Pause for Prayer: the Day after Thanksgiving

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The day after Thanksgiving...

Forgive us, Lord, 

for yesterday's over-indulgence
and teach us at the same time 
not to waste what's ours in abundance
or hoard the goods 
that others need so much...

As we plan and shop for Christmas
make us grateful for all we already have:
keep us mindful of others' most basic needs,
and tempt us to be generous
in opening our hearts and wallets
to those who truly need a share
of all we have 
and all we have to give...

Help us find the deeper meaning 
in the days that lie ahead:
what's holy, healing and helpful,
what makes us truly happy
in the gift you are for us...


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Homily for Thanksgiving Day

I didn't preach from a text this morning so I only have the audio version of today's homily.


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Cardinal O'Malley's statement on administration's decision

Here is Cardinal Sean O'Malley's statement in response to the administration's decision to rescind Temporary Protected Status for some 50,000 Haitian immigrants currently living in the United States.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon the blessings our nation and ourselves and families have received from a generous God, and to renew our commitment, personally and nationally, to share these blessings with all who live in this land. The spirit of gratitude and generosity embodied in Thanksgiving stands in sharp contrast to the decision of the U.S. Government this week to end Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for over 50,000 Haitians living in the United States. TPS is an act of compassion and care designed to assist those whose visas have expired in the United States, and for whom return to their native land is either dangerous or threatening to their lives and welfare. TPS is the kind of political generosity which for decades has earned the United States a positive reputation throughout the international community.

The decision made this week to end TPS status for Haitians is unnecessary and unwise. More to the point, it is neither required nor is it morally right. It is true that the U.S. Government has the legal capacity to terminate TPS for Haitians as well as Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Hondurans living under TPS today. But the United States can and should do far better. As the strongest and wealthiest nation in the Americas we have a moral responsibility to provide care and compassion for our brothers and sisters living here under TPS. An action that would deport thousands of men, women and children to the poorest country in the Americas contradicts the image we hold of ourselves and the leadership we seek to provide for the world.

Throughout almost fifty years of religious life and priesthood I have had the privilege to work with immigrants and refugees coming to the United States for protection and for the opportunity for a better life for themselves and their families. As the Archbishop of Boston it is a blessing for me to be able to continue this ministry. The Boston area has one of the largest Haitian communities in the United States. Annually I celebrate the Haitian Independence Day on January 1st by celebrating Mass with the Haitian community. The enthusiasm and spirit of those who have filled the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to capacity reflects the tremendous goodness these individuals and families bring to our local communities. I know in detail what the consequences will be for our Haitian population, including the hundreds of children in our Catholic schools, and others now protected by TPS if that protection is ended. There will be great pain and suffering as families will be separated and children possibly left behind as parents are deported.

These dire consequences will not end with deportation: returning to Haiti at this time means going back to a country still struggling to recover from the effects of a massive earthquake, the outbreak of cholera and the recent impact of Hurricane Matthew. The Church in Haiti has described how unrealistic it is to propose that 50,000 people be received and resettled into the devastation and poverty in their land.

As a bishop and a pastor, as well as a citizen I am compelled to speak clearly against the current policy of our government in refusing to extend TPS for the Haitian community. It is my hope that the U.S. Congress will work with the Trump Administration to rectify this policy which lacks both wisdom and compassion. It is my hope that the Catholic community will join other American citizens in calling for a response to our Haitian neighbors that acknowledges both their dignity and our responsibility, a better and more humane response to men and women with families, with jobs which serve our communities, and with the hope to continue their lives in this good and generous nation.


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Pause for Prayer: THANKSGIVING DAY

In between rushing about the kitchen, setting the table, greeting guests, traveling to visit family and friends, watching the game and crashing on the sofa - we all need to pause and pray on this day for giving thanks...  This post includes a grace before dinner, a prayer by an empty chair, a midday prayer for Thanksgiving and a reflection for later in the afternoon...

Grace Before Thanksgiving Day Dinner

Saying Grace - Norman Rockwell

Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation!   

Through your goodness we have so much
for which to give you thanks and praise...

Make us grateful for all you've given us;
may our desire for more not blind us to all we have...

