For the past seven years of my life, I've been absorbed with an immense project, entitled the Newman Hymnal of the University of Notre Dame.
It features more than eight hundred carefully selected hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs, an anthology created for the faith journey of our ND students.
One of the greatest tasks associated with this project was the assembling hundreds of sidebars – excerpts from the catechism; poems, historical and liturgical goodies; Scripture passages. Each piece of music had a companion sidebar, a commentary or perspective on the song with which it was paired. It was a staggering task. But now it is completed, and I am happy to report that one can frequently walk through the Basilica of the Sacred Heart or one of the residence hall chapels, and simply observe people reading the hymnal. It was one of my great hopes with this collection.
There's a hymn that I'm particularly fond of in the hymnal, Number 622: "God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending." We paired this text with the beautiful pentatonic melody, Beach Spring. A sample of the lyrics:
Treasure, too, you have entrusted,
Gain through pow'rs your grace conferred.
Ours to use for home and kindred,
And to spread the gospel word.
Eloquent words... and a straightforward celebration of stewardship.
So it was imperative to match up these sentiments with words that were also filled with gratitude, simplicity, and a sense of stewardship.
So I went back to the wisdom of St. Paul, who, in equally eloquent form, provided the sterling commentary:
What do you have, that you did not receive?
What do any of us have, except what was given us?
Thanksgiving – it's more than a day, more than a feast, even more than an attitude. It's a decision, a decision to recognize that the way I live, and move, and have my being, all came from other places besides myself.
And that is a humbling thing.
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