The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

The patron saint of Thanksgiving? Moses

An interesting observation from author Bruce Feiler, to ponder as you’re preparing for tomorrow’s big feast:

The real story of Thanksgiving has deep biblical roots. A few years ago, I set out on a 10,000-mile journey through the hidden symbols of American life that became the basis for my book, “America’s Prophet: How the Story of Moses Shaped America.”


My journey began on a visit to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where I boarded The Mayflower II. A re-enactor was reading from the Bible. “Exodus 14,” he explained. “The Israelites are trapped in front of the Red Sea, and the Egyptians are about to catch them. ‘Hold your peace!’ Moses says. The Lord shall fight for you.’ Our leader read us that passage during our crossing.”

I had never associated the biblical prophet with this most American of holidays, but his fingerprints are all over our turkeys. How did this happen?

The answer begins with the Protestant Reformation. All through the Middle Ages, Catholics were not allowed to read the Bible directly, but the Reformation, coupled with the printing press, brought vernacular Bibles into the hands of everyday believers. Many of those believers were Protestants who felt oppressed by the Church. They related to the story of the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham who were enslaved in Egypt around 1200 B.C., were set free by Moses, then set out for the Promised Land.


The Pilgrims, a band of Protestant outcasts, saw themselves as fulfilling this biblical story. After all, in coming to the New World, they, too, had to cross a tumultuous sea, arrive in an untested wilderness, and build a new “Promised Land.” When they embarked on The Mayflower in 1620, they described themselves as the chosen people fleeing their pharaoh, King James. On the Atlantic, their leader, William Bradford, proclaimed their journey to be as vital as “Moses and the Israelites when they went out of Egypt.” And when they arrived in Cape Cod, they thanked God for letting them pass through their fiery Red Sea.

The pilgrims were so enamored of Moses, the Bibles they brought with them were emblazoned on their title pages with pictures of Moses. They even named their children biblical virtues like Fear, Patience, and Wrestling, as in “Wrestling with God,” the English translation of Israel.

Read more.

Comments read comments(10)
post a comment

posted November 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

Great article. The Pope and COC has my vote…push him through.
It has also piqued my curiosity…why are none of the OT players ever called Saint….St. Abraham, St. Isaac, St. David…etc.?
Peace to all & Happy Thanksgiving Day

report abuse


posted November 24, 2010 at 11:08 am

why are none of the OT players ever called Saint
I believe they are by the Orthodox.
All through the Middle Ages, Catholics were not allowed to read the Bible directly
I call BS on this. What does it even mean? No Catholic opened a Bible for 1,000 years — it was a Forbidden Book? Get real.
You know what? In the 20th Century, Americans were “forbidden” to own supercomputers, private jets, and space stations.

report abuse

Deacon Norb

posted November 24, 2010 at 12:55 pm

To follow up on Romulus:
This simple statement should be obvious to all but to put it in a Medieval context; in the year 1000 ce in any given theoretical medieval Western European city of 1,000 (500 women/500 men) only 5% of the men (25 headcount) and 1% of the women (5 headcount) could even read and write in any language. It was not that they were not allowed to read the Bible directly; they could not read at all!
Even as late as Shakespeare’s time (1600 ce), substantially less than 50% of the total population in England could read at what we would call a third-grade level.
Here in the United States, in 1900, it was suggested that only 80% had the ability to read at that same third grade level.
AND we still have not stamped out illiteracy in our own Twenty-First Century America.
So how were people “saved” if they could not read? They heard the word proclaimed by fearless preachers!
You really do not need to know how to read in order to be “saved” !

report abuse


posted November 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Thanks for helping me me make my point, Deacon Norb.
BTW, notwithstanding what a praiseworthy and helpful thing it is to read and hear the Gospel, people were and are “saved” through the sacraments.

report abuse


posted November 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I agree…I know this to be true.
But does the Roman Catholic Church(I forgot to specify) consider/call them saints?
Also,anyone……. I’ve noticed that only NT saints have feast days…To coin a phrase from my granddaughter,”What’s up with that?”

