Thinking About Turkey (the Country) on Turkey Day

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My European friends and colleagues did their best to make Thanksgiving Day special for this American far from home. They served up hot chicken (to them it looks like turkey) with a nice red sauce (a well-intentioned gravy substitute), topped off in style with pumpkin cookies (yes, cookies!)

I can’t say I was disappointed. After all, this year my mind was focused on Turkey with a capital “T” — the country.

On Monday, I’ll be boarding a plane to Istanbul to do commentary on Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, beginning Tuesday, November 28 and continuing until Friday, December 1. The FOX News Channel is sending over a great team of reporters, produces, and analysts for what promises to be a historic visit with long-term consequences on many fronts.

I feel blessed to be laboring alongside experienced and serious journalists. We will work together to tell you what the facts are on the ground, and what they might mean for the future. This is a complicated story that can’t be told in sound bites or dictated by a teleprompter.

You will be able to find my daily updates here, starting on Monday!

But, I can’t let this holiday weekend pass without fulfilling my promise to post some of your responses to Wednesday’s post, in which I talked about gratitude. I invited you to tell me what you are grateful for. Here we go!

God bless, Father Jonathan

P.S. Perhaps some of you have seen the most recent carnage in Iraq. How very sad to see countrymen kill each other out of hatred and revenge. If only the Sunni and Shiite groups could step back and see that what they have in common is much greater than what divides them.

Dear Father Jonathan,

I am thankful for all the troubles my husband and I have had in our marriage, it has kept me humble and appreciative of the good times. I firmly believe that it has made me a better person, and for that I am grateful. I shudder to think of the self-absorbed person I might have been without all those trials. (As St. John of the Cross said, “God does not fit in an occupied heart.”)

I am thankful for my constantly active children, and I beg God every day to let me keep them until I die. They have kept us from being too selfish and helped us to stay young.

I am thankful for my loud and extra-loving extended family (on both sides), and I’m grateful for all those “nosey” people who care deeply about what happens to me.

Most of all, I am grateful for a loving God who answers my prayers and knows when to say “no” and when to say “yes.” I am grateful that He knows what is good for my soul and what will bring me closer to Him.

As Mother Teresa said, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much!”

God bless you. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

P.S. Just a thought…Eucharist means “Thanksgiving,” and Jesus instituted the Eucharist on a Thursday. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday. Coincidence? I think not.

Dear Father Jonathan,

I’m grateful that I have faith, and that I have God who loves me in spite of all of my flaws. I’m also grateful that I have been blessed so many times in my life with prayers answered and strength from above. That strength, whenever I have asked for it, has always gotten me through the rough times.

I am grateful that I have such a devoted husband and that together we have been blessed with five wonderful sons. I am grateful that I know that whatever comes at me in this world, that I have my God, who will love me, support me, and stay at my side through it all. — Shel

Dear Father Jonathan,

The pain and suffering in the world, and the challenges so many face to survive day-to-day, begs the question, what is there to be thankful for? No matter how much we have or lack in our lives, we can all choose to view our lives with either discontent or gratitude.

The originators of Thanksgiving suffered the loss of so much that they loved, that one would expect them to be anything but thankful! But in spite of the bitter realities of their existence in the new world, they found much to be thankful for, and they reframed their tragedies to see how their God had blessed them through their darkest hours.

Whether you credit God or not, being aware of what you have to be thankful for makes you a more humble person who finds more joy in small blessings in life. If we all spent some time on Thanksgiving being inspired by our forefathers to reflect on the good things in our lives, thanking others and God for what we have, our nation could experience a day empowered by peace and genuine goodwill that could transform many and be a step towards world peace. — Vikki

Dear Father Jonathan,

America is a crazy place. I'm thankful that I live in a country where people can be crazy if they want to. America is filled with silly people. I'm thankful I live in a country where people can be silly if they want to. Some people in America wear funny clothes and hats, and speak in funny languages. I'm thankful I live in a country where people can dress funny, wear funny hats, and talk funny languages if they want to. I am but one of three hundred million Americans! Yet, I am truly unique! I am thankful I live in a country where I can be "ME!" — Sam

Dear Father Jonathan,

I am unapologetically a Southern Baptist, and I have seen God work so many times in my life. I know some people see religion as a crutch, but it is essential to me. In fact, it is less a religion and more a relationship. I am also thankful for my husband and children, my church family, my job, and our new home. Yes, life is sometimes difficult, and yes, my prayers aren't always answered like I want, but I know that God, much like a human father, knows what we really need. Just like a parent wouldn't give his child candy for breakfast, neither does God always give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need. To accept His will and continue to seek Him is what takes true humility, and many times our human nature contains too much pride and arrogance to let us do that.

