|Giving Thanks Even When We Don't Feel Thankful.
In the United States:
The Memorial of Saint Andrew Dũng-Lạc, Priest, & His Companions, Martyrs; or, the Memorial of Thanksgiving Day.*
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Revelation 18: 1-2, 21-23; 19: 1-3, 9.
• Psalm 100: 1-5.
• Luke 21: 20-28.
When a Mass for the memorial of the Vietnamese Martyrs is taken, lessons from the feria as above, or any lessons from the common of Martyrs for Several Martyrs.
When a Mass for the memorial of the civic observance is taken, lessons from the feria as above, or any lessons from the Mass for Various Occasions for Giving Thanks.
Outside the United States:
The Memorial of Saint Andrew Dũng-Lạc, Priest, & His Companions, Martyrs.
Everything as above, excluding the option of the civic observance.
The Third Class Feast of Saint John of the Cross; and, the Commemoration of Saint Chrysogonus, Martyr.**
Lessons from the common "In médio…" of a Doctor of the Church, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Timothy 4: 1-8.
• Psalm 36: 30-31.
• Matthew 5: 13-19.
If a Mass for the commemoration is taken, lessons from the common "In vitúte…" of a Martyr not a Bishop:
• Wisdom 10: 10-14.
• Psalm 111: 1-2.
• Matthew 10: 34-42.
The Second Thursday of Philip's Fast; a Postfestive Day of the Entrance; the Feast of the Holy Great Martyr Catherine; and, the Feast of the Holy Great Martyr Mercury.***
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fourth from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Titus 1: 5—2: 1.
• Ephesians 6: 10-17.
• Luke 18: 31-34.
• Luke 21: 12-19.
8:22 AM 11/24/2016 — Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I have a lot of Facebook friends in Vietnam and a personal history with a lot of people from that country who now live here, so it shouldn't surprise you that the memorial for Father Andrew and the other Vietnamese martyrs has a significance for me; but, I’m an American first, and I mostly want to talk about the civil observance which is really the closest thing we have to a national religious holiday. But we should first give Father Andrew and his companions their due:
Father Andrew is a very great saint, even though he is only one of several Vietnamese martyrs honored on this day. He was born Trần An Dũng in 1795, taking the name Andrew at his baptism, and was ordained a priest on March 15th, 1823. During the persecution against Christians in his country, he changed his name to Lạc to avoid capture, and thus he is memorialized as Andrew Dũng-Lạc (or Anrê Dũng Lạc in Vietnamese). He was beheaded in Hanoi on December 21st, 1839, during the reign of Emperor Minh Mạng. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on May 27th, 1899, and canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II on June 19th, 1988. He shares this day with the one hundred seventeen other Vietnamese martyrs who died for their faith over the course of just a few years, eight of whom were bishops, fifty of whom were priests, and the rest devout lay people. So, I would recommend to you that, when you’re feeling persecuted in all the various ways that weigh upon us from time to time, these saints could be very powerful intercessors, Father Andrew in particular. I highly recommend looking up his story and reading it for yourself.
Turning now to the civil holiday: we typically associate Thanksgiving Day with stories about the pilgrims and some mythical meal they had with the Indians who welcomed them to the new world before we decided to heard them into reservations where they could open casinos and sell tax free cigarettes; but, in reality the first annual Thanksgiving Day was celebrated during the Civil War. President Washington had mandated a day of national prayer of Thanksgiving on this day, but it was President Lincoln who signed the proclamation making it an annual observance during a time that was very bleak indeed. The war was not going well for the United States: Grant’s army had stalled to a stalemate outside of Petersburg, Sherman’s siege of Vicksburg hadn’t been successful, the Confederacy was embargoing all their cotton in an effort to pressure France and England to enter the war on their side; even the Republican Party had convinced itself that Lincoln couldn't be re-elected and that they needed to choose another candidate; and, there was a real sense around the country that the unthinkable would happen and that the Union was actually going to lose the war. And it was during this period that Lincoln signed a proclamation that the last Thursday of November be observed as a National Day of Thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving for what? The country was a little over 80 years old,—there were a few people still around who were living when the Declaration of Independence was signed—and it was already falling apart. The world’s great experiment in democracy was a failure as far as anyone could see; and, all the people who had said in 1790 that it would fail because you can’t hold a country together without some kind of king, were about to be proven right.
