Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: Yesterday and today a harvest festival and a family celebration

November 16, 2018

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in the United States by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Lincoln said it was to be a day of “thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

Thanksgiving began as a harvest festival sometime between September and November in 1621. It was one year after the Mayflower had arrived. 102 pilgrims had landed on the coast of Massachusetts. After a brutal winter of cold, disease, and starvation, only 53 colonists survived to the next fall. The local Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans came to the aid of the colonists, taught them how to plant corn and fertilize their fields with fish, and with a bountiful harvest and good hunting, both had plenty of food in reserve to survive the upcoming winter. In gratitude for the harvest, 90 of the Wampanoag tribe and the 53 remaining colonists joined together for three days of celebration. They feasted on five deer, a variety of birds, corn, grapes, plums, mussels, lobsters, and herbs.

Thanksgiving is still about thanks for the harvest, and agriculture has come a long way since 1621. Tractors with cultivators and planters and huge combines make it possible to use large tracts of land. New seed hybrids are constantly being developed. The use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides has improved yields. Production, harvesting, transportation, processing, packaging, and distribution have become extremely efficient. The shelves in grocery stores are well stocked. Foods are affordable. Most Americans have full refrigerators and cupboards, and most do not go to bed at night on an empty stomach.

Now fewer Americans work on the farm, the food supply is reliable, and there is little worry about having enough food to get through the winter. As a result, while the focus of the holiday is still on thanksgiving for the harvest, it has been generalized as a time of thanksgiving for all of our blessings: the land, our country, our freedoms, our safety and security, the quality of education and health care, employment, income, savings, homes, possessions, cultural and recreational opportunities, and the countless other good things that we enjoy.

Filled with a tremendous sense of gratitude for all of this, we thank God and gather with our families to celebrate. Our families are such a gift. Our parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews rank as some of the greatest blessings that God has given to us. The love and care given and received, the sacrifices made, meals together, family conversations, vacations and holidays, ups and downs, fights and make-ups, suffering through illness and hardship, promises made and kept, traveling the journey of life hand in hand, and the common bond shared – family is a gift beyond all measure.

On Thanksgiving we ought to praise and thank God for the gift of our families. For those who have gone ahead of us, we can send a prayer of thanks to them in heaven. For the members of our immediate families, we can thank God for each one of them, mention them individually, and ask God to shower them with his special graces and divine protection. Thanksgiving, or a day near it, is a wonderful occasion to get together with our immediate family, and relatives, too, to eat and drink, rejoice and celebrate, and deepen and renew the bonds of love.

Finally, Thanksgiving is an ideal occasion to thank our family members, to express our thanks to them personally, to speak it out loud, to identify specific instances when they have said or done something that we appreciate or affected our life in a positive way. We should not leave important things unsaid. If we are grateful, we should say so. To thank a family member who is near and dear to our heart is a beautiful way to express our love for them.

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Thanksgiving: Time to Count Blessings and Thank God for Gifts

November 23, 2016

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thanksgiving

The holiday season moves into full swing at the end of November with our annual celebration of Thanksgiving.  It is marvelous when we are able to have an attitude of gratitude.  God is our provider, the giver of every good gift, so when it comes to giving thanks, our first expression of gratitude should be directed to almighty God.  Jesus stressed the importance of thanking God when he asked the Samaritan leper who had been healed, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Lk 17:18).

Following the lead of Jesus, his Master, St. Paul exhorts us to be grateful to God.  Paul instructed new Christians to “Be thankful” (Col 3:15).   He also said that believers should be “singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16).  He also taught that we should “Give thanks to God the Father through him [Jesus]” (Col 3:17).

This point is emphasized at every Mass when the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and the congregation responds, “It is right and just.”

At Thanksgiving, even though it is a civic holiday, it is an extremely beneficial spiritual exercise to set aside a few moments to count one’s blessings. Make a list.  Consider life and health, family and friends, talents and abilities, opportunities and accomplishments, financial and material blessings.

