The above photo depicts the first Mass celebrated in Saint Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565. According to the State Archives of Florida, it is an exact reproduction of the famous painting which hung on the walls of the Old Cathedral, on the Plaza, and which was destroyed in the fire of 1887.
What does this painting have to do with Thanksgiving? Quite a bit. It turns out the history books I read in school were missing a few important details. Like, how the first Thanksgiving was actually celebrated in Saint Augustine, Florida between Catholic Spaniards and natives from the Timucua tribe. When the Spaniards arrived, they celebrated Mass, thanking God for their safe arrival. The Timucuans witnessed this Mass, and then the Spaniards invited them to join in a thanksgiving feast.
Oh yeah, and fast-forward a few decades…Squanto was Roman Catholic.
I’ve summarized this greatly, but you can read more here:
- Catholic Origins of Thanksgiving
- America’s First Thanksgiving was in Florida—Seriously. It Was!
- The First Thanksgiving in America was a Catholic Mass
The purpose of this isn’t meant to stir up historical debates. No matter what your beliefs, Thanksgiving today is still a time to come together as family, expressing our gratitude and thankfulness for our many blessings.
Let us not forget, the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life, means “Thanksgiving.”