We all know the traditional story of Thanksgiving Day in the USA—the pilgrims sharing their meal with the Native Americans who helped them survive. But did you know that the “pilgrims” were actually Congregationalists from England who left because they wanted to de-Catholicize the Church of England? They were bound and determined to remove every last remnant of the Catholic Church from their faith. Essentially, they were anti-Catholic.
Also, did you know that this actually was not the first thanksgiving celebrated within the borders of present-day USA? Rather, the first happened in St Augustine, Florida, on September 8, 1565 (56 years before the pilgrims). It was on this day that a group led by Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez landed in Florida and claimed the land for Spain. Then they offered the Holy Mass and enjoyed a meal with the local Native Americans. How fitting that they offered Mass since the name “Eucharist” comes from the Greek “eucharistein” meaning “thanksgiving.” More importantly, though, the Holy Mass is the ultimate act of thanksgiving since it is the offering of ourselves to God. There is no better way to give God thanks for our blessings than to participate in the Sacrament of Thanksgiving, the Sacrament of our salvation!
What the pilgrims did at Plymouth was a worthy act of thanksgiving. Unfortunately, though, it was not as complete as that of the Spaniards in Florida who also participated in the Holy Mass.
Even if we Catholics are still held back, looked down upon, or challenged by our society, we still have a lot to be thankful for. In the very end, we have the gift of life—the very gift that the Spanish and English colonists were given so long ago! But let us not take this gift for granted like so many others have and continue to do. Let us rather come to recognize its potential and allow it to grow as God created it to grow, according to His will. And, as always, let us continue to pray for the ability and freedom to promote life in all of its stages and through all of our actions!