Thankful For Where We Are | Friar Reflections | The First Sunday of Advent

Dear Parishioners,

As I sit here in my office reflecting on the end of our liturgical year, the beginning of Advent, and our Thanksgiving celebration, I can’t help but think of gratefulness for where we are today, despite the challenges we have all collectively faced over recent months, and arguably, these last few years. That thought of gratefulness really jumps out when considering our experiences with two hurricanes affecting our area in the last two months, and even more so when you consider the difficulties we all endured during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s hard to believe that more than two years ago, life as we were accustomed to came to a screeching halt. All the things we ordinarily may say we take for granted, like our freedom to move, to travel, to dine-out, visit family or even to visit loved ones in healthcare facilities, it all stopped. I worry about forgetting what happened, the many souls that were lost to COVID, our health care system on the brink of collapse, the shortage of basic household goods, and so much more. I work to remember the isolation that many of us felt, day after day hoping and praying for a cure, or some remedy to aid our struggle. Eventually, we’ve seen some relief and continue to recover. I feel these hardships have had a sincere impact on us all, opening us up to be grateful for life’s simplest and most important necessities.

Our region counted its blessings after being spared the worst of Hurricane Ian, when its path took the storm away from a direct impact on Tampa Bay. Hearing and seeing the devastation of those affected to our south brought an immediate reality to what could have happened to us. I am grateful, not for us all being spared, but for the opportunity our region has had coming together to aid our neighbors. I am excited for our next opportunity to exemplify that gratefulness and togetherness, at next month’s Giving from the Heart drive, where we will support parishes in the Diocese of Venice that are actively aiding in the recovery efforts.

With our country divided on so many fronts, nations in strife and turmoil, and with greater numbers of Americans and people across the globe falling into poverty and despair, we must remember our connections, and remember to be grateful. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon all of God’s blessings in our lives. If we get caught up looking at the all the strife, turmoil, division, and despair, we will slowly lose hope. I am in constant admiration of the people of God who continually give of themselves while surrounded by trying or difficult circumstances.

Whether monetarily, or through their time and talents, aiding those hit by natural disasters, like the hurricanes we recently experienced, assisting in shelters and feeding the homeless. This gives me hope that no matter what any of us are experiencing in life, somehow, we find ways to pull ourselves back together. It is my hope and prayer that as Christians we do not lose our focus on Christ, but that we continue to give thanks from where He’s brought us. That’s reason enough to be thankful.

May we always be grateful to God for all our blessings, great and small. When we start grumbling and complaining about our circumstances, let’s remember to be thankful for those around us: our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.

Peace and All Good,
Friar Henry