This year marks the 400th anniversary of the celebration of Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims and their Native American friends, the Wampanoag, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Thomas Aquinas College.
Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1864 with these words:
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 20th day of October, A.D. 1864, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.
There have always been those who have objected to the official proclamations of Thanksgiving as a violation of the separation between church and state. However, neither Lincoln nor Washington, nor any other president, has established rituals by which we “offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events.” This is left to the individual and/or his religious denomination. Our leaders have not established a national religion. Rather, the leaders of our great country have understood that giving thanks to God is a natural obligation having to with the virtue of justice — giving to God what is due.
The pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving for three days because of the bountiful harvest and favorable beginning of their settlement in Plymouth. Men are most inclined to be thankful when things are going well. It is remarkable, therefore, to see that Lincoln’s proclamation came in the midst of the Civil War. Nonetheless, he saw that Americans had much to be grateful for. In our troubled times, we also must acknowledge the blessings of freedom, wealth, leisure, and access to the Great Books that make life at the College possible.
As members of the Thomas Aquinas College community, we must celebrate and be thankful for the 50 years of the College’s existence in California and the founding of the New England campus.
Let us give thanks to God:
For the church He established, which guides us to the Truth and nourishes us with the sacraments.
For the permission from state and local governments to operate and grant degrees
For the benefactors who gave us this campus.
For the benefactors who sustain us in existence
For the administrators and staff who direct our work, keep our campus operational, and make life here enjoyable
For our chaplains, who lead us by their good example and give us our spiritual food
For the tutors who have dedicated their lives to leading our students to the truth
For the parents and friends of our students who see the value of our program and for their willingness to sacrifice to send them to the College
We are especially grateful to you, our students, whom God has sent to us. Our beautiful campus, our faculty and staff, are all for the sake of educating you and those who follow in your footsteps. All would be for naught if you did not come with the preparation, motivation, and determination to succeed in our program. Everyone who visits our campus comments on how extraordinary you are, how well you conduct yourselves in class, how well you can read, discuss, and learn from difficult but rewarding texts. We are grateful that God has sent you to us and we pray that you will strive to benefit as much as possible intellectually, morally and spiritually from our program.