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Counting our blessings in the face of difficulty

Just a few days ago our nation took an entire day to pause and count its blessings. At least, that’s what I hope we did. I hope there were moments of thankfulness mixed in among the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, family and football. As we make our way from the rain and winds of autumn toward the dark and cold of winter, this time of year urges us to pause and reflect on the year of grace drawing to its close, in order to search out the many blessings that were present each day.

I know in my own life I am deeply grateful to God for the gift of my family and friends. I try to be thankful for the gift of health, but I can and should try harder in that area. As a priest and pastor, I am grateful beyond words for the mystery of the sacramental priesthood in which I share. I can say that – and mean it – even in the midst of a year tainted by scandal, sadness and disappointment in an institution that I am still growing to understand and live.

Like all pastors, I hope, I am profoundly grateful for the blessings that are made visible in the people of the parish community I have the privilege of shepherding. Although we do not live perfectly the reality of parish life, we try each day to use the many gifts given to us by God in ways that, hopefully, please God. Each day is different from the one which preceded, and those yet to come hold blessings unknown and unimagined. And, of course, I am blessed and thankful to be a part of the little enterprise you are currently reading.

As we look forward to the Year of Our Lord, 2003, it is with some uncertainty. On fronts political, economic, and ecclesiastical, there are many unanswered questions. Yet the blessings of the year that is passing into history should remind us that there will be untold blessings yet to be revealed. In the face of uncertainty, God is certainly at work. Perhaps one way to respond to the challenges of an unknown 2003 is to dedicate ourselves more deeply to a growing awareness of God’s blessings in our everyday lives.

Lansing’s Dick Thelen has many reasons to be thankful. A sailor during World War II, Dick found himself aboard the USS Indianapolis in July of 1945. The sinking of the Indianapolis by a Japanese submarine would be one of the worst naval disasters in United States history. As a survivor of tremendous tragedy, Dick has become keenly aware of the blessings that have been part of his life in the ensuing years and has dedicated himself to being a blessing for others because of his experience.

Susan Cummins and the small community of consecrated virgins who call our diocese home each seek to live out the blessings of their daily lives as women who are mystically espoused to Christ. Theirs is a beautiful but little-known state in life that seeks to offer quiet service in the name of their beloved, Christ. Their growing community is a source of blessing for all.

A place like Boysville (now known as Holy Cross Children’s Services) is a constant fount of blessings for the large number of young people and their families who benefit from Boysville’s untiring efforts to meet the needs of troubled kids. Bro. Francis Boylan, CSC, and his co-workers labor unceasingly to bring blessings out of some of the most difficult situations imaginable.

December is here. Once again we make our journey through the quiet of Advent toward the glory of Christmas. Thankfully, our journey in FAITH continues.