TO: The Trinity Community
FR: President Patricia McGuire
RE: Thanksgiving Reflection
Thanksgiving is a curious phenomenon in a culture that often seems too fast-paced, too commercialized, too-hard-edged for much sentiment. In the middle of the week, at the threshold of winter, for primal reasons rooted in longstanding social and familial traditions, we stop all of our usual work, pack our bags and pull down the roasting pans for rituals that are, at once, universally recognizable and utterly idiosyncratic to each gathering of family and friends. Overcrowded roads, airports and train stations try to give some semblance of order and direction to the frenzied migration toward places we still call home, or other places of friendship, comfort and relaxation.
American Thanksgiving folklore traces the national origins of this ritual back more than 300 years to the celebration of the harvest with Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered around tables to share the bounty. This tale probably had even earlier roots in Greek and Roman harvest festivals. And while George Washington tried to establish an official national day of Thanksgiving as early as 1789, the day did not become part of the official national calendar until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed the last Thursday in November as an official national day of Thanksgiving.
Lincoln’s proclamation, dated October 3, 1863, specifically refers to the bitterness and waste of the Civil War then tearing apart the United States. He contrasts that tragedy with the increasing size of the American population, bounty of the fields and peace elsewhere in the world. His proclamation invites citizens to take a day for thanksgiving and praise of the Almighty which he hopes, in return, will bring the blessings of the Almighty to bear on the cause of peace within the war-torn nation.
Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation concludes, “And I recommend to them [the citizens of the United States] that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
Nearly a century and a half later, Lincoln’s words still provide powerful ideas for a nation struggling with war and conflicts of many kinds. Thanksgiving reminds us of the many blessings we enjoy as members of this free society; at the same time, however, the presence of so much conflict — terrorism, violence, war, bitter political disputes — reduces the ability of all people to enjoy the fullness of God’s blessings.
Taking a cue from Lincoln, let’s use this moment of Thanksgiving 2005 not only to give thanks, but also, to pray for peace everywhere, and an end to global and domestic conflict, so that all human beings can know the true blessings of freedom.
Within the Trinity family, let us also take this moment to offer thanks for the tremendous blessings and privileges we receive each day. I am particularly grateful for the hard work of our faculty and staff whose dedication to Trinity and our students makes Trinity’s mission a reality each day. I am grateful to our students whose quest for learning gives meaning to the lives of all of us who have chosen this work. We could not do what we do at Trinity without tremendous generosity of resources, time, talent and commitment of our alumnae and alumni, trustees and many institutional friends. And, of course, we always remember the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, whose courage and selflessness continue to provide the platform for our learning, our livelihoods and our lives together in Trinity.
Thanks to all for your devotion to Trinity. Happy Thanksgiving!