Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

A History of Gratitude

Another lull, more time for reflection. This celebration today is all the more poignant when we consider the great example set by our forebears. Thanksgiving has frequently followed unspeakable horror and national calamity. Many today look about and bitterly ask what we have to be grateful for, given the sate of the nation. Many are suffering catastrophic loss of jobs, homes, insurance. In order to move forward, perhaps we should spend a moment looking back.

In 1621, the Pilgrims set aside three days in December to feast, to fete the native inhabitants of their new land who taught them how to grow corn. They did this after having lost half of their community the previous year to famine and disease.

In 1789, President George Washington, acting on the authority of Congress, set aside a national day of Thanksgiving after a brutal Revolution that was in reality a world war. Scores of thousands lost family and friends, their homes, livestock, and all of their worldly possessions. Listen to the decidedly NON-SEPARATION of Church/State language of the Founders:

George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

In the midst of a brutal civil war that tore this nation apart, Abraham Lincoln found it a good idea to offer thanks to God. More than 600,000 men would die in that war. Because whole towns signed up together and fought together, it was not at all uncommon for all the men of a town to be killed in a single battle. Yet, listen to the language of Lincoln’s proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Then in 1941, as the gathering war clouds pressed in on our Atlantic and Pacific shores, with Pearl Harbor set to occur two weeks after the dedicated day of thanks, after ten years of grinding economic depression, Franklin Roosevelt issued the following proclamation:

, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate and set aside Thursday, the twentieth day of November 1941, as a day to be observed in giving thanks to the Heavenly Source of our earthly blessings.

Our beloved country is free and strong. Our moral and physical defenses against the forces of threatened aggression are mounting daily in magnitude and effectiveness.

In the interest of our own future, we are sending succor at increasing pace to those peoples abroad who are bravely defending their homes and their precious liberties against annihilation.

We have not lost our faith in the spiritual dignity of man, our proud belief in the right of all people to live out their lives in freedom and with equal treatment. The love of democracy still burns brightly in our hearts.

We are grateful to the Father of us all for the innumerable daily manifestations of His beneficent mercy in affairs both public and private, for the bounties of the harvest, for opportunities to labor and to serve, and for the continuation of those homely joys and satisfactions which enrich our lives.

Let us ask the Divine Blessing on our decision and determination to protect our way of life against the forces of evil and slavery which seek in these days to encompass us.
On the day appointed for this purpose, let us reflect at our homes or places of worship on the goodness of God and, in giving thanks, let us pray for a speedy end to strife and the establishment on earth of freedom, brotherhood, and justice for enduring time.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this 8th day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and sixty-sixth.


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My Thanks

It’s late on Thanksgiving Eve, and we’re preparing for tomorrow’s dinner. A lull in the action and a few moments of quiet contemplation. Coming Home turns one year old on December 13, and has received over 120,000 visits in that time. I honestly never imagined that the scientific data would have been so very much in demand by the pro-life community.

But Jill Stanek saw what I could not, and moved me firmly and lovingly beyond my trepidations, and into the pro-life blogosphere. The Holy Spirit has guided the rest of the way, and I am finally home, back to where I started in 1983 when I began working with homeless teen mothers at Covenant House.

So very many people have stopped by and offered me invaluable insight, references, guidance, support, and healthy criticism. It’s been quite a year.

In being able to say thank you to all who have helped launch my work in the pro-life movement, I am for once at a loss for words. This work is so very necessary, and you all do so very much in your respective ministries and lives. The sharing of information, the encouragement and support that people lend each other so freely is awe-inspiring.

I am grateful to God for my wife, my children, my family and friends, this work to which He has called me and you, and for all of the gentle denizens of Coming Home. I am also grateful that our worst fears (cancer) in my recent health issues have proven to be unfounded.

At Mass in the morning, when I offer my praise and thanksgiving for all of my blessings this past year, you will all be in my heart and mind as I ask that God’s riches be poured abundantly in your lives. And for our Coming Home family members who are studying in Rome, for L. in Japan, Kate and her special children in England, Dhear B. and Alice T. in the Philippines, Mary Catherine and the Canadian family north of the border, Astrid in South Africa, Delia in Gibraltar, you are here with us in spirit!

A blessed and beautiful day to you all, and remember:

Moderation in all things, especially moderation! 😉

God Bless!

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