Gratitude

Today, ask for this grace:

I ask for the gift of an intimate knowledge of all the things which God lovingly shares with me. Filled with gratitude, I want to be empowered and moved to love and serve God.

Adapted from the Spiritual Exercises, [233]

Saint Ignatius cleverly places this at the end of his 30-day Spiritual Exercises. This is after weeks of prayer and coming to know yourself more, the person of Jesus, and your relationship with him. At this point it shouldn’t be hard to find gratitude. But the retreatant leaves the silence of their cozy retreat house and goes back into the big bad world where gratitude can, at times, be scarce. This is often the bigger challenge for the retreatant, which comes as they try and integrate the fruits that they received during the retreat with their everyday life in their job and relationships.

We have a tendency to say thank you because it’s expected or it’s a social norm (“Say thank you to the lady.” “…Thank you.”). But Ignatius encourages us to be more intentional about gratitude. In fact, he places a thank you at the beginning of the examen prayer. This prayer is a short review of your day, prayed once or twice each day. But before you even thumb through the events of your day you stop and thank God for anything particular that stands out, the large or small. I may thank God for a moment with a friend, or a moment of growth, or a positive feeling. Christian prayer is generally structured so that thanksgiving is first.

In the Eucharistic prayer at a Catholic Mass the dialog between the priest and the people leads into the main prayer by giving thanks:

Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.
People: It is right and just.

Then the priest continues:

It is truly right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks…

Can we allow ourselves to move beyond just the “ritualistic” thanks—because we’re conditioned to or because we have to—to a more intentional thanks that recognises God in all things, a God who gives and gives? This can begin with regular prayer and extra attention each day to the graces that God is allowing to flow into your life. Build five minutes into your schedule to pause and reflect on what you’re grateful for. And then allow that gratitude to help you move through your day.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Listen to an audio version of this post…

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