figure sillhoutte evening sky

Image by Brenda Grannan

This year, I’ll be spending Thanksgiving up in Detroit, where from 1994-2008, I was blessed to live and pastor at inner-city parish St. Aloysius. Thanksgiving morning began with Mass to celebrate God’s goodness. Most people of our parish at that time were either homeless or the elderly poor. They came in with the attitude often expressed as, “I’m blessed today because God got me up this morning. Some people didn’t make it through the night.”

Whether they were living on the street, or in a small, single room apartment, many of their families had abandoned them for too many reasons to tell. They became my teachers, and always relativized my ambitious schedule to make room for what was really important: God, family (including my parish family) and friends. When we met together at Mass or for the annual Christmas dinner, we realized how rich we were, how blessed. I still remember the one elder who had saved up all month in order to buy her pastor (me!) a Christmas card.

We returned that parish and friary to the care of the Archdiocese as the neighborhood was shifting to become upwardly mobile. Many of those who previously lived there have been moved or died. This year, I will be with the friars of our province’s three friaries who will gather at Transfiguration Friary. If all of them attend, that will be 15 friars, including myself! It should be a grand time of seeing each other again, glad for the bonds of brotherhood that hold us, great food and stories, and for God who gives us breath, this life, this day.

Sometimes it takes a feast like Thanksgiving to help us get realigned with our deeper values. It can shake us out of the complacency of our normal routine, how we think things should go, to realize our fragility, to notice the needs of others and that “God woke me up this morning!” For this opportunity, this undeserved gift of life, O God, for so many breaks that have gone our way, and even for the ones that didn’t, we give you thanks. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We stand in amazement at your beauty, your patience, your trust in us.

(Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, is the Provincial Minister for the Province of St. John the Baptist.)

church interior

St. Aloysius interior, Detroit