We Cannot Diminish the Meaning of Thanksgiving

by David M. Carollo –

The Angelus, by Jean Francois Millet

Thanksgiving calls us to embrace the meaning of the day—gratitude. The holiday itself was founded for this purpose. The 1779 Congressional Thanksgiving Proclamation states that this day is “to be a day of public and solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for His mercies, and of prayer for the continuance of His favor and protection to these United States.” 

Love for our families, our friends, our country, but most of all for God and all that He has given us, is the definition of the Thanksgiving holiday. The story of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock and the Wampanoag tribe celebrating the fall harvest, giving thanks to God for delivering them from difficulties, is what we learned about from an early age. At least, people my age were taught this story.

Eucharistia is the Greek word for thanksgiving. As Catholics, we believe that the Real Presence in the Eucharist can only lead us to the depths of gratitude. Our Eucharistic Lord left us the gift that exceeds all others. How can we not be grateful for the greatest gift ever given? Our Lord said as He ascended into Heaven, “I will be with you always, even to the end of time.” (Mt 28:20)

For Catholics, the Blessed Sacrament is the essence of Thanksgiving. It is the foundation of all we do and have. The good we accomplish in life is directed by God. Those who stay close to Christ in His true presence become like, and think as, the One we consume in this sacrament: “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no life in you.” (Jn 6:53)

The life that comes to us from the Divinity of Jesus helps us fulfill our mission in life and inspires us to act in accordance with His will and the natural law. The direction of our world today opposes the rhythm set by natural law. All of this is rooted in a lack of true thanksgiving for all we receive, including life itself. The children of Fatima were first brought to the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by the hands of the Angel of Peace before they were graced with the apparitions of Our Lady. The grace and ability to fulfill their mission would come from Him—the Divine source.

At the Transfiguration, the disciples caught a glimpse of the magnificence of the glorified Lord. It brought them to a greater understanding of true holiness. They were thankful to have been given this understanding of our potential eternal disposition: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9) If we avail ourselves of the presence of Our Lord often, hopefully daily, we see more clearly the glory of God.

Our lives are without direction when we fail to follow His way. The Thanksgiving holiday is meant to ground us in the reality that all good comes from Him and adversity is allowed so that we grow. A true sense of how we are to act righteously even in the midst of injustice and suffering is found in the hearts of grateful people. Gratitude is what guides us down the right path. It is the virtue that conquers pride, selfishness, egoism, gluttony, envy, all things we see in our culture today. The secularization of this and other holidays masks the intent of those who gave us these celebrations. If we hope to maintain greatness and receive His blessings, we as a people must return to living as the God-given laws direct us, not as our false redefinitions allow us. Defying the laws of God while asking for His blessings becomes a hypocritical request.  

During the Civil War, in his 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation, Abraham Lincoln stated the following referring to the many blessings that we receive as a nation: “No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.”

Food, family and football are the symbols of this national holiday. These outer trappings should lead us to an inner understanding of gratitude, which defines a true Christian. I have always looked forward to Thanksgiving. The long weekend and relaxing time help us to regroup for our duties going forward. God wants us to rest and rejuvenate our minds and most importantly our spirit. In my prayers on this Thanksgiving Thursday, I ask God to instill in the hearts of all Americans a true understanding of what God wants of us and a yearning for the gratitude for all that we have been given in this great nation.

God bless you and Mary keep you in her Immaculate Heart.


David Carollo is the Executive Director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA/National Blue Army Shrine. He wrote this for his Voice of Fatima e-newsletter.

5 Responses

  1. Thank you, Mr. Carollo for your inspiring words regarding this great holiday! Unfortunately, the word Thanksgiving is being omitted in some circles. Recently, I have heard this great holiday being referred to as FriendsGiving Day. How sad that our society is decaying from time honored values.

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