Wishing You a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is a time-honored and cherished American tradition, rooted in the Christian belief that God is the source of all life and goodness, deserving our humble thanks and praise.
Here is a selection of thoughts and prayers from some Ignatius Press books and authors about thanksgiving and gratitude. They have helped me to reflect more deeply on the importance and necessity of thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy them.
Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!
Carl E. Olson
Editor, Ignatius Insight and Catholic World Report
A Psalm for the thank offering:
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
"Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
"Know that the Lord is God!
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!
"For the Lord is good; his mercy endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations."
- From Psalm 100 (99), in the New Testament and the Psalms
John Paul II once recounted that one day his father put a prayerbook with the "Prayer to the Holy Spirit" into his hands and told him that he should pray it daily. He then gradually understood what it means when Jesus says that the true worshippers of God are those who worship him "in spirit and truth". What does that mean?
This passage in chapter 4 of John's Gospel is the prophecy of a worship in which there will no longer be any temple, but in which the faithful will pray without an external temple in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Gospel, in communion with Christ; where what is needed is no longer a visible temple but rather the new fellowship with the risen Lord. That always remains important, because it signifies a major turning point in the history of religion as well.
And how does Pope Benedict pray?
As far as the Pope is concerned, he too is a simple beggar before God--even more than all other people. Naturally I always pray first and foremost to our Lord, with whom I am united simply by old acquaintance, so to speak. But I also invoke the saints. I am friends with Augustine, with Bonaventure, with Thomas Aquinas. Then one says to such saints also: Help me! And the Mother of God is, in any case, always a major point of reference. In this sense I commend myself to the communion of saints. With them, strengthened by them, I then talk with the dear Lord also, begging, for the most part, but also in thanksgiving--or quite simply being joyful.
- From "Popes Do Not Fall from the Sky", Chapter One of Light Of The World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times, by Pope Benedict XVI and Peter Seewald
"Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other--my prayer for him--can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well."
-- From Spe Salvi (Saved In Hope) by Pope Benedict XVI
"In any intellectual corner of modernity can be found such a phrase as I have just read in a newspaper controversy: 'Salvation, like other good things, must not come from outside.' To call a spiritual thing external and not internal is the chief mode of modernist excommunication. But if our subject of study is mediaeval and not modern, we must pit against this apparent platitude the very opposite idea. We must put ourselves in the posture of men who thought that almost every good thing came from outside--like good news. I confess that I am not impartial in my sympathies here; and that the newspaper phrase I quoted strikes me as a blunder about the very nature of life. I do not, in my private capacity, believe that a baby gets his best physical food by sucking his thumb; nor that a man gets his best moral food by sucking his soul, and denying its dependence on God or other good things. I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
-- From "The Age of the Crusades", in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Vol. XX by G. K. Chesterton
"In the literary corpus of Augustine--more than 1,000 publications divided into philosophical, apologetic, doctrinal, moral, monastic, exegetic and anti-heretical writings in addition precisely to the letters and homilies--certain exceptional works of immense theological and philosophical breadth stand out. First of all, it is essential to remember the Confessiones mentioned above, written in 13 books between 397 and 400 in praise of God. They are a sort of autobiography in the form of a dialogue with God. This literary genre actually mirrors St Augustine's life, which was not one closed in on itself, dispersed in many things, but was lived substantially as a dialogue with God, hence, a life with others. The title 'Confessiones' indicates the specific nature of this autobiography. In Christian Latin this word, confessiones, developed from the tradition of the Psalms and has two meanings that are nevertheless interwoven. In the first place confessiones means the confession of our own faults, of the wretchedness of sin; but at the same time, confessiones also means praise of God, thanksgiving to God. Seeing our own wretchedness in the light of God becomes praise to God and thanksgiving, for God loves and accepts us, transforms us and raises us to himself."
