Updated: Nov 27, 2020
I’d like to discuss how we Catholics should approach this Thanksgiving in light of the current situation in America. In other words, we should rediscover the truth about Thanksgiving as it relates to Catholics historically and spiritually. A major weapon to fight the war for America’s soul is hidden within the meaning of Thanksgiving.
This post was originally intended to be shared over 3 parts, but it just didn’t happen that way, so I am giving it to you for 3 meditations as we witness the greatest decision and pivot point in America’s history during Thanksgiving 2020.
Thanksgiving and the Battle for America’s Soul - PART 1
Combining Thanksgiving and battle in a title doesn’t seem like they are meant to go together. However, this year they do because America, now more than ever, is battling for its soul. The sides of this battle have become clear as day now, if one is at all tuned into the signs of our times politically, morally and socially. Archbishop Fulton Sheen prophetically proclaimed back in the first half of the 20th century that the battle upon America and the West is whether our future will be brotherhood under Christ or comradeship under anti-Christ. Catholics and the West were lulled to sleep the last 80 years and now we have the enemy at our gates.
So, what does the Thanksgiving holiday have to do with this? Well, for us Catholics, the word “Thanksgiving” should be a major trigger word because that is the meaning of Eucharist. And we proclaim the Eucharist as the source and summit of our Catholic faith. If our Eucharistic life is lacking, so is the source of our grace and power in transforming and influencing society, beginning with our families. With 2018 headlines from Gallup reading “Catholics' Church Attendance Resumes Downward Slide” (less than half attend Mass once a week) and in light of the current massive corruption being uncovered with the sexual abuse and homosexual cancer destroying the Church, why do we wonder that our influence on culture is radically waning and accelerating in unpopularity?
This Thanksgiving should remind our families what is at the heart of the culture war — and it is a “culture” war because what is at stake here is who society will worship — Christ or anti-Christ? This Thanksgiving has deeper meaning because it is a call to us Catholics to return to what makes us world-changers — a dynamic Eucharistic life — a life that gives thanks (eucharisteo) to God for everything because everything we have is a gift from God. A society centered on giving thanks to God for everything is a society that will be saved by God.
Take the recent Gospel story of Jesus and the ten lepers (cf. Luke 17:11-19). Here we have a clear picture of what it means to live an authentic Eucharistic life. All ten lepers cried out for healing and Jesus healed all ten of them on their way to show themselves to the priests. However, ONLY ONE returned to give thanks to Jesus. And the one who gave thanks received an additional and infinitely greater grace from Jesus — salvation. When Jesus told this leper, “Stand up and go, your faith has saved you,” he makes a direct connection between true faith and salvation, which is expressed by our giving thanks to God.
We see therefore, that thanksgiving is the most perfect way we can give God what is due to Him because He owes us nothing and we owe Him everything. We give to others because we have received from God. We reflect God’s magnanimity when we give from our heart to others. And their thanks helps them to live a eucharistic life in various ways.
So, to help us “remember” the centrality of God as as the primary and ultimate gift giver of every good thing — the greatest being our salvation and invitation to eternal life through Jesus Christ— He gave us the sacrament of Thanksgiving, the Eucharist. Are we grateful for this immeasurable gift? Do we not know that it is the Eucharist that will save the world? Have we not learned why Mary is appearing like crazy all over the world? She repeatedly says, “Build me a church in my honor . . .” Mary is leading us back to her Son in the Eucharist because this is our salvation! And this is what Christ sends us into the world to do at the end of every Mass: Ite Missa est! (“Go, the Mass is ended!).
PART 2/3 - Thanksgiving and the Battle for America’s Soul
In his letter to the Romans 1:21-32, St. Paul begins his evangelization by giving thanks to God and then provides a clear bullet list of what happens when society does not honor or give thanks to God:
For although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them. Romans 1:21-32
2000 years later we see the more things change, the more things stay the same. Romans 1 is today’s news headlines and as Dr. Scott Hahn pointed out in his commentary on this passage, when a society embraces these evils, it is not in its final years or days, but its final hours.
This is why this Thanksgiving needs to have a renewed significance for us Catholics because we have all that we need from God to bring this world back to Him . . . and it begins with each of us and our families returning to a dynamic spiritual and apostolic life flowing from an oriented to the Eucharist. As St Pio of Pietrelcina said: “It is easier for the earth to live without the sun, than the soul to live without the Eucharist.”
So, what can we begin to do right now to live a renewed life of Thanksgiving in the Eucharist?
First, get back to Mass if you haven’t been going. Begin this Thanksgiving by going to Mass as a family.
Second, pick at least one day outside of Sunday and go to Mass as a family. Let our kids know that the Eucharist has importance outside of one hour on Sunday.
Third, teach your kids a daily rhythm of giving thanks to God three times a day — just a minute or two pause each time — once in the morning, once in the middle of the day and once before they go to bed. The greatest habit that we can teach our kids that will open the door to every other grace and virtue is enkindling in them a spirit of gratitude toward God. Just imagine this spiritual and emotional climate in your home as this is often the greatest battle with our children who are bombarded with the world’s spirit of entitlement and self-centeredness. This exercise alone can work miracles in our families — especially among spouses.
As our second president John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (John Adams to Massachusetts Militia, 11 October 1798). We Catholics hold the key to make America great and it is hidden in the message of our national holiday, Thanksgiving. Now we know why. Let’s share this secret with the world. This is how we will win the culture war and win the soul of America back to God.
PART 3/3 Thanksgiving and the Battle for America’s Soul
REDISCOVERING THE CATHOLIC ORIGINS OF THANKSGIVING
HISTORY FOR THANKSGIVING DAY
Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Americans! Why do we celebrate this day? Let’s use this opportunity to rediscover the true history that we Catholics should be remembering and share with our families and friends this year. I had no idea until my adult years that there are really two Thanksgivings that we should be celebrating, both of which are Catholic origins. The first Thanksgiving was not in Plymouth in 1620 of which we learn of the starving, anti-Catholic Puritans being saved, ironically yet providentially, by a Roman Catholic Native American named Squanto. Thanks to Dale Alhquist, we have a great summary of the Catholic origin of this event and the Catholic Church being the real protagonist for freedom of religion in America, not the intolerant Puritan “pilgrims.” You can read it here.
The first Thanksgiving meal was really on September 8, 1565 in now St. Augustine, Florida — the oldest European city in continental America. It was on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the first act of the Spanish fleet upon landing on mainland America was to offer a Mass of Thanksgiving to God for the safe arrival of the Spanish and to bless their mission in the new world. The Mass was followed by a thanksgiving feast. Philip Kosloski writes a great article on this here.
In this critical moment of history, let us make no mistake about it, America is fighting for its soul. And its soul precedes the anti-Catholic Puritan spirit of 1620 and even those principles of freedom penned into the Declaration of Independence. The American soul is deeply Catholic. Let us be deeply thankful for that and also realize the great responsibility we have in feeding a spiritually starved and truth deprived nation.
We’ve just seen how Mary and the Eucharist are the two pillars upon which America was built. Even our rivers had Catholic names like the Mississippi being originally called by Pere Marquette the River of the Immaculate Conception. As we celebrate Thanksgiving and prepare for Advent and the great upcoming feasts dedicated to Mary (Dec 8-12), let us be reinvigorated with gratitude that we know the blueprint to bring America back to God and make her the greatest she’s ever been. Rediscovering this history gives us the keys to what will save our country in this dark hour. If we fail to do this, we will be like the Israelites who led themselves into bondage and slavery when they failed to pass on the story of God’s mercy and providence toward His people and when they failed to observe all that He had commanded them — as Moses repeatedly drew to their attention, especially in his farewell address in the Book of Deuteronomy.
Let’s make sure this Thanksgiving holiday is not our last, but our best yet, the beginning of a new dawn for a renewed Catholic America.
Now, Jesus gave His Church the perfect way to remember His story of love, mercy and promise — through the Holy Eucharist.
As G.K. Chesterton said, “Thanks is the highest form of thought.” Is it not fascinating that the greatest and central of all sacraments is the Holy Eucharist — the Greek word “eucharist” meaning “thanksgiving”? Putting these two truths together we see how the Mass is both the greatest intellectual act we can do and the greatest spiritual act we can do.
Therefore, the greatest thing we can do to celebrate Thanksgiving and at the same time lead our country back to God, is begin with participating in the Eucharist at Mass and build our culture as one that centers around this Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is the primary way we give back to God what is due to Him. Thanksgiving widens our heart to receive more from God. turn our hearts to God
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul directly directly ties the moral life of people as to whether or not it is a people who give thanks to God.
It’s one of the two pillars in Don Bosco’s prophetic vision of the Church in our times that will save us from all the attacks against it.
St. Paul and the root of all the immorality of our modern culture stemming from a failure to acknowledge God, which is the primary purpose of thanksgiving.
Padre Pio said it is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than for the soul to exist without the Eucharist, the sacrament of Thanksgiving. Now is the time to reignite our souls and the soul of America, through a greater participation in and adoration of the sacrament of Thanksgiving, the Holy Eucharist. America won’t survive without it.
Culture literally derives its meaning as the heart of what a people worship (cultus in latin).
Practical ways to adopt a spirit of gratitude in our families is to unconditionally add into our daily rhythm 3 times when we pause for a minute or two and take a brief inventory of what we are thankful for this day and then express that gratitude to God. Once when we wake up. Once in the middle fo the day and once before we go to bed. The saints repeatedly remind us that nothing opens our soul to receive God’s grace than a genuine spirit of gratitude.
Another way to foster a greater Eucharistic life and spirit of gratitude is adoration. It’s what the Angel of Portugal taught the children of Fatima to do at the beginning of their prayer. He prostrated himself and prayed: “My God I beleive, I adore, I hope and I love you. I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.” The angel then told the children: “Pray in this way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are now ready to listen to you.” Teaching our families to say this prayer at the pauses of the day is a great way to foster a spirit of gratitude before God.
So, the answer to the spirit of entitlement enveloping our world today is fostering a perpetual attitude of gratitude, which reminds us that not only does God not owe us anything, but that we could never give back according to the generosity God shows to us, even when we don’t deserve it.
Let’s not make the mistake of trivializing how siginificant this moment in history is for the Church, America and the world. St. John Bosco’s prophetic vision of the two columns it was the taller of the two (the other having Mary on top of it) to which the Church chained itself in order to survive the attacks against it.
As Sr. Lucia of Fatima prophetically told us, we are witnessing the final battle against the Church at the end of this era and it is against marriage and the family. The newly exposed corruption from within from the homosexual movement and sex trafficking confirms this fact. We are witnessing the end of the Church as we know it and what is to come from its radical purification will be built upon a society which is built upon a strong and dynamic Eucharistic life. EVERY saint of our modern times is marked by this heroic way of life.
The Catholic Liturgy of Thanksgiving (the Eucharist) ends with a command: ite Missa est (“Go, the Mass is ended.”) Let’s treat this year’s Thanksgiving feast with family the same way. Taking our strength from the Eucharist, let us go and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord. The future of our nation depends on it.