While the world focuses on material blessings, please do not forget to count your spiritual blessings:  the Father and creation; Jesus and his gospel, the Eucharist, his saving death on the Cross, and our salvation and redemption; the Holy Spirit, inspiration and guidance, faith and grace, energy and power, courage and conviction, contrition and forgiveness.  Apart from God, we would have nothing.  God has blessed us with everything that we have.

As we become increasingly aware of our countless blessings, it should lead us to give God greater praise and thanks, and one of the best ways to express our gratitude is in prayer.  The Greek word eucharistos means “thankful,” and as Catholics we believe that the best way to thank God is at the Eucharist, our prayerful celebration of the Mass.

St. Paul also recommends hymns and psalms, sung at Mass, or anywhere, anytime.  It also is an excellent spiritual practice to thank God in our personal private prayer each and every day.

Please consider making prayer a central part of your celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday.  The ideal way would be to attend Mass.  Also, before sitting down to the Thanksgiving dinner, take a moment as a group to offer thanks with your meal prayers.

On Thanksgiving Day, take some time between rising and retiring to go off by yourself to a private place, be quiet, reflect, list your blessings, and offer God your personal prayer of thanks.

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Give thanks to God!

October 7, 2016

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thanksgiving

One of the greatest miracles that Jesus performed was to cure ten lepers of their disease (Lk 17:11-19), and after having received such a tremendous gift from Jesus, only one of the ten came back to thank him.  In disappointment Jesus asked, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Lk 17:18).

St. Paul tells us that we should “be thankful” (Col 3:15b).  Every Mass at the Preface Dialogue we say that it is right and just to give thanks to the Lord our God.  Yet Jesus rarely received any thanks.  In fact, when the Samaritan fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him (Lk 17:16), it is the only time in all four gospels that someone thanked him.

There may have been other occasions when someone received something from Jesus and then came back to offer their praise or express their gratitude, but none of the four evangelists records one other instance, and as memorable as such an event would have been, it would have been worthy of inclusion.  It seems that Jesus was rarely thanked, not by his apostles, not by those who were cured, not by those who were forgiven, and not by those who were taught by him.  Jesus’ ministry was a thankless task.  He was grossly underappreciated.

The twelve apostles were among the worst offenders when it came to ingratitude.  When Jesus called them to be his disciples (Lk 6:13), they did not thank him for choosing them.  When Jesus invited them to accompany him (Lk 8:1), they did not thank him for making them his partners.  When Jesus took them aside and gave them private explanations (e.g., Lk 8:9-15), they did not thank his for his extra time and attention.  When Jesus commissioned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases (Lk 9:1), they did not thank him for their special appointments or exceptional powers.

The apostles’ lack of gratitude seems more reprehensible during their final days with Jesus.  No one thanked him for the Eucharist at the Last Supper.  Worse yet, no one thanked Jesus’ for his death on the Cross and his gifts of redemption and salvation.  When Jesus appeared to them after his Resurrection and greeted them with the words “Peace be with you,” no one thanked him for his mercy and forgiveness.  It took until after Jesus had ascended to heaven until the apostles did him homage and praised God (Lk 24:52,53).

The disciples had many reasons to be thankful and so do we.  The process begins with our ability to recognize what we have been given.  For starters, we need to set aside time to reflect and count our blessings.  Next, with our blessings in mind, we should thank God and with our prayers of praise, both personal prayers of gratitude said alone and prayers at Mass said with others.  St. Paul specifically mentions singing as a particularly good way to express our thanks:  “Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16).  Another excellent way to express our gratitude is to put our gifts to good use, to place them at the service of others, and to do so in ways that give glory to God.

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Tired of leftovers? Try this banquet of joy

November 30, 2013

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laughing girl

Photo/Cristiano Betta Licensed under Creative Commons

The end of one Church year and the beginning of another shouldn’t pass without a celebration. A feast even.

I know we’re still finishing up the Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m talking about a feast of joy, not food.

Before we get too far into the new Church year and into the penitential season of Advent, take a few minutes to sample some great verses and quotes about joy. There are no calories and absolutely no guilt!

