26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Day to American readers!

Last photo of President Abraham Lincoln

This post is almost the same as the one I used a year ago. However I've included some information about the close ties between the Columbans and the USA. I am very grateful to my American readers and wish everyone in the USA an abundance of God's blessings on this special day, of which I have such happy memories from my years of study near New York City from 1968 till 1971 before coming to the Philippines.

Thanksgiving Day is a great family day in the USA. It's a day when Americans, second to none in hospitality in my experience, welcome strangers to their home. Americans joined the Columbans almost as soon as we were formally established in 1918. We were invited to set up our American headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, by Archbishop Jeremiah Harty, who had served as the first non-Spanish Archbishop of Manila, from 1903 to 1916, when he was transferrred to Omaha. An Irish-American, Archbishop Harty was succeeded in Manila by Irishman Archbishop Michael O'Doherty, who invited the Columbans to Manila in 1929. It's an interesting fact that the first two post-Spanish archbishops of Manila played such a vital role in the early days of the Missionary Society of St Columban.

In addition, the Catholics of the United States have been exceedingly generous in supporting the work of the Columbans down the years. We Columbans are grateful to them for that.

From the seminary in Ireland I went to study near New York City in September 1968. I was astonished at the number of invitations I received from fellow students, none of whom were priests, to join their families for Thanksgiving Day, which is observed on the fourth Thursday of November. President Lincoln's proclamation of 1863, set aside the last Thursday of the month but it is now observed on the fourth Thursday. It became a federal holiday only in 1941.

As we try to come to terms with the awful massacre in Maguindanao last Monday and other ongoing violence perhaps we can learn from the great American president. Abraham Lincoln was inspired to make his proclamation in the middle of the civil war, or War Between the States, as it is often called, that engulfed the USA from 1861 to 1863. Perhaps we too need to turn to God in thanksgiving for what God has given the Philippines and honor his bounty.

To all our readers in the USA or with American connections:

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving Proclamation — 1863
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the over ruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with a sure hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the holy scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people.

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven, we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God 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 as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

First known photo of Abraham Lincoln

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