by Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Thanking God for My Mom

The national feast of Thanksgiving brings me warm memories…family; prayer, Mass, and food drives for the poor at the parish; grandparents, aunts and uncles now passed onto eternity; two free days from school; the arrival of Advent with Christmas not far off…and, of course, a great meal!

I trust you have similar cozy recollections, too.

A big portion of these memories revolves around my mom, without whom this grand holiday would not in the past have been so memorable. To this day, her dressing and pumpkin pies remain the best I’ve ever had. Like you, again I trust, I thank God for my mom.

I also praise God that I still have her with me. In fact, please God, she’ll turn ninety on the feast of St. Nicholas, December 6th. Again, Deo Gratias, she’s in rather good health, although now in an assisted care facility.

Mom is happy there—although she’d rather still be at home, no surprise—except for one thing. Let me talk about that one thing she worries about, because I think it can enhance our celebration of Thanksgiving.

Her worry? That she’s become a burden to us! She has spent her life caring for us, and now it weighs on her that we have to care for her. It bothers her that we, her kids, are anxious about her, have to drive her around, must check on her, and have to pitch in to meet the monthly expenses that her limited and restricted income cannot cover.

Yes, she listens as we assure her she need not worry, that we love her and want to care for her as tenderly as she looked after us.  She hears us and thanks us…but she still is bothered.

In a way, this is a tribute to her sense of responsibility, and her allergy to any sense of entitlement.  Mom grew up and lived out her vocation as a mom and wife in a time when one welcomed his/her duties, did his/her best in meeting those responsibilities, appreciated whatever help and encouragement she got from family, friends, and neighbors…but never felt a sense of entitlement. Authors like David Brooks and Tom Brokaw call them “the greatest generation,” because they had a natural sense of sacrifice and commitment.

Things seem different today. A lot of folks no longer embrace a culture of duty but one of entitlement: an attitude that we have things owed us, privileges coming to us, rights that trump responsibilities, that we can sit back, be passive, and let others take care of us.

My mom wouldn’t know what I mean by the phrase “culture of entitlement,” but she sure doesn’t buy into it!

When we assure her that she need not worry, she sighs and replies, “I’ll try…I guess all I can do is be grateful.”

Brava, mom!  All any of us can do, mom, is be grateful.

Thankful to God, without whom we could not take our next breath; grateful to a culture of responsibility and generous, dutiful folks who take responsibilities seriously;

Thankful for family, friends, and neighbors who help us live dutifully and assist when we are weak;

Grateful for a country that encourages a climate of virtue and responsibility.

Thankful for a sense of sacrificing for others when they are on the receiving end of care, after a life of giving, like mom.

Mom, you’re a big part of my past Thanksgivings; you’re sure a sacred part of this 2018 celebration. There are a lot of folks out there like you, mom, living daily believing that “it is in giving ourselves to others that we receive,” who are “godly” in trying to care for others with no sense of selfish return, asking not “what’s in it for me?” but “what can I do for you?”

Pope St. John Paul II dubbed this “the law of the gift:” we are at our best, we are acting how God intended, when we give ourselves away in selfless love to another.

A blessed Thanksgiving, Mom…and everybody!