Make us grateful for all who love us;
may no grudge or anger keep us distant
from family and friends, neighbors and colleagues... 

Make us grateful for those who are with us;
may no grief isolate us from their loving embrace...

Make us grateful for the good work we have done:
may our mistakes and failures not weigh us down
or blind us to your mercy... 

Make us grateful for the freedom we enjoy;
may we never take it for granted...

Make us grateful for the peace we find in you;
let no other cause or victory take its place...

Make us grateful for our dreams;
let no disappointment keep us from hope... 

Make us grateful for our faith in you;
let no doubt cloud our trusting in your love...

Make us grateful for the meal we are about to share
and mindful of all who have so much less... 

Nourish and strengthen us
to change what keeps so many hungry
while others, like us, have more than we need...

Give us grateful hearts, O God, to praise and thank you:
in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,
in plenty and in want, in sorrow and in joy...

This is the day you have made, O Lord:
let us be glad and rejoice in it
and give you thanks and praise! 


 Praying with an empty chair at the table...

A Prayer at an Empty Chair 

This Thanksgiving, Lord, 
there’ll be an empty chair at our table,
an ache in our hearts
and tears on our cheeks...

We might shield others from our grief
but we can't hide it from you...

We pray for  (name your loved ones) 
whose loving presence we'll miss 
at this homecoming time...

Help us remember and tell again 
the stories that knit us as one
with the ones we miss so much...

Open our hearts to joyful memories 
of the love we shared
with those who've gone before us...

Let the bonds you forged so deep in our hearts
grow stronger yet 
in remembering those who've left our side... 

Help us pray and trust that those we miss
have a home in your heart
and a place at your table forever
and that one day we'll be one with them
once again...

Teach us to lean on you and on one another
for the strength we need 
to walk through these difficult days...

Open our eyes and our hearts 
to the healing, the warmth
and the peace of your presence...

Give us quiet moments with you in prayer,
with our memories and loss,
with our thoughts and tears...

Be with us to console us 
and hold us in your arms
as you hold the ones we miss...

Even in our grief, Lord,
this is the day that you have made:
help us be glad in the peace you've promised,
the peace we pray you share 
with those who've gone before us...

For ourselves, Lord,
and for all who find the holidays to be a difficult time,
we make this prayer...


A Midday Prayer on Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving Day...

Today I thank you, Lord, for the gift of faith:
that strength, power and source within
showing me the way,
guiding me in the dark,
making sure my faltering step,
giving light for finding truth
and hope for living gracefully
through trials and troubled times...

Today I thank you, Lord,  
for the gift of your Church:
that wounded, rag-tag, joyful company of saints and sinners
whose faith is my strength, binding us all together,
brothers and sisters in you and in your love...

Today I thank you, Lord, for all the people around me
and those behind me and before me:
the ones who've helped to make me the person I've become;
those who've loved me in ways too many to know or to imagine;
those who've loved me when I've failed to love them in return;
those who've pardoned and forgiven me with mercy and with grace;
those who've shared their joy with me, who fill my heart with peace
and who help me trust and know with hope
that you are ever by my side...

And today I thank you, Lord,
for all the people I have yet to meet
but will...

Today I thank you, Lord, for the mystery of your presence:
in everyone I know and meet;
in the simplest and most ordinary moments of each day;
and in the stillness, in the quiet
of the time I spend with you in prayer...

Today I praise and thank you, Lord,
for you are my God
from whom all blessings flow...


A poem for later on Thanksgiving Day

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From a friend who's a teacher, singer and poet, a reflection to share at the end of Thanksgiving Day...
This is the sixth year I've posted John's Thanksgiving poem and last year he provided a video of his reading his own work and playing the background music. 


I am surprised sometimes
by the suddenness of November:
beauty abruptly shed
to a common nakedness--
grasses deadened
by hoarfrost,
persistent memories
of people I've lost.

It is left to those of us
dressed in the hard
barky skin of experience
to insist on a decorum
that rises to the greatness
of a true Thanksgiving.

This is not a game
against a badly scheduled team,
an uneven match on an uneven pitch.

This is Life.
This is Life.
This is Life.

Not politely mumbled phrases,
murmured with a practiced and meticulous earnestness.

