Today, millions of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. In Canada we celebrated Thanksgiving last month. The idea of Thanksgiving is to be thankful for what you have. The idea is to be thankful to the Creator. Obviously many things come to mind.
So what does comes to mind? I’m thankful for my family, my health, my home and the fact that I live in one of the most economically and politically stable countries on the planet. There are about 30 million people in Canada and about the same amount of people in North Korea. I had an equal opportunity of being born there, not to mention other countries like China, India and many other places that are less desirable than Canada.
One thing that I’m thankful for is access to information. We live in an age where information can easily be accessed. I can go onto Amazon and order any Bible Translation or book about religion that I want. Even if you lived 100 years ago, it probably wouldn’t be hard to get a copy of the Douay-Rheims Bible, and some classic works of the Church Fathers such as the Confessions of St. Augustine. It probably wouldn’t be too hard to get a copy of the Catechism of St. Pius V.
Despite having access to these books, I don’t think that too much more could be accessed. Even in an area with lots of Catholics, which would have a Catholic bookstore, there probably would only be recent bestsellers. If there was an area that didn’t have a Catholic bookstore, the only things available would be some books at the local Church. The only place where one would get access to extensive Catholic writings would be at a Catholic University or a Seminary.
We’ve looked at 100 years, but how about 1000 years? In the 11th century where would the average Catholic get their info on the faith. This is before the printing press so getting access to the Scriptures was very expensive. Also, outside of the clergy, not many people could read. Latin was the gold standard in terms of available Biblical codices though some approved vernacular translations did exist at the time. Most people outside of the clergy couldn’t read in any language.
At this time in history, the laity would learn about the Scriptures and the faith from the readings during the liturgy and if possible, learn the doctrines of the Church from the local Cathedral or Monastery. If one chose to enter religious life, he or she could study Latin and get access to the Scriptures and other religious writings found in a Monastery but what about the laity? There was very little, if any information available to the average layperson for personal study.
In 2017 we can be thankful for the fact that we can learn about our Christian faith through personal study in addition to the liturgy and catechism class. We can read the writings of the Saints, Popes, and Councils by going online and ordering books. We can also be thankful that we live in a time and place of literacy. Many Catholics in third world countries are still illiterate, let alone Catholics from hundreds of years ago.
We have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful for my Savior, my Church community, the Sacred Scriptures and the wisdom of the Saints collected over 2000 years that are available to me in this day and age.
I wish all my American neighbors south of the border a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.