-- From Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine by Pope Benedict XVI
"For, if you will examine the familiar words of it, you will find that everywhere praise and thanksgiving are inextricably linked. When we praise God, we think of what is in himself high above us, infinitely greater than we are, wholly independent of us. But in the same breath we thank him for what he is to us, what he does for us. 'We praise thee, we bless thee, we adore thee, we glorify three, we give thanks to thee in the greatness of thy glory.' So, in the Gloria, we dispose ourselves for sacrifice; and when the sacrifice proper begins, we allow ourselves, for the moment, to forget even the duty of praising God, so overwhelmed are we by the thought of his benefits to us. 'Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. . . . It is fitting, it is right so to do. . . . Indeed it is fitting, it is right, it is to be expected of us, it is our hope of salvation, that always and everywhere we should give thee thanks.' For every mystery of our faith, from our Lady's child-bearing to the expectation of the faithful dead, it is always thanks we offer to God, just here."
-- From Pastoral and Occasional Sermons by Ronald Knox
"What great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?" (Deut 4:7)
"Saint Thomas Aquinas took up this saying in his reflections for the Feast of Corpus Christi. In doing so, he showed how we Christians in the Church of the New Covenant can pronounce these words with yet more reason and more joy and with thankfulness than Israel could in doing so, he showed how this saying , in the Church of Jesus Christ, has aqquired a depth of meaning hitherto unsuspected; God has truly come to dwell among us in the Eucharist."
- From God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI).
"Grace is always given to those ready to give thanks for it" (Thomas À Kempis).
"Be loving and thankful to God for the least benefits that He gives you, and then you will be better prepared and more worthy to receive greater benefits from Him. Think that the least gift that he gives is great, and take the meanest things as special gifts and as great tokens of love. If the dignity of the Giver is well considered, no gift will seem little." (Thomas À Kempis)
"That we must recognize and acknowledge every good as a gift and that even the patient endurance of suffering for Christ's sake is of God. That we should not accept in silence the benefactions of God, but return thanks for them." (Rule 55 from St. Basil)
"And let those who will, laugh and scorn--I shall not be silent; nor shall I hide the signs and wonders which the Lord has shown me many years before they came to pass, as He knows everything even before the times of the world. Hence I ought unceasingly to give thanks to God Who often pardoned my folly and my carelessness, and on more than one occasion spared His great wrath on me, who was chosen to be His helper and who was slow to do as was shown me and as the Spirit suggested. And the Lord had mercy on me thousands and thousands of times..." (St. Patrick)
"...We are led to give thanks to God, because seeing that God is the Creator of all things, it is certain that all that we are, and all that we have come from God: hence the Apostle says: What hast thou that hou hast not received?--The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein. For which reason we owe Him thanksgiving: What shall I render unto the Lord for all the things that he has rendered to me?" (St. Thomas Aquinas)
- From The Treasury of Catholic Wisdom, edited and with an introduction by John A. Hardon, S.J.
Act of Thanksgiving after Communion
" I give Thee thanks, holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God, Who has vouchsafed to feed me, a sinner, Thine unworthy servant, for no merits of my own, but only out of the goodness of Thy great mercy, with the precious Body and Blood of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; and I pray Thee, that this holy Communion may be to me, not guilt for punishment, but a saving intercession for pardon. Let it be to me an armor of faith and a shield of good will. Let it be to me a casting out of vices; a driving away of all evil desires and fleshly lusts; an increase in charity, patience, humility, obedience, and all virtues; a firm defense against the plots of all my enemies, both seen and unseen; a perfect quieting of all motions of sin, both in my flesh and my spirit; a firm cleaving unto Thee, the only and true God, and a happy ending to my life. And I pray Thee to deign to bring me, a sinner, to that ineffable Feast, where Thou art withThy Son and the Holy Ghost, art to Thy holy ones true light, full satisfaction, everlasting joy, consummate pleasure and perfect happiness. Amen. (St.Thomas Aquinas)
From Adoration: Eucharistic Texts and Prayers Throughout Church History, Compiled by Daniel P. Guernsey
"The hungry he has filled with good things." Luke 1:53
The second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: In the first days of her pregnancy, Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth's home. There it was that she sang the "Magnificat." In this sudden song of the praise of God, she tells me a secret about my soul's food: "God fills the hungry." Mary wanted God, hungered after God, and God entrusted His Son to his care. God heaped "good things" on the table of her heart--His Son Jesus, "the fruit of her womb," was divine fruit for her soul.
