Meister Eckhart, the thirteenth century German theologian and mystic, once said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” Personally, I find his sentiment rather corny. However, being able to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with my Holy Cross brothers at Moreau Seminary has helped me see more clearly that, as men with hope to bring, our life together is meant to be a deep and enduring act of thanks to the One who calls us to that hope. Hope is grounded in thanksgiving, and the holidays are a special time for us as a religious community to refresh ourselves in the spirit of our vocation.
Thanksgiving day itself was chilly, gray, and blustery – just what one would expect from northern Indiana in deep autumn, but also perfect weather for the sorts of things that one naturally wants to do with their family on Thanksgiving. After morning Mass, there was a modest brunch and an early-afternoon football game on campus (resulting in only one trip to the hospital!).
Later in the day, we gathered in the Upper Rec (the equivalent of our family living room) for a light social, intended to prepare us for what is obviously the most important part of any Thanksgiving celebration, namely, dinner.
Dinner at the seminary was like that scene from the movie Hook where Peter Pan and the Lost Boys conjure a feast of playdoughesque foods out of their imaginations, except there was nothing imaginary or playdoughesque about what we were served. The spread was superb. The company was jovial, and the spirit of the house was full of joy and contentment.
We spent the rest of the night socializing back in the Upper Rec and watching The King’s Speech. All in all, it was an energizing and refreshing day (except for the guy who tore his ACL playing football).
People sometimes ask, “Is it hard to be away from your family for the holidays?” There is, of course, a part of me that misses the chance to spend that time with my parents, my brother, and old friends. Part of being a religious, however, is learning how to be a family man in new and dynamic ways, much like (I expect) learning how to be a husband or learning how to raise a child. It is a way of loving and giving oneself away to others.
To spend Thanksgiving with the community that I love, then, is exactly how I want to be spending this time of the year. This is one of the ways we learn how to become the heralds of the Kingdom and the harbingers of hope that the Gospel and our Constitutions call us to be.
Mr. Chase Pepper, C.S.C., is in his first year of temporary vows and is studying theology as a seminarian at Moreau Seminary on the campus of Notre Dame. He and other seminarians at Moreau write a post each month for the Spes Unica Blog, sharing on their life and formation at Moreau. Meet our other men in formation, and learn more about seminary life in Holy Cross, and specifically about the Postulant Program at Moreau Seminary, which constitutes the first year of religious and priestly formation in Holy Cross for college graduates and Old College seniors.