This month in the United States of America families will celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a national holiday where we reflect upon our state in life and express our gratitude to God for his providential care. It is also a time to be with friends and family and to be thankful for the gift of their presence.
Additionally, it is a time to be thankful for the gift of our own life, realizing how frail we are as humans. In particular, this mortality we possess is brought to the forefront when we remember the lives of those who have gone before us in the sleep of death and who no longer can be at our side this Thanksgiving. While it may seem morbid and depressing, it is in fact a chance to rejoice in the beauty of someone’s life and to be thankful that you were allowed to be in their presence as well as to be thankful for the gift of your own life and the graces you have been given by God.
Furthermore, it reminds us that we hope to be reunited some day to our beloved relatives and friends in the great embrace of Heaven.
Typical of a family Thanksgiving Day meal is the recitation of “grace” before the feast begins. This tradition of thanking God for the bounty he has provided has always been a vital part of commemorating Thanksgiving. Moreover, this custom of “saying grace” has been passed down from one generation to the next by Catholic families all over the world and it is not a tradition that is only observed on Thanksgiving Day.
Included in a Catholic’s prayers to God at mealtime is a remembrance of the dead. Before doing so, a Catholic will recite this prayer of thanksgiving before the meal:
Bless us, O Lord and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
After the meal (or sometimes added on to the first prayers), the family will again start in thanksgiving, but will also remember those who have died:
We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, O Almighty God, who livest and reignest world without end. Amen. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
It is a beautiful tradition, one that receives greater emphasis during the month of November dedicated to the Holy Souls of Purgatory.
This Thanksgiving, both in a spirit of gratitude and remembrance, let us be thankful for those who have gone before us and pray that we too may embrace our mortality and prepare for a safe passage to the Eternal Shores of Heaven.