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Gratitude, Awakening to New Wonder and Praise of God’s Goodness

Thanksgiving Day is my favorite holiday. It is less stressful than Christmas, and its focus on gratitude for faith, family, and country instead of gift-giving is an opportunity to reflect on and delight in the blessings of life and the giver of all good gifts. The familiar smells and food and table fellowship help awaken me to gratitude particularly for people past and present who have loved me.
Thomas Merton, a monk and spiritual writer, reflects in his book Thoughts in Solitude on gratitude as the heart of the Christian life. “Every breath we draw is a gift of God’s love, every moment of existence is a grace for it brings with it immense graces from God. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.” Gratitude, then, is a contemplative stance towards life that sees all as gift and grace and leads to joy. Gratitude is more than saying a polite thank you. Instead it is a spontaneous feeling that arises from a heart that is free and supple. When I start thinking “I earned” or “I deserve” or “I wanted,” my grateful heart turns into a bitter one. Gratitude is, yes, delighting in the gift whether it is a new iPad or a sunrise or a turkey dinner, but more importantly it is a feeling of joy directed toward a person for giving me something good. It is a joy that comes not merely from the gift but from the act of giving, and it is directed toward the giver.
I look forward to Thanksgiving with my family not only for the turkey and stuffing but more importantly for that overwhelming feeling of gratitude I feel particularly as we take a moment to thank God for the blessings of the past year. I ask God for the grace to be responsive to the family members with whom I will share the Thanksgiving meal this year and to be awakened and renewed to the goodness of God in each person, in nature, and in myself.
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.
Portrait of Thomas Merton by Frank Peabody.

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4 Responses to “Gratitude, Awakening to New Wonder and Praise of God’s Goodness”

  1. Sandra Weber says:

    Sr. Terry,
    Thanks so much for your inspiring commentary on Thanksgiving. I agree that it is a more peaceful holiday and gives all families an opportunity to reflect on the past year’s blessings. That is also what makes the Why Catholic group I lead such a pleasure. We have quiet time to pray and reflect together and share our inner thoughts about our relationship with God. Many blessings to you and your family.
    Sandra Weber

  2. terry giannetto says:

    Thank you for the wonderful Thanksgiving comments
    I will use, if ok, in our WINGS Group (Women In God’s Spirit)
    This season our theme is gratitude – this is perfect. Also I will
    share with our ARISE Small Faith Groups.

    God Bless and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

  3. terry giannetto says:

    Sr. Terry Rickard, Thank you for the wonderful comments on
    Gratitude. I will share them, if ok, with our WINGS (Women In God’s
    Spirit” group as well as our ARISE Small faith sharing group.
    WINGS them this season is gratitude, so it fits right in!

  4. RENEW says:

    Thank you, Terry. Please do share with your ARISE and WINGS groups!

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