Anticipating the upcoming holiday with some feelings of stress? We’ve all been there… and there are dozens of reasons why. For those who host Thanksgiving (and sometimes, even those who attend!) the “many things we are burdened with” can make us feel anxious. So how do we “choose the better part” this Thanksgiving? The sisters of Bethany could teach us a thing or two. And even though St. Mary is famous for choosing the better part by listening to Jesus, and spending prayerful time with Him, Martha is a saint, too; she was privileged to welcome and serve our Lord! The sisters represent the proper balance we need to strike between work and prayer. They themselves came to master it through the help of Our Lord. Through their intercession, I give you 5 Ways to make your holiday more balanced and holy!
1) Start the Day Strong: When things are at their busiest, we sometimes forget to pray. Ironically, prayer is the very thing we need to enable us to get everything done! But there’s a simple step we can take to actually make the day run more smoothly, and fit in more than we ever could have imagined! Before anything else, let’s start the day by thanking God for protecting and preserving us during our night’s sleep, and praying the morning offering. Here is the one I pray.
By taking time to pray this prayer, we are able to offer up our every thought, word and action of our day… and that will be a game-changer for us. Even on the busiest days, no matter what joys or challenges may come our way, we’ve already offered them up and that will make us handle them better. The precious “thank you” to God combined with the time set apart just for God that the Morning Offering provides would make Saint Mary of Bethany very proud. When we choose the better part, we may have the temptation to worry about what may be “taken” from us. But let us not be anxious: nothing will be taken from us when we choose the better part; God will see to it that things fall into place.
2) Remember God– even among the pots and pans: St. Teresa of Avila told the nuns of her convent, “Know that even when you are in the kitchen, Our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.” What a thing to remember! Maybe preparing that big Thanksgiving meal (or even just the side dish you’ve promised to bring)is exhausting, and time-consuming. But the process can be an action-filled prayer if we are aware that God is present. To help me remember this (because it’s easier said than done) I taped a little reminder inside the kitchen cabinet that I open most often. It reads: “Offer up your daily chores. Pray: ‘I offer up my daily chores for the glory of God.’” So between reaching for the breadcrumbs and the pepper… in the flash of a moment we can offer up the chores for God’s glory. Seems a lot less thankless and mundane, doesn’t it? Finally, if there’s a task we especially don’t enjoy, like cleaning a sink or mopping a floor… why not offer it up as a penance for our sins or for the conversion of sinners? I can just picture St. Martha of Bethany learning how, when she brought this spirit to her work, she no longer felt upset her sister wasn’t helping. She could choose the better part… even in the kitchen, as she prayed while making a wonderful meal… for Jesus.
3) Offer a Holy Text… on your cell phone! As the big day approaches, if you’re hosting it at your house, why not send a text to everyone who is going to attend and say something like: “Can’t wait to see you on Thanksgiving! Looking forward to welcoming and spending time with YOU!” That will set the tone for everyone who’s on the guest list to feel more welcomed, more at peace, more relaxed and excited for the big day. If you’re going to be a guest ay someone’s home… text the host and tell them how much you’re looking forward to seeing them on Thanksgiving. Offer to help, and ask them if there’s anything they’d like you to bring. That simple text can help lighten their stress and make them feel so loved and thought about. After all, the sisters of Bethany attentively welcomed Jesus and He is the most gracious guest imaginable. Let’s bring that spirit to our holiday, whether we’re hosting or visiting.
4) Plan a break: Make a plan that on Thanksgiving, you will set aside even 15-20 minutes to be completely, fully present to the moment…and grateful. If you’re the cook and host, plan for at least 15 minutes to leave the kitchen and just visit and participate with your guests. If you’re the guest, be sure you give at least 15 minutes helping the host or really listening to someone else talk… bonus points if it’s someone who no one else is talking to! Be a good listener. See who might need someone to sit with. My grandmother had six kids and twelve grandkids and she was accustomed to hosting big gatherings and making all feel attended to and welcomed. But on her last Thanksgiving, at 101 years old, she still found a way to welcome, and it wasn’t even in her own home. She noticed how busy I was, looking after my small children. Out of the blue when the appetizers came out, she said to me, “Annabelle, get a plate for us, and we’ll share it and sit together and talk.” I did just that, and the blur of activity seemed to fade away as we just laughed and chatted. The kids were just fine, and my grandmother and I had such a great time. Little did either of us know, she would pass away in a matter of weeks. I’ll never forget that Thanksgiving.
5) Invite Our Lord to your Thanksgiving: How can we do this in truth? Let’s up our game for the way we pray grace this year! Let’s pray with gratitude for those who are gathered around the table; and pray by name for those by name who aren’t there; and the souls of the faithful departed. Let’s really welcome Him in officially. How to do this? Perhaps have a Sacred Heart candle or picture in the middle of the table, or an icon or holy card of Our Lord framed and set amid the candles and decorations. Finally, to prepare our hearts to welcome Him into our Thanksgiving preparations more fully, let’s learn from the examples of Sts. Martha and Mary by invoking their assistance in prayer.
Sign up here for a nine-day novena to Saints Martha and Mary, to be delivered to your inbox: It will only take 9-12 minutes a day so in its brevity it will still allow you to get all the items of your to-do list done… but will also allow that they’ll be done in the most beautiful spirit of prayer and joy.
Saints Martha and Mary of Bethany, pray for us!