This November, I wanted to do something different. Something intentional and deliberate, in keeping with the passing of the year. Since Thanksgiving falls towards the end of the month, and right before the end of the Liturgical Year, I decided to try to read about, think of or just notice at least one thing each day to be truly grateful for, as a contemplative exercise and as a discipline to center my thoughts on God. Here are the first 8 days.
November 1: Give Thanks for the Saints
What would we do without the constant intercession of the saints? What a wonderful day November 1st is, what a blessing, to be able to stop and recognize them and think about meeting them in person one day in the next life.
Ponder: "In the saints, we are continually coming into contact, not with a diminished life continually curtailed by mortification, but with life at the moment of its pristine outpouring, with life at the moment of its burgeoning splendor: with life itself - a wellspring we are only now discovering...
A hero gives us the illusion of surpassing humanity. But the saint does not surpass it: he assumes humanity; he strives to realize it as well as possible...He strives to come as close as possible to his model, Jesus Christ, the One who was perfect man, who was man with perfect simplicity, who was man to the point of disconcerting all heroes." -G. Bernanos
Pray: We give thanks to you, O Lord, for all your saints, and for the many paths to you they have illuminated. We look forward to the day when we will meet them in person, with you, in glory. Amen.
November 2: Give Thanks for Purgatory
Purgatory, the ultimate place of redemption from the God of Second Chances. We especially think about Purgatory on November 2nd, All Soul's Day.
Ponder: “If a soul were brought to see God when it had still a trifle of which to purge itself, a great injury would be done it. Yet, a great happiness is granted to the holy souls as they draw nearer to God. For every glimpse which can be had exceeds any joy or pain a man can feel. The holy souls clearly see God to be on extreme fire with love for them. Strongly and unceasingly, this love draws the soul with that uniting look, as though it had nothing else to do than this.” -St. Catherine of Genoa
“Purgatory basically means that God can put all the pieces back together again, can create wholeness, so that we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.” -Pope Benedict XVI
Pray: We give thanks to you, O Lord, for your gift of Purgatory. We pray for all who are there. Amen.
November 3: Give Thanks for Falling Leaves
Ponder: We are thankful for that crunch, crunch, crunch of the leaves underfoot, for the scritch, scritch of the rake across the grass as those leaves are gathered in and moved into great heaps and piles, and for the delighted shrieks of the children who fling themselves into those same piles with unbridled happiness.
These are the sounds that tell us that summer has passed and the year is drawing to a close. Time is passing, the year is ending. It’s the coldness of the fall air that causes the leaves to change colors, reminding us that strife can also produce beauty.
Pray: We give thanks to you, O Lord, for the beauty of your creation, seen in the leaves, the grass, the children, and the people who enjoy it. We pray for the grace to notice it and be reminded of your own beauty. Amen.
November 4: Give Thanks for Fall Skies
The sky looks a little different in the Fall. It takes on a deeper shade of blue, and seems to stretch out into eternity. The summer sky, on the other hand, is warm and welcoming and friendly. It invites you to be happy, to drink some sweet tea and stay a while.
But the Fall sky reminds you of the End of Things. The clouds are thin and stretched out, and they draw us into contemplation. It's a crisp, bittersweet blue; a thin but strong blue.
Ponder: The Fall sky invites you to breathe deeply. In. Out. In. Out. Especially on those days when the breeze is fresh enough that you can almost drink it. It invites us to "Wake Up!" Be alert! There's a reminder of the Truth, a sense of expectancy, a world that is preparing for something, a drawing in. For those who see with the eyes of faith, this is a great blessing. We know that one day, we , too, will be part of this great gathering-in, this home-going. We are a people on a pilgrimage. One day, the pilgrimage will finish. We will reach our Journey's End. And for this, we must give thanks.
Pray: We give thanks to you, O Lord, for the fall skies that remind us of our eternal home and our ultimate destination. We ask for your help in getting there. Amen.
November 5: Give Thanks for the Gift of Faith
Ponder: Faith is a gift. Some people have it in abundance, and others struggle to hold on to the little bit they have. Who knows why some people have so much, and others have so little? It's a mystery. Perhaps the reason, at least partially, lies in what we do with what we've been given. If exercised, does faith grow and strengthen? If ignored, does it gather dust and eventually disappear? It would seem so.