May God always bless you in your work. — Deana

Father Jonathan,

The below comments were made by one of my tribesmen, Tecumseh, my hero in this life, he added to that statement, "if you can not find anything to be thankful for the fault lies with in you," and that is my thankfulness today and every day.
Birds, Cats, clouds, storms, so many people, and so much of my Lord do I see. — Woman Watching (Shawnee)

"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life." — Tecumseh

Dear Father Jonathan,

Once again, as at last Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the generous outpouring of love and support from an entire nation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was one of those who lost his entire home and it's contents, with only a slab remaining.

I recall how grateful I was to get bottles of water and ice from National Guard troops within 24 hours, and saying thank you through tear-filled eyes, only to have the soldiers say, "No, we thank you for the opportunity to help you and your fellow citizens.”

I remember going to church and celebrating the Eucharist in a tent with a handful of parishioners still around. Then, I realized that I had lost only my "stuff." I did not lose my faith (it got stronger), and I did not lose hope for Christ was in me, beside me, in front of me, and behind me. So on Thanksgiving, and throughout every week of the year, I thank God for this miracle I call "my life."

Peace, Father Jonathan, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Father Jonathan,

There are a thousand things and people that I am grateful for in my life, far too many to name them all. However, I think what I am most grateful for are my ancestors, who sailed from England aboard a ship called the John and Mary, and arrived in this country in 1635.

They were Separatists in Catholic England — not an easy or comfortable thing to be. They came to this country and helped found it on the principle of separation of church and state so that they and their descendants would never again have to live in fear of the Catholic Church, or any other church. Because of them and their sacrifices, I was born in a country where I am free to believe in God or not, and free of fear of a government based on the belief of any church, and for that I am very grateful.

You see Father, Agnostics (those who do not turn to God), are in fact quite capable of being grateful. — Mary (Maryland)

Father Jonathan,

Thank you for the heartfelt work you do to remind us of what is truly important in life. I am a happily married Catholic father of four wonderful children. My wife and I have been married for nearly 12 years now. I've known a few people over the years who are humble and grateful.

We have a man in our church right now who is a perfect example. His name is Ernest, and he is around 85 years old. It doesn't matter what is happening in his life or whether there are thunderheads looming in the distance, Ernest will always say, "Praise God, what a beautiful day!"

He is a WWII veteran and has had many happy and sad days in his life. Even though he is growing weak, I've seen him take the arm of a blind friend and lead him out of church. I am thankful for people like Ernest. I thank God every day for the clothing on my back and the food in my stomach. Even though I can be as materialistic as the next person, I realize that true happiness lies in knowing, loving, and serving God.

My wife, children, home, car and everything I have are all on loan from God. Every moment I spend with these precious people is a gift. I am thankful for the grace God has given me to humble myself, be strong, and resist the Devil's snares. Most of all, I am thankful for a God who is merciful, patient, and willing to forgive my sins, if only I ask for forgiveness. — Todd (Missouri)

Dear Fr. Jonathan,

Thank you for providing a ray of hope to what often seems like a dreary world. When I read the news, I often get the feeling that the Book of Revelation will soon come to pass. Then I see your picture on the page and know that there will be a message of peace and love. It always brightens my day.Yours in Christ — Mike

Father Jonathan,

I enjoy your column; it is nice to find a calm voice in the raging seas of the Internet. Also, they make me think.

I am grateful for God's son, who came to save us from our sins.

I am grateful for my parents and grandparents, who set me on the right path.

I am grateful for my wife, who is the light of my life.

I am grateful for my country, which has set aside a day for us to be thankful.

I am grateful for my friends, who fill me with Christian fellowship every week.

Thanks. — Brian (San Antonio, TX)

Dear Father Jonathan,

I don't see how Thanksgiving can make a better person of me this year. My sister lost her husband to lung cancer in February; we lost our beloved 15-year-old dog in June; worst of all, I lost my Mom to breast cancer in September. There will be two big empty plates at my table this year. I have a very heavy heart.

Nevertheless, I want to wish you a wonderful holiday, and tell you that since I teach in a Catholic school, we are allowed to celebrate all the holidays. I had a wonderful feast with the children yesterday. By the way, my only child is named Jonathan. You probably know it means "gift from God." — Rosemary

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