Monday, November 19, 2012

The First Thanksgiving Was Catholic

Imperial Flag of Spain

Edit:  the first thanksgiving was in 1565 near St. Augustine Florida.  This gets brought up every year in some places, but not nearly enough, and it is with the Catholic significance of this event, which commemorated our victory over the aggressive and hostile Hugenot threat in the New World.

Rather than a Puritan feast.  We have a Catholic Feast, and a good reason to go to Mass and to be thankful for God's generosity and mercy.


This feast also embraces diversity, since it celebrates the glories of Hispanic civilization.  What better time to enjoy a Spanish dish after Mass, Vespers and Benediction?

Here's an excerpt from an article with some editing:

By Virginia Linn / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Forget the turkey, the silly Pilgrim hats and the buckles. Forget Plymouth Rock and 1621.

The man resposible was Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles, who came ashore on Sept. 8, 1565. This is where he, 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 civilian families and artisans, and the Timucuan Indians who occupied the village of Seloy gathered at a makeshift altar and said the first Christian Mass. And afterward, this is where they held the first Thanksgiving feast.

The Timucuans brought oysters and giant clams. The Spaniards carried from their ships garbanzo beans, olive oil, bread, pork and wine.

It all happened in this bucolic 300-acre Catholic mission and shrine that offers a quiet respite amid the frenetic tourist activity of St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the United States. A replica of the Rustic Altar sits next to the shore in the general area where archaeologists believe the Mass took place.

Michael Gannon, former director of the mission and University of Florida distinguished service emeritus professor of history, presented the celebration in his meticulously researched book, "The Cross in the Sand," in 1965 and has argued that this feast should be recognized as the first Thanksgiving.

Each year the city's founding on Sept. 8 is celebrated with much pageantry, including cannon fire, a mayor's proclamation, speeches by historians and Mass at the Rustic Altar. A grass-roots group and city commission have been set up to plan festivities to celebrate the city's 450th anniversary in 2015.

After Juan Ponce de Leon discovered the peninsula, named it La Florida ("Land of Flowers") and claimed it for Spain in 1513, the Spanish Crown tried without success to permanently colonize the land. By 1564, the French had established a fort and colony on the nearby St. John's River. King Philip II named Menendez governor of Florida and commissioned him to establish a permanent settlement and gain control of the territory. After a failed attempt to cross the sea because of bad weather, Menendez landed at a harbor in Northern Florida on Sept. 4, 1565, that he named San Agustin (St. Augustine) in honor of the saint upon whose feast day, Aug. 28, he had first sighted land near Cape Canaveral.

The fleet's chaplain was a secular priest named Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, who not only was the fleet's spiritual leader, but also kept a log describing the historic passage and landing.

"On Saturday the 8th, the general landed with many banners spread, to the sounds of trumpets and salutes of artillery," according to a translation of what Father Lopez wrote. "As I had gone ashore the evening before, I took a cross and went to meet him, singing the hymn 'Te Deum Laudamus.' The general, followed by all who accompanied him, marched up to the cross, knelt and kissed it. A large number of Indians watched these proceedings and imitated all they saw done."

The Spanish named the landing spot Nombre de Dios, or "Name of God," and it became missionary headquarters in the new land. Father Lopez was named pastor of the new settlement.

"The Timucuans were gentle people in terms of manner and disposition," Mr. Johnson said. "They didn't have any reason to believe that the Spanish were enemies." Menendez wanted to find a way to co-exist with the native people in a peaceful way, he said. "He treated the chief as he himself wanted to be treated."
Admiral Mendez

Edit: While it is true that they lived in peace with the Indians, they wanted to drive the French out of Florida. There were already substantial settlements of Hugenots, which can be read about in more detail at Tradition in Action.

Link to Spanish Cuisine blog from which the photo was stolen.


PiusLad said...

Florida, too, was named for a Catholic feast. From Dom Gueranger: "Our forefathers used to call [Palm Sunday] 'Pascha Floridum', because the feast of the Pasch (or Easter). . . is today in bud, so to speak, and the faithful could begin from this Sunday to fulfill the precept of Easter Communion. It was in allusion to this name that the Spaniards, having on the Palm Sunday of 1513, discovered the peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, called it 'Florida'."

Anonymous said...

Awesome article. One I will be sure to spread around in another day or two.

I must say that thoughts of that historic first Mass offered in thanksgiving in St. Augustine have given me a certain amount of peace and hope during this time of crisis in America. And now this article has added to that peace and hope. Thank you, Tancred.

And thank you too, PiusLad for your contribution because it is seed for meditation and has already given me a few additional thoughts to consider. Where else would that Mass have been able to be offered? What other place and location on our Eastern shores would have the rising sun, sand and palm trees?

Anyway, thank you both.

Geremia said...

I've always wondered why Pope Pius XII dispensed of abstinence for the Friday following what really wasn't a Puritan "holiday."