There is no need whatsoever for us to enumerate just how much of anannus horribilis (a horrible year) that this has been for our Church, our nation, our world.
In the forefront of our minds is the global pandemic, which does not seem to be subsiding, the civil unrest in our nation, and even the effects of sin and selfishness as exhibited in the Church as detailed in the McCarrick report issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
Yet, there is clearly much for which we can and should be thankful. It’s easy to believe in God when everything is going great; it’s easy to praise the Lord when everything in our lives seems to be in order. It gets a lot tougher when everything seems to be going wrong! Yet, for a Christian, every moment of our lives has to become a moment of thanksgiving. Every moment of our lives, every single person whom we meet, every smile and every tear, is a gift from God.
All of it helps to shape us into the persons we are called to be. Like the dying abbe in Georges Bernanos’ famous novel “Diary of a Country Priest,” we can say “Tout est grâce” (“All is grace”). Everything depends upon how we cooperate with the grace of God pouring down freely upon us in our lives. Thanksgiving is clearly a civil holiday in the United States of America.
And yet, for many of us still, thanks be to God, it takes on a religious significance. Many of our Catholic faithful, either on Thanksgiving day itself or on the eve of Thanksgiving, usually join together in the action that defines what Thanksgiving truly is — the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Yes, joining together with our families, our friends, our parish communities, on Thanksgiving at Holy Mass is and should be an essential part of our days. The last weeks probably altered our plans for this beautiful holiday. Our civil authorities and health experts recently issued new guidelines for this Thanksgiving Day. They have recommended that we limit the number of people around the table to members of the same household. We have been warned against traveling during the
long, celebratory weekend as millions of Americans have done each year to celebrate Thanksgiving.
In the midst of the preparations for our low-key celebrations, even when we will miss the company of relatives and friends, many faithful have made an extra effort this year to thank God for all the many benefits that have been shared with us in the best way we know how as Catholics — by receiving the Substantial Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
No, Thanksgiving Day Mass is not a Holy Day of Obligation, but it is a great way to concretely thank God for all the benefits that we have received in the past year by receiving Jesus himself in the Eucharist.
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends.
by Ralph Waldo Emerson