On Monday, November 23, the Regis community convened virtually to celebrate the annual Thanksgiving Liturgy.
The Mass was live streamed from the Chapel of the Sacred Heart for students, faculty, staff, and others in the community to watch remotely. Regis President Fr. Daniel K. Lahart, SJ, presided as celebrant, and was joined on the altar by Fr. Anthony D. Andreassi, CO, and Fr. Arthur C. Bender, SJ '67. Fr. AJ Rizzo, SJ, participated in the Mass virtually, reading from the Gospel according to Luke and delivering the Homily.
Sergio Santander ’23, Matthew Potter ’22, and Keith Macias ’21 served as readers for the Mass from their homes, and Mark Cubi ’21 offered petitions. Special attention and prayers were given to all those who have lost their lives during this particularly challenging year, intentions for whom were collected and laid at the foot of the altar to honor this month.
Read Fr. Rizzo’s full homily and watch a full recording of the Thanksgiving Liturgy below:
Today, I think it’s fair to say that we enter into the part of our calendar year that we call the Holiday Season. The mums have been replaced by Christmas Trees on Park Avenue; stores are already decked out for Christmas; Pumpkin Spiced Lattes are replaced by Peppermint Mochas.
But before we start advent next week and prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus into our world, we pause as a nation to give thanks. We give thanks for everything that is good and beautiful and true in our lives and in our world, and we give thanks to our God, who is love; who is the giver of all good gifts.
It has been my experience in these three years on 84th Street that gratitude is a big part of the Spirit that dwells in the halls and classrooms of Regis high school. That’s because the school’s founding – the generosity of the Foundress’ gift, and the continued generosity of so many alumni since then that makes our school possible – it inspires Gratitude. Father Lahart often talks about the connection between these two virtues – gratitude and generosity – both of which were foundational for Saint Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits.
But there’s another reason why Gratitude is an essential part of the Regis spirit, and that, students, is because we want you to live a life full of meaning, a life full of purpose… a life full of joy. Gratitude and joy – the two are related. But how? For a clue, we turn to the work of Brene Brown, an American researcher and author who teaches at the University of Houston.
Dr. Brown spent 12 years researching one question. She analyzed 11,000 pieces of data. Her question: what made people joyful? She wanted to know what made a person’s life joyful. Dr. Brown says that in those 12 years she did not interview one person who would describe themselves as joyful or describe their lives as joyous, who did not actively practice gratitude. She thought that the connection would be if you’re joyful you should be grateful – that joy leads to an attitude of gratitude.
But what she found through her research is that practicing gratitude invited joy into people’s lives. And she’s clear, it was people who PRACTICED gratitude – not just who had an attitude of gratitude, not about feeling grateful – they shared a tangible gratitude practice. These joyful people kept journals, they said what they were grateful for out loud every morning. They shared before dinner as a family.
Whatever their practice was, it was clear to her in her research that gratitude expressed through actions led to joy. Being grateful and somehow actively expressing that… it made the people she interviewed more joyful…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.
If that is true, I wonder if we can hear Jesus’ question in the gospel differently? I’ve always heard Jesus asking “where are the other nine?” as if he was angry that the nine lepers did not return in gratitude – that only one person thanked him.
But maybe it’s that Jesus is asking, don’t they know the joy they’ve been invited to, if only they take the time to be grateful for the gift that has been given to them?
So what does that have to do with us, with, the Regis family? Well, gentlemen, it could be said that one of the primary goals of your Regis education is to teach you how to live a life full of joy, and to teach you how to make decisions in such a way that you do that. And when I say joy, I am talking about a deep down feeling – a happiness that give meaning and purpose to your life and the lives of those you come in contact with. In some ways, joy is the why behind the Resurrection, the bookend to Bethlehem. We want you to be smart and loving and committed to justice, open to growth, faith-filled Catholics because we believe those are the ingredients for a life lived full of joy. And you can’t have joy without practicing gratitude.
So it is worth spending some time this week thinking about what you’re grateful for in your life, and turning that thought into some sort of practice. Write a note to someone you’re grateful for, or thank your mom or dad out loud for the Thanksgiving dinner they will prepare. Or maybe take a moment to thank your teachers, who have been working overtime to get ready for hybrid instruction which will start next week.
The gratitude that gives me joy these days is all about you, Regis – so let me just say that I am grateful to be a part of this amazing community of learning and of faith. I am grateful for you, students, and for the opportunities that my time here with you gives me to accompany you on your journey of faith. I am grateful for you, faculty and staff, my colleagues and collaborators in mission. And I am grateful to God, the giver of every good gift, for allowing me to be a part of this community.
I close with a poem/prayer by George Herbert; let this be the prayer for each of us this thanksgiving:
THOU that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more,—a grateful heart.
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,—
As if Thy blessings had spare days,—
but such a heart, whose pulse may be