report abuse


posted November 24, 2010 at 9:03 pm

hey Folks: how do you participate in Eastern SAturday Liturgy: all the saints of OT are mentioned; though the existence of the historical “Moses” is on 50% but anyway he lead Soldiers (10% of all tribes of Israel)to conquer@liberate from Tyran
Deacon Norb: you are right.Today not big diffference though people can read…they prefer to …watch TV,etc.Ask them about the knowledge of Bible hermeneutics, science, philosophy (also of science),…esp. of predicate “to believe”@”to know” in the light of prophets like: B.Russel,K.Godel@especially A.Tarski (on truth)…combined with DArvin, Einstein, Heisenberg; JPII mentioned a philosopher-saint Socrates(Fides et RAtio, 26).Make a Sunday poll about the knowledge on above…
Maybe they do not have time?…hi,ha: stupid lazines is called an unforginable sin against the Holy Spirit!!!

report abuse


posted November 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm

It was the ruling class who banned ecucation to control the people. The church incorporated the bible into the mass. If you attend mass for three years, you will hear the entire bible. The Catholic Church has also been the leader in education for a long time. Look it up.

report abuse


posted November 25, 2010 at 2:52 am

Not quite the entire Bible is covered in the three-year cycle but a great deal of it: More like 85% of the New Testament and 65% of the Old.
–For instance a great deal of the OT Books of Numbers, Leviticus, Judges, Job, Proverbs, First and Second Chronicles, Tobit and First and Second Maccabbees are not covered at all in Roman Catholic liturgies.
–In the New Testament, significant portions of the Letter to the Galatians, the Letter to the Hebrews, the First and Second Letter of Peter, the Letter of James and the Letter of Jude are also not used in Catholic liturgies.

report abuse


posted November 25, 2010 at 10:43 am

Why do people keep perpetuating this myth that Catholics weren’t permitted to read the Bible?!
The problem was that:
1. Many couldn’t read at all;
2. Those that could read sometimes couldn’t read Latin specifically;
3. Few people had Bibles because they, being hand-copied, were very expensive.
Despite that, the Church did the best it could to get the Scripture into the minds of the people by:
1. Setting all those monks to the task of copying the Scriptures in order to produce the Bibles;
2. Translating the Bibles into vernacular languages when practical — which in defiance of popular myth almost always pre-dated the Protestant Reformation;
3. Educating those who wanted education, thereby increasing the number who could read;
4. Making Bibles available in the churches for those who could read;
5. Making Scripture readings a part of every Mass;
6. Making stained-glass windows and paintings and carvings and statues which depicted the stories;
7. Offering indulgences for those who read the Bible;
Did the Church sometimes burn Bibles? Sure: Ones with errors or heretical footnotes in them (e.g. the “murderers’ Bible” where a misprint resulted in the admonition “first let the children be killed”). Protestants also burned Bibles; namely, Catholic bibles which promised indulgences to those who read Scripture (Protestants didn’t believe in indulgences).
Anyhow it all gets very tiresome refuting the same old nonsense year after year. I suppose it comes of living in the U.S. with history books written by American Protestants inherited from a historical tradition written by Anglicans. But at this late date, one would suppose that all this Whig history wouldn’t still go so thoroughly unquestioned.

report abuse

Pingback: Thanksgiving Linkaround! « The Anchoress

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

This blog is no longer active
This blog is no longer being actively updated. Please feel free to browse the archives or: Read our most popular inspiration blog See our most popular inspirational video Take our most popular quiz ...

posted 10:42:40pm Dec. 12, 2010 | read full post »

One day more
A reminder: "The Deacon's Bench" is closed! Please enjoy the archives! ...

posted 11:26:20pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Meet Montana's married priest
Earlier this week, I posted an item about Montana getting its first married priest. Now a local TV station has hopped on the bandwagon. Take a look, below. ...

posted 10:29:55pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Big day in the Big Easy: 10 new deacons
Deacon Mike Talbot has the scoop: 10 men today were ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This group of men was formally selected on the day the evacuation of New Orleans began as Hurricane Katrina approached. The ...

posted 6:55:42pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Gaudete! And let's break out a carol or two...
"Gesu Bambino," anyone? This is one of my favorites, and nobody does it better than these gals: Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Staade. Enjoy. ...

posted 1:04:10pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.