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Dinosaurs for Dinner

IT IS THANKSGIVING WEEK! In this one week alone, Americans will eat 46 million turkeys! Wow!

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When I look at these animals, mostly I just feel pity. First of all, they’re bred to be eaten. They never had a chance. Secondly, they’re birds, but they can hardly fly. They can only fly for short bursts, but they don’t soar above the skies like some of their other bird relatives. Then finally, although turkeys drowning in the rain is a myth, turkeys are actually mentally and physically pathetic. After generations of being bred in captivity, they are weak, slow, fat, and not agile.

With all of this sad information about these birds, it is even more difficult to believe that these guys are descendants of dinosaurs, but they are! Birds are descendants of theropods. Yes, a T. rex is a theropod, but birds descended from smaller ones like a dromaeosaurus or archaeopteryx.

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The skeleton of modern birds gives us lots of clues of which dinosaurs they are related to. First we see similarities in modern bird and ancient dinosaurs’ hands. Modern birds and saurischian dinosaurs have the second digit in their hands as the longest whereas other dinosaurs had their third digit as the longest, similar to humans.

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The next evidence of their relation we have are their hollow bones. Hollow bones help birds to fly, but flightless theropods had these hollow bones too. They must have served some other purpose, though what purpose we’re not exactly sure. As we go down the evolutionary tree, a group of smaller theropods called maniraptora evolved which had different shaped hips. The hip bone pointed backwards compared to the T. rex shown here.

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Then finally, while humans have two separate bones that make up our collar bones, birds and theropods have a single bone fused into one which we colloquially call the wishbone! Who knew that when you were celebrating that Thanksgiving tradition of making a wish, you were celebrating one of the differentiating factors that make that turkey a dinosaur relative!

Despite all of the paleontological proof, it is still mind boggling that these two creatures are related. One clearly seems better than the other, but that’s not fair to the turkey. Turkeys serve a wonderful purpose, they feed us. They may not be as flashy as their ancestors, but turkeys are amazing sources of nutrients. They are low in fat and high in protein. They also contain important vitamins and nutrients.

Turkeys are very different from their dinosaur predecessors, but they serve an important purpose. When I read about the Saints, I feel a lot like the turkey. I feel small and insignificant and like I really don’t measure up to the ones who came before me.

I don’t have a castle full of food to give to the poor or the funds to build a hospital outside of my castle. (St. Elizabeth of Hungary) I have never levitated or been able to read someone’s soul. (St. Padre Pio) I will never lead people by becoming a monk and a hermit. (St. Anthony the Great)

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The good news is, I don’t need to. That’s not what God called me to do. He has set me on my own path that is different than every holy person that has come before me. Like the saints, I am called to love God and love my neighbor, but what exactly that looks like might be extremely different. The important thing is praying, listening to God, and finding out what my call looks like. How is God calling me to serve Him?

This week we recall all of the things we are thankful for. Here are some of mine. I am thankful that I am not expected to follow the exact path as those earlier saints. I am thankful that God gave me gifts that I can use to bring Him glory. I am thankful that God has given me scripture and tradition to lead me in my path to sainthood. I am thankful that God has put many supportive people in my life to keep me going on my path.

This week put words to your thankfulness. Then put action towards following your path, whatever path that you are called to. Prayer and action are an impressive combination and a sure-fire way to make sure you fulfill your purpose, whatever that purpose may be.