Dear Friends in Christ,
Recently I bumped into a friend of mine who was with his toddler son. As the dad and I were chatting, the little boy was pushing his toy trucks, making noises, and occasionally telling me, “Look at this!” At one point, the dad asked his son, “When we go to visit Jesus at church, do we tell him what we are most thankful for?” “Yes,” the little boy responded. “And what do you tell Jesus you are most thankful for,” asked the dad? The little boy lit up, looked at me, and said, “The USS Constitution.”
That was not the answer I was expecting, and it made me laugh. Apparently, the father brings his son to the Constitution on a regular basis to hear them shoot the cannon at Reveille and when the flag is lowered in the evening. Next thing I knew, the boy and I were paging through a book of old ships with him excitedly pointing at them.
In a few days, we will all gather for Thanksgiving. Ever since we were toddlers, we have been taught that it is not only polite and fitting to give thanks, but that it is something necessary to our humanity. When we feel and express gratitude, we become more human. Without the expression of gratitude, something is incomplete, lacking, and missing.
Jesus tells us that unless we become like little children we will not enter the Kingdom. Little Raphael’s gratitude for an old ship can teach us something. He is filled with the wonder of youth. He stands before reality with awe and with gratitude. For us Catholics, the Sunday Mass is our weekly opportunity to stand before God and offer profound gratitude for all of the wonders He has done for us. Thanksgiving Day is also a wonderful opportunity for our whole nation to give thanks.
There are many things for which I am thankful this year. In particular, I want to express my gratitude for the way you have welcomed me to St. Patrick Parish. The arrival of a new pastor is often fraught with difficulty. The arrival of a new pastor who follows someone as well-loved and respected as Fr. Mario can make for an enormously difficult adjustment. I am sure that it would not surprise you to know that pretty much every priest I met would say to me, “You’ve got a tough assignment.” They didn’t say that because of the parish, but because they knew I was following such a beloved pastor.
From the moment I have arrived here, I have received nothing but cooperation, kindness, and friendliness from the priests, deacons, staff, and parishioners. I tell every priest who asks me how things are going, “I am so impressed by how friendly the people have been.” To me, it is amazingly beautiful how–in the midst of your grief–you have been able to be so gracious, welcoming, and kind to the new guy. Like little Raphael in front of the USS Constitution, I stand in wonder before your goodness.
I am very grateful that I love living with my brother priests, working with such wonderful parish staff, and serving such a great parish community. Things are never complete until we express gratitude. I wish all of you a Blessed Thanksgiving, and I most certainly Thank You.
Your Brother in Christ,
Fr. David Barnes