I first learned the power of gratitude as a young boy at a theater performance. The playbill was so carefully scripted – except, it turned out, for one thing that happened at the very end. As the curtain dropped and the stage lights dimmed, the audience spontaneously sprang to its feet with a thunderous applause and great cheers. The actors undoubtedly needed to hear our gratitude, but what brought us to our feet was our need to express gratitude. Expressing gratitude completes the experience.
Being grateful is much more than a polite duty. Being grateful addresses a deep need we all have to be recognized, acknowledged, and remembered for the gift of who we are and what we do. We also need to recognize, acknowledge, and remember the gifts we constantly receive throughout our life. Don’t miss any opportunity to express gratitude to others. It will transform their day and perhaps their life. It will certainly transform yours.
If prayer – your relationship with God – in any way eludes you just now, simply pray your gratitude. Gratitude in prayer is like oil to a frozen gear box. Be grateful for the amazing people in your life who have made all the difference. Be grateful for your senses: Let your eyes gaze on shape and color, texture and movement for what is in your vista; listen to the myriad of sounds that surround you; examine something closely until you are full of wonder. On and on you can go. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor and pray your gratitude for what is so clearly good in life. Be grateful for the gift of life. Live your life as a gift, not as a given. This is a way to “pray without ceasing.”
Gratitude has the power to transform ordinary or even terrible things into extraordinary ones. Gratitude has eucharistic power. An old French proverb says, “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” There is an amazing grace in looking backwards on your life. You will see things from a new perspective. The many kinds of losses we all experience in life – losses of people, relationships, opportunities moving on or changing or dying – can leave a deep grief or anger for that wonderful thing, that beautiful person or relationship that is no more. Oftentimes, beneath that sad feeling you will find gratefulness, because the source of the loss has made all the difference in the world to your life. Underneath the anguish we experience with the changes and chances of life, you can find gratitude. If you only dare go down deep enough into the well of loss, you will find a ground spring of gratefulness just waiting to be drawn out, recovered, and expressed. Mourning is often disguised gratefulness waiting to be tapped.
Gratitude is not just a feeling; it’s a practice. And, like with any other practice, you can get out of practice at gratitude. If you are out of practice expressing thanks to God, the conduit of gratitude may be plugged up. You may not realize how much God desires not only to be thanked by you, but to be thankful for you. God longs to thank you for what you are to God and what you represent to God’s children and God’s creation. God is enormously grateful for you. You make God’s day. You make God’s presence real here on earth. God does not take you for granted, and is eternally grateful. You are not a given, but a gift to God. Pray and practice living your life with gratitude in every way you can: from your past, in your present, and for your future. Living gratefully will not make your life come round rosy in every way, nor will you evade the difficult challenges that life brings. But living life gratefully will re-balance the weight of your life, enlarging what is so clearly good to new proportions. Your own practice of gratitude will make you real and will permeate the life around you like fragrance from a flower.
To watch a short video of Br. Curtis on Gratitude, click here.