Thanksgiving was born a breech-birth,
a screaming appreciation for being alive--
for not being one of the many
who didn't make it--
who couldn't moil through
another hardscrabble year
on tubers and scarce fowl.

Thanksgiving is for being you.
There are no thanks without you.

You are the power of hopeful promise;
you are the balky soil turning upon itself;
you are bursting forth in your experience.

You are not the person next to you--
not an image or an expectation.
You are the infinite and eternal you--
blessed, and loved, and consoled
by the utter commonness
and community of our souls.

We cry and we're held.
We love and we hold.

We are the harvest of God,
constantly renewed,
constantly awakened
to a new thanksgiving.
- John Fitzsimmons

We all have Thanksgiving rituals: which of these does your family follow?

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There begins this coming week the season generally referred to as “the holidays,” a portion of the calendar stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Some of the celebrations in this season are common to all and others are particular to different faiths and followers. Without wanting to omit less well-known dates, “the holidays” are generally understood to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. And each of these celebrations has its own rituals.

Consider tomorrow: Thanksgiving Day... How many times have you already been asked (or have you asked others) this question:  “So, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” There’s a ritual fascination for knowing when and where we and others will celebrate this day. And many times have you heard a response like, “Oh, we’re going to my sister’s - she’s having 29 for dinner.” At no other time of the year are we likely to know, much less announce to others how many people will be at table for a particular meal. A number of other ritual questions may follow: will it be a fresh or frozen turkey - and how much does it weigh? how many vegetables? sweet potatoes with or without marshmallows? who’s bringing what? is he bringing that string-bean casserole again? what kind of stuffing do you make? how many pies and what kind? are your married kids coming home or going to their in-laws?  

Conversation like this will be conducted before Thanksgiving and then be repeated after the holidays when folks begin to ask, “So, how was your Thanksgiving?” There’s a definite ritual dialogue that occurs before and after the actual Thanksgiving Day meal.

And what of the ritual dynamics that surround the Thanksgiving gathering? Will there a table for adults and a kids' table, too? Will there be a prayer before the meal even at tables where no prayer is usually offered?  Will there be at this year's table an empty chair where a loved one used to sit?  Will your seating plan reflect breaks and separations in the family that occurred in the past year?  Will you go around the table inviting guests to mention things they’re grateful for this Thanksgiving? Who will carve the turkey? Who will get the drumsticks?  Who will break the wishbone? What family stories are told every year and exaggerated even beyond last year’s telling? Who will be the predictable tellers of the predictable stories? What political and religious topics will be fair game during dinner?  Will there be a declaration that some topics will not be discussed? At what point will some portion of those gathered excuse themselves to go watch the game? 

Odds are that as you read this, you’re adding your own family’s ritual words and deeds to the list I’ve offered above. True ritual behavior and dialogue have many functions. They reconnect us to our roots and one another.  They offer us a conversation in which all participants know the vocabulary and their own part.  Ritual can offer us, if only for a few hours, a moment of sanity and serenity amid the chaos of the rest of life. We are drawn to such ritual gatherings because they have the power to reassure us that in spite of everything else, there is still point in time, a place in our lives, in which peace can be ours in the simple experience of sharing a meal among those who have helped, for weal or for woe, to shape our lives. 

For some, Thanksgiving ritual includes shopping to prepare a basket (or two or three) for families unable to provide Thanksgiving dinner for themselves.  Or perhaps a part of Thanksgiving includes a trip to a shelter to serve dinner to its homeless guests.  Might a service at church or an interfaith Thanksgiving event be on the calendar this coming week?  And for those who are distanced from their families, geographically or emotionally, Thanksgiving presents the lonely dilemma of figuring out how to spend a day so centered on family gatherings...

We should be grateful to know that  a holiday like Thanksgiving not only survives but thrives in a culture that so easily dismisses ritual behavior as rote and empty.  And following Thanksgiving a whole season of such experiences draws us together between the end of November and the early days of January.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it might be helpful to reflect on how such holiday and family rituals play out in and prosper our lives and well-being: how these tried and true, age-old familiar activities and conversations touch us in the depths of our hearts and connect us with realities more important than we might often realize and acknowledge.

