The Catholic Defender: Remembering Squanto and that first Thanksgiving
"Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Each year I always look forward to the Thanksgiving American traditions, the family get together s, the great banquets, the football, Thanksgiving Day Parades, and of course, the time off.
When my Children were young and growing up, we would always give the account of that first Thanksgiving how the Wampanoag Indians helped save the Pilgrims teaching them to plant corn and survive the bitterly cold winters.
In Catholic School, I remember the story being told through plays and celebrations showing how Squanto became a friend to the Pilgrims. Other than that, there was very little that I learned about Squanto. In a way, he is like the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and used her hair to dry them. Not much is really known of this woman accept Jesus is clear that her act of charity and love saved her and this story would be told. Squanto’s story is now just coming to light as I am learning more about him.
To the Indian, his name was Tisquantum, but to the English, he became known as Squanto. By 1621, Squanto had already been exposed to the Europeans ruthless greed as he was captured by Lieutenant John Smith as a young brave taken for the slave trade. It would seem that the story of Pocahontas and John Smith was not as Disney’s animated movie made him out to be. Smith attempted to sell the Indians to Spain as slaves.
Fortunately for Squanto, some Franciscan friars were able to liberate many of these Indians to include Squanto.
It was through the Franciscans that Squanto would learn about Jesus and His teachings. With Squanto’s Baptism and conversion to Christ, he traveled throughout Europe ultimately working at the London shipyard where he learned the language.
This experience enabled Squanto to learn the ways of the Europeans that were now becoming more and more attached to America. When Squanto finally reached the land of his birth (1619), he was shocked to see how disease had plagued his people.
Despite this, Squanto was able to share valuable information such as how to plant corn and catch fish that was abundant. In 1621, the first Thanksgiving feast would last three days as the Indians shared with the Europeans their bountiful supplies of food.
Eventually, Squanto himself would become ill suffering from disease, Governor William Bradford described Squanto’s death like this:
Squanto fell ill of Indian fever, bleeding much at the nose, which the Indians take as a symptom of death, and within a few days he died.
He begged the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishman’s God in heaven, and bequeathed several of his things to his English friends, as remembrances. His death was a great loss.
Squanto, like the woman who washed the feet of Jesus, through the grace of God, was able to forgive those who captured him and sent him away for slavery, he was able to find Christ and the true meaning of forgiveness. This story of Squanto really does help bring a much more clearer picture of that first Thanksgiving, a thanksgiving based from receiving that thanksgiving we call the Eucharist.
In remembering that first Catholic inspired Thanksgiving, in the midst of those who were in need, Squanto inspires a nation through his commitment to serving Christ in serving others. This is the true meaning behind Thanksgiving and would lead to President George Washington’s Proclamation:
Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a 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 favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled 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 trangressions; 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 third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Here at Deepertruth, we want to wish everyone a great, safe, and happy Thanksgiving! God be praised!
Father in Heaven, Creator of all and source of all goodness and love, please look kindly upon us and receive our heartfelt gratitude in this time of giving thanks. Thank you for all the graces and blessings. You have betowed upon us, spiritual and temporal: our faithand religious heritage. Our food and shelter, our health, the loves we have for one another, our family and friends. Dear Father, in Your infinite generosity, please grant us continued graces and blessing throughout the coming year. This we ask in the Name of Jesus, Your Son and our Brother. Amen.