Dear Vincentian Friends,
Last week I had the privilege of being with Vincentian leaders from all over the United States to attend the Invitation for Renewal leadership-formation program in St. Louis. One of the perennial highlights of this retreat-based program is a film called “Celebrate What’s Right with the World.” Focusing on what’s right and celebrating it presupposes an attitude of gratitude that Vincentians should live throughout the year, not just on this week’s Thanksgiving holiday.
In recent months and years, we have been surrounded by events and media coverage that reinforce what is not right with the world. Certainly, we need to recognize what needs to be changed in our world, in our country, in our Church and even in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The most effective way to create useful change, however, is to appreciate and build upon the many positive parts of everything that surrounds us.
Building upon assets is what we do with our neighbors in need who participate in our programs of mentoring or serving as allies to neighbors coping with poverty. Let’s take our own advice and appreciate the many blessings and gifts we enjoy in an admittedly broken world. Even our service to those who are poor is performed from a position of gratitude. The beginning of our Rule details the Vincentian wisdom about “Our Personal Encounters With the Poor;” it tells us that “Vincentians never forget the many blessings they receive from those they visit.”
I find that I best immerse myself in a mindset of gratitude when I do it in prayer. I create a “rosary of thankfulness” by creating five decades in which I name people, places or things for which I am grateful. If you try this, think of your community, church, workplace, family, conference, friends, favorite places or events. As I do, you can try praying “thank you Lord” for ten things in the categories you create.
You may be surprised how easy it is to find 50 things for which you are genuinely thankful – people, places, and events that have been a blessing or gift and have made you the person you are today. Conversely, I expect most people would find it difficult to identify 50 such things to complain about with similar conviction. We all have pain, sorrow and hurts, but with God’s providence even in these we find the seeds of new possibilities.
Simple expressions of thanks to those around us will make our families, churches, workplaces and communities better places to be. We also owe God our thankfulness. It is why the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass almost always begins, “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, creator of the world and source of all life.”
I hope you and your family have a blessed Advent as we prepare for the joy of Christmas.
Serviens in spe,