And let me take this opportunity to remind that this very same ritual dynamic is played out week after week in our houses of prayer.  The ritual of worship in any faith is filled with: familiar words and dialogue; old, even ancient stories of the family of faith; meals shared in remembrance of our roots and our connection to one another; the offering of a place where peace can be found, where one can escape the chaos not by running away from it but by hastening towards a center, a calm, a serenity the chaos can never overwhelm.

The rituals of “the holidays” are life-giving in many ways but they also put us in touch with our losses, our hurts and our disappointments. Rituals in faith communities do the same but, again, such ritual offers a place not to deny our pain but to find healing for it in a community of others sharing joys and sorrows alike with any who will give themselves to the words and deeds of shared, ritual prayer.

May the rituals of this season of holidays enrich, strengthen, delight and heal you in your heart of hearts. And may the rituals of these holidays draw you home, through the new year, to the community of faith whose rituals are yours - and are waiting for you...


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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 11/22

Like the beauty of nature around me,
like the mystery of those whose paths cross mine,
like the moments of peace I'm too busy to savor -
so are the blessings of God, the blessings I miss 
day after day, night after night
and all week long...

Texting with God

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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 11/21

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On Thursday, Lord,
we'll overeat and drink too much,
we'll stuff ourselves like turkeys
and joke about how much we've had
and how there's no room left for more...

And then for several days -
turkey sandwiches...

What we call "left-overs"
some (millions) would think a feast...

On Thursday, Lord,
we'll eat all day and night
while others go for days and weeks,
their cupboards bare and empty...

Let this week not pass until
I find and fund a way to feed the ones
whose tables never groan as ours
beneath the weight of too much food and drink...

For those who hunger all year 'round
help me do more than simply pray, Lord:
may I give thanks this week for all I have
by finding ways to share it with the poor...

Open my heart as wide as my mouth
and let my charity, like wine, pour freely,
filling others to the brim,
sharing with my neighbor, Lord,
the best of all you've given me...


Looking for a way to be generous this Thanksgiving week?
Click on the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation link
at the top of my sidebar... 


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Monday Morning Offering 11/20

Coffee in the Morning

Thanksgiving's just a few days away, Lord,
and I want to be ready on Thursday
to thank you for all I have,
for all you've given me,
for what I have in abundance:
I want to remember the ways you've helped me
since last Thanksgiving,
just a year ago...

Help me remember, Lord,
when your strength, not my own,
got me through the really hard times...

Help me remember
how, in your faithful love,
you’ve never left me alone...

Help me remember
the gift of your mercy
each time I've strayed from your grace...

Help me remember
how every time I’ve prayed
you’ve been there to hear me...

Help me remember
how I've survived and moved on
past things I thought I’d never get by…

Help me remember
how you stay by my side
when moving on is hard - and not yet done...

Help me remember
the people who love and care for me,
family and friends, at work and at school…

Help me remember the most basic gifts:
food and water, warm clothing, a place to live,
safety, liberty and freedom... 

Help me remember
all those who serve and protect me
whose names I don't even know...

Help me remember and be grateful for
my vision, my hearing, my sense of touch
and all the good things I smell and taste…

Help me remember
and thank you for the clean air I breathe,
the beauty I see and the music I hear...

Help me remember
what I take for granted
and open my eyes to what I’ve missed...

Help me remember
the gifts I've forgotten
and the people I've forgotten to thank...

Help me remember
that every good gift comes from you, my God,
from your heart to mine, to be shared...

Help me remember and never forget
how many are the reasons
I have for thanksgiving...

Help me remember this Thursday,
between the turkey and the football games,
help me remember to thank you
for all the blessings I count as mine...

So this morning, on Thursday and all this week,
I praise you with all my heart:
I praise you my loving God
from whom all blessings flow...


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Homily for 11/19: You go, girl!

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily 

--> As tempting as it might be to interpret this parable in economic terms
Jesus’ words here are simply not about the stock market,
or investment strategy or clever entrepreneurship –
even if the imagery he uses is that of return on funds loaned.

And if you think otherwise, just look at what happens
to the foolish one of the three servants:
he’s thrown outside into the darkness,
where there’s wailing - and the grinding of teeth:
no bailout for this guy!

