TWENTY SOMETHING | Finding ways to give thanks despite feeling empty

Even before she was married, Emily Stimpson Chapman asked for baby prayers.

"I'd be in an antique store buying little trinkets for the wedding decorations, and I would be asking strangers: 'Pray that we have a baby!'" she said.

The Pittsburgh-based Catholic writer had long yearned to enter into motherhood, so when the love of her life got down on bended knee, she began dispensing prayer requests. She was 40, and math was not on her side.

St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner is about building community

Kindergarten student Lily Talbott colored a placemat recently for a community dinner on Thanksgiving. For 17 years, St. Ferdinand and other north St. Louis County churches have sponsored a Thanksgiving dinner for the community. The project, inspired by Pope John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis, brings people together who are in need of physical and/or spiritual nourishment. St. Ferdinand school children decorated placemats in advance of the dinner.

When you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner for more than 500 people, it's best to keep things streamlined.

That's what volunteers have learned from hosting the St. Ferdinand Thanksgiving Dinner for 17 years. The annual event provides a free meal on Thanksgiving Day and helps build community in the process.

BEFORE THE CROSS | In praise and thanksgiving for all St. Louis has to offer

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson celebrated Mass Nov. 15 in a chapel at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Concelebrating were, left to right, Father James Mason, Father Charlie Samson, Father Jason Schumer and Father Fadi Auro. Archbishop Carlson and Father Mason, rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, were in Rome for meetings. The other priests are studying for advanced degrees in Rome.

Rather than write an exhortation asking you to be thankful, let me tell what I'm thankful for this year.

We're coming to the end of the Year of Consecrated Life. It started on the First Sunday of Advent in 2014, and concludes with the end of the Christmas Season on Feb. 2, 2016.

In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we're blessed to have 88 religious communities in our midst. I'm deeply thankful for the men and women who have made a gift of themselves -- to the Lord and to us -- in religious life. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the generosity of our brothers and sisters in religious life.

FAITH AND CULTURE | A Gospel table of Plenty

F. Javier Orozco

Soon, American families will gather in the yearly Thanksgiving Day rituals. Like every year, many of us will share a meal, conversation, memories and a few jokes.

For some, our common table of gratitude will be full of traditional turkey meat, bread dressing, mash potatoes, cranberry sauce and more. Others will complement this "American" traditional meal with distinct ethnic foods like "tamales," "samosas," "pancit," "couscous," "schnitzel," "empanadas," "halupki," and "alcapurrias" -- to name but a few.

MAN OF THE HOUSE | Begin your prayer by thanking God

Mike Eisenbath

Imagine what Jesus might have thought when His disciples asked, "Lord, teach us to pray."

He could have responded with amazement: "How can you not know how to pray? I have been with you all this time. Are you so dense that you can't even imitate a little of my prayer?"

Instead, He was gracious, gentle and insightful. He taught them from the depths of His heart and soul.

"Our Father, who art in heaven ..."

BEFORE THE CROSS | Thanksgiving time to reflect on blessings

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson prayed the Rosary in the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel at the Cardinal Rigali Center with Kenrick-Glennon seminarians. A film crew from Catholic TV Network recorded him for an upcoming broadcast, which is scheduled to be ready in spring of 2015. Catholic TV is operated through the Archdiocese of Boston.

Happy Thanksgiving!

St. Ignatius of Loyola -- founder of the Jesuits -- proposed a spiritual exercise that seems well-suited for Thanksgiving. He called it "repetition."

In repetition, we go back to points of prayer that have been especially charged with God's presence. St. Francis De Sales would say we linger there like a bee gathering nectar from a flower. It's a little bit like going back to a favorite food in the buffet line for another taste.

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