By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry
Roast turkey, pumpkin pie and all the other delicious foods and opportunities with family notwithstanding, Thursday will give us a focused opportunity to be grateful, to be thankful, to give credit where, frankly, credit is due.
St. Ignatius didn't have the benefit of our holiday, but gave thanks, always, anyway. He gave credit to God, to his relationship with God, for the many blessings--even in adversity--God gave him and the early Jesuits.
Ignatius taught his early companions and loyal lay-followers about the primacy of gratitude in prayer--he considered gratitude the heart of prayer, forming and focusing our relationship with God. He considered gratitude in prayer as the focus for our thanks and praise of God, the foundation from which we ask God for the things we still need. He considered gratitude in prayer the first step in prayer, after which we could still ask for the things we might need.
The gratitude we express in the next few days, despite the busyness we may experience in the next few days, and the stresses and strains the holiday can also bring, prepares us for Advent, to be sure, but really, for everyday, more importantly. Aren't gratitude and thankfulness really matters of self-understanding and attitude? Scripture abounds with parables and proverbs showing us concrete examples that evoke thanks and thankfulness, opportunities to check ourselves and understand ourselves and our position in the larger scheme of things.
So despite possible strains, St. Paul tells us to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. We can name the many gifts we've already been given, or start to name them because they‘re so many, and then we can rest in the attitude of gratitude for considerably longer than Thursday and the weekend. For what people or things are you grateful...let it be a long list, savoring the person or thing with each recollection.
The richness of all we've been given frees us--and obligates us, really--to be thankful, to express gratitude, for things, for people, for opportunities, for adversities, even, because all of those form us beyond ourselves, all of those call us to be more...
God bless you and your family...and may God always keep us aware of those people who do not enjoy the same opportunities or blessings we've been given...With an appropriate attitude of gratitude, we can all say, I thank my God every time I remember you.
The attitude of gratitude...and for that, we're truly thankful.