Well, you don’t have to be a scripture scholar
to figure out the message here:
use your gifts, whatever they are,
no matter how large or small they might be
use your gifts wisely - and in the service of others.

In choosing today’s scriptures, the church pairs the woman in Proverbs
with the three servants in the gospel.
We heard that she’s a faithful wife, that she weaves her own cloth
and is generous to the poor.
But that’s only a snippet from the 31st chapter of Proverbs
where we also learn that this same woman:
- secures provisions for her family
- sets a good table and is a good cook
- works late into the night and gets up early every day
- finds fertile land to purchase and plants a vineyard
- is strong and has sturdy arms
- is successful in business
- reaches out to the needy
- weaves her own blankets
- makes warm clothes for her children in the winter
- dresses herself in fine linen and beautiful colors
- makes clothes and belts and sells them to local merchants
- is known for her strength and dignity
- speaks with wisdom and offers kindly counsel
- keeps her house in order
- is careful about what she eats
- is never idle - and laughs at tomorrow’s problems

You go, girl!

But what we need to see in this woman is not her success
or how many talents she has – that’s not the point.
The point is simply that she used what she had
and she used what she had well -and she used it for others.

So, I need to ask myself, you need to ask yourselves,
 “What do I have to work with?” 
Am I working with everything I have? 
And, for whom am I offering my gifts?”

These scriptures are about so much more
than fiscal or personal success.
They’re about the fruitful harvest of the gifts I have to offer -
not for financial gain or personal acclaim -
but for the glory of God and the needs and service of others.

Sometimes we’re less like the woman in Proverbs
and more like that third servant in Jesus’ parable.

• We might not dig an actual hole in the ground to bury our gifts,
but we might pack up our gifts in a box that we mark
“My Puny Gifts,”
they won’t make a difference, they’re not worth anyone’s notice;

• or we might stuff them in a package labeled,
“Return to Sender,”                         
telling God, in effect:
“I don’t like the gifts you gave me; they’re not the ones I wanted;
I wanted her gifts; I like his gifts better!”

• Or maybe my gifts are buried in a busy schedule with the notation:
“Sorry – no time to offer my gifts
– I’m much too busy about other things!”

• Or my gifts might be hidden, in fear that others find that I have them -
because if they knew – they might expect me to share them;

• Perhaps I blindfold myself, refusing to acknowledge any gifts,
convinced that I just didn’t get any!

• And sometimes others teach us to deny or bury our gifts;
sadly, sometimes the Church fails to recognize
the gifts of all its members.

Gifts?  What gifts am I talking about?

My gift might be time, treasure or talent;
my gift might be warmth, compassion, or humor;
my gift might be a smile, a word or a gesture;
my gift might be my art, my strong arm or my particular skill;
my gift might be a friendly gesture or a lifetime of love;
my gift might be a token of appreciation or an act of sacrifice;
my gift might be support, encouragement or consolation;
my gift might be my silent presence;
my gift might be sharing my faith with another person;
my gift might be spare minute, a day's help or a lifetime commitment;
my gift might be a phone call, a letter, an email, a text or a visit;
my gift might be a dollar or a hundred thousand dollars or a prayer;
my gift might be a forgiving heart, an understanding ear,
my gift might be truth on my lips or a helping hand;
my gift might be volunteering, joining – or just showing up…

The woman in Proverbs saw what she had to offer - and offered it
- and in doing so, everyone around her found their lives enriched.

This parable of the talents,
about how our lives will be measured at the end
might prompt some questions for us.
What are my gifts and talents?
Am I using them - or hiding and burying them?
Am I using them for others?
at home, in my neighborhood, in my parish, in my community,
and where I work or go to school?

Wherever my answers to those questions - it’s not too late!
Even if my gifts were long ago stashed away,
it’s never too late to unpack them and find ways to offer them now.

The Cross hovering over our prayer
shows us how willing Jesus was to offer everything he had
in service of the needs of others
– in service of your needs and mine.

And at this altar, across this table,
he continues to offer himself for us -and to us- in the Eucharist.

May the bread and cup of this sacrament
nourish us to offer all that we’ve been given
in service of others.


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