November marks a defining time of harvest and abundance, a diminishing time of light and the remembrance of those gone before us. Gratitude is an emotion, an attitude, and a virtue that covers all these dimensions.
Gratitude as an emotion: It’s a feeling like joy, happiness, delight, gaiety and bliss.
Gratitude as an attitude: It’s a mindset, a disposition, a worldview that we hold or lean toward.Gratitude as a virtue: It holds a special place in our heart and soul. Some would say it can be a form of prayer. Meister Eckhart reminds us “if the only prayer you say in your whole life is thank you, it will be enough.”
In addition, gratitude goes by many other names. In academic circles it is often referred to as “appreciative inquiry.” In the private sector it may be referred to as “best practices.” In the psychology field it is called “attentiveness bias.” In the metaphysical world it’s called “the law of positive attraction.” And in faith-based circles we’ll hear the words “blessings” and “grace.” This is one sign that the concept of gratitude is universal. There are some wonderful synonyms for gratitude as well: appreciation, gratefulness, thanks and thankfulness.
Despite our current political climate, wars, declining living conditions, environmental crises and the worsening conditions for immigrants and refugees, there is much to be grateful for in our lives and in our world. In the U.S., we have refined religious life into a ministerial profession and opportunity for service and carrying out the call of the Gospel. So many corners of the world still have underserved and neglected communities. If you read the online resource Global Sisters Report, you will find daily reassurance that Sisters continue to be present wherever there are marginalized and disenfranchised populations. Regardless of terrible conditions these people face, a sense of gratitude prevails, even if it’s often in small ways.
Whether we are experiencing crisis, scarcity, loss or merely frustration, expressions of gratitude lift the human spirit. They help us see that with some practice, we may gain insights from the challenges in our life and work. Gratitude also encourages us to stay positive, to focus on what is going well around us.
Each life situation offers an opportunity to intentionally notice gifts, insights, blessings and graces received. Even during our most challenging times, we have a choice about where to focus our attention. It is important to develop an eye for the good around us. All religious orders and ministries are experiencing extremely high demand for human services, advocacy and social change. In the midst of this work, many of us already have a practice of cultivating gratitude in our daily lives. This season is an opportunity to ramp it up.
Today I am grateful for my position on the Province Leadership Team, which allows me to accompany our Sisters and to be part of our transition to a new vision of religious life. I am grateful for our sense of teamwork in service of the SNJM U.S.-Ontario Province. I am grateful for those I serve as liaison to Mission Centres and on various committees. I am grateful to those I go home to, who help me renew my energy for the next day. I am grateful for the comfort and security I am privileged to experience. I’m grateful for our excellent staff throughout the Province. I’m grateful for our separately incorporated institutions. I’m grateful for so many “best friends” within our religious community. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of a positive collective force making a significant difference in this country and in the world. What are you most grateful for during this season of gratitude?