The following is excerpted from The Wisdom of St. Patrick by RENEW President and Publisher Greg Tobin.
I am very deeply in God’s debt. He who gave me such grace that so many people were reborn in God through me and afterward confirmed in the Church, and that priests were ordained for them everywhere, for a people just awakening to faith. They are the Lord’s chosen, from the outermost parts of the earth, as He had previously promised through His prophets: “The Gentiles shall come to You from the far ends of the earth, and they shall say, ‘How false are the idols that our fathers made for themselves, and there is no use in them’” And again: “I have set You as a light among the heathen nations, so that You may be the way to salvation even as far as the utmost part of the earth.”
Confession of St. Patrick, Ch 38
How do we express our gratitude? How do we give thanks? Patrick’s answer is: by giving everything we have and claiming nothing for ourselves. There cannot come a time when we have “nothing left to give,” because then we cease to be and we are no more. When we regard our lives as fonts of love, of mercy, of charity, there can be no alternative.
But who are we talking about? What sort of a person can make a commitment like this, honestly? And fulfill it most of the time, in the hectic busyness of our modern lives? The truth is, I rarely have the time or tranquility to think about these matters with any seriousness or dedication. The world crowds in more and more, faster and faster, and it is rare that I am aware of anything but the din of living.
Gratitude, for me, is a practical and powerful resource. It is a key that unlocks the door to peace of mind. It is a lever that lifts burdens from one’s shoulder. Simply by thanking God for what He has given me—rather than dwelling on what I want and don’t have—I receive a remarkable uplift, a relief from mundane cares. I am reminded of a prayer I heard somewhere: “God, thank You for what You have given me; thank You for what You have taken from me; thank You for what You have left me.”
As Patrick and other writers put it, God is “a light among the nations.” I am obligated to seek the divine light, that it may illuminate the world for me. Also, I am called to expose myself to His light; it warms me and guides me in dark and difficult times. The light shows me who I am, allowing me to appraise my spiritual condition.
Working hand in hand with humility, gratitude is an attitude that requires candor: to see things for what they are, to want what I already have, to seek no advantage over another.
My Lord, if I cannot see what is inside me, then I pray that You look, and turn me into a tool for good and a vessel of grace. If I have a selfless giving nature, help me to see it, nurture it, use it to help other by doing Your will. And if I have nothing inside me but the sinews of need and desire that move the beasts of Your creation, let me be clay in the hands of the righteous and an instrument for the will of the holy. And if I can see who I am, let me, I pray, joyfully find a life I am ready to give to Your service.