Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Giving Thanks the Catholic Way…

 What if it was really the Catholics that held the first Thanksgiving – and turkey WAS on their menu?

Yesterday is probably the United States’ main national solemnity…after the Super Bowl that is. We slaughter the turkey, serve it with all the trimmings and give thanks for the first European settlement in the Americas. You remember, the whole landing at Plymouth rock, starving because of poor crops and the Amerindians (I have been told this is the latest politically correct way to refer to the Native Americans) teaching us how to plant our crops and then out of hospitality, providing us with a fantastic feast. Oddly enough, turkey was not on the menu – although my brother-in-law cooked an amazing one yesterday.

I read a piece yesterday at Catholic Dads Online (a great ezine resource for Catholic Fathers) that was a little upsetting. Dcn. Marques Silva wrote the article, A Virginia Thanksgiving that was helpful in understanding the history of Thanksgiving but sadly fell short. There was no malice in his article but set forth a typical hegemonic understanding of the Thanksgiving tradition. On the up-side, it did correct the Plymouth Rock version of Thanksgiving and corrected the story by sharing the earlier Thanksgiving in Virginia which many forget…darn Northern oppression!

However, what was even more amazing was that that author did not complete his research to understand that Plymouth Rock and Virginina would be the fourth and third Thanksgiving and European settlements respectively. It was great to see that his readership are better Catholics than he and are willing to charitably bring to his attention the grievous error in historicity. Shout-outs to Kathleen McCusker and Mike at What Does Mike Think that “instructed the ignorant”.

As a sidebar, you should read the article that Kathleen re-posted concerning Squanto. This will assist in “filling in” the picture of the Plymouth Rock Thanksgiving entitled, The True thanksgiving Story: Squanto, the Pilgrims and the Pope. As the article points out:

Without Squanto – and, indirectly at least, the Pope and some Jesuit priests – the fate of the Puritan Pilgrims would have been vastly different, and Thanksgiving would likely have never taken place. Squanto was, as Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Plantation wrote of him,

“A spetiall instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectations.”

Mike provided an article by Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D. entitled, The First Thanksgivings Were Catholic. Dr. Hovart corrects the Protestant formation and education surrounding the first Thanksgiving. As with many traditions in the world, even the America’ first Thanksgiving is credited to the Catholics:

The first Thanksgivings were celebrated by Spanish explorers, not pilgrims. It is Florida that today proudly claims the first Thanksgiving, with a feast and celebration between the Spanish and Timucuan Indians on September 8, 1565, 56 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth in 1621. Therefore, St. Augustine – and not Jamestown – is the first permanent European settlement and oldest city in North America. Another correction for many  history books.

Dr. Hovart continues by describing the first Thanksgiving:

In an official ceremony Don Pedro Menendez came ashore amid the sounding of trumpets, artillery salutes and the firing of cannons to claim the land for King Philip II and Spain. One of the priests, Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, who had gone ashore the previous day, advanced to meet him, chanting the Te Deum Laudamus and carrying a cross which Menendez and those with him reverently kissed. Then the 500 soldiers, 200 sailors and 100 families and artisans, along with the Timucuan Indians from the nearby village of Seloy, gathered at a makeshift altar, and a Mass in honor of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary was said.

The Mass was followed by a feast shared by the Spanish and the Timucuan Indians. The Timucuans brought wild turkey, venison, oysters and giant clams, as well as maize, beans, squash, nuts and fruits. The Spaniards contribution was cocido, a stew made with pork, garbanzo beans and onions, along with biscuits, olive oil and red wine.

What prompted Dr. Hovat’s article was a comment a reader wrote which beespeaks a great truth to we who are Catholic:

“It just doesn’t seem right to celebrate the prospering of a Puritan sect that established a Calvinist theocracy in the Massachusetts Colony that would mercilessly persecute Catholics,” one reader argued.

We all have fond memories of our Thanksgiving pageant plays. That being said, truth before sentiment. Sooooo, I stand corrected in my article at Catholic Dads and offer this corrective action to set the record straight.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!



One Response to Giving Thanks the Catholic Way…

  1. […] Thank you to our fantastic readership! Mike at What Does Mike Think gave me a great Catholic education last night. We should be more thankful to our Catholic heritage. Virginia and Plymouth Rock stand numbers three and four respectively in establishing Thanksgiving. Who is first and second? St. Augustine, FL and El Paso TX. To read my redaction and a fuller Thanksgiving tale take a gander at Giving Thanks the Catholic Way. […]

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