Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Being Thankful in Tough Times

Being Thankful in Tough Times

Just over a week ago we celebrated Veteran’s Day, but those of a certain age will remember that November 11th also celebrated Armistice Day; famous in the midwest for the powerful blizzard, but also of course the day World War I ended.

Though at the time considered the “war to end all wars” tragically within 20 years war would break out again, and World War I resulted in “total war” where civilians, countries and towns were decimated. Millions of lives were lost. And conditions for the soldiers were awful in the trenches with poor sanitation, meager food, and the constant stalemate of trench warfare.

But even then, soldiers still would keep their spirits up by thinking of family, and trying to see the good in life.

Following is a letter written by a private home to his wife:

Dear Wife,

  Note the day and know that it has been very well enjoyed by me. Three nice long letters from you came dated 6-8-10 Nov. New time for my mail. Last one the day before the war really ended. Funny that the people had a big celebration before proper time, but good that they got to have a real one. Joy there could not have surpassed it here.  Just listen here……today at the grand celebration our corps commander received a telegram. He read it and then read it to the crowd. He read that our division would prepare immediately to proceed to a port of embarkation preparatory to sailing for America. Everybody has been very happy ever since. Of course several days will be required for us to get rid of surplus property, clean our area and many other little things. So if orders don’t change (as usual), by the time this reaches you we probably will be nearly ready to start, if nothing happens. So you see, we all have had much to be thankful for today. Was at a thanksgiving metting [meeting] that the “leaving news” was given out.

  In my little town (Bellville) we had a very nice service at 9:30 a.m. Then most of the men went to the big town Pont-a Musson where most of our troops are located. Several of our bands for music and field exercises were the features of the day. No turkey, cranberry sauce or cake but we were all thankful for what we had.

Very funny thing but I awoke this morning about 3:30 and had an early proayer [prayer] in bed. Think I must have awoken praying over such a pleasant dream that I had. Since I don ’t want to be superstitious of dreams I am going to tell it to you, remembering that I have had dreams of many things that I have hoped for and obtatined [obtained]. I dreamed that I came home and found you with “big” little boy and a pet dog.  Well as yet, the cablegram has not reached me but I am expecting it by 1st Dec. at the latest. As your last letter left you so well, it has further strengthened by hopes that all has gone well with you. I certainly have prayed for the success of you both, and something has given that assurance.

  I think that Mrs Kimbell will be alright as your nurse. I remember that she had a good name as one. Glad that all of the family are well. Regards to all, and a heart full of love for you and the

“little one.”  ~Yours, E.

What strikes me with the letter is the unknown soldier writing back home has no sense of complaining, no anger, but says in his letter, as the war winds down, that he is still thankful for what he has.

This year has been hard on us all. I still struggle greatly with it; Thanksgiving is different for me this year as it might be for you too. It’s the little things I’m finding difficult; not seeing your faces at Mass; not having conversations over doughnuts after Mass; the ropes on many of the pews. Lets hope with vaccinations on the horizon we will see more normalcy in 2021; perhaps in April, a year after this all began, we can have a more “normal” Triduum and Easter celebration.

Despite all of this though, we can still strive to find the silver linings. And if life is getting us down as we continue this battle with Covid, which feels a bit like the long days of a war like World War I against an enemy we can’t see, it’s worth thinking about the good things in our life. Looking at my life, I’m thankful for my parents who I’m not seeing as much due to Covid, but still talking to regularly. I’m thankful for my nephew, brother in law and sister. I’m thankful for how the staff at our church and school has worked so hard to keep our parish open through their hard work in maintaining and cleaning, in the administrative and budgeting work, and provide an education for children. I’m thankful for the volunteers who clean, who sing, who teach religious education and do so many other things quietly in our parish. I’m thankful for my dog who gives me such peace, joy and love along with how he does that for others he meets. I’m thankful for the world around me which I’m able to explore with my camera and find peace being out in nature going on a hike or photographing the birds and animals. I’m thankful for the wonderful parishioners here who come to Mass and live out their faith. And I’m thankful for the Church Jesus gave us, and for my Catholic faith.

I have to admit, sometimes I get frustrated and disheartened by all that goes on in the world. It’s the little things that are hardest; seeing people’s faces, hearing the cheering crowds at a Vikings game on TV; the interaction with people that “social distancing” has put a halt to for the time being; the nursing home Masses where the residents are happy to sing and interact because they can’t come to church. Human interactions means so much; it’s why Jesus touches the lepers in the Gospel, and the eyes and ears of the blind and deaf man. And I also remember the last words of Jesus before the ascension; remember I am with you always even to the end of the age. And I think of the sending of the Holy Spirit to strengthen the apostles after He left; who ministered to others and evangelized despite great suffering and it seeming many times like the world around

them was falling apart with the persecutions they endured. Yet they pressed on, and because of it the good ultimately triumphed over the evil.

I’m not much for cliches like “we’re all in this together,” but despite all we have been through, I do believe better days are ahead, because God is with us, and people are working hard to overcome Covid. But even now, there still is so much in our lives to be grateful for. So when praying, try to think of these things too and give thanks to God. Talk to your loved ones and tell them how you love them and are thankful for them. Make a list of the other blessings in your life; even the simple things like another day; the family dog; the birds chirping in your hard. These are not easy times, but neither were so many of the days of the Holy Family and our Lord and the followers of Jesus up and down through the ages. But ultimately, we are not alone and loved by a God who is not distant but with us – and because of God and the people He puts in our lives, despite our sufferings, we have so much to be thankful for.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving,

Fr. Paul

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November 2020

 

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