If you're like most Americans and American immigrants, Thanksgiving brings to mind the joy of family gathering, faith and tradition, three things which never fail to warm the heart and feed the mind.
The story goes that the Plymouth Pilgrims, escaping the religious persecution of England where they were constrained to worship as the Church of England saw fit and looking for the proverbial freedom which foms the basis of much of American thought, were led here to begin a new colony served by principles they brought with them.
Theologically, well, Catholics can strongly identify with the Plymouth leaders' plight. However, while we are more than familiar with and deeply condemn religious persecution for ANY reason, we can still look at the pilgrims' ideals with a wary eye: after all, they were escaping the first "Un-Catholic" Church's tyranny, but concurrently delving farther away from Catholic Truth and paving the way for further developments in protestantism which from a purely theological perspective is nothing less than heresy. It's important to remember, though, that this heresy stemmed from a deep conscious need to move away from what they considered to be the "imperfect" Church of England, not a conscious need to completely separate themselves from Catholic doctrine or teachings.
But if we take their human experience outside of the confines of purely rational examination of the facts, try to see how a greater good was allowed through their actions, and try to put ourselves in their -- probably very confused and bewildered-- shoes, it becomes easy to see how they paved the way for the American experience. That first Thanksgiving, where bounty surrounded them and thankfulness overcame them, is the founding moment in the history of the gratitude of a nation that has been blessed abundantly over time. You don't have to be a Christian to be grateful for what you've been given.
No where else in the world is Thanksgiving celebrated, and because of that fact, no where else in the world will you find an entire nation coming together over a feast in gratitude towards God for the blessings of food, friends, freedom and family.Imagine what would happen if God saw the ENTIRE nation grasp this concept and turn to praise Him for the goodness they enjoy. America would change forever.
For Catholics especially, the concept of pilgrimmage is central to our faith. We recognize that we are all pilgrims on a sacred journey towards Truth, and that the value of an actual, physical trip with a sacred purpose in which we allow God to speak to us and lead us can forever change our hearts and form our character.
by the power of the Cross to each individual person who has visited.
Catholics are blessed to have many visual representations like this that life with God is the pilgrim's path.
For me, pictoral representations of plymouth pilgrims at Thanksgiving serve as a reminder: a reminder that faith and belief help us to overcome any obstacle. A reminder that God, family and Country are the foundations of our lives. A reminder that we all journey somewhere, that our conditions are never perfect, but that in seeking Him and walking rightly with one another we WILL overcome whatever we have been handed and change things for future generations. Let each man act in accordance with his own conscience, and live according to God's word.
The thankfulness of future generations depends on us!
This year, place your pilgrims front and center with Charissa's beautiful and easy centerpiece: