It was the early 1800’s, and a request was made asking the French Ursuline sisters to live and work in the United States. The sister, Mother Saint Michel Gensoul, went to the bishop and requested permission. The bishop did not want to lose another sister, and told Mother that only the Pope could grant her permission. She asked Our Lady for her intercession, praying, “O most Holy Virgin Mary, if you obtain for me a prompt and favorable answer to this letter, I promise to have you honored at New Orleans under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.” The Pope allowed her to establish a house in the United States, and thus devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor took root in New Orleans.
The famous Battle of New Orleans took place in early January of 1815. As Andrew Jackson and his army fought, the residents and Ursuline sisters joined together in prayer seeking the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. After the victory, Andrew Jackson went and thanked the nuns and those who prayed. On that day, January 8, the sisters resolved that each year on that date they would chant the Te Deum to give thanks to God for the victory and Our Lady’s intercession.
These two vignettes, both pertaining to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, capture an important lesson of the spiritual life: How do we give thanks to God for an answered prayer or grace received? For Mother Saint Michel she made a promise, and kept her end of the bargain. After the Battle, the community made a resolution to never forget the grace received in 1815 by gathering annually for prayer.
How might we give thanks to God for graces in our own lives? Here are a few suggestions.
Say a Prayer
It might be simple to say this, but a person could say a short prayer from the heart. “Thank you Lord for being near to me, for hearing my prayers, and revealing your will to me.” Another prayer could be praying the rosary with the petition of thanksgiving or devoutly praying a novena. Whatever the prayer, it can be said anywhere; in your home, car, or before the Blessed Sacrament. Besides a prayer, a person could sing a hymn of praise; a few come to mind: Now Thank We All Our God or And Holy is His Name (a rendition of the Magnificat).
Offer a Mass
Most people have Masses said for those who have died. But, did you know that you can offer a Mass for someone who is living, or even in thanksgiving for an answered prayer? The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving,” so it seems only appropriate to consider having a Mass offered in thanksgiving for an answered prayer.
Go on a Pilgrimage
If a person prayed asking the intercession of a specific saint, it might be fitting to visit a shrine or church dedicated to that saint. For example, there is a shrine in St. Augustine, Florida dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche. Couples struggling to conceive visit the Shrine and pray for the grace of conception or adoption. Once their son or daughter is born, they often return, as a way to express their thanks for the blessing of a child. Because of the time and cost of a pilgrimage, it becomes a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving to God.
Make a Promise
A person might make a promise to God before a prayer is received. This is not a way of manipulating God. Rather, it shows our dedication to God and commitment to serving Him.
I serve in an area settled by Belgian immigrants. One of their customs was the building of roadside chapels, dedicated to a saint, often were built in thanksgiving for a grace. A person who was drowning promised to build a chapel to Our Lady if he survived. And now people can pass by that roadside chapel and offer a prayer.
Your promise might be as simple as saying a certain prayer each day or doing an act. Try your best to fulfill the promise, but if you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Recommit to the practice, and never forget the good God has done for you.
Make a Donation
Sometimes a way to give thanks is through a charitable gift. It might be connected to charity related to the received grace. For example, if remission form cancer, maybe an organization working towards a cure. A donation to a specific project or a capital campaign provides a lasting legacy and a visual reminder in some cases of what you supported and why you did so.
Share Your Testimony
A lot of people in society today have rejected God and the teachings of Christianity. For some it is because they did not see God at work in the world. Others might have a deistic view of God, that God exists and he created the world, but that’s it. Sometimes a grace received might be personal, but when appropriate, give testimony. Share it with your family or friends. Let people know that God is real and answers prayers. Your story might bring hope to a person who needs to hear it.
In All Things, Give Thanks
There are many ways a person could give thanks to God. These are just a few simple ways a person could employ. In this process, the first step is to cultivate an awareness of what a person needs to express thanksgiving. Then, do it.
In our relationship with God, it is important to not only ask, but also to recognize God at work, and give things. However you pray or whatever you do, do it with a grateful heart!