By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY | Published November 21, 2013
Atlanta has now become my home in ways that I probably could never have envisioned only nine years ago. I have since grown familiar with our local traffic patterns (although not always happily adjusted). I really do love our gentle climate, and I can now shiver with the rest of you at temperatures that I once would have considered temperate by my earlier Chicago weather standards. It typically does not take me long to acclimate to another location, another environment, or to another community.
We are all pretty adaptable and easily grow accustomed to new things—and we all soon take them as given. Each one of us learns to take many things in life for granted.
Most of us also take our Catholic faith as a routine and sometimes insignificant dimension of our lives. We either were born into a Catholic home or chose to enter the Church later in life. We belong to a parish or to a spiritual group, and we feel comfortable and at home within those communities. Our Catholic faith often becomes a monotonous feature of our lives.
The heart of this Year of Faith, which we are now concluding, was an invitation to reconsider our faith as a special gift from God—certainly nothing ordinary or mundane. Our Catholic faith is a special treasure for each one of us, but like many things in life, we gradually presume that it will always be there and that it does not command any extraordinary attention.
Here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, this year we have also focused on the person of Mary—the Mother of the Church—who like mothers everywhere is key to our faith. She is the one who follows her children and urges us all to do what her Son asks us to do. This gracious Woman of Faith has identified with her children in every nation and culture. A mother’s love must never be taken for granted—but too frequently, it may be.
It is this rather typical presumption that tempts us to take our faith for granted along with many other gifts that fill our lives. This year we were encouraged to reflect upon and to renew the gift of our faith in our lives. This very time of year is uniquely given over to such reflections as we approach the secular holiday of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. While the holiday itself is not a part of our Catholic liturgical calendar, the attitude of thanksgiving is deeply religious. Each one of us has his or her own list of reasons to be thankful for the gifts in our lives—family, faith, good health, friends—the list is all but endless. Yet we must also set aside a time to reflect on those people and things that bring us joy and happiness.
Thanksgiving becomes a national moment to allow the heart to ponder in gratitude about the many gifts that we have received from the bountiful hand of God.
How grateful I am to be a citizen of Atlanta, the Shepherd of terrific people, the Church’s Priest, and of course, a Catholic. Gratitude still lingers in my heart even when those gifts may bring with them traffic gridlock, the heavy burdens of ecclesial administration, the many pastoral demands of service, and living our faith within an increasingly hostile secular environment. I am so grateful for the gifts that God has given me that even the challenges that they bring are easy to bear. I pray that your own reasons for thanksgiving are as life-giving and fulfilling for each one of you this Thanksgiving Day.