always had a solution. After Mass you visited with friends, clambered to shake Father’s hand, grabbed a cookie at the church bake sale, and headed off to Grandma’s house for Sunday dinner.

Family is the key. In the 50’s and 60’s children went to Catholic school. In the 70’s, with the migration to the suburbs, many parents opted to send their kids to secular public schools and sign up for Religious Education at the closest church. Once their children were out of school, they stopped attending Mass because there was no connection to the parish. Grandma, the glue that held the family together, was gone. The 80’s gave birth to the “me” generation. The 90’s brought the internet. With each passing decade the more stuff we acquired: TV, video games, computers, cell phones, iPads, etc. Suddenly there was no room for God. Yet young and old alike, who seem to have everything, realize there is a great void in their lives. They search high and low, work out at the gym, drink alcohol, take drugs, meditate, or whatever they can to try and fill that undefinable “something” that is missing. That something—is God.

It’s sad but many Catholics either have none of my earlier memories or have forgotten them. So what happened? The excuses vary: Vatican II, churches are full of hypocrites, I work all week and I’m tired, God loves me so I don’t have to go to church, it’s boring. Some changes from Vatican II did upset some Catholics, but Church doctrine can never be altered. If you are worried about hypocrites then you’d never partake in any pastime. Everyone is tired, but if someone offered you tickets to an entertainment event you’d find energy to attend. Yes, God does love you, but He was the One who gave us the Fourth Commandment in the first place. Mass is boring? Are you aware of what is happening on the altar? I don’t pretend to know all the symbolism, but the more I find out the more intrigued and caught up in the Mass I become. It leaves me wanting to learn more, and the more I learn the more exciting it becomes.

Last Sunday our pastor spoke about the Catholics Come Home ad1 that is proving to be very effective, not only for Catholics but for those of all faiths or those with no faith at all. He spoke about how powerful the images were and read the wording aloud. It was witnessing similar images portrayed in the ad from my memories that lead me back to my Catholic faith.

So, what will Mass or being Catholic look like when I’m sixty-four? How will parish churches flourish if nobody is supporting them? How do we get young people interested and excited about the faith? Some say it’s a lost cause. We can’t compete with Hollywood and academia expounding the fun of immorality and degradation. But I’m full of hope—we can turn it around. There is no greater role model for a child (no matter the age) than his or her parents. Leave your bedroom door open when you’re on your knees and let them see you pray. Let them see you practice your faith in and outside church. Let them see you making a difference in peoples’ lives. Let them see you serve others. Don’t just talk to your children about values and morals—live them. Grandma may be gone but we need to connect as families again—have Sunday dinner together for starters. We must openly discuss our faith, our church, our Mass, and our love for God. We need to learn how to think again—not take the word of a professor or media outlet.

I read an article recently about Lawrence M. Krauss, cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and professor at Arizona State University. During a speech at the Victorian Skeptics Café in Australia he said, “Change is always one generation away. So if we can plant the seeds of doubt in our children, religion will go away in a generation or at least largely go away—and that’s what I think we have an obligation to do.” 2 Professor Krauss caused a large stir earlier this year when he said teaching creationism to kids is akin to child abuse. This professor and others like him are who our children admire. Remember when role models were people of integrity and honor? We looked up to them and wanted to be like them. Our children look up to sports thugs, radical professors, and celebrities and they are becoming just like them. We need to reverse this.

Our once sacred 1st Amendment Right of freedom of religion is under attack by a small group of extreme atheists, who seem to be supported by our government. It’s no coincidence that the Revolutionary War was aided by the “Black Robe Regiment”. These were not soldiers who wore black uniforms—they were the influential preachers who supported the Patriots cause. They were enemy number 1 to the British because from their pulpits they reassured their audiences that the revolution was justified in the eyes of God.3 We cannot be oblivious to this.

There is a viral YouTube out right now showing a girl, approximately eight years-old, screaming at a young preacher on the street. The child is incredibly rude and vile. A child that age is not on the streets alone. Her parents must be nearby—undoubtedly cheering her on. I saw on Facebook a couple of days ago, a Texas mother walked into her child’s grammar school and saw pictures of Indians, but no Pilgrims. When she asked the teacher she was told that Pilgrims were the first American terrorists. The Pilgrims, through insurmountable odds, left England and crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the sole purpose of practicing their religion without persecution and now our government is branding them terrorists? And they lived harmoniously with the Indians—hence the first Thanksgiving!

Back in 1967 when the Beatles launched Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, radicals were the counter culture. Now those same radicals are in power and teaching our children. Our world has flipped. We are now the counter culture. What was good is now evil, and what was evil is now good. Many adults can’t tell the difference so how can our children? Especially when it’s taught in schools and entrenched in television, movies and pop music/rap? If we don’t stand up now, radical atheists like Professor Krauss and government promoters of nationalized Common Core education will be dancing in the streets, and our churches and Judeo/Christian religions will be asking us, “Will you still need me when you’re 64?”