Psalm of David 138 (English Standard Version)
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name
for your steadfast love and your faithfulness for you have
exalted above all things your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
And they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD,
endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Welcome to November 2021. This month we face many challenges: a very difficult election season, living within a pandemic with all its problems, and a Thanksgiving which may need to be celebrated in new ways.
What all this calls to my mind are some experiences I had when I was assigned to teach at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana, a historically Black Catholic University, founded by St. Katharine Drexel. Sister Ivan, a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, was concerned that I know about the rural areas from which some of Xavier’s students came. Therefore, she took me to Church Point, a small town where some of our Sisters ministered. I was looking forward to the visit but did not realize the lessons I would learn on that trip.
After showing me the small parish church and convent, she took me to visit an elderly couple who lived nearby. Their home was a tiny wooden house that was in very poor condition. However, we received a warm reception in the midst of bursts of praise and thanksgiving to God. I heard no complaints. Instead, the conversation was continually punctuated with expressions of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. That was the first lesson I learned.
Then, while I taught at Xavier, I also became involved in campus ministry and was with the young people during their prayer time. They echoed the joyful spirit of their elders as they spontaneously praised and thanked God, in spite of some very difficult circumstances from which they had come. This included thanking God for waking them up in the morning!!!
I am not a morning person!! However, to this day, when I struggle to get out of bed, I try to remember to thank God for “getting me up in the morning.” Sometimes, teachers learn from their students too.
These days are very difficult for just about everyone, some even more than others. However, an attitude of gratitude can lift one’s spirits and help one through troubling times.
In the booklet, Our Daily Bread, I read the story of Martin Rinkart, a clergyman who served in Saxon, Germany, for more than thirty years during a plague and wars in the seventeenth century. In one year, he conducted over 4000 funerals, including that of his wife. Because of food shortages, often his family went hungry. However, he had a strong faith in God, and he continually gave thanks to him for what they did have. He even composed a hymn of gratitude, still popular today: “Now, thank we all our God.”
With the realization of the circumstances during which the hymn was written, it might be meaningful to reflect on the verses to the hymn:
Now Thank We All Our God
Now thank we all our God
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
In whom his world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms
Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.
O may this gracious God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts,
And blessed peace to cheer us;
Preserve us in his grace,
And guide us in distress,
And free us from all sin,
Till heaven we possess.
All praise and thanks to God
The Father now be given,
The Son and Spirit blest,
Who reigns in highest heaven;
Eternal, Triune God,
Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now,
And shall be evermore.
God has many kinds of flowers in His garden. Not all of us can compose hymns, but we all can express our gratitude to God in our own unique ