September 2014 - Gratitude
Thanks to your generous and prompt reply to our July letter, we were able to complete the various works and repairs which we had to undertake this summer at the Seminary. As you already know, we will turn over our house in Winona to the District in two or three years’ time – God willing – when we move to Virginia. Even if we have to depart, we do not want to leave to our fellow priests a badly maintained house. Our building has already endured many rough winters and many hot and wet summers, and therefore it demands very expensive care. Be assured of our heartfelt gratitude for your generosity, which has never failed, even in spite of the present economic difficulties. And together with our gratitude, be assured of our daily prayers for all your intentions.
To know how to give thanks and acknowledge the benefits received is a virtue too often ignored in our times – but we try to practice it. Firstly, in a spirit of justice, and then, because not to be grateful is, ultimately, nothing else than the logical and unhappy result of the shameless reign of the revolutionary declaration of the rights of man which dethroned God, replacing Him with man. By this exaltation and deification of man, he is actually annihilated!
Indeed, man will never be anything but a dependent creature and certainly not an independent being who is self-sufficient, not owing anything to anybody. A child coming into the world is only a debtor and not a barbarian god, loaded with rights. Nothing is owed him, to whom all is given.
From his birth to his death, man lives in a state of dependence, both in the natural domain and in the supernatural order. When this state is accepted and acknowledged, man can develop harmoniously, allowing himself to be formed, and thus taking his unique and essential place, another link in the chain of humans generations. To claim, as revolutionary modern thought affirms, that man is not a debtor, amounts to a denial of his own status and to a break of the chain that inscribes him into time and that permits him to prepare his eternity.
Ingratitude is thus much more than simple boorishness – it is a crime with regrettable consequences, since by its refusal of dependence it reduces man to the status of an animal. And a man who is reduced to such a state is nothing but a monster. The virtue of gratitude is inherent in our human nature – let us practice it!
We will do it by knowing how to thank, with a simple, polite word or with a smile, those who so often help us every day, even if we do no more than to hold a door open for another or to pass the salt or the bread when sitting at table. It is good not to neglect these daily details because if we do not know how to give thanks in the small things in life, how will we practice the virtue of gratitude in more important matters? We will also do it by cultivating a true and deep submission to our parents and to those whom God has been pleased to place above us.
But the first gratitude refers directly to God. It is He who gives us what we are and what we have. We justly acknowledge and define ourselves as debtors, but we are mainly the debtors of God.
However, affected by a quite particular shortsightedness, we find it extremely difficult to rise above human concerns and thus we consider the events of every day only in the light of secondary causes. Accustomed to judge people and things from the standpoint of our person, we lose the sense of the profound realities and mutilate them by reducing them to the human level. A soul that lives in the light of God will be able to discover the ceaseless action of Providence and will give thanks to Him for everything.
Often we judge badly. Thus, often, that which appears to us to be a failure is in the eyes of God a victory and conversely. Winston Churchill said, more or less, “success is to go from failure to failure, joyfully and without weakening”. Why would our Catholic hope be unable to make us practice such courage and lucidity? Let us have before our eyes, always, the divine perspective, which is the only good one. The Cross, a major public failure, is still drawn up for us to remind us of it.
Our soul should engage itself in continual thanksgivings. Our own sins themselves should not escape this rule since they can be a source of true humility. Moreover, without the merciful intervention of God we should have paid for them the eternal price of damnation. Is not this what the holy liturgy sings at the Paschal vigil, “O happy fault that has won us such a Redeemer”?
We are, in fact, defended and continuously supported by the grace of Our Lord. The sacraments received, the unknown and invisible but nevertheless real interventions of our guardian angel, who protects us from the dangers of body and soul, the prayers of the saints and the maternal protection of Our Lady, all these are daily realities to which we hardly pay attention and for which we too often forget to give thanks. For example, it is enough to see with what ease we leave the confessional. Admittedly we fulfill our penance, but do we think of thanking the infinite and gratuitous divine mercy? Would not this be that spiritual boorishness which explains why so easily and so quickly we fall again?
And let us not talk about the thanksgiving after Mass, which we dispatch in a few moments filled with distractions. Do we ever think that if it is so difficult for us to make this thanksgiving, it is because the devil well knows the infinite praise and the invaluable good of this prayer and, therefore, he does all he can to prevent us from giving thanks?
In Heaven, the saints give thanks unwearyingly. Why wouldn't we begin, here and today, this office for which we have been created? In giving thanks, we do not return to an equality the benefit that has been given to us, but we express our dependence and we ennoble ourselves by living in the truth.
Then: thank you!
In Christo sacerdote et Maria.
Fr. Yves le Roux