The Virtue of Gratitude
Today's reflection about gratitude, by Fr. James Farfaglia:
Cicero, the famous Roman senator and orator, once wrote, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others."
The virtue of gratitude is the ability to express our thankful appreciation in word or deed, to the person whose words or actions have benefited us in some way. The truly humble and noble person will always be grateful for the benefits received. Ingratitude is an ugly sin.
How can the virtue of gratitude be acquired?
Fundamentally, cultivating the spirit of gratitude requires us to develop humility. We need to understand that everything that we have and everything that we are is a gift.
On this Thanksgiving Day, we might begin by taking out a pad of paper and a pen and making a list of all of the wonderful gifts that we receive each day of our entire life.
We could start with life. We have been given the gift of life. Consider the air that we breathe. We take such things as air, water, and even good health all for granted. We need to consider our families, the houses that we live in, the food that we eat each day, our education, our jobs, and the fact that we live in a free country.
Once we consider the obvious gifts that we have received, we can go deeper. Take into consideration all that God has done for us. He loves us unconditionally. We have the Catholic Church, the Bible, and the Sacraments. We can all remember how a Catholic priest inspired us in a homily, gave us an encouraging word in Confession, or came to visit us while we were sick.
We need to understand that we have received so much. Should we not always be grateful?
There is a story about a man in Budapest who goes to the rabbi and complains, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?" The rabbi answers, "Take your goat into the room with you." The man is incredulous, but the rabbi insists: "do as I say and come back in a week."
A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before. "We cannot stand it," he tells the rabbi. "The goat is filthy."
The rabbi then tells him, "Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week."
A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, "Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there's no goat -- only the nine of us."
The virtue of gratitude can be expressed in very simple ways. We should always express our gratitude. The phrase "thank you" should be a common part of our daily vocabulary.
G. K. Chesterton once said: "You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink."
He also said, "When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?"
The French philosopher Jacques Maritain once said that "Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy." He is correct, and it is important that we acquire good manners and social graces. The loss of morals and common decency has caused the gentleman and the lady to be something of the past.
The acquisition of the virtue of gratitude is essential. However, it is equally important that we serve others with a spirit of detachment. We must not look for recognition or earthly glory. We must continue to love others without seeking anything in return.
Let us remember what Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount: "your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing" (Matthew 6: 3).
We all know that people can be very ungrateful for the service that is given to them. How many people thank those who give of themselves unconditionally?
Parents, teachers, clergy, police, firefighters, doctors and nurses many times live thankless lives. Nevertheless, the Gospel calls us to give of ourselves unconditionally and seek as our only reward eternal life in heaven.
This is true Christianity.
Any other posture is simply rooted in egotism.
The standard of greatness for Christianity is not earthly glory, but the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Many times we may receive appreciation and thanks from those whom we serve. Birthday celebrations, little expressions of thankfulness, and gifts from grateful people should be seen as noble manifestations of gratitude. However, we must remember the example of Jesus. Only one of the ten lepers returned to give thanks for having been cured.
It is important to remember, that despite the ingratitude of humanity, Jesus continued his mission until his consumatum est.
His reward was the cross and the empty tomb.
When we serve with a spirit of detachment, we will walk among our brothers and sisters, even among those who have been ungrateful and hateful, with joy and a smile. The disappointments and adversities that others may cause will purify our interior motives and allow us to focus on eternity.
Gratitude is a rare virtue indeed.
We need to be always filled with gratitude for God's unconditional love.
We need to always thank all those who serve us and love us with their generous service.
"And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him." (Luke 17: 15-16).
About the author:
Father James Farfaglia is the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Corpus Christi, Texas.
During his youth, in the seventies, Father James never thought he would become a priest. Instead, he took a deep interest in politics. He was planning on studying law and running for public office, but God had other plans for him, since Father James experienced a profound calling, while in college, for priesthood.
Upon graduating, Father James joined the Legionaries of Christ to study for priesthood. During these years, he founded and developed seminaries, schools, and the Regnum Christi Lay Movement in Spain, Mexico, Canada, and throughout different parts of the United States. In 1999, he founded and built St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Lufkin, Texas. However, he left St. Andrew to become the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the request of the local bishop, who needed a bilingual priest.
In addition to his duties as a parish priest, Father James offers a weekly homily on his YouTube channel, he is very involved in the pro-life movement, and is currently immersed in his most ambitious project of all: West Side Helping Hand, an after-school holistic youth formation program that empowers at-risk children and young people to overcome the challenges created by poverty and broken homes.
He authored two books, "Man to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family life," and "Get Serious! A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics".
Although very busy, Father James thankfully finds some time for his hobbies: he loves movies, he is an avid Three Stooges fan, enjoys swimming, basketball, soccer, the outdoors and travel. He listens to jazz, and he started, with some friends, the Monday evening Saint Holger’s Cigar Club. One of his favorite quotes is "Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair"- G. K. Chesterton. He is also a very approachable person, who immediately allowed me to reuse his sermon, and didn't ask for anything in exchange. The decision to highlight his work is solely mine. Father James, I am very grateful!
Thank you! - CC0 Creative Commons.
Take a moment to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart (cf Luke 2,19)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Col 4:6