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.
–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Let us therefore both praise and sing; that is, let us praise with cheerfulness and joy.
–St. Augustine

…for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
–Neh. 8:10

Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.
–St. Teresa of Avila

Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When our heart is pure and united to God, we feel within ourselves a joy, a sweetness that inebriates, a light that dazzles us. In this intimate union God and the soul are like two pieces of wax melted together; they cannot be separated. This union of God with His little creature is a most beautiful thing. It is a happiness that we cannot understand. . . God, in His goodness, has permitted us to speak to Him. Our prayer is an incense which He receives with extreme pleasure.
–St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars

There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth, and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.
 –G.K. Chesterton

Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.
–C.S. Lewis

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.
–St. Gregory Nanzianzen

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
–John 15:11

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Families are Messy…

November 25, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

As we approach Thanksgiving and our opportunities to be with extended family, there is one thing we need to remember – families are messy.

I am not talking about Uncle Bob who never does the dishes or the spilled gravy at the kids table; I am saying that family relationships are messy.  Some families have a no politics and no religion rule on conversations at their family gatherings.  That may help with the tension of hot button topics like same sex unions and abortion, but as people of faith we cannot put on and take off our religion at will like a sweater.  We wear our faith all of the time!

How do we deal with some difficult situations this Thanksgiving like –

Your sister and her boyfriend, who are living together,

Your uncle who is in a same sex relationship,

Your cousin who complains about the church’s teaching on contraception,

Your nephew who has left the church because of the current Clergy abuse scandal in the news…

Jesus had the answer – He loved more!

Since I have a fondness for food and mentions of food in the bible – I am taken by this quote every Thanksgiving…

Matthew 11:19, The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

I think the most important thing to remember in this passage is that WE all are the sinners.  If our church only let perfect Catholics in – the pews (and the pulpits) would be virtually empty.  I am so grateful that Jesus (and my family ) eats with me!

So set the tone with a prayer of humility and gratitude and respect and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your messy family and LOVE MORE!

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving Day Prayer

November 24, 2011

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Start your Thanksgiving Day feast with this prayer from the USCCB publication Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers.

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

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.

R: Amen.

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Mass? On Thanksgiving?

November 21, 2011

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There’s ‘having’ to go to church, and there’s ‘wanting’ to

“Mass? On Thanksgiving?” the man-child’s voice asked with not a little incredulity. “We don’t have to go to Mass on Thanksgiving.”

No, the voice of reason and rationality answered.

You don’t have to go to Mass on Thanksgiving, I said. I just thought you might want to go to thank God for all the gifts you’ve received during the past year.

I might as well have been talking to the deceased turkey on the counter that was having its cavity stuffed at the moment.

That conversation happened 20 years ago.

I remember writing a column about it at the time — yes, in the old Catholic Bulletin — because a debate was going on at the time about holy days of obligation. Very few Catholics were attending those “obligatory” feast day Masses, and although it took several years, the “obligation” was removed. Now, as we know, in the United States we observe several former obligatory attendance feasts on the nearest weekend. (Immaculate Conception — Dec. 8; Assumption — Aug. 15; Ascension Thursday).

But back to Thanksgiving 1991.

The assigned lector was unable to make it, and as I walked into church, the pastor grabbed me to fill in in the emergency.

That’s where an insight came into the difference between “having to” and “wanting to” go to Mass.

When you lector at weekend Masses, you can see all the folks who duck out at Communion, all the folks who rush out to their cars at the first note of the recessional hymn, all the folks who are in the parking lot before the priest even makes it halfway down the aisle to the back of church.

On that Thanksgiving Day, when the only people who were at Mass were the folks who didn’t feel “obliged” to be there but “wanted” to be there, guess how many people left Mass early?

Not a single one.

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Fill in the blank: This weekend will be a blessing because _____.

November 4, 2011

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Tell us in the comments section below why this weekend will be a blessing.

 

H/T @GreenBayDiocese

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