Blessed Thanksgiving!


The first Mass in St. Augustine, FloridaPraying each one of you have a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving today!

Our first Thanksgiving in San Antonio was in 2008 – here’s an article from our diocesan newspaper from way back then, by then-Archbishop Gomez (now archbishop of Los Angeles).


For most Americans, Thanksgiving Day is a special day, where we celebrate family unity. In fact, families get together on Thanksgiving more often than on any other holiday, including Christmas, and according to retailers’ statistics, this is the day when the most food is consumed in the country.

But besides the traditional family get-together and the big meal, there is also the religious meaning of this holiday, that is present since its origins. According to tradition, the pilgrims celebrated the first meal of thanksgiving in 1621, together with a group of natives to give thanks to God for the abundance of the harvests in the new world.

With time, this celebration became a national event, finally sanctioned by President George Washington himself. Today, we Catholics, celebrate Thanksgiving not only as a national holiday, but also as an authentically Catholic holiday.

I say that this is a truly Catholic celebration because even before the “first” Thanksgiving celebration on U.S. soil in 1621, on April 30, 1598, in Texas, Don Juan de Oñate had already declared officially a “Day of Thanksgiving,” commemorated with the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

????????Oñate did what is essentially Catholic: to celebrate the Eucharist, a word which comes from the Greek term Eukaristein, and which means, precisely, “thanksgiving.”

In fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “Believing in God, the only One, and loving him with all our being has enormous consequences for our whole life,” (CCC 222); and then it adds that this involves, “living in thanksgiving: if God is the only One, everything we are and have comes from him: ‘What have you that you did not receive?’ ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me?’”(CCC 224).

This is the reason why, although Thanksgiving is not a day of obligation on the Catholic calendar, the liturgical calendar of the church in the United States celebrates it with the solemnity of two readings — one from the Old and another from the New Testament — and with a symbolic reading of the Gospel of Luke: the passage of the “Magnificat” proclaimed by the Most Holy Virgin Mary, in which she recites one of the most beautiful and profound thanksgivings to the infinite love of God: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness… The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Lk 1:41-55)

Although the Virgin Mary experienced it in a unique and privileged way, we can offer our thanksgiving to God, because he has given us more than we imagine or deserve, simply because, as our Holy Mother tells us, he has done great things for us, and holy is his name.

That is why we Catholics should not only celebrate Thanksgiving with a deep sense of prayer, gratitude and joy, but the celebration this day should lead us to remember that our lives as Catholics are a constant act of thanksgiving, through our daily activities, all of which should give glory to God, especially through the celebration of the Eucharist, which, as the Catechism says, “The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving.’” (CCC 1360)

This weekend we begin the special season of Advent. Through it, we prepare to receive the supreme gift from God: his own Son, who became one of us to reconcile humanity.

I pray with all my heart to our Mother, who was always grateful to the Lord, to fill our hearts with thanksgiving, in preparation for the great mysteries of Christmas.

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The end is nigh!


The end is nigh! That’s right, in just a few hours, the end of 2013 will be upon us, and a new year will begin.

Our community tradition has been to close the year by chanting two of the penitential psalms.  After Mass on December 31st we chant the Miserere (Psalm 50) and the De Profundis (Psalm 129), in reparation for the sins of the past year.  Then after Mass on January 1st, we chant the Te Deum, in thanksgiving to God for the blessings and hope of the new year.

It has also been our tradition to ring in the new year with an 11pm Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  There is no better way to close out the old year and welcome the new than by offering God the best we can give him, the highest prayer and most perfect form of worship.  For many of us, this was quite a change from the usual way to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  Most memorable of all are the times when the Consecration coincided with the midnight bell chime.  While so many were focused on watching the big ball in Times Square drop, God, who is outside of time, was coming to us silently and humbly under the form of Bread and Wine, even as the old year closed and the new one began.  Either Fr. Joseph was an expert with timing, or God arranged that blessing perfectly.  Whichever it was, we are grateful!

Below are some videos of Psalm 50 and Psalm 129, sung most beautifully by the choir of King’s College.

Pentecost Sunday – Be open to “God’s surprises”

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on Pentecost Sunday with members of Lay Ecclesial MovementsToday the Holy Father celebrated the Pentecost Mass in St. Peter’s Square, which was filled with members of Lay Ecclesial Movements.  Members of about 150 different groups from around the world, numbering 120,000 people, made the pilgrimage to Rome to celebrate Pentecost during this Year of Faith.  Below is the Vatican Radio translation of Pope Francis’ homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.
But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven “like the rush of a violent wind”, and filled the house; then the “tongues as of fire” which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”, who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all “began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”. A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: “We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language”. And what is it that they are they speaking about? “God’s deeds of power”.

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Year of Faith: An Eyewitness Account

Today is a very historic day: not only is it the 50th anniversary of the Opening of the Second Vatican Council, it is also the beginning of the year of Faith.  This Year of Faith is a personal initiative of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and it is going to be perhaps his greatest gift to our Church.

Last week the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican Office responsible for Indulgences and for handling those grave sins whose absolution is reserved to the Holy Father (such as desecrating the Blessed Sacrament, or violating the seal of confession) issued a proclamation for the Year of Faith.  There are a remarkable number of ways to obtain plenary indulgences during this Year, and, more amazingly, the document includes a request to the Bishops of the World to make special provisions during this Year to allow more of their priests to absolve from sins reserved to the Bishop, such as abortion.  It feels more like a jubilee year than a Year of Faith.

Today, we students in Rome were given a rare treat: the Congregation for Catholic Education cancelled all morning courses at the Pontifical Universities so that we could participate in the Mass to open the Year of Faith.  As this was the first week of class, that was no small feat.

Once again, I was able to distribute Communion at the Mass, and, once again, I was very close to the Holy Father.  There were two very interesting additions this time: seated to the left of the Pope was Bartholomew, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the ‘first among equals of the Orthodox Church’.  In the sanctuary near to the Cardinals, Bishops and Diplomats was Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Ecclesial community.

After Communion, but before the end of Mass, Bartholomew was able to address the crowd, and he spoke in Italian of his memories of the Council, as well as of the tremendous work towards re-unification that Paul VI and John Paul II had carried out.  He re-iterated his hope for a moment in which full union will again come about.

The Homily of the Holy Father was remarkable.  He spoke of how the Council was not about doctrinal discussions, for, as he said, you don’t need an ecumenical council for that, but instead, about finding contemporary ways of expressing the perennial truths of the Gospel.  Towards the end of the homily, he had a remarkable reflection about being in the desert and about the horrors of a life that is not focused on God.

“If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers and contained in its documents… Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path….  This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith: a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics – as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.”

Being once again so near to the Holy Father, I was able to see how tired he is, and yet, how he continues to struggle, to give himself completely for the good of souls.  I would ask you all to pray in a very special way for our Holy Father, that he remain faithful to his mission, and that God grant him many more years as our Chief Shepherd.

Deacon Matthew Furgiuele is a transitional Deacon studying Canon Law at Santa Croce University.  He writes from Rome.