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Column: We must practice being grateful

Column: We must practice being grateful

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I have read that gratitude may be the best indicator of our spiritual and emotional health. And I think that is true. Whenever I wander off into what John Bunyan once described as “the slough of despond,” even if I have wandered there unconsciously, it is my lack of gratitude that gives me away.

According to the "Spiritual Exercises" of St.Ignatius of Loyola, gratitude is the fundamental spiritual practice — THE fundamental spiritual practice. When we aren’t able to give thanks, something is out of kilter.

I confess there have been many times since March that I have found myself lacking in gratitude. Perhaps you can relate. We know there are reasons to be thankful. We know we should feel grateful. But at that particular moment, we just don’t. And we get stuck, spiritually out-of-joint, dislocated in our soul. We try and I try, but just can’t muster gratitude.

Well, at that point all we can do is pray for God to make us grateful. All we can do is pray as the seventeenth-century poet, George Herbert, prayed (though he did it far more eloquently): “Thou hast given so much to me; Give one thing more — a grateful heart; Not thankful when it pleaseth me, As if Thy blessings had spare days, But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.”

Herbert, in this prayer, combines what Anne Lamott has described as “the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’”

Real gratitude, of course, isn’t something we can whip up. Believe me, I’ve tried. And yes, as readers of this newspaper you know there are many reasons to feel despondent these days. Yet, there are also many reasons to be grateful. And we need God’s help to feel thankful.

So, ask God’s Spirit to give you this “one thing more.” Ask God to grant you “such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.” And my prayer for you is that you will find that God’s gift of gratitude begets even more gratitude. And that through this sign of God’s Spirit at work in you, countless others will be blessed.

I leave you with the words of medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” May you have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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