A THANKSGIVING DAY MEDITATION
I began my novitiate year at the Benedictine monastery, Saint Vincent Archabbey, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1952. There were twelve us in the novice class. I was the oldest, 29 years old, there was another novice who was several years younger but all the others were 18 and 19 years old.
Every day, after dinner, the novices would spend an hour in recreation in the novitiate garden walking and talking with one another or sitting on benches in the garden engaged in group discussions.
Because novices did not have access to radio, television, and newspapers our conversation never focused on current events or the burning social issues of the day. Mostly we spoke about monastic life, what we were currently studying and our individual spiritual reading.
Being the oldest novice I was more alert to what was happening when our conversation tended to drift off with longer and longer moments of silence. At such times, since the purpose of our time in the garden was social interaction I would say something controversial. Sometimes the other novices would not take the bait but usually I could provoke animated discussion.
The year 1952 was only 36 years after Albert Einstein had proposed his Theory of General Relativity and the excitement in the scientific community had its repercussions in all of society. I was not yet obsessed, as I am now, with the mystery of gravity. It is not much help penetrating that mystery to be told that gravity is composed of Gravitons which are subatomic particles, hypothetical elementary particles that mediate the force of gravitation in the framework of quantum field theory. At that time I was obsessed with the reading of history; I was fascinated by the cycles of growth and decline in monasticism and other areas of church and civil life. Everything is changing, consequently some equate change with relativism.
So, the phenomenon of change was usually an underlying element in whatever topic I would throw out. My favorite tease was “Everything is relative!”
My whole life has been dominated by the realization that God is, and that my existence and everything else that is is because God is. God is the only absolute that I am aware of. But, for the sake of provoking discussion I would refrain from mentioning God. Needless to say, we had many animated discussions during the recreation period in the novices’ garden.
Memories of those discussions come flooding back into my consciousness now as I meditate on the gratitude I owe to God for being the absolute reality of my life. I am conscious of that reality no matter how distant I drifted away from him in my life, and I have drifted, he was always there giving meaning and purpose to my life even though at those times I was completely unaware of it.
I owe my present awareness of God’s role in my life to a large extent to the thought and writings of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. He has always been the greatest enemy of the virus of relativism. I thank God for the influence this great pope has had on my life.
The other person I thank God for is Saint Pope John Paul II. His Encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, is for me that most important magisterial teaching of the 20th Century, greater even than the decrees of the Second Vatican Council. In a world were we must individually make moral decisions every day, some of eternal significance, the clarity of that Encylical is so amazing that I can understand why Amoris Latitae does not contain a single reference to it; it provides clear answers to the more controversial and ambiguous passages of AL.
This whole train of thought in my meditation began with the vision of Albert Einstein ‘spinning in his grave’ on his hearing Father Spadaro, S,J,’s statement that “sometimes 2+2 = 5.”
It is not true in physics and it is not true in theology.
Everything is not relative!
I am, and my relation to God is the only reality in my life that is unchanging!!
I will give thanks to God by celebrating the Eucharist;
the very word Eucharist means Thanksgiving.