As is customary for EWTN employees, tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, and Friday are holidays, so this column will take a rest – but not the author, as you will see!

Thanksgiving has always been for me, as it has for millions of Americans, one of my favorite holidays – a holiday from school or work, families traveling great distances to be together, the amazing aromas emanating from kitchens nationwide, parades and football games and, well, you know what I mean. I fully realize that football this year may be more of a divisive factor than one of unity! How very sad!

My favorite memory is when, at dinner, just before grace, each member of the family had to say what we were thankful for. The last time I celebrated Thanksgiving in America was in 2009! However Thanksgiving celebrations in Rome are truly memorable, very special days.

Mass is an integral part of the day. On occasion, as I will tomorrow, I have attended two Masses, one at the church for American Catholics in Rome – St. Patrick’s – and a second Mass at the Pontifical North American College, our seminary in the Eternal City. NAC, as the college is called, makes Thanksgiving a very special occasion by starting the day with a late morning Mass and then offering a traditional American turkey dinner to seminarians, faculty, staff and invited guests. There is always an additional Italian touch to this menu as we start with an antipasto and pasta! Fifth year students – ordained priests who have returned to Rome for a fifth year of studies – serve the meal. As pumpkins pies are paraded into the dining room, seminarians sing or recite “An Ode to Pumpkin Pie.”

One highlight of the day, at both St. Patrick’s and the North American College, is the reading of the Presidential Proclamation by an American Ambassador. This year, Ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich will read the proclamation at the end of Mass in St. Patrick’s and also at NAC during lunch. (By the by, the word ‘designate’ appears before her name until she presents her Credentials or Letters of Credence to Pope Francis. She will do that in December.)

It is amazing how many Americans do not know of the Presidential Proclamation! George Washington issued the first such proclamation on October 3, 1789. It began – and ended – with a reference to God… “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor” The president then assigned a special day that year “to be devoted to thanking God for His beneficence.”


Dear Lord, how have you blessed me? Let me count the ways…..

My wonderful family, my beautiful faith, my ocean of friends, the friends throughout your great universe whom you have brought into my life.

Does a day pass that you do not bring some unique, new person into my life?

Does a day pass that I am not enriched ad blessed by some amazing event which you placed in my path as a learning moment, a time of prayer, a period of silent Thanksgiving?

You blessed me at my baptism when you brought me into your beautiful Catholic Church and a faith to which I have always tried to be faithful.

You have blessed me by enriching that faith over the years, allowing me to work for you every day, to bring your Word and your teachings and your Truth to so many.

My words, by comparison, are very insignificant but truly heartfelt. I am filled with both thanksgiving and joy as I write these words, as my mind’s eye overflows with images of each family member, of friends here in Rome and around the globe, of the magnificent events that daily fill my life.

I sign most emails and letters with “God bless,” and then on another line “Joan” – but I read it silently as “God bless Joan.”

And You have blessed me! Heartfelt THANKS!

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
Pleasures pure and undefiled,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
(Part of a Christian hymn composed by Folliott S. Pierpoint (1835-1917)