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Gratitude. We hear the word a lot as we approach Thanksgiving. What are you grateful for? Perhaps it is for the different facets of nature you see out on a walk, a great conversation with a friend or that dinner was well-received and provided leftovers for lunch. What we are thankful for can be general or specific; it can be a one-time experience or an ongoing circumstance. We have the opportunity not only to recognize the blessing but to show our gratitude to God who blesses us.

We may be overwhelmed because of the hardships faced by our families, friends and parishioners but we live in hope. As Archbishop Allen Vigneron teaches us in his pastoral letter, we are encouraged to have an attitude of gratitude. He writes, “The best antidote to discouragement is to praise God continually for who he is and to thank him for what he has done. ‘We thank you, God, we give thanks: we call upon your name, declare your wonderful deeds.’(Psalm 75:2) Gratitude puts us in a right posture before God and opens us to his further work in our lives.”

Over the past year with our lives turned upside down because of the coronavirus pandemic it has been hard to focus on gratitude. How can we have an attitude of gratitude? We have a few ideas:

  1. Keep a journal where you write down three things for which you are grateful from the day.
  2. When stressed or overwhelmed, find one thing for which you can be grateful and thank God for that. Practicing this can become a habit that is second nature. 
  3. Look to others for examples. Consider calling on Blessed Solanus Casey. This is a man whose life was not easy. He struggled in the seminary and even though he was eventually ordained to the Capuchins, it was as a simple priest. Humbly, and ever so honorably, he embraced a restricted ministry as the porter of St. Bonaventure Monastery, right here in Detroit. He worked during the Great Depression when millions were out of work, out of food and out of money. As a doorman he listened to the stories of those who entered, writing down all the sufferings, absorbing all of it for inclusion in his personal prayers. Most people would be miserable with this constant barrage of pain, but not Bl. Solanus. Because of his unceasing faith, he remained optimistic and is remembered by many for the phrase, “Thank God ahead of time!” 

Bl. Solanus’s words offer great wisdom for our day. When we feel fearful, when we struggle with restrictions, when we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, we should be mindful to offer thanks to God for the good things in our lives.. Thank God for a beautiful leaf, a sunset, the smile of a child, a great cup of tea, a good meal, a warm bed. Most of all, thank God for his only son who loves us so much that he promised to never leave us alone or orphaned. Christ not only died for us but was raised from the dead for us. 

On one rare night that I (Dan) was rocking my son shortly after his baptism, I could still smell a faint trace of the chrism oil that had been rubbed on his head. I felt powerfully in those moments that he was a child of God and that I am a child of God. It was then that I realized how incredible it is that God gave his only son for me. As I held my child, I could not imagine how great was the love of God that he could give his son for the likes of me. This central teaching of our Catholic faith became more real to me at that moment than at any other time in my life. I prayed in gratitude that night for the greatest gift, God’s only son.

Wake up every day and praise God for the resurrection which ensures us that we will live forever with him. Taking time to be thankful and to offer a prayer of praise to our provident God is the best way to have an attitude of gratitude. Being mindful of the grace of each moment can transform a day. It’s a way to dedicate your being to the Lord, living as a joyful missionary disciple.