On Giving Thanks

Note from the editor: Thanks to the mercy of Almighty God, and no doubt the fervent prayers of all the FSSP faithful, Fr. Christopher Mahowald has recovered from COVID and is gradually reassuming his priestly duties as pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Scranton, PA. This past Sunday he wrote a short letter to his parish that he kindly allowed us to share here. We thought it a perfect reflection not only for the holiday but also for our profound gratitude for his recovery and return to priestly work.

Dear Faithful of St. Michael the Archangel,

This upcoming Thursday we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. A few words on giving thanks would only be appropriate.

Our Catechism teaches us that there are four ends, or purposes, to an act of sacrifice, especially as sacrifice pertains to the Catholic Mass. They are: adoration, atonement, thanksgiving, and petition. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians tells us that we should “give thanks to God always and for everything in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Eph. 5:20).

“The First Thanksgiving”: the Spanish celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving in Florida, 1565.

Our Lord Himself taught us the importance of giving thanks when He praised the cured leper who returned to give thanks for the miracle. Thanksgiving is a very important aspect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for in the Mass, Christ becomes truly present on the altar, and through the prayers of the Church and the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, He borrows the voice and limbs of the ordained priest to look up to His heavenly Father and give thanks for all the gifts and graces bestowed on man.

Every good thing in our lives is a gift from Him: time, space, air, beauty, love, family, friends, grace, the sacraments, etc. The crosses, struggles, and sorrows that we meet in our life all come as a result of sin, i.e. the gift of free will used wrongly, whether by ourselves or another.

Sin is never just personal, it affects all of the members of the mystical body.

One suggestion I’d give to make your prayer more efficacious: take a few minutes every day to think of particular gifts or graces that God has blessed you with on that day. This act is already one of gratitude. But then thank God for each of them and acknowledge His hands in our life.

So often our prayer can become a list of petitions, or maybe even concerns that we may have, but I think you will make great strides in your prayer if you make gratitude a greater part of it.

Gratitude, St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, is something we always owe in justice for a gift received, and no one has been more generous with us and no one can be more worthy of our gratitude than our Heavenly Father.

May the Immaculate Heart of Mary teach us to imitate her Divine Son in true gratitude and devotion.

–Rev. Christopher Mahowald, FSSP.

November 24, 2021