"Christ in the Eucharist is my soul's food. Jesus fills my emptiness and satisfies my insatiable hunger."
- From Father Peyton's Rosary Prayer Book
"The idea of a feast of thanksgiving has universal and venerable precedent. Gratitude to God (or to gods: the powers that be) for the fruitfulness of the earth is deeply rooted in the religious heart of man.
"The Jews had, and have today, three celebrations that are at least in part agricultural festivals: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles or Succoth. Sacrifices were traditionally offered at the temple in thanksgiving for the harvest and festive meals held.
"Christianity brought a new perspective to the ancient tradition. 'Eucharist' itself means 'thanksgiving,' and God is thanked, sacrifice offered every time the Eucharist is celebrated. This is why the eucharistic feast became the fundamental Christian meal, imparting beauty and symbolism to all other feasts."
"The thanksgiving banquet is, in all its many forms, a beautiful tradition."
- From A Continual Feast: A cookbook to celebrate the joys of family and faith throughout the Christian year by Evelyn Birge Vitz
"Thanksgiving: Closely akin to adoration and praise, and yet with an added dimension, is heartfelt thanksgiving. Repeatedly the psalmist and the Church hearken to our privilege and duty of expressing gratitude to the Father for every good and perfect gift that descends from him (Jas 1:17). All of us are to declare to this God an endless proclamation of thanksgiving (cf. Ps 28:7; Col 3:15). ...
"First of all, deep in every human heart is a need to worship and to thank. One of the frustrations the atheist has to face (as Chesterton pointed out) is to experience the innocence of a baby's face or the splendor of a nighttime sky and then have no one to thank for it. And because we are social beings, we need on occasion to express this gratitude and adoration with other people. We need liturgy."
-- From Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within, by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.
Commenting on the prayer of thanksgiving (CCC 2603, 2637-8):
"The evangelists have preserved. . . explicit prayers offered by Christ during his public ministry" [Mt 11:25-27 and Lk 10:21-23]. "Each begins with thanksgiving" (CCC 2603). The same is true of the prayer given in Jn 11:41-42.
It is always healing to our spirits to "count our blessings" and thank God for everything that is good. It is also realistic, or honest to reality. For whatever means he uses-nature, family, friends, our own talents-it is God who is the First Cause of all life and goodness (and not of death and sin). In the poorest life there are always immeasurable riches to thank God for. Everyone's "blessing list" should include at least:
a. Life itself and time and family and friends and our own mental and spiritual powers and the many little pleasures that are always available in this world;
b. our very existence; for the birth of each one of us was designed and willed from eternity by the Creator (our parents were only our "pro-creators");
c. salvation from sin and the hope of heaven; that is, infinite and unimaginable joy in intimate union with God forever;
d. God's patient, daily grace in making us holy and good and able to enjoy him more in eternity. Even when we have few earthly gifts, we have God (sometimes, only then!). "The Giver is more precious than the gift" (CCC 2604).
Our gratitude, too, should be Christocentric. If we do not feel grateful, we should turn again to the crucifix. That is what God did for us. We should practice giving thanks especially when we do not feel thankful, for that is when we need to most. "Give thanks in all circumstances,- for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (I Thess 5: 18).
- From Peter J. Kreeft, Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!'
And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, 'Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.'
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, 'Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?' I said to him, 'Sir, you know.'
And he said to me, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'"
-- From Revelation 7:9-14, in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (New Testament, RSVCE)