Spirit of gratefulness

By Brian D’Arcy, CP
From the book: A little bit of healing
If we are to heal our wounded church, prayer will be at the heart of it. Sadly we rarely hear any talk of prayer now in churches. Prayer does not come easily to me, but what is becoming increasingly real is a spirit of gratefulness. I’m not the only one.

There’s an elderly Benedictine monk who lives in America called David Steinel-Rast who says that the beginning of all prayer is gratefulness. ‘The starting point for grateful living is the under-standing that everything is given to us for free, as a gift, starting with life itself. So if we approach our lives that way, feeling like we are open for the surprise of what comes next, then we remain hopeful we can improve our lives’, he says.

Gratefulness begins with being open to surprises. You may not even feel that you can be grateful, or you may feel that you are in-adequately grateful. Just stop and be surprised. Everybody can do that.

‘Before you open your eyes in the morning you can stop and be surprised that you have eyes to open, because there are more than 40 million people in the world who do not have eyes or cannot see with them. You can go through your day and, moment by moment, be surprised about anything and everything,’ he says.

‘This is the beginning of being grateful because the next consideration is “How come I have this? How come this is given to  me?” Once you become conscious that something’s given to you and you didn’t earn it, buy it or achieve it, then you recognise you have to be grateful for it. When you realise that everything is given to you, then you are already on the road to giving thanks.’

He suggests we should have an image of a small vessel filling up. If we keep the vessel small, it will always be overflowing. That means we will have enough and not want more. The problem with the modern world, he contends, is that we want more and more and are never satisfied. The little vessel becomes a huge tank which can never be filled. It means that we are never really grateful.

‘The affluent society makes the vessel bigger and bigger and that is why we find that the poor people everywhere are much more grateful than the rich, who expect to have everything.’

He says the secret is to make our vessels smaller. ‘We can do that by living frugally and by continually asking what we really need and by distinguishing our needs from our wants … It is very important to do this because, in the world in which we live, we cannot just go on taking more than our own share.’

There is no secret to a contented way of life. Start by being grateful. Make your mind up to live gratefully. Very soon it will become more than a feeling – it will become an attitude towards life. The moment you have an attitude of gratefulness, you will be happy.

The monk is absolutely right. If you want to find more about his way of life look up www.gratefulness.org.

We should be grateful to the Lord our God, for putting us to the test, as he did our forefathers. Recall how he dealt with Abraham, and how he tried Isaac, and all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was tending the flocks of Laban, his mother’s brother. Not for vengeance did the Lord put them in the crucible to try their hearts, nor has he done so with us. It is by way of admonition that he chastises those who are close to him. Judith 8:25-27

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