Happy Thanksgiving! It is by tradition a time to give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives, especially the gifts of harvest that sustain our lives. We know this God-oriented purpose of the holiday may be slipping away from public awareness in our secularized culture. We city dwellers probably focus our gratitude more on our family than on the harvest. Let us pray that our gatherings next week may be blessed with growth in love and harmony and healing. Harmony in the extended family can be an increasing challenge in our polarized culture. As disciples of Jesus, let us pray that we may cultivate the gift of Christ’s peace in our own hearts, even in the midst of all the conflicts in the world, and the gift of sharing that peace with others around us.
Endings and Beginnings
Thanksgiving also signals the end of the autumn season and opens the door to the Christmas holidays and all that they bring. Thanksgiving makes us aware that we are nearing the end of the liturgical year and our weekly reading of Matthew’s Gospel. On December 3, Advent begins a new church year and we turn to the Gospel of Mark’s portrait of Jesus. In the next issue I will outline the novel approach we will take in our Advent spirituality programming this year – something I think you will all enjoy!
This Sunday also brings us nearer the conclusion of the search for, and discernment of, a new community service initiative for our parish. It is time to say a big Thank You to the 13 parishioners who have worked over this past year to develop the three proposals that they presented to the parish on November 2, and to the additional 7 parishioners who are on the taskforce that will meet this Sunday to assess and evaluate the proposals. As this process comes to a close over the next month or two, it will open the door to a new beginning for the parish to walk more intentionally the path of service to our neighbors. For this, as Blessed Solanus Casey often said, we “give thanks ahead of time.”
The mythology of Thanksgiving’s origins may turn our thoughts to Native Americans, and November is Native American Heritage Month, intended to draw our attention in gratitude to the gifts and contributions of Native Americans in our country. We could all learn more about their contributions to the Catholic community; we rejoice that there are five Native American canonized saints: St. Kateri Tekakwitha, whose statue graces our sanctuary, St. Cuauhtlatoatzin (Juan Diego), and the three Martyrs of Tlaxcala. Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk is under consideration for sainthood. Both Kateri and Black Elk were crucially important in the work of the Jesuit missionaries among their peoples. There are at least 11 others on the path to sainthood whom I know little about.
For our 175th Anniversary year we produced a land acknowledgement statement. It seems fitting to re-publish it at this time as a small way of acknowledging our debt to those who came before us, and an invitation to pray for the justice, healing, and reconciliation that today’s indigenous peoples demand and deserve.
The Land That Holds Our Church
Ss. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church rests on ancestral land of the Anishinaabeg Three Fires Confederacy: the Ojibwa, Odawa, and Potawatomi nations. In the early 1700s, French colonial settlers appropriated the land, and in the 1840s, the Diocese of Detroit received this property as a gift from the estate of Antoine Beaubien, a settler descendant whose family’s wealth was built in part by the labor of indigenous people they held in slavery.
Contemporary Catholic and Jesuit commitments to justice and reconciliation prompt this acknowledgment about the land as a way of showing respect, and as a small step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase indigenous people’s history and culture. It calls us to understand the history that led to our parish’s presence on this land and demands that we strengthen our parish commitment to equity and advancement for all people in our community today.