For many people, Thanksgiving will look a little different this year. A little smaller, a little less fanfare, and without some of the traditions that you may be used to. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a meaningful Thanksgiving.
Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ was recently a guest host on The Patrick Madrid Show and shared what Thanksgiving is like as a priest in a religious community, and the blessings and challenges that come with it.
“I don’t think people are always aware of what Thanksgiving means for religious communities like my own,” he said. “I’m an Oblate of St. Joseph, I made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – and what a blessing it is to really live this life. It’s hard, as every vocation and every following of Christ is, but it comes with so many blessings.”
However, Fr. Matthew shared that one of the side effects of life in a religious community is that he doesn’t always get to be with his own relatives and family for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
“I don’t want you to pity me at all,” he told listeners. “The reason I mention it is not to make you sad that I don’t get to see my family, as much as I love to spend time with family. One of the blessings of religious communities is that we ourselves are a family. With my brother Oblates we are called to also give thanks to God. We pray together a handful of times a day in our chapel. We create brotherly relationships among us and support each other through hard times. We challenge each other when we’re getting too comfortable, we pitch in together and do our ministries as a community. I share that with you because I really feel that is a huge blessing for me. It really is. And I think it’s a reminder for all of us that we can find those families where we’re at.”
If you’re not able to spend Thanksgiving with your relatives this year, you can still give thanks and reach out to others who may also be missing their families at this time. Maybe your parish needs your contribution. Maybe you have co-workers who are feeling isolated and don’t have families to return to. If you and the people around you don’t have family to spend the holidays with, find ways to create a community and connect with those around you.
“I’ve seen it happen in my religious community,” Father Matthew said. “Of course, that’s a very particular, very special form of family life. It is not so applicable to all walks of life. But in every stage of life, we’re able to try to be friends with each other. In every walk of life, we’re able to strive to support each other. What better time to do that than at the end of this liturgical year, during this upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving?”
“Enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday,” he encouraged. “Even if you can’t be with the loved ones you wish you could be with, make sure that you’re not losing those connections but that you are creating that family spirit we all need. We have been called to be part of the one, holy family of God. We take Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as our model for that, and we try to share that with all people.”
Listen to the full reflection below: