Giving Thanks for Mercy and Mary

You have surrounded my life with Your tender and loving care, more than I can comprehend, for I will understand Your goodness in its entirety only when the veil is lifted. I desire that my whole life be but one act of thanksgiving to You, O God (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1285).

I was born on Thanksgiving.

It’s a funny fact of biography, one that’s shaped how I feel about the holidays. Every year, my birthday is intertwined with family, Thanksgiving feasting, and the turning of the liturgical year from ordinary time to Advent. There’s something beautifully anticipatory about it all every year, then — my birthday is a prelude or an accompaniment to greater feasts, to larger family gatherings, to even bigger events and a world’s rejoicing at the birth of the Savior.

My birthday is always the beginning of many good things, just as my actual first day on this earth was; just as all of our first days outside our mothers’ wombs were.

As the great Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton once said:

The supreme adventure is being born. There we do walk suddenly into a splendid and startling trap ... When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.

Life, in other words, is given to us by God, and by those whom He has chosen to be our parents. Life is a gift. The world is a gift. Every breath we take, everything we ever do or achieve or learn — all of it, ultimately, is a gift from a good and loving God.

And for this, we give thanks.

We give thanks every Mass in the Eucharist, for the very name Eucharist means thanksgiving. But we also give thanks in the course of our prayers, especially at our annual celebration of Thanksgiving, the capstone, in many ways, of the autumn celebrations of harvest, of the fruits of our labors all the year long. We give thanks for good work done, for mercies received, for blessings given and shared.

We give thanks like St. Faustina did throughout her life, praising the Divine Mercy, adoring the Eucharistic Jesus, and pouring herself out in thanks to God. We imitate her generosity to God and neighbor, and so receive even more than we give.

We give thanks — and so we take an antidote to selfishness, to narcissism, to the belief that we are self-made men and women, that we pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps, that we owe nothing to anyone, that we are self-actualized and self-actualizing, and so on.

Giving thanks means acknowledging that thanks are owed. It means that we are cooperators with a good and loving God, partners in the dance of life and love that is a relationship with the Persons of the Trinity. Giving thanks means that the world contains something gratuitous, something gracious, something extra and excessive beyond anything we or anyone else is owed.

It means, as Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, tirelessly points out, that creation is an act of Divine Mercy, just as much as the divine acts of redemption and sanctification.

We give thanks, and so we acknowledge that we are creatures, that creation is a gift, and that God is good. We give thanks, and so through the Eucharist are fed the divine life. We give thanks, and we become like God.

So this Thanksgiving, let us give thanks for the many good and perfect gifts God has given to us, loving God and neighbor, surrendering pride for humility. Let us give thanks for Divine Mercy and Mary Immaculate, the supreme gifts from which all others flow. And let us commit to sharing our gifts with others this Advent season so that we may help make sure all our brethren have gifts for which to be thankful.

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

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Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash.

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