November 21, 2019
by CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN
It’s the first question we ask each other these days of November:“Where will you be for Thanksgiving?”
And for most of us fortunate ones, the reply is “With my family at home.”
That’s where I’ll be, please God. I’ll be with mom, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews. I even bring the pumpkin pies (which I’ve already ordered at the bakery in Washington, Missouri. You didn’t think I was baking them, did you?), and the wine.
The other day I was visiting with a young man, probably mid-twenties, whom I had met through our excellent Catholic Young Adult Outreach. He had arrived here in New York a couple months ago, and shared with me that he thought “…getting away from home and the family would be great for me. It’s time I was on my own.” Home and family, he implied, were fine for the past, but what he now needed was some freedom away from all that.
Not now! When I asked him the question, “Where will you be for Thanksgiving?”he replied with a smile, “Home, of course!”
We can never really get away from home and family. Oh, we may move and cut a fresh path, but hearth and kin are still magnetic. Even those who have tension with family—and almost all of us do sooner or later—cannot sever the mystical bond.
Funny: when I get to go home, I’m excited, as I am now. While home, I cherish the time. But then I begin to admit, well, it’s time to get back to New York, and I’m happy coming back here. Once here, though, I’m already eager for the next time back to the “nest.”
Two lessons: one, all our homes here on earth are temporary. Ask the grown children of a fragile parent who have to sell the family home to accommodate their mom or dad in a new place with care and vigilance. Ask a brother priest who just lost his mom. “It dawns on me I have no home now.”
As St. Paul wrote, “We have here no lasting home…We have our true citizenship in heaven.
Lesson Two: The Church is our spiritual home, our supernatural family. Like my young adult friend mentioned earlier, we may feel a desire to move away from it, or be “liberated,” or to leave it. But the tug is there, the gap is there, and we miss it.
Home, they claim, is where, when we come back after a long time and knock on the door, they have to open up and welcome us back.
That’s the Church! You’re always welcome home. The convictions, prayers, worship with which you were raised, are still here; the people with whom you grew up with—Jesus, Mary, the saints, the neighbors and friends—are still around.
The Thanksgiving table in the Church always has a place set for you. In your supernatural family, the Church, the conversation is even better—God’s word and our prayers —and the food is, literally, heavenly!
This is the season—Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year—we all admit we’d rather be back home…with our family, and within the Church.
A blessed Thanksgiving!