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Remember this for life have an attitude of gratitude

During my years as pastor of the Catholic Community of St. Jude in DeWitt, Father Larry Delaney, the director of St. Francis Retreat Center and Bethany House, was my neighbor. Through the years, I’ve been able to attend a number of retreats or parish missions led by Father Larry. I always have found his leadership to be a wonderful blend of humor and faith-filled insight. He has plenty of jokes that can lighten the mood of any room and he also has a collection of well-used, if not memorable, one-liners. “Remember this for life!” is what Father Larry says when there is some important quote or idea he wants retreatants to take away. In speaking about reconciliation and healing, Father Larry often observes, “You can become bitter or you can become better.”

During several retreats, I have heard Father Larry reflect that each of us is called to work on fostering an attitude of gratitude. I know this always has rung true for me. When I was young, I remember Mom and Dad teaching me and my brother to recite our prayers at night. After praying the Lord’s Prayer, they encouraged us to name out loud the things for which we were thankful during the day just passed. It seemed like such a natural thing to do.

As we grow older, though, our adult selves can become jaded at times, forgetting the source of the blessings that we know. Those blessings include the beautiful created world in which we live and move, the ingenuity and creativity that enliven our minds, the skills that flow from our hands and the love that is in our hearts. Blessings also include the people who are a part of our lives – those who surround us with love and those who challenge us to grow because their perspective differs from our own. The simple fact that we can walk into a room, flip a switch and thereby have light is a blessing. That safe drinking water issues forth from the kitchen faucet is a blessing. The abundance and variety of food that nourishes our bodies is a blessing. That we live in a nation that allows us to worship as we choose, when we choose and where we choose, is a blessing. These are but a few that come easily to mind.

Our nation sets aside one day every year in November as our Thanksgiving Day. It is our national way of pausing and giving thanks. Given the many blessings we enjoy, I can’t help but wonder if one day of giving thanks is sufficient. With so much to be thankful for, I think Father Larry is right – we need to form an attitude of gratitude and nurture it daily. One simple way to do so is to take time every day to sit down with paper and pen and list a few of the blessings we have been aware of that day. Then, after listing those blessings, we can take time to prayerfully and wholeheartedly thank God for them, God who is the ultimate source of each and every gift and blessing we know and enjoy.

There is a thankful word in Greek that can sound a little odd to our English-speaking ears: eukaristo. It means “to give thanks.” In English, we say, “Eucharist.” Each time we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist, we give thanks to God for the blessings we know and share. We thank God for the gift of Jesus Christ, and Christ’s total self-gift to us on our behalf for our salvation. As we partake in the Eucharist, we pledge to live the gift that we receive, mindful that all we have is just that: a gift from God. And so, thankfully, our journey in FAITH continues.

Father Dwight Ezop is editor of FAITH Magazine and pastor of the Catholic Community of St. Jude. E-mail: [email protected].