Most weekends I celebrate two masses at St. Cecilia’s at 42nd and Normandy, the parish where my mother spent her early childhood. When I stand at the altar looking out at the congregation in this beautiful Byzantine style church, I am struck with the realization that I am at the altar where my mother was baptized, received her first communion and was confirmed over 100 years ago.
Last Sunday we heard the familiar Gospel story of the desperately poor widow, who gave her last two pennies to help support the work of her temple/church. Jesus contrasts her quiet, self-sacrificing generosity with the arrogant, well-off, ostentatiously religious types who make a great public show of their piety and almsgiving, but evidence no concern for those less fortunate than they. It brought to mind the equally unheralded efforts of countless individuals upon whose work, often for a less than adequate minimum wage, we all depend to pick the beans for our coffee and butcher and package meat for our meals, stock our grocery shelves and clerk our drug stores, cut our hair and clean our buildings, coach our children and tend our sick, staff our schools and churches and homeless shelters. One of the advantages of serving as President of Verbum Dei is being able to see how much our school community depends on the unsung generosity of faculty, staff, students and their families, board members, corporate partners, donors and friends.
As Thanksgiving rolls around this year, I will make an effort to be more mindful of all those whose unnamed contributions are so essential but generally unnoticed and even taken for granted. I will thank God, whose goodness is manifested in their continued hard work, by gratefully acknowledging the “widows” who serve as a compass for our common journey home.