“”Ignatius thought that a particular type of ignorance was at the root of sin. The deadliest sin, he said, is ingratitude. It is ‘the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.’” Jim Manney, God Finds Us, An Experience of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we try to remember what we are thankful for, especially on that day just before mealtime prayers. Sometimes we discuss being thankful briefly with family and friends who are gathered around the table with us.
Ignatius and Jim Manney are reminding us that thankfulness is more than a brief one-time event each year. Being thankful keeps us connected to God, a power greater than ourselves, who so loves us and daily showers us with gifts. People stay in recovery from addiction by making gratitude lists every day. Those who practice Ignatian spirituality thank God in their nightly Examen for specific gifts they received during that day. Those who are losing hope or are depressed are sometimes helped by doing this exercise daily of remembering what they were thankful for during the day and sharing it with a friend. Those who see only the negative aspects of their world also can sometimes be transformed by starting to look for even the smallest part of their life where they are grateful. Sometimes we may be thankful only for the sun or the moon, but it is important if we want to change, to keep saying daily, sometimes hourly, prayers of thanksgiving.
Another exercise that can be helpful is to try to write down during a day the times we actually say “thank you.” This sometimes is an eye-opening experience.
Next we can begin to say “thank you” for even the smallest event, such as someone passing a plate of food at a meal, someone filling our glass of water or tea, a waiter serving our dinner, a hug, a hand outreached to help, a visit, a call, an email, a note, a text from a friend, a car door opened.
Eventually being thankful can become an automatic part of our being. We can extend gratitude to other parts of our lives such as a good night’s sleep, the smell of morning coffee brewing, warm clothes in the winter, a place to live, family members especially spouses and children and grandchildren, a community of friends, a church community, an ability to work, the beauty of nature, the sun in the morning, the moon at night, good health, recovery from an illness, improvement in health.
Gratitude has a direct connection to the God who so loves us. Moments of gratitude connect us to the fruit of the Spirit, love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.1