Have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving break! Because of the break this week, our usual Catholic Campus Ministry activities for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are cancelled. We WILL be having Mass this Sunday at 7:30pm, as usual. We will be celebrating the great solemnity of Christ the King, so we hope you can join us.
Thanksgiving is an American holiday, not a Catholic holiday, but it still is a holiday deep with religious significance. Many people assume the first Thanksgiving was celebrated at the Plymouth settlement in November of 1621. It was then, to mark the first anniversary of the their arrival, that Governor William Bradford declared a day of prayer thanksgiving to God for their survival. The sixty pilgrims were joined by ninety or so Native Americans, and after that, the custom of celebrating a day of Thanksgiving spread to other colonies in the New World.
After the Revolutionary War, President Washington declared that November 26, 1789, be "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and sole favors of Almighty God." But it did not become a national holiday until 1863 when Lincoln declared that the last Thursday in November be celebrated each year "as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father."
So, in its origins, Thanksgiving is a holiday established in our country not just as an occasion to "give thanks" in a generic sort of way, but specifically to give thanks to God for all the blessings we have in our lives.
This thought is very much in keeping with Catholic tradition. Our principle feast, the Sacrament we celebrate each day in Catholic churches across the world, and which faithful Catholics are obliged to participate in each Sunday, is the Eucharist. That word -- eucharist -- comes from the Greek meaning, "to give thanks."
When Christ instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, he did so by taking bread and wine, blessing it, and offering thanks to the Father. He instructs us to do the same, in memory of Him. With this Sacrament, we are forever linked to the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross at Calvary. Forever more, from that point on, animal sacrifices would no longer be offered in an attempt to make reparations to God for our sins. The bloody sacrifices of old represented a people trying their best to say, "I'm sorry" for their failings and imperfections, their evils and wrong doings. But no amount of sacrifice on their part could make up for the distance between our sinfulness and God's holiness.
Only God could bridge that gap, and He did exactly that through the perfect sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Now, when we participate in the sacrifice of the Mass, we do so with a spirit of eucharist. We do so with a spirit of thanksgiving.
This Thursday, wherever you are, whether you are gathered around a table with family, enjoying a delicious feast, or sitting alone eating a more humble meal, don't forget to offer a prayer to your Heavenly Father in gratitude for all the many blessings in your life; especially the greatest blessing of all, the gift of His Son, our Savior. Don't forget to say, "Thank you, Father."