What Lincoln understood, I think, is something that we often miss in life: that it isn’t what we have or succeed at that defines us, but how well we keep faith in spite of our troubles that shows the measure of our character. We are, after all, talking about a deeply religious time in our country’s history. Religion was a part of everything, including government; our constitutional right to worship as we please had not yet been twisted into the expulsion of God from the public square. Unfortunately, that’s not true anymore, and may be the reason we seem so obsessed with what’s wrong with everything instead of what’s right. And as true as this may be in society in general, it’s even more true in our own private lives. There’s always something to get depressed about if what you want is to be depressed. It sounds silly to suggest, but don’t we all know people who seem to like being depressed? We all know people who are constantly reminding themselves—and everyone else around them—of everything in life that causes them pain. What is really at issue here is what the saints often refer to as Spiritual Maturity.
A spiritually immature person is someone who acts like a child before God; not in the sense that our Lord talks about when he says to be childlike, but childish, if you can grasp the difference. A child is always focused on what he wants, and always screaming for what he doesn’t have that he thinks everyone else has, and always thinking that no one’s ever been deprived as he has been. And he hasn’t lived long enough to reflect on how life has treated him in the long run. We can understand and forgive it in children because children are supposed to be immature;—that’s what makes them children—but in an adult it is disproportionate. One psychologist, speaking in purely secular terms, said once that the primary function of maturity was the ability to take whatever life dishes out and keep on functioning. For us, who are—or at least trying to be—a religious people, we can translate that into spiritual terms by saying that the spiritually mature person is one who can receive the crosses given to him in life, not necessarily without hardship, not without difficulty or suffering, not even without complaining sometimes, but without any effect on the strength of his faith.
It is said that the first sign of maturity in a child is when he first realizes that mom and dad do know better, not because he’s suddenly developed the wisdom of an adult, but because he understands that they are more experienced than he, and therefore understand things that he can’t yet. And that same thing is true in our relationship with God: we can say we are spiritually mature when we can realize that God’s ways are not our ways, and that it isn’t necessary to understand why this or that has happened, except to understand that God has a handle on it even if we don’t. It takes a lot of humility to reach that point in life, but humility is also a function of maturity.
At the end of the Civil War, reflecting upon everything that had happened to the country during the previous four years, Lincoln said that God had had his own purposes in spite of the various issues that sparked and fueled the war as far as we were concerned, and that we may never truly understand in this life all that was happening; but, that alone was cause enough to give thanks, that even when you can’t see the hand of God clearly, just to know by faith that it’s there is enough.
I hope this Thanksgiving will be one of true thanksgiving to God for all of us; and, that if you’re not yet ready to give thanks for this or that, you can at least give thanks for Him, for Christ who died for us, for the Church that nurtures us, for the faith that sustains us.
* In the United States, a memorial falling on the fourth Thursday of November becomes optional along with the memorial of the civic observance; elsewhere, the Mass for the memorial of the Vietnamese Martyrs must be observed. In any case, the Mass for the ferial day may not be taken.
** Along with St. Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross reformed the Order of Mount Carmel. A poet, he wrote invaluable treatises on mystical theology, and died in 1591.
A Roman, Chrysogonus was beheaded at Aquilea under Diocletian in 303.
*** Philip's Fast, the season of penitential preparation for Christmas, so named because it begins on the day after the Feast of the Apostle Philip on the Byzantine Calendar, corresponds to the Roman Rite season of Advent, though it's origins are much later, dating no earlier than the thirteenth century. Lasting for six weeks rather than the four of Advent, what is required during this period varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The traditional observance would be a strict abstinence from both meat and dairy products on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with wine and oil allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays; then, beginning on December 10th in some Churches and on December 20th in others, the strict abstinence becomes daily except on Saturdays and Sundays on which there is traditionally never a fast. The Particular Law of the Ruthenian Metropolia in the United States (Canon 880, § 2) recognizes Phillip's Fast as a penitential season, states the traditional observance, then requires that it be observed voluntarily according to one's individual ability … not unlike the observance in the Latin Church, in which nothing is specifically required.
Catherine of Alexandria was a virgin of rare and striking beauty, a member of a noble family. Her qualities had attracted the influential men of the city, the philosophers and even Emperor Maximianus. She was maryred in 305.
Mercury was martyred in Caesarea of Cappadocia under Emperor Decius c. 249-251.