Thankfulness, Gratefulness, Praise

From the Director

By Fr. John Burger

A while ago I was feeling discouraged and someone reminded me that “a hundred-yard dash is not over at the 99th yard.” In other words, “don’t give up too early.” It was good advice. Now we all find ourselves heading into the last few weeks of 2020, but we should not just resign ourselves to coasting till the end of the year. Turning this strange year into a successful year means discovering the Lord’s will in the circumstances we find ourselves in each day.

Earlier this year one of my friends quipped that “the most useless purchase he ever made was a 2020 planner.” Indeed, the “at a glance planning calendar” on the wall in my office is full of crossed out commitments and dotted all over with appointments that never happened. It tells quite a story. Who could even have imagined on the first of January that we were headed for a shut-down of so much of the economy and of so many aspects of our personal lives? Who would have imagined that this Olympic year would become the year of the canceled Tokyo games? Who would have predicted that candidates would have to refrain from pressing the flesh in an election year? Who indeed predicted that this year we would have to re-invent ways to celebrate not only birthdays, and high school and college commencements but also liturgical celebrations? Who would have imagined that all those beautiful buildings on University campuses across the country would sit idle while students tried to find a quiet corner to do their course work online? Or who could have predicted that priests and bishops would be urging people to stay home and away from the sacraments and their parish churches? Do you ever remember a virtual Easter? 

The freedom of movement and the joy of getting together with friends that we have always just assumed was a natural right evaporated quickly back in March. A new byword came into common use, “social distancing.” But the paradox contained in the phrase was that there was something social about distancing. We were not each just becoming a cold recluse but rather staying away from other people out of concern to protect both them and ourselves.

"Thankfulness is a form of praise."

In a situation like this where less can be taken for granted, assumed, or taken as a matter of course, the things we lost ready access to became more precious. In some ways, “absence does make the heart grow fonder.” It should make the heart more grateful.

I think approaching the world we live in with a grateful heart naturally leads to taking more joy in the beauty of creation. But it ought not stop there, intentionally approaching the people we encounter in our lives with gratefulness can be a wonderful transformation. It leads us to be more accepting of all those around us. Surely this is God’s will for us. Thankfulness is a form of praise.

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