Psalms of Thanksgiving


“I will praise your name forever, Lord” is the responsorial psalm that is sung at Mass on Thanksgiving Day (Psalm 145). It is part of the collection of Psalms that are called “Psalms of Thanksgiving.”

The Psalms are often referred to as a school of prayer for the way in which they have captured the experiences and thoughts of God’s people and turned them into prayer. In the Catholic Catechism for Adults we learn, “These incomparable prayers nourished the people both personally and communally” (CCA, p. 465).

Throughout history, the Psalms have been part of Jewish life, sung both at worship and at home, sung together as a community and as part of personal prayer. Jesus sang them with Mary and Joseph when he was growing up, and he sang them with his disciples during his ministry.

Today, as we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving and we sit with people we love at a table filled with the fruits of the earth, giving praise to God is the most natural response. Two particular Psalms seem made for inclusion in our families’ prayer for our Thanksgiving meal.

In Psalm 65, we give thanks to God who is the creator of earth and sea and sky, praying:

To you we owe our hymn of praise,
O God of Zion;
To you our vows must be fulfilled,
you who hear our prayers. You visit the earth
and water it,
make it abundantly fertile.
God’s stream is filled with water;
you supply their grain.
Thus do you prepare it:
you drench its plowed furrows,
and level its ridges.
With showers you keep it soft,
blessing its young sprouts.
You adorn the year with your bounty;
your paths drip with fruitful rain.
The meadows of the wilderness also drip;
the hills are robed with joy.
The pastures are clothed with flocks,
the valleys blanketed with grain;
they cheer and sing for joy.

Thanksgiving is a day set aside to offer thanks in particular for the gift of food and fellowship and to remember some of the earliest encounters of English colonists and Native Americans. Yet we know that there is not a day on which we do not have something for which to give thanks, even if it is simply knowing God is present in the most desperate of situations. It is to Psalm 92 we can turn for such a daily prayer of thanksgiving.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your love at daybreak,
your faithfulness in the night,
For you make me jubilant, LORD, by your deeds;
at the works of your hands I shout for joy.

As you gather with family and friends today and through-out the weekend, be assured of my prayers for you and please pray for me and for the Church of the Archdiocese of Washington that we may continue to bear much fruit in building the kingdom of God.