As the country celebrated our annual holiday of Thanksgiving, it remains a reminder to Catholics that every day is a day to give thanks to God. God created us, loves us, and takes care of us. Every day, He gives us many blessings, including our family and friends, our homes, and food.
The world influences people to have an attitude of entitlement, but if we realize the depth of God’s great love for us, we will understand that everything good in our lives is His gift. When we reflect on His constant Providence, we will make acts of thanksgiving part of our daily prayers.
Gratitude to God is an important aspect of the Church’s teachings and worship. Many of the Psalms which are prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours offer thanks and praise to God (for example, Psalm 118 and Psalm 92) The Mass is the greatest act of thanksgiving to God. (The word “Eucharist” even means “thanksgiving.”) The Eucharistic Prayers recall Jesus giving thanks to God the Father when instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Sacred Scripture also exhorts us to show gratitude to God. St. Paul encourages the members of the Church to offer God thanks in his letters. For example, he wrote to the Thessalonians: “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:18)
Gratitude to God has become an important part of my spiritual life. This awareness of my need to thank God came about several years ago on Thanksgiving when I decided to make a list of some of the things I was thankful to God for. As I thought about it, I was given a greater knowledge of His blessings. I began by being thankful to God for Himself in His Holy Trinity; for Mary as our Mother, for the communion of saints and friendship with saints, for my guardian angel and all the angels who help me, for the Mass and Jesus’ Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, for God creating me and giving me life, for being a Catholic, for the beauty of Creation, and the many particular gifts I was given including my mother and my home. Since that Thanksgiving Day, I have continued to appreciate all the ways God provides for me. Today I am especially thankful for my many Catholic friends and my godchildren.
A priest I am friends with once asked me if I could thank God for the difficulties in life as well as what is good. At the time, it was not easy to do so. As I have come to learn that God allows trials and sufferings so that good can come from them, I have been able to thank God for difficulties that I have experienced, both because I know that by offering them up, I can help other people and because such difficulties have enabled me to grow in virtue.
Not everyone may readily thank God, even for His blessings, on a daily basis. The world can influence people to think that everything good in their life is a result of their own accomplishments. Gratitude teaches us humility. Perhaps gratitude, like faith, it is itself a gift. Nevertheless, if we ask God for this gift, He will certainly give it to us.
St. Ignatius’ Examen prayer is one way to include gratitude in our daily prayers. This prayer involves a reflection on the day that evening. Part of the Examen is thanking God for His blessings that day and in our lives. I have found that praying the Examen has led me to become more aware of the ways God helps me each day. For example, I have thanked Him for letting my car break down in a parking lot instead of on a highway and for receiving a letter or a phone call from a friend.
We can live out gratitude each day by such practices as the Liturgy of the Hours, participating at Mass, thanking God before meals, and praying the Examen. We can make our own the words of the Psalm: Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, His mercy endures forever.