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Celebrate Thanksgiving Like a Catholic

Thanksgiving, a cherished national holiday, has deep roots that extend beyond turkey feasts and family gatherings. Instituted by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, this day of gratitude beckons Americans to reflect on the bountiful blessings bestowed upon them. However, the tradition of setting aside a day for collective thanks traces back even further, initiated by George Washington in 1789. As we revel in the warmth of Thanksgiving, it’s essential to recognize its historical tapestry and the enduring spirit of gratitude that permeates it.

Pilgrims and the Mayflower: A Tale of Survival and Thanks

The quintessential Thanksgiving narrative unfolds with the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, whose journey in 1620 led to the establishment of Plymouth, Massachusetts. After a grueling winter that claimed many lives, the surviving settlers, along with ninety Wampanoags, celebrated an abundant harvest with three days of feasting and thanks. This poignant chapter epitomizes the enduring connection between gratitude and survival, a theme that resonates through generations.

As Catholics, Thanksgiving carries a deeper resonance for us. Beyond the football games and delicious meals, we strive to honor the true essence of Thanksgiving—a day of profound gratitude to God.

Thanksgiving and the Action of Eucharist: A Profound Connection

While not a universal liturgical feast, Thanksgiving aligns harmoniously with the core of Catholic worship—the celebration of the Eucharist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Eucharist as an “action of thanksgiving to God.” Rooted in Greek words recalling Jewish blessings, the Eucharist mirrors the Pilgrims’ act of giving thanks after their harvest.

The biblical account of the Last Supper, as narrated by St. Paul, emphasizes Jesus’ act of thanksgiving before sharing his body with the disciples. Despite Thanksgiving not being a holy day of obligation, attending Mass on this day becomes a profound expression of gratitude through Christ’s offering to the Father.

Uniting Eucharist and Thanksgiving Day: A Transformative Witness

In many instances, Catholics may question the relevance of attending Mass on Thanksgiving, considering it a national rather than a religious observance. Yet, what better way to commence this day of gratitude than by offering thanks through Christ Jesus in the Eucharist?

In my early years, Thanksgiving was primarily a secular occasion. The disconnect between everyday life and the Eucharist led me to perceive Thanksgiving as a time for family, food, and fleeting prayers. However, the profound link between the Eucharist and Thanksgiving became clearer with time.

Overcoming Distractions: Rediscovering the Essence of Thanksgiving

Personal struggles with materialistic temptations, notably Black Friday sales, challenged the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Amidst the allure of consumerism, the holiday risked losing its authenticity. A pivotal moment, triggered by a conversation with a family member working on Thanksgiving, prompted a reevaluation of shopping habits and a return to the holiday’s original significance.

The Eucharist: A Liturgical Act of Thanksgiving

Recognizing the Eucharist as a liturgical act of thanksgiving posed another challenge. Initially perceived as an individual or congregational activity, understanding the Eucharist’s inherent thanksgiving required a shift in perspective. Delving into the sacrificial nature of the Last Supper illuminated the primacy of Jesus’ thanksgiving before the disciples partook in his body.

Embracing Thanksgiving as Catholics: Witnessing to Gratitude and Faith

This Thanksgiving Day serves as an opportune moment for Catholics to underscore the importance of giving thanks to the Father. Beyond individual and collective expressions of gratitude, uniting our thanksgiving with the perfect act of Christ in the Eucharist becomes a transformative witness. Gathering with humility and contrite hearts, Catholics can commemorate God’s blessings and join in the profound sacrament of the Eucharist.

Living Thanksgiving Like a Catholic: 7 Ways to Embrace Gratitude

  1. Attend Thanksgiving Mass: Begin the day by participating in Mass, expressing gratitude through Christ’s offering.
  2. Start with a Prayer: Prioritize a prayer of thanksgiving before indulging in the day’s festivities.
  3. Avoid Consumerism: Refrain from succumbing to materialistic temptations, fostering a focus on authentic gratitude.
  4. Reflect on Blessings: Take time to reflect on personal and collective blessings, fostering a spirit of thankfulness.
  5. Engage in Acts of Charity: Extend gratitude by participating in charitable acts with your family (volunteering together) or sharing God’s gifts with others.
  6. Include God in Celebrations: Integrate moments of prayer and thanksgiving into family gatherings, acknowledging God’s presence.
  7. Participate in Eucharistic Adoration: Extend Thanksgiving beyond the day by spending time in Eucharistic adoration, deepening the connection between gratitude and faith.

As Thanksgiving unfolds, let Catholics embody the essence of gratitude, acknowledging God’s blessings and embracing the transformative power of the Eucharist.

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