“I know Catholics aren’t exactly known for being spontaneous…” my priest said to a chorus of laughter.
This morning’s Thanksgiving Day Mass took a turn for the unexpected when the conclusion of our priest’s homily called for an open forum among the community. He asked the 100 or so in the congregation to “go around the table” and shout out that which we are thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.
Immediately I winced, not because I didn’t like the idea, but because I lacked faith in the bravery of my brethren. We’re Catholic, after all. We like tradition, camaraderie and (sometimes sadly) the norm.
Thus, when the first shout out in gratitude for our close community came from the music pit, my anxiety faded. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I belong to, perhaps, the greatest community of believers I’ve known.
We’re not the most traditional (we don’t have kneelers or altar servers), we’re not the most pious, but the 1300 sq. ft. commons area outside the sacristy is a-buzz with chatting families and loud voices left over from the previous Mass within minutes of a later Mass beginning.
Some of my oldest friends were in religious ed. classes with me at this church. We walked hand-in-hand at Vacation Bible School with each other, until we became the teachers. We attend weddings together, we pray together, and we visit each other.
“I am grateful for our new pastor for joining us this year.”
“I am thankful for my family and friends, that they are safe and will be well-fed this holiday.”
“I’d like to thank God for being in such a great country, in thanksgiving that He bestowed so many blessings up on us.”
“Thank you, Lord for the Eucharist and the family we come to share it with.”
The gratitude kept pouring in, one shout after another. If I were a bettin’ man, I’d say the priest was surprised at how many volunteered to speak up in the seemingly unconventional forum.
“And they say we aren’t spontaneous,” the priest concluded before we came together again to speak the Creed.
The voices that shared this morning came forward in gratitude for God, not just because there is so much for which to be thankful. They rose because the potential discomfort or possible mistakes in sharing were dissolved in the trust and Love in community we had under that roof.
Our community didn’t care if someone started reciting their prayer of thanksgiving and got tongue-tied. It’s members didn’t mind learning what other members were thinking that morning. They wanted to share together, around the Thanksgiving table.
I’m grateful that the Thanksgiving table is ever-present at Mass and in our faith communities. I’m grateful that we all enter the Mass of the New Missal this weekend, during which (and for many weeks to come) we can all expect to “mess up,” albeit together. I’m grateful that I am in Communion with every one of you reading this and with those I’ve Loved who left this Earth, in Jesus Christ.