I spotted this truck driver on my daily commute recently. This driver would belong to the first group, the group who has a great deal of faith. Let's give thanks that he was given so much! So much, in fact, that he posts saint stickers on the back of his truck as a public witness and a public prayer. What an inspiring sight to see on a very ordinary truck, on a very ordinary day.
Pray: We give thanks, O Lord, for the gift of faith. Help us to see you in everything and help us to bring you everywhere. Grow the gift of faith in us. Amen.
November 6: Give Thanks for Cinnamon
Ponder: Cinnamon is around so much this time of year. It's in drinks, potpourri, pies - even decorative broomsticks. The idea of sprinkling cinnamon on top of a hot cup of coffee is just delicious, mouth-watering and even heartwarming. Think of the scent of cinnamon baking in an apple pie or simmering on the stove with clove and oranges. Is there any other smell that is more welcoming, that just says HOME in capital letters?
And now we even know that cinnamon has health benefits! It's loaded with antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, may cut the risk of heart disease, and can help lower blood sugar levels. Some studies have shown that it may even be helpful in preventing cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Read more about the Benefits of Cinnamon and decide for yourself. *
It seems like cinnamon is truly good for the body and soul. Have you ever thought to stop and thank God for this simple spice that we use so often yet don’t always really, truly notice? It makes us wonder - what other simple, ordinary things do we overlook each day?
Pray: We give thanks to you, O Lord, for the gift of cinnamon and all those small, simple things you give us that we so often overlook. Help us to see how extraordinary the ordinary things are. Amen.
*Disclaimer: I am not offering any medical advice, just an observation. Consult your medical provider for guidance.
November 7: Give Thanks for Chrysanthemums
Ponder: Here's another unsung hero of the Fall - the chrysanthemum. It's everywhere during this season and is usually taken for granted. Chrysanthemums sort of fade into the background - the backdrop to pumpkins and gourds. They don’t take center stage; they fill in the background.
But the chrysanthemum is such a perfect symbol for the harvest season. It comes in a myriad of colors, with tons of blooms on every stalk, and each blossom itself is just stuffed to the brim with petals. Everything about it shouts fullness, abundance and plenty. It even has a lovely, delicate scent - not too overwhelming, always refreshing and sweet, and the blooms last for a couple of weeks, to boot. Just a lovely symbol for the Fall; showcasing humility and plenty at the same time. If you get the chance, bury your nose in a fresh chrysanthemum. Breathe in deeply, and let your gaze linger on the beautiful color of the blossom. And give thanks for this simple, sweet, unsung hero.
Pray: We give thanks, O Lord, for the sweet and simple blessings, the little notices and adornments you send us to cheer us along our way. Amen.
November 8: Give Thanks for Pumpkins
Ponder: What would Fall be without the pumpkin? Can you imagine no pumpkin pies or pumpkin bread? Or no bright orange balls of color in the fields, the grocery stores, or front doors?
Pumpkins just inspire happiness, just by being themselves. They instantly create a feeling of home and abundance. The bright orange color is a flash of warmth against the cold weather, reminding us of memories of gathering together in the past, and giving us hope for gathering again together in the future.
Plus, there's that very cave-man like feeling of fear of scarcity still hidden deep within us. When the cold weather comes, will there be enough food for everyone? Pumpkins alleviate this primal fear, because they themselves are such a plentiful food - pies, breads, soups, even the seeds can be used for food. And, each one can feed so many people! If we were lucky enough to grow up in a home where food was plentiful, pumpkins have the ability to connect us to that deep feeling of love and satisfaction.
But at the same time, we know there are many people who do not and will not have enough food to eat this winter. So, let's make sure that pumpkins also remind us to provide, according to our means, food for those in need. A bag of groceries dropped off to your local food pantry will do the trick and consider keeping some non-perishable snacks in your car to hand out as you drive around.
Pray: We give thanks, O Lord, for the abundance of food we enjoy. Help us to remember and provide food for those who do not have enough to eat. Amen.
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