Faith & Life


Expressing gratitude from a Catholic perspective when gathering together for Thanksgiving

By Cathi Douglas     11/26/2014

While Thanksgiving primarily is perceived as a Protestant holiday with Puritan roots, America’s annual holiday provides the perfect time to recognize and rejoice in the many blessings of the Catholic faith.

“We are surrounded by the love of Christ, offered forgiveness when we have done wrong, invited to receive the Body of Christ each week at Mass, welcomed and supported by members of our faith community and many others,” writes Susan Hines-Brigger in “What Are Your Blessings?” in the St. Anthony Messenger, featured online in “The question is, though, do we take the time to recognize and rejoice in those blessings?”

As we celebrate Thanksgiving with a huge family feast, many of us will pray to God for blessings on us and our turkey dinner. But Hines-Brigger suggests ways we can incorporate our faith into the holiday, including:

  • Name your blessings. Take time to name your blessings out loud. Invite everyone to name one way in which they are blessed.
  • Accentuate the positive. Focus on the blessings you have rather than those you don’t.
  • Pass the word. Tell your kids, parents, siblings or friends how much they mean to you and why.
  • Be a blessing. Try to do something nice for someone—you may be surprised how much your actions are appreciated.

“A lot of the time, moms get caught up in the ‘magazine mentality’ of the holiday,” notes Katie Dawson, the Diocese of Orange’s Director of Parish Faith Formation. “They want to make their holiday worthy of Instagram, when really what is important is the environment of Thanksgiving and teaching our children about thankfulness.”

Depending upon the ages of children in the family, Dawson says, there are a multitude of creative ways to integrate faith into the celebration. “Children of all ages love parades or marches,” Dawson observed. “You can incorporate everything from napkins and silverware to decorations, and make putting things on the table into a parade. What’s important is that it’s done with enthusiasm and lots of smiles and laughter.”

By taking the time to focus on the meaning of the holiday, Dawson says, it becomes more than a day featuring a mere meal, but a time of giving thanks for the many different ways we have received gifts in our lives.

Dawson recommends the website, where Lacy Rabideau describes a host of memorable ways to incorporate arts and crafts into celebrating the holiday with children. A selection of Catholic Thanksgiving prayers also is available at

The Father James Martin, S.J., a Jesuit priest and author, wrote “I’m Grateful, God: A Thanksgiving Prayer for Everyone” in 2012. It was originally published in America, the national Catholic review, where Martin serves as the magazine’s editor-at-large.

“Most of all, God,” Martin wrote in concluding the prayer, “I’m grateful for your presence in my life. You’re everywhere, and if I remember to pay attention I can see your invitation to meet you in every moment of the day. I know that it is you who turn my mind to thoughts of gratitude. And when I’m tempted to focus only on the problems and worries and fears, I know that I’m being led away from you.

“Now, I’m not always as thankful as I should be, but today I am,” he wrote. “Today I will try to be grateful all day, since you are generous all day to me, like you are every day.”