In my years as a deacon, priest and bishop, I have always been impressed by the number of people who come to Mass on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving Day. It is not unusual to find parish churches full on each of these days.
These are days which we wouldn’t typically see as a big day for Mass, yet many use these civic observances as an opportunity to celebrate their faith. This is especially true on Thanksgiving.
There is an instinctive piety within our Catholic community that recognizes the deep connection between Eucharist and Thanksgiving. Theologically, Eucharist is about much more than that. It’s about the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, experiencing our communion with God and one another, sanctifying the created order as we’re nourished by word and sacrament along the way toward God’s heavenly kingdom.
This is a spontaneous connection that occurs in our hearts. It is seeing Thanksgiving as an occasion to look at the evidence of the providential care of God in our national experience. For the most part, our ancestors migrated to this land. At various times, many found this country to be a place of peace and prosperity – a land where faith and our expression of faith have been protected and respected, a place where we and our families can thrive.
Thanksgiving provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon that. It is a time when, with an innate understanding and deep sense of piety in our Catholic community, we long to give thanks and celebrate Mass. During a time of holiday travel, family get-togethers and all the secular emphasis on this holiday season, the desire for Catholics to worship on this day is a good sign about the vibrancy of faith among Americans.
No matter what polls or pundits say about trends toward the loss of faith and lack of practice, Thanksgiving Day is a counterexample of that. There is still a reverence toward God. With it there is a readiness to express thanks to God – who is the cause of all the goodness and peace that we experience.
I encourage you to celebrate Mass this Thanksgiving because in the Eucharist we deepen our belief and express our faith in Christ’s presence with us. We recognize that he accompanies us through the good and the bad, the difficult and joyful. Through the Real Presence, we hand on our faith – by word and example – to those around us. This is something for which we should be ever thankful.
Have a blessed and enjoyable Thanksgiving Day!
Prayer for Thanksgiving Day
Lord, we thank you
for the goodness of our people
and for the spirit of justice
that fills this nation.
We thank you for the beauty and fullness of the
land and the challenge of the cities.
We thank you for our work and our rest,
for one another, and for our homes.
We thank you, Lord:
accept our thanksgiving on this day.
We pray and give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Book of Blessings”