This Thanksgiving Day, We Join in the Thanks Offered by Our Holy Father

Pope Francis arrives for Mass and the canonization of Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Sept. 23.

On this Thanksgiving Day, we again gather with our loved ones, joined by family members and friends around the dinner table, to thank God for the many blessings in our lives.

For Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, this year’s Thanksgiving is even more special, as we thank God for the gift of Pope Francis’ visit two months earlier and join him in praising God for the good in our Church and in our nation. The memories of those two grace-filled days will continue to inspire our family of faith here for years to come.

Throughout his visit to Washington, Pope Francis often expressed gratitude to God and to our nation’s Catholics. As he offered thanks, Pope Francis underscored our living legacy as Catholics and Americans, and encouraged us to carry on those ideals. Addressing the bishops of this country at a midday prayer service at our Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, Pope Francis said, “My first word to you is one of thanksgiving to God for the power of the Gospel which has brought about remarkable growth of Christ’s Church in these lands and enabled its generous contribution, past and present, to American society and to the world.”

In that address, Pope Francis also thanked Americans for their solidarity with the Holy See and the generous support they offer for spreading the Gospel in suffering areas of the world. The pontiff said he appreciates “the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family.”

Then the Pope who at the White House described himself as “the son of an immigrant family” thanked the Church in the United States for its history of welcoming immigrants who come to this country with dreams of “enjoying its blessings of freedom and prosperity.”

Our Holy Father then expressed gratitude for support by the faithful of Catholic education and charitable outreach, works he said that “are often carried out without appreciation or support, often with heroic sacrifice.”

When Pope Francis addressed Congress, he spoke of his respect for the elderly “who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired but still active; they keep working to build up this land.” The Pope also praised “all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations.”

At the White House and Congress, Pope Francis encouraged our nation which has been so blessed to remember the poor and to help bring them hope. Then he later did just that when he blessed and visited with homeless men, women and children and other clients served by our Catholic Charities.

After his address to Congress, the pontiff stepped out onto the balcony of the U.S. Capitol and spoke to the crowd gathered there, thanking them for their welcome and their presence. Then he added, touchingly, “I thank the most important people here today: the children. I want to ask God to bless them. Lord, Father of us all, bless your people, bless each of them, bless their families, grant them what they need most.”

Throughout his trip to Washington, Pope Francis thanked American Catholics for their faith and generosity. He also reminded us of his solidarity with us. “May no member of Christ’s Body and the American people feel excluded from the Pope’s embrace,” he said at our cathedral church. “Whenever a hand reaches out to do good or to show the love of Christ, to dry a tear or bring comfort to the lonely, to show the way to one who is lost or to console a broken heart, to help the fallen or to teach those thirsting for truth, to forgive or to offer a new start in God, know that the Pope is at your side, the Pope supports you. He puts his hand on your own, a hand wrinkled with age, but by God’s grace still able to support and encourage.”

As we gather around our Thanksgiving dinner table, let us remember to pray and offer thanks for our Holy Father and follow his example of offering Christ’s love to those we encounter, especially those who have no one else. Pope Francis often asks us to pray for him, and this Thanksgiving, I invite you to do that.