Happy early Thanksgiving to my American readers! This time of year, I often read about practices and disciplines that foster an attitude of gratitude. November’s focus on gratitude can sometimes feel cliché to me as I watch hashtags roll through social media such as #blessed or #thankful. On deeper reflection about any rub I feel at well meaning gratitude posts, God reminds me to not forget the underlying value of why gratitude matters in the first place. It is an important disposition of the heart.
Fr. Gerri Fagin, SJ in his book, Putting on the Heart of Christ, reminds us that gratitude is a virtue that invites us to be “attentive to God’s presence as the giver of gifts.” He goes on to say, “ Gratitude is the movement of the heart that goes beyond the gift to the giver. Gratitude notices the giftedness of the world around us, the giftedness of others, and finally the giftedness of ourselves.”
Cultivating gratitude not only in November but year round is an important posture in our life with God. It is a posture that bears fruits in our lives:
- It opens our heart to God’s generosity in our lives as we recognize and name the gifts of our life.
- It pulls us out of selfishness and opens us to be more connected to others.
- It shifts our minds and hearts to a positive perspective.
St. Ignatius is a teacher of cultivating gratitude in our lives. A friend of mine boils St. Ignatius’ spirituality down to three key phrases:
- Be Grateful
- Be Generous
- Be Available
Let’s turn for a moment and take a peek at the life-changing moment in Ignatius’ life that helped develop this attitude.
Shortly after his conversion moment, St. Ignatius spends months in the caves of Manresa where he is tormented by his sins. At one point, God pulled him out of the cave and onto the banks of the Cardoner River. In his autobiography we read:
While seated there, the eyes of his soul were opened. He did not have any special vision, but his mind was enlightened on many subjects, spiritual and intellectual. So clear was this knowledge that from that day everything appeared to him in a new light. Such was the abundance of this light in his mind that all the divine helps received, and all the knowledge acquired up to his sixty-second year, were not equal to it. From that day he seemed to be quite another man, and possessed of a new intellect.
He understood just how precious he was to God. His obsessive thoughts of sinfulness that had plagued him in the cave never returned. He experienced an overwhelming gratitude for God’s love.
This experience in the caves of Manresa focused his mission and ultimately his spirituality. Since then, Ignatian spirituality can find its focus to be telling of God’s love for every person, telling of the gifts that God continually bestows upon us, and finding God in all things.
Ignatius saw God everywhere. Not just in that moment by the river, but in the people, places, and things he encountered through each ordinary day. All drew him into the desire to serve God in all things.
As we approach these next weeks that include the celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States and the season of Advent, may we embrace a posture that cultivates gratitude. May we pray that our attitude of gratitude moves us as it did Ignatius to serve God in all things and in all people.
Know of my prayers for you!
Our Ignatian MInistries’ team is expanding the ways we accompany you this Advent. This year, we are offering three ways to pray Advent:
- Pray Advent on your own with our printable prayer plan for individuals.
- Lead a small group through Advent with our printable leader’s guide and prayer plan.
- Join our Advent community retreat and let Ignatian Ministries guide you through Advent with guided audios and visio divinas. Registration is now open.