An Attitude of Gratitude
By Dan Valenti (Nov 20, 2013)
Turkey with the trimmings, family, football: This is Thanksgiving.
Turkey with the trimmings, family, football: This is not thanksgiving.
Are You Grateful?
We can all give thanks that the day, which falls this year on Nov. 28, remains the least commercial of our holidays. We can enjoy the day off. We can decompress a bit from our hectic schedules and busy lives. We can prepare for and participate in the shopping tumult of Black Friday. And yet ...
... yet we all know that deep down, "thanksgiving" (lowercase) isn't one day. Thanksgiving isn't about getting stuffed with turkey or getting the jump on Christmas shopping. Rather, thanksgiving is an attitude, a leaning of heart, a state of being in one of the greatest of all spiritual "emotions," that of gratitude.
To be grateful is to rise above the lows and disappointments of life with acceptance and thanks. It is to skim below the ephemeral "highs" of worldly comfort and success with purity and pragmatism. That is the grateful person, the one who is in a perpetual state of thanks for what God has sent his or her way.
Are you grateful?
St. Faustina: Gratitude is the Attitude
In addition to what we can say about her and upon that which we can agree, St. Faustina lived her life in gratitude. It wasn't that God spared her from pain and suffering. We could make the case for the opposite. The saint suffered greatly in body and soul. She bore up under burdens both physical and metaphysical that would have crush most other people.
No, God didn't "spare" St. Faustina in the "Suffering Department." Nonetheless, St. Faustina gave thanks to God in every circumstance of her life. In fact, she showed the greatest faith, thanks, and gratitude in times of darkness, stress, and uncertainty.
Here's an instructive passage from her Diary
I want to live in the spirit of faith. I accept everything that comes my way as given me by the loving will of God, who sincerely desires my happiness. And so I will accept with submission and gratitude everything that God sends me. I will pay no attention to the voice of nature and to the promptings of self-love. Before each important action, I will stop to consider for a moment what relationship it has to eternal life and what may be the reason for undertaking it: Is it for the glory of God or for the good of my own soul or for the good of the souls of others? If my heart says yes, then I will not swerve from carrying out the given action, unmindful of either obstacles or sacrifices. I will not be frightened into abandoning my intention. It is enough for me to know that it is pleasing to God (1549, and 1262).
'Goodness in its Entirety'
In this passage, St. Faustina gives us the recipe for living in sustained gratitude to God: acceptance of His will. This involves a deep understanding of God's intentions for our lives. That, in turn, requires that we make time to listen for His voice in the quiet — in meditation, in prayer, in whatever moments of tranquility (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) we can carve out of the mad and maddening pace of a world that has gotten itself in a big hurry.
If we can cultivate listening for God's voice in our lives, we have a much better chance at discernment. From that point, it's hard to imagine a person not being grateful of wanting to continually give thanks to God for ... well, for everything. Again we turn to the Diary: "You have surrounded my life with Your tender and loving care more than I can comprehend, for I will understand Your goodness in its entirety only when the veil is lifted. I desire that my whole life be one of thanksgiving to You, O God" (1285).
In thanksgiving, we can better keep the faith. Out of thanksgiving, we can have a better view of the events of our lives. On Thanksgiving Day itself, we hope, we can stop and count our blessings. As St. Faustina says, God showers each of us with more "tender and loving care than [we] can comprehend." We need only to become more aware of His love. Gratitude is one of the proven means by which we can do this.
Homecoming through His Mercy
The world conditions us to be happy in success and to go after earthy contentment. At the same time, it brainwashes us to rebel against all suffering. If you think about it, this has to be one of the most unrealistic and failure-prone philosophies of life for the simple reason that life on this earth guarantees a full measure of sadness and suffering to each person.
The much more realistic way to live is to embrace spiritual maturity through thanksgiving. In doing this, we can recognize suffering as the opportunity to grow in goodness and in faith. Every saint has possessed that ability, to transform suffering by seeing in our difficulties the opportunities to grow in faith, hope, and charity. Saint Faustina, in another of her meditations on thanksgiving, says, "Thank you, Jesus, for the great favor of making known to me the whole abyss of my misery. I know that I am an abyss of nothingness and that, if Your holy grace did not hold me up, I would return to nothingness in a moment. And so, with every beat of my heart, I thank You, my God, for Your great mercy towards me" (256).
On Thanksgiving Day, can we muster the courage to thank Jesus for "the great favor" of making known to us our sinfulness? Can we then ponder how great is God's mercy, that even in our broken condition, He will always forgive us, always love us, and always welcome us home?
Home — can anyone think of a better place to be?