In his final audience last year (which was a very difficult year due to COVID) Pope Francis said: “Above all, let us not forget to thank: if we are bearers of gratitude, the world itself will become better, even if only a little bit, but that is enough to transmit a bit of hope.” He continued, “The world needs hope. And with gratitude, with this habit of saying thank you, we transmit a bit of hope. Everything is united and everything is connected, and everyone needs to do his or her part wherever we are.”
We as Christians are called to be a people of gratitude. This isn’t always easy but Saint Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians (5:18) says, “Give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This month we celebrate Thanksgiving Day where we all stop what we are doing and get together with families and friends and say Thank You to God for all that He has given us. It is a very special holiday. We as Catholics actually do this every time we gather together for the Eucharist. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. We gather as a family to thank God for the gift of His Son who feeds us the Bread of Life. Truly we give thanks to God for the food for our journey leading us into eternal life.
I believe that all of us working within the Pro-Life movement should also stop and give thanks to God for all that He has done through us. It certainly is difficult to think about giving thanks when we know that an average of 2356 babies are aborted each day. However, we can give thanks that in general there has been a steady decrease in abortions. One abortion per day is too much, but every day that has less than the day before is a step in the right direction and something to give thanks to God. We are most definitely fighting a War against the agents of death. But over the last 30 years more and more people are stepping up to fight for life. For that, we thank God.
In my own hometown of Patchogue, this year we had a significant growth in the Pro-Life movement. I saw people from my parish of St. Francis de Sales working together with several other neighboring parishes in the 40 Days for Life Campaign praying and witnessing outside the Patchogue Planned Parenthood building. I am very thankful that my good friend Bob Williams was instrumental in putting that together.
I am also thankful for a Project Rachel retreat day that I assisted with this year at the St. Joseph Prayer Center in Patchogue. I was so moved by the people who attended. We should be very thankful for all those who help people who have had abortions. Often, they make the decision to have the abortion and then feel terrible after the abortion. It is great to know that we have Catholic groups who help lead them towards healing and towards God. For that, we thank God.
We must all put on an attitude of gratitude. Those in the Pro-Life movement should be especially thankful. Perhaps you changed the mind of one or more mothers. Because of that their child will grow up and become someone who helps change the world into a better place. Who knows, you may have just saved the person who finds the cure for cancer. The important thing is that we really don’t see the fruits of our labors. But we should be thankful that God has used us to help bring about a change. The more we are filled with thankfulness, the more fruit we will bear.
We are called to thankfulness when we experience trials as well as when we experience joy. St. Therese Lisieux said, “Prayer is an aspiration of the heart. It is a simple glance directed to Heaven. It is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.” I urge you to be a people filled with gratitude as you fight against the forces of death. Always stand up for LIFE whether you experience trials or joy. Remember that our God is a God of LIFE.
Finally, to all of you who work so hard to protect LIFE, I echo the words of St. Paul to the Philippians, I give thanks to my God every time I think of you. I always pray for you, interceding for you with joy because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this: that the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. And for this I pray: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and full insight to enable you to discover what is important, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, filled with the fruits of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:3-11)