Next week, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, one of the principal holidays of the year and a time for families to gather in celebration. Although Thanksgiving Day is a civic holiday, it was religious in its origins and remains for us always a religious celebration. Even as the Pilgrims desired to give thanks to God for the first harvest brought home in their new-found land, we want to give thanks to God for all of his many blessings given to us in our homeland which we love.
Thanksgiving defines for us our whole being. It is our response to God Who has first loved us and has given up His life for us, out of pure and selfless love. Reflecting upon the mystery of God's love of us, we can only be filled with the deepest sentiments of gratitude toward Him and of love of Him, in return. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes our moral life as "the acknowledgment and homage given to God and a worship of thanksgiving" (n. 2062). The Servant of God Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M.Cap., expressed the truth about our life by his frequent pastoral counsel that we should be always thanking God "ahead of time" (Brother Leo Wollenweber, O.F.M.Cap., Meet Solanus Casey: Spiritual Counselor and Wonder Worker, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002, pp. 65-66).
Our highest act, our most perfect prayer, is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The very name, Eucharist, means action of thanksgiving. The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares regarding the Holy Eucharist:
The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all His benefits, for all that He has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving" (n. 1360).
As the source and summit of our life in Christ, the Holy Eucharist inspires in us the habit of thanksgiving, at all times.
Thanksgiving and the Family
Be assured that you and your families will be remembered in my prayers, especially at Holy Mass, on Thanksgiving Day. I will be spending a few days with my family in Wisconsin during the week of Thanksgiving Day. As I thank God for all of His many blessings extended toward me, I will be remembering, with particular affection, you whom I am most blessed to serve. I will be asking God to bless your home with the unity and peace of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
When we pause to thank God for His many gifts, we thank Him, most of all, for the gifts of life and of our Catholic faith, gifts which come to us through the family. I hope that the celebration of Thanksgiving Day will be the occasion for all of us to express openly to one another, in the family, our gratitude for the gift of life and faith which we first received at home. May it also be a time to set aside hurts and to seek the reconciliation of differences in the family, so that we can more freely and fully thank God.
Although Thanksgiving Day is a civic holiday, it is also a day when Catholics naturally desire to participate in the Holy Eucharist, our greatest prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God. At the Holy Eucharist, we experience the source of family life in the love of God, which is unceasingly poured out upon us from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus, Who offers us the gift of His Body and Blood through the Holy Eucharist, is the One Who binds husband and wife in marriage, so that they may be the image of His faithful and enduring love for us.
Christ, alive for us in the Church and, most of all, in the Holy Eucharist, gives to husband and wife the grace of parenthood, of procreating and educating new human life made in God's own image and likeness.
I hope that you will be able to participate in Mass on Thanksgiving Day to thank God for the gift of marriage and the family, which are the foundations of our individual lives and of the life of the Church and of all society.
Thanksgiving and the Enthronement of the Royal Heart of Jesus
On the Sunday following Thanksgiving Day, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, bringing to a conclusion the current Liturgical Year. The new image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, which I dedicated and blessed on June 17th of this year, expresses the true meaning of the kingship of Christ. Christ rules from His glorious pierced Heart, receiving into His all-glorious Heart the hearts of all who call upon His Name and invoke His mercy. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is rightly also called the Royal Heart of Jesus.
The enthroned image of the Sacred Heart in our homes, our schools and other places of significant activity, reminds us, in a very practical and beautiful way, that our Lord Jesus, Whom we receive in Holy Communion, remains with us always and desires to be always in our company. He constantly thirsts for our souls, for our love. Christ the King is our dearest brother who tirelessly seeks only what is for our good and provides for us His own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity as our greatest good, the Heavenly Bread of our earthly pilgrimage and the pledge of our future glory.
On Thanksgiving Day and on the Solemnity of Christ the King, be sure to give special honor to the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which you have enthroned in your home. Gather before the image of the pierced Heart of Jesus to recognize God's manifold blessings in your life and in our world, and to offer Him your homage of praise and thanksgiving. If you have not yet enthroned the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home, what more fitting time to do so! Why not make the three days of preparation for the Enthronement, beginning on Thanksgiving Day, and, then, joyfully and gratefully make the Solemn Enthronement on the Solemnity of Christ the King? You can obtain the booklet for the Enthronement, which includes the details of the triduum of preparation and the ritual of Enthronement, from the Office of Sacred Worship of the Archdiocese.
Again, my best wishes for the celebration of Thanksgiving Day and the Solemnity of Christ the King. Please continue to pray for me that God will help me to be a good, faithful and generous shepherd of His flock. You will be in my prayers, as I thank God for calling me to serve you, His flock in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. In these days, let us pray with special fervor: Heart of Jesus, of Whose fullness we have all received, have mercy on us.