For some reason, I carry distinct memories of Thanksgiving Day from my childhood here: the cool autumn air heavy with clouds; the rain-soaked field where we would gather for a wild football game we dubbed the Mud Bowl; the warmth of home on return, sopping wet, to dry off, change clothes and await the coming feast; the scent of roasting turkey mingled with apple, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice – the crisp scent of cranberry sauce, the distinctive sweetness of candied yams and pumpkin pie, and my perennial favorite, the stuffing. We never concerned ourselves with the insanely unhealthy level of carbs we consumed or the drowsy aftermath of so much tryptophan. We just enjoyed.

I hear the happy chatter of family gathered around the table, the excitement of seeing loved ones after long absences, the elder brother back from college, the cousins, aunts and uncles only seen on these occasions, the silly banter of younger siblings and the inevitable admonition of adults for us to stop playing with our food.

I see Mom deftly maneuvering from kitchen to table and back again, brushing aside our urging her to “sit down and eat” with a cheerful “In a minute,” which actually meant, “I’ll eat after everyone else is finished.” Mostly, I remember the contagious laughter, echoing in my mind and heart as an expression of being family.

I share this because I tie Thanksgiving to the deep, almost inexpressible joy of belonging. Sharing a common meal, spending time together and expressing gratitude to God for the gift of each other is not only a human experience but a spiritual one as well, most fully realized in the Eucharist. Gathering in God’s house and sharing a divine meal prepared by the Lord Himself, conflict and division cease as we begin to see ourselves for who we truly are: one family united in Christ, joined to the Father by the power of his Holy Spirit. May the sweet fragrance of eternal thanks fill your hearts and homes this year and always.