Thanksgiving Encyclical 2011

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good!”

Psalm 136:1

In many of our parishes today, these words are sung during the distribution of the Holy Eucharist. They and the entire Psalm from which they come remind us that the very source of every good thing comes from our heavenly Father. On this blessed Thanksgiving holiday, our first action should be to give thanks to the most High God, for He is good!

We have all been taught the origins of Thanksgiving.

These first courageous settlers of the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts in 1621 bowed their heads in thanks and celebrated their first anniversary in the New World. At the heart of this celebration was the story of their survival through that harsh first year. Their harvest festival reminded them that their survival was a gift from God Himself. Most of us are far removed from that level of survival. But we have a story to share at our Thanksgiving table, too.

There is a lovely little custom of everyone at the table sharing what he or she is grateful for, and each person tells a story of being blessed by God. It was not always so, for our forebears have a story as well. They encountered many harsh realities as they established their lives in the New World.

Yet, they never lost their sense of thanks for everything that God had provided. Their story also needs to be told, especially to a new generation who may not understand that the blessings they enjoy today came through hard work, perseverance, patience, and sacrifice. Amid the many stories that will be told at your holiday table this year, include their story as well.

And as we look out our windows, remember that there are many among us who have not shared so bountifully even though they too may have sacrificed and worked hard. They are in our cities and towns. They are the unemployed, the working poor, and the homeless. Their Thanksgiving holiday may be at a soup kitchen, a local shelter, or not at all. They may be far away in distant lands, serving in the military. Their stories should also be told and, through acts of kindness and philanthropy, we can extend a blessing to them by providing

“the things which are needed” (James 2:16).

Dearly beloved, let us give thanks to the Lord each day of our lives for all His blessings, but most especially on this Thanksgiving Day

With Love in Christ,

+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco