We are a Eucharistic people, a people of gratitude

| November 20, 2014

NienstedtBlOne of the many fond memories I have of my father was a visit he and our family made to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Given his vast knowledge of the sport, my father was able to regale us with story after story of various athletes and their significant achievements.

One of my father’s favorites was Lou “The Iron Horse” Gehrig, who played first base for the New York Yankees for 17 seasons. He was renowned as a hitter, finishing his batting career with an average of .340, including 493 home runs and 1,995 runs batted in (RBIs). He was a six-time World Series champion and was twice named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. He was the first Major League Baseball player to have his uniform number retired and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

It was on July 4 of that very year that Gehrig gave his most famous speech before 61,808 baseball fans in Yankee Stadium, later to be known as “The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech.

He had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to death. Lou died on June 2, 1941, at the age of 37 years.

But my point here is that in his speech at Yankee Stadium, Lou, knowing what his future prospects were, expressed gratitude to God for having gifted him with strong athletic powers, wonderful fans, loyal teammates and a loving family. He expressed gratitude for a caring mother-in-law and for his parents who had worked so hard to give him a solid education. He was especially thankful for his wife who provided him with the strength he needed and proved more courageous than he ever expected. In the face of adversity, Lou Gehrig chose to be grateful, rather than bitter and remorseful.

I think of this heroic man as we prepare to celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday here in the Archdiocese. There is much that is happening around us that could easily get us down, tempting us to lose faith in ourselves or hope in our future. But that is not who we are as Catholics. We are rather a Eucharistic people and, therefore, a people of gratitude.

Someone wrote to me recently, saying that there are so many good things happening in this Archdiocese, from our successful strategic planning process, to our vibrant Catholic schools and universities; from energetic St. Paul’s Outreach and NET Ministries, to the dedicated outreach of Catholic Charities; from our two nationally recognized seminaries to our evangelical Rediscover: initiative; from our faith-filled priests, deacons and religious, to our generous Catholic faithful. Yes, indeed, there is so much for which to be thankful here in this local Church.

In the weekday preface IV of Ordinary Time, we pray, “Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks. You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank You is itself Your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to Your greatness, but makes us grow in Your grace, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”

My friends, let gratitude be the gift that fills your heart as you sit down to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. Together with the memory of Lou “The Iron Horse” Gehrig, let us count ourselves as being the luckiest people on the face of the earth.

God bless you! Happy Thanksgiving!


Somos un pueblo de Eucaristía y por lo tanto, un pueblo de gratitud

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Category: Only Jesus

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