November 12, 2006

November 12 is the anniversary of a Catholic “Thanksgiving” in North America that took place 18 years before the “Pilgrims" left England.

UPDATE. See the end of this post.

In the year of our Lord 1602, the Spanish explorer Vizcaíno led an expedition sailing up the coast of California with three Carmelite friar priests. On 12 November that year, the expedition arrived in what is now called San Diego Bay, and celebrated the first Mass in California on a spot that is now part of a U.S. Naval facility. “Eucharist” is from the Greek word for “thanksgiving.”

I joined a small crowd of Carmelite friars and nuns at the chapel of that Naval facility for the Four-Hundredth Anniversary Mass, 12 November 2002. The icon below was painted by Brother Claude Lane, O.S.B., of Mount Angel Abbey, Oregon. It was carried in procession down the street and into the chapel for the Mass that day. I don’t have a better image of the icon. The icon itself is more than two feet tall.

Eighteen years after the first REAL Thanksgiving in California, the Puritans sailed from England on the ship Mayflower and landed on the rocky coast of what is now Massachusetts. They planted crops, and celebrated their first harvest in the Fall of 1621.
The harvest celebration of autumn, 1621, was quite plainly neither a fast day nor a thanksgiving day in the eyes of the Pilgrims. Rather it was a secular celebration which included games, recreations, three days of feasting and Indian guests. It would have been unthinkable to have these things as part of a religious Thanksgiving. The actual first declared Thanksgiving occurred in 1623, after a providential rain shower saved the colony’s crops.

The Holy Days of the Puritans
When the Puritans rejected the old Medieval ecclesiastical calendar of Christmas, Easter and Saint’s days, they submitted three allowable holy days: The Sabbath, the Day of Humiliation and Fasting, and the Day of Thanksgiving and Praise. The latter two were never held on a regular basis but only in direct response to God’s Providence. When things went well, signaling God’s pleasure with the community, then it was proper to declare a Day of Thanksgiving in His praise. But when God’s displeasure was evident and events were unfortunate, it was an indication that the community should repent and declare a Day of Fasting and Humiliation. Each of these days were held on weekdays and meant an extra day of church services and devotion in addition to the Sabbath. The Day of Thanksgiving was often concluded with a feast, while the fast days saw voluntary privation. [Click HERE for the source and more information on the official website of “Plimoth Plantation”.]


So... the Puritans ain't got nothin' on the Catholics, and Plymouth ain't got nothin' on San Diego.

HOWEVER, THE VERY FIRST KNOWN MASS ON THE MAINLAND OF THE AMERICAS WAS IN 1502, on a beach in what is now called Honduras, Central America, during the fourth and last trip by Christopher Columbus.

The first known Mass celebrated in Canada, North America, was on 7 July 1534 by a priest with the explorer Jacques Cartier.

The first Mass on North American soil that would become part of the United States was celebrated by the Spanish on 8 September 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida.


Anonymous FAith said...

I wish that I could have been there with you. I have just come back from a vacation in Escondido and would have enjoyed "Thanksgiving." This would have been especially sweet since I live in Massachusetts. May I recommend a book for your pleasure, and continuing education, "Mayflower," by Nathaniel Philbrick. It will have you shaking your head over "people." History seems to be made by personal agendas.
Let us always be thankful.
Deo Gratias.

5:23 AM  

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