29 November 2015 + First Sunday of Advent
The Purpose of Thanksgiving… For those of you who attended Mass on Thanksgiving Day you know that it is always my custom to read the original proclamation of the first Thanksgiving Day given by our first president, George Washington, at the request of Congress on October 3, 1789. Here are some of the highlights:
"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 implore his protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer… Now therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next (1789), 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... And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, a beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions… to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…."
It is interesting for our own day to note what was happening in Europe as the declaration of Thanksgiving Day was being proclaimed on our shores - it was the beginning of the French Revolution. Here is a brief description of that time from the History Channel:
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION TURNS RADICAL: TERROR AND REVOLT
On April 1792, the newly elected Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria and Prussia, where it believed that French émigrés were building counterrevolutionary alliances; it also hoped to spread its revolutionary ideals across Europe through warfare. On the domestic front, meanwhile, the political crisis took a radical turn when a group of insurgents led by the extremist Jacobins attacked the royal residence in Paris and arrested the king on August 10, 1792. The following month, amid a wave of violence in which Parisian insurrectionists massacred hundreds of accused counterrevolutionaries, the Legislative Assembly was replaced by the National Convention, which proclaimed the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the French republic. On January 21, 1793, it sent King Louis XVI, condemned to death for high treason and crimes against the state, to the guillotine; his wife Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793) suffered the same fate nine months later.
Following the king’s execution, war with various European powers and intense divisions within the National Convention ushered the French Revolution into its most violent and turbulent phase. In June 1793, the Jacobins seized control of the National Convention from the more moderate Girondins and instituted a series of radical measures, including the establishment of a new calendar and the eradication of Christianity. They also unleashed the bloody Reign of Terror ("la Terreur"), a 10-month period in which suspected enemies of the revolution were guillotined by the thousands. Many of the killings were carried out under orders from Robespierre, who dominated the draconian Committee of Public Safety until his own execution on July 28, 1794. His death marked the beginning of the Thermidorian Reaction, a moderate phase in which the French people revolted against the Reign of Terror’s excesses.
Sound familiar? You see, it is not just the Middle East that has been perpetually at war. Isn't it interesting that on August 15, 1944, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, allied forces led by the United States launched an operation which resulted in the liberation of Paris from Nazi-German occupation ten days later and to the end of World War II on May 8, 1945. Compare Europe and the United States that first Thanksgiving Day. In a recent interview on CNN, the French ambassador to the United States was interviewed and asked a question about France's free and open society, and how the attacks in recent days have affected that. The French ambassador said, "Both the United States and France believe in the separation of church and state, but there is one very important difference. In the United States you read this to mean that a protection is given to religions against interference by the state. In France it is quite different; it is the state that must be protected from the influence of religion." My question to him would be, "So, how's that working!" Blest wishes! Keep safe!