History in Thanksgiving Day
Brother John Samaha, SM
"In all things, give thanks ..."
— St. Paul to the Thessalonians, 5:15
The very first Thanksgiving was in St. Augustine, Florida, celebrated by Spanish settlers and Timucua Indians on Sept. 8, 1565. The first Mass was celebrated on what is now American soil and there was a feast of bean soup.
A second "Thanksgiving" was declared in Texas, by Spanish explorer Don Juan de Oñate and is still commemorated in El Paso, Texas: "In the name of the most Holy Trinity … I take possession of this whole land this April 30, 1598, in honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ, on this day of the Ascension of Our Lord …." The Mass was celebrated and a Thanksgiving feast of geese, cranes and ducks was had by the colonists, followed by a play by Franciscans celebrating conversions of Native Americans.
And Squanto, the Native American who helped the Puritan pilgrims and Native Americans arrange what is known as our Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock in 1621, had previously been captured and enslaved by the English, but was freed by the Spanish Franciscans. He was baptized and became Catholic: thus, a baptized Catholic helped arrange what is known as Thanksgiving!
(Marianist Brother John Samaha is a retired religious educator who worked for many years in the catechetical department of the Oakland diocese. He now resides in Cupertino.)
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