Praise and Worship, in Thanksgiving

Warr Acres – With the help of their teachers, students at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School held a praise and worship service on Friday, November 16, their last day of classes before a one week break for Thanksgiving. Here is a summary (adapted and expanded slightly from the original text) of the program presented at morning Assembly.

History and Writing Teacher:  Good morning. 
In the United States, with no established faith or Church, Thanksgiving is perhaps as close as our country comes to a national “holy day.” The Thanksgiving story has taken on mythological aspects over centuries of telling and re-telling it. The simple facts are inspirational, without embellishment.
Roots of the observance lie in the early decades of immigration to what is now America by people from across Europe. Their tale, and of those who met them still captures attention.

A group of Pilgrims living on the mainland in Europe secured permission of the English government to settle in what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Dissenters from the state religion of their native land, they wanted freedom to worship as they preferred (much like the Quakers who founded Pennsylvania and the Catholics who established Maryland).
They crossed the ocean in the fall of 1620 on board a ship called the Mayflower, and landed near Plymouth Rock. During the harsh winter that followed, about half of the 100 people who made that journey died. 

The settlers encountered, early on, people who already lived in the area. They were the Wampanoag, with whom cordial relations were established. (The Wampanoag were among the eastern-most unit in the Iroquois Confederation, consisting of many tribes who lived in peaceful accord for hundreds of years. ( 
As we are learning in classes, many injustices occurred as westward expansion of the European presence unfolded over the next three centuries. For five decades in that corner of Masschusetts, there was a time  measure of peace and stability.

A Patuxet man (member of a band of the Wampanoag) named Tisquantum helped both groups of people in the area around Plymouth. Known to history as “Squanto,” he had learned to speak English after being taken captive on more than one occasion by earlier explorers. When he returned to the area around Plymouth, his own band had been decimated by illness. 
In the 1620s, Squanto was the key intermediary in negotiations between the native people and the settlers. They signed a treaty that lasted more than 50 years.
Only 53 of the first travelers were still alive by summer 1621, yet in early fall they were joyful because of an abundant harvest. They sought to thank God for their blessings, and to celebrate with a grand feast.

At some point between September and November, they gathered. Records from that time give the names of many who attended, that “many of the Indians” were there, and that “amongst the rest [was] their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted.” The men “went out and killed five deer.” No mention is made of Turkey, but “fowl” was specified along with other meats and vegetables, so perhaps big birds were consumed. 
Enjoying each other’s company for several days were around 50 Pilgrims, and 90 Indians. As we know well, many injustices occurred as westward expansion unfolded over the next three centuries, and as slavery flourished for two centuries. For five decades in that corner of Massachusetts, there was a measure or moment, a portion of peace.
Later, after the revolutionary war period led to severing of the colonial relations with England, the U.S. Congress asked the first president to issue a proclamation to designate a day of Thanksgiving in 1789. Another followed in 1795, with the observance in late winter of 1796.
Some other presidents declared days of Thanksgiving in the following decades. Then in 1863, Abraham Lincoln agreed with Congress to make Thanksgiving a permanent national holiday. 

I hope we search that “attitude of gratitude” that animated many of those who went before us, and seek to make life in this world better, with increasing measures of justice for all our people.
Now, listen to a reading from one of our eighth graders. It combines portions of two proclamations issued during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. 
After that is a reading from the Book of Psalms. 
Then, I will share a song I sang as a boy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual help a few miles east of here. I will sing it in Latin, then give you the translation.
After that, another student will share an excerpt from one of St. Paul’s epistles.
We will then conclude with a song, one you know because it incorporates our school’s motto, adapted from the Old Testament Book of Micah.

STUDENT READING: Accompanied by the school’s bell choir (which ‘chimed’ a thanksgiving tune), an eighth grade girl read this: 

Thanksgiving Proclamation(s) by Ronald Reagan from 1988 (first) and 1986 (conclusion) 
[More than] A century ago, President Grover Cleveland called for “prayers and song of praise” that would render to God the appreciation of the American people for His mercy and for the abundant harvests and rich rewards He had bestowed upon our Nation through the labor of its farmers, shopkeepers, and tradesmen. Both of these Proclamations included something else as well: a recognition of our shortcomings and transgressions and our dependence, in total and in every particular, on the forgiveness and forbearance of the Almighty. . . .

Thanksgiving Day summons every American to pause in the midst of activity, however necessary and valuable, to give simple and humble thanks to God. This gracious gratitude is the “service” of which Washington spoke. . . .
The images of the Thanksgiving celebrations at America’s earliest settlement — of Pilgrim and Iroquois Confederacy assembled in festive friendship – resonate with even greater power in our own day. People from every race, culture, and creed on the face of the Earth now inhabit this land. Their presence illuminates the basic yearning for freedom, peace, and prosperity that has always been the spirit of the New World.
In this year when we as a people enjoy the fruits of economic growth and international cooperation, let us take time both to remember the sacrifices that have made this harvest possible and the needs of those who do not fully partake of its benefits. …

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, in the spirit of George Washington and the Founders, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 27, 1986, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and I call upon every citizen of this great Nation to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings bestowed upon this land and its people. . . . 

A seventh grade student read from the Book of Psalms (Ps. 100, 1-5)

A psalm of thanksgiving. 
“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands, 
serve the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful song.
Know that the LORD is God, he made us, 
we belong to him, we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name; good indeed is the LORD,
His mercy endures forever, his faithfulness lasts through every generation.”

History and Writing teacher then sang in Latin: 
Adoramus te,Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. 
Translation: “We adore you O Christ, and we praise you because, by our Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”

Another seventh grade student then read from St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians … (1 Thes. 1 2-7 ) 

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly
calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers loved by God, how you were chosen. 

“For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the holy Spirit and [with] much conviction. You know what sort of people we were [among] you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers. … “ 

The school’s music teacher then led students in singing “We Are Called,” a song by David Hass inspired by the Book of Micah 6:8 
Here are the lyrics: 

Come! Live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!
We are called to be light for the kingdom,
to live in the freedom of the city of God!
We are called to act with justice,
we are called to love tenderly,
we are called to serve one another,
to walk humbly with God!

Come! Open your heart!
Show your mercy to all those in fear!
We are called to be hope for the hopeless
so all hatred and blindness will be no more!
We are called to act with justice,
we are called to love tenderly,
we are called to serve one another,
to walk humbly with God!

Sing! Sing a new song!
Sing of that great day when all will be one!
God will reign, and we’ll walk with each other
as sisters and brothers united in love!
We are called to act with justice,
we are called to love tenderly,
we are called to serve one another,
to walk humbly with God!

Micah 6:8 translates, in the New American Bible (NAB) version as follows: “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

NOTE: McGuigan is an educator and a journalist, based in Oklahoma City.