The Thanksgiving Mass and the Ordinariate

American Catholics have long felt a desire to liturgize the civil holiday of Thanksgiving. In the 1950s, the Rural Life Prayerbook suggested attending the Mass of the day and privately praying the Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion of the Votive Mass of Thanksgiving. Several proposals were floated throughout the 1960s, including a proposed Mass by the Franciscan Father Neil J. O’Connell.

After the Novus Ordo Missae was promulgated in 1970, a special Mass for the holiday was composed and then used for several decades. But the Preface’s rather naive confusion of the Church’s sole status as “New Israel” with the American founding myth did not sit well with some commentators. Happily, this fault was corrected somewhat with the promulgation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal in 2011.

Nonetheless, the prayers there, while much improved, still leave something to be desired.

Despite multiple attempts, none of the Roman Church’s solutions to date—not the improved translation of 2011, not the obsolete 1974 version, and not the traditional Votive Mass of Thanksgiving from the 1962 Missal—have ever really captured the essence of the North American holiday. We are not merely celebrating a good bestowed, we are making a particular thanksgiving for the fruit of the harvest.  In this respect, it occupies for Americans the same conceptual space that Martinmas on November 11th occupies for Europeans.

Luckily, however, a far superior set of prayers is currently in use by the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Its official liturgical book Divine Worship: the Missal features an excellent set of propers for the American Thanksgiving Day, of which the Collect reads as follows:
Almighty and gracious Father, we give thee thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we beseech thee, faithful stewards of thy great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord…
The Ordinariate Collect sounds the harvest theme clearly and immediately. It also manages to concisely work in the labors of the harvesters and the stewardship of the bounty both in our own homes and for the benefit of the poor. Moreover, unlike many recently written collects, it is quite Roman in structure and would fit in perfectly with the tone of the Roman Missal. It even seems like it could be Latinized quite easily for eventual use in the traditional liturgy.

Of course there are many good ways we can keep a Catholic Thanksgiving in our homes—I have collected the most notable examples in a booklet of Thanksgiving prayers and devotions.

But finding a better way to officially commemorate the holiday in the Roman Missal is also worth considering, and the Thanksgiving Day collect of the Ordinariate seems like the perfect liturgical peg to hang it on.

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