As Catholics we believe that everything good comes from God. We can express our gratitude to God by making it part of daily life to thank Him for all the gifts He gives us.
It is easy to focus on what is difficult in one’s life—on problems, goals not yet achieved, and daily annoyances such as bad weather or a computer not working properly. Modern culture seems to encourage this type of negativity. In addition, we are aware of issues such as war, poverty, and problems in the Church. We shouldn’t ignore these issues, of course; it is part of Catholic teaching to pray for and assist others. However, we also need to appreciate what is good in life.
In recent years, there has been a popular trend of keeping a gratitude journal—a list of things that make one thankful. Self-help books and articles in secular magazines recommend gratitude journals because gratitude is good for our physical and mental health, but do not mention thanking God. However, as Catholics, we do not practice gratitude for our health, but as a form of prayer, of thanksgiving to God for all He does for us.
Practicing gratitude to God makes us less focused on material possessions. When we reflect on and thank God for all that is good in our lives, we will realize the value of having a good family and loyal friends, having a job, having good health, and having faith—which is our greatest gift. We are reminded that we exist because God created us; He provides all we need to live. Being members of the Catholic Church, the Mass, Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist, the Communion of Saints and the intercession of saints, and the beauty of Creation are among our many gifts from God. We can be especially thankful for Jesus’ Incarnation, His redemptive death on the Cross, and Resurrection.
Gratitude is also a sense of appreciation for all the experiences of life. When I look back over the things I am grateful for over the last few weeks, they include participating at Mass and receiving Holy Communion, a dinner party with friends, staying safe while driving, and letters and phone calls from friends.
In our lives as Catholics, we practice gratitude to God in many ways. The celebration of Mass is an act of gratitude to God. (The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving.”) Participation at Mass is the greatest way we can offer thanksgiving to God. The Psalms offer many beautiful prayers of praise and thanksgiving we can use in expressing gratitude to God. For example, in Psalms 118 and 136, the Psalmist says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever…” When we pray grace before meals, we give thanks to God for the food He provides us. In the Examen, a prayer taught in Ignatian spirituality, we thank God for His blessings that day, and review the day to see how we responded to God’s grace and how we failed. The Examen ends with our expressing sorrow for our sins and asking God to help us in our lives. Praying the Examen daily is one way to remember to thank God for His gifts and graces each day. I have found that by praying the Examen, it makes me more aware of all the blessings I receive from God and I am more grateful to Him.
Gratitude is a path to love. As we grow in our appreciation in God’s goodness to us, we grow to love Him more. Gratitude to God can also extend to our relationships with other people. We become more appreciative of all the kindness shown to us. In our daily life, we often encounter people who are considerate and helpful; when we become aware of this, we are able to let them know how much we value them.
Practicing gratitude is a daily reminder that God does act in our lives. He is present and we can trust in Him to help us with every need at all times.
~ Louise Merrie