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In this week between Thanksgiving and Advent, I thought I would share with you part of a Thanksgiving reflection given by our Sister Maria Goretti Browne, OP, that focuses on the sometimes hard work of practicing gratitude. Suffering is an unavoidable part of life and at times we need to lament and share our grief with others and with God. By embracing suffering in this way we can grow in our ability to love life unconditionally.
Sometimes, however, we may choose to intensify the difficulties of life by incessant complaining, stirring up resentments, nursing grudges and basically being a walking wet blanket. There is another more healthy option: gratitude. Research tells us that if we learn how to appreciate life in all its dimensions, we will feel better, be less prone to stress and sickness, sleep better, and live longer and healthier lives.
Sister Maria Goretti challenges us to give thanks in all circumstances of life. She recounts a rather extreme response of giving gratitude in the unbearable circumstances of war. She writes:
I read one time that during the war in Southeast Asia, there was a young Vietnamese boy who would sing as he worked in the rice fields, even as the bombs burst all around him. He explained that he could not stop the war, but he could keep the fear of death from overtaking his heart; he had to fight to be peaceful and happy inside while the horror and sadness of war swirled around him.
Maybe gratitude is an attitude. Most of us take very good care of our bodies, even try to walk – what is it – 10,000 steps? We practice each day, and eventually we will get to the 10,000 number. How about us practicing gratitude – Each day being more grateful than the day before, being more and more conscious of the blessings in our lives. Just look around. Thank God for our vocation, be it religious life, or married life, or single life; we are blessed with wonderful spouses or companions, wonderful co-workers, blessed with beautiful families, blessed with talents too many to enumerate, blessed with the ability to spread God’s love. Everywhere we look we see where we can spread that love and gratitude.
We know the account in Scripture of the three young men who were thrown into a fiery furnace. What’s the first thing they did? They broke into a song of praise and thanksgiving for all that God had made. Theirs was such an attitude of gratitude that their suffering was secondary. They danced among the flames unharmed (Daniel 3).
What about us? Do we find ways to give thanks to God in all circumstances?
This week’s blog is based on a reflection by Sister Maria Goretti Browne, OP.
Jesus has called us to be the “salt of the earth.” In his day salt was connected with purity because it comes from the purest of all things, the sun and the sea. Salt is a preservative; it preserves things from corruption, keeps things from going bad. An obvious quality of salt is that it improves taste. Salt, when mixed with other spices, enhances flavor. Salt, when standing alone, is good for some things, like melting ice, but when mixed with other substances, it becomes much more valuable. Mixed with water, it can clean coffee and tea stains from a cup. When mixed with lemon, it can serve as a bleach.
We all know people in whose presence it is easy to be good and to be holy. We know others in whose presence a shady story can be told. One salt-of-the-earth friend of mine, Sister Barbara, is a campus minister at a Dominican University and is known and loved by her students for teaching them in word and action this little adage:
Raise the praise,
Minimize the criticize,
Increase the peace,
Silence the violence.
To be like salt, then, is to purify, to reconcile, to enhance, to bring joy into the world, to preserve goodness, to bring beauty and flavor into the world. If we do not bring to life the purity, the radiance, the joy of the Risen Christ – then we are not enhancing our world. How are you living out this call in your life? Are you a salty person?
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Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!