Gratitude today, much like the word love, can so often be taken lightly and without the depth of sincerity it truly deserves. Rather than a heartfelt recognition of the daily gifts and love bestowed on us by a loving Father, we can be tempted to reduce the sentiment to an occasionalthank you. Why is this? Does God only love us sometimes? Or do we instead fail to recognize where all good gifts come from? Perhaps in truth it is a bit of the both.
St. Ignatius stresses that gratitude is to be a constant response to the continual love and care that God shows for each one of us in each and every day.
From Ingratitude to Gratitude
So, just how do we get from a place of ingratitude to embracing an “attitude of gratitude”? First, it is important to know that gratitude isn’t just to be expressed, but lived. If we can change our understanding of gratitude from a thing given to an entire way of being then we are practicing gratitude in the right way. The Examen prayer is a beautiful way of becoming aware of God’s presence and blessings in our day and moving to a response of gratitude.
Get away for gratitude
Though it would be nice to say that I live the attitude of gratitude 24-7, I would be remiss in noting the numerous hours of an ordinary day that I neglect to offer God my loving praise. Recently, I went away for a 5 day silent Ignatian retreat at Campion Retreat House in Weston, MA to recharge, renew and reconnect . This Father-daughter (/son) time is an essential part of our spiritual formation for the roots of gratitude and love are always to be found in this foundational relationship. Once this has been nourished, the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) become more visible in our lives.
What does gratitude look like?
In a spirit of openness, the following is a glimpse of day 3 of my time away with my Father. Transitioning back and forth between an outer awareness of God’s movement in my day and the presence of grace, to an inner reflection and response of praise and love I could not contain my joy.
“Today, I lovingly receive this time to rest body, spirit and mind. I noticed your presence in the stillness of the morning and the smiles of those I encountered in my walks with you by my side. I see you in the beauty that surrounds me, both natural and man-made. I welcome the time and ability to pray for others, as it allows me a chance to respond even in a small way, to the great mercy and love that you have shown me. For, in my concerns and need for discernment you have always been there for me. For those times when I have failed to act less than I should, you have never rejected me.
Oh, the immense gratitude I have for your love for me in my quiet times- when I find myself busy with other things. For you are patient and willing to wait a lifetime. Yet, how wonderful that it need not be a lifetime and that I have awoken from my slumber sooner than that. I praise you Father for the gift of my family and friends, for those solid and lasting ones as well as those which have come only for a season. Each has taught me something about myself and about your love for each one of us.
For the roof over my head, clothes, and the nourishing food in my belly, clean water, and soft pillow under my head I give you praise. I pray for those who lack any of these and are without proper medical care, and reliable transportation or employment. Thank you for a means of work that uses the talents that you have given me and which also enables me to serve others including my own family.
And of course, I offer you my profound gratitude to the Jesuit family who have adopted me, whose faith and values I hope to carry for the remainder of my days on this earth. I long to see so many who I have come to know in this life, one day in the next. Let my life always give witness and praise to You!”
Ad majorem Dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God),