Giving thanks for the greatest gift

Photo: Janis Olson Photo: Janis Olson

Trace the path of faith through your family’s history

Amid all the blessings we give thanks for this month, the most important is sometimes taken for granted — the gift of our Catholic faith.

For cradle Catholics, it’s true that we can be so familiar with our faith — it’s so much a part of us — that we can forget to be thankful for it. Converts to Catholicism are often vibrantly aware of the new life they have chosen, recognizing the stark contrast between life before becoming Catholic and after.

Many years ago, a priest reminded me to give thanks to God for the gift of faith. That got me thinking about how I came to possess my Catholic faith. Sure, both my parents were Catholic, but in taking a deeper look at my family history, I saw a much different picture.

Though both sides of my family were fervent Christians going back generations, only one thin thread on my mother’s side was Catholic. My great-grandmother was of German-Catholic stock (from her mother’s side) and married into my great-grandfather’s Methodist family. Their children were raised Catholic, and subsequently the faith was passed down to the next generations. My father converted from his family’s Southern Baptist faith to Catholicism before he married my mother. I am so grateful for this!

My husband feels the same gratitude — through one slim line in his own family tree (from an adoptive father a few generations back), he was also gifted the faith.

One different choice or action by our ancestors and we may not have been born into Jesus’ church on earth or been given the great gift of the Eucharist! My ancestors gave me the gift of life in more ways than one.

This history adds an extra dimension to the way I think about my role as a Catholic parent. Evangelization does indeed begin in the home and deserves daily attention.

I like to wear three religious medals I inherited from my grandmother and great-grandmother. It makes me feel close to them, and strengthens me for the daily challenges we face as Christians and Catholics. I know they walked this journey before me, and through them, the faith was passed to me. I know I have their support and prayers to continue passing the faith to the next generations (my children and eventual grandchildren).

This November, talk with extended family members to find out how the Catholic faith was passed through your family tree. Collect their stories of attending Mass, going to Catholic school or celebrating feast days with family. Gather photos and other mementos of the Catholic milestones celebrated by present and past generations. Then share this legacy with your own family — Thanksgiving dinner is a perfect time to do that!

If you are a convert, you can share your own faith story — all the steps, large and small, that converged to reveal the faith to you, and your choice to make it your own.

November really packs a punch. We start the month by gathering to remember those in our family who have gone before us, and we pray for them and all the faithful departed. At the end of the month, we offer thanks to God for all our blessings. This year, add a new dimension to November by praising God for the way he brought you to faith through your family, and rejoice together with the communion of saints.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Northwest Catholic - November 2019

Michelle Bruno

Michelle Bruno is a member of Kent’s Holy Spirit Parish. Contact her at