by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Like so many other experiences during this year, Thanksgiving 2020 is very different from previous celebrations of this national holiday.
Many families this year will not gather as they normally have done for decades because of health concerns related to the coronavirus.
While Thanksgiving is a civic holiday, not a Catholic holy day, its roots are profoundly Christian. Gratitude is at the heart of our Catholic spirituality. The very word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” Our eucharistic prayer reminds us that we are called always and everywhere to give thanks.
Gratitude is the natural disposition of the heart of the Christian, because we realize that our life, our health, our abilities, our talents, our opportunities, our families, our friendships, our material possessions and so much more are all God’s gifts.
Having had the experience of being afflicted by COVID-19, I marvel and give thanks for the immune system God has designed into our bodies that protects us from so many physical threats. I desire to be like the one leper of the Gospel who returns to give thanks to Jesus for the gift of healing.
With everyone else, I am thrilled with the likely prospect of the availability very soon of a vaccine. We should all be profoundly grateful for all who have worked so hard in our government and in the scientific community to make this a reality more quickly than most thought possible. Once again, we must give God thanks for giving human beings the gifts and talents that equip us to make such discoveries.
At the same time, I share the concern of our governmental leaders and public health officials at the recent rise in Covid cases. While most will recover from the virus, we know that too many will not.
With over 250,000 citizens of the United States having died with Covid, we must do our best to minimize the spread of this vicious virus.
There is a legitimate concern about the possibility of overwhelming our hospitals and available medical personnel, making it impossible for them to care properly not only for Covid cases, but also all those with other serious health conditions
I am grateful to our priests and parishioners for all that you have done to make the public celebration of Masses as safe as possible. In these final weeks of 2020, I ask all of us to recommit ourselves to observing the safety protocols for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is important that we continue to social distance, wear masks and sanitize our churches prior to each celebration of Mass.
I encourage again those who feel sick or manifesting any possible symptoms of the virus not to participate in the Eucharist. If, because of age or other physical infirmities, you are at high risk, please be prudent and take advantage of television or livestream celebrations of Mass.
The moral obligation to attend Mass continues to be suspended in order not to place any unnecessary pressure on those who are most vulnerable to the virus.
I realize that the wearing of masks is controversial for some and there are conflicting scientific opinions. Nevertheless, even if you do not believe in the efficacy of masks protecting you from Covid, I ask you to follow our protocols that include the request to wear masks while in church.
I ask you to make this sacrifice out of charity for fellow parishioners. Help us avoid public health authorities requesting the closing again of our churches. Of course, if you have health conditions that preclude wearing a mask, our protocols allow for such exceptions.
I want to do everything possible to keep our churches open and the reception of the Eucharist available, especially during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Your cooperation is crucial and greatly appreciated.
With vaccines on the horizon and more people having recovered from the virus now being immune, there is good reason to hope that the public health situation will improve significantly during the coming months.
Let us persevere in our commitment to work for the common good and to protect the public health of our communities.
There are always many reasons to be grateful. Giving thanks is in our Christian DNA. Let us give God thanks for his abundant blessings, especially the gift of his Son, Jesus, who is Our Lord and King. Jesus promises to be with us through all the struggles of this world and he has given us the sure and certain hope of sharing in his eternal life.
I miss my mother this Thanksgiving, but what a consolation to know that she is now experiencing life in that new and eternal Jerusalem, where there is no more pain, mourning or death.
Let us give thanks, always and everywhere, even in the midst of a pandemic.