Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holy Days of Obligation

The setting of holy days of obligation resides with the national bishops conferences. So the USCCB decides which days, beyond Sundays, American are required to go to mass. The CCCB does the same for Canada. The CCCB has asked us to observe only 2 days of obligation. There is Christmas and the feast of the Mother of God on Jan 1st. That is it. The US bishops have a few more days.

But because it is decided at a national level it would make a lot of sense to add days that make sense for the nation. For example, Ireland has St Patrick's day at a holy day of obligation. The most obvious candidate is Thanksgiving Day. Canada and the US both have a strong secular tradition around Thanksgiving.  We celebrate it on different days but the sentiment is the same. Giving thanks. Who do we thank? We don't talk about that. We just give thanks.

This holiday could be transformed into a holy day. The connection with the Eucharist is obvious. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving. So why not ask Americans and Canadians to celebrate the Eucharist on Thanksgiving? Catholics have a long history of transforming secular feasts into Catholic feasts. Embrace what is good about it and leave aside the bad. Sometimes it is called baptizing a feast. If there was ever a feast day ripe for baptizing Thanksgiving is it. But our bishops don't seem to want to go there.

I am a little biased because as a protestant Thanksgiving was baptized. We went to church. It was one of the highlights of our liturgical year. We focused on thanks of course. We also focused on giving. It was a day when as students we would do an accounting of our summer earnings. We would insure we had tithed properly. Even for the adults alms-giving was a big part of the day. Then I become Catholic and they do nothing. Why is it so hard to connect our thankfulness with our faith? It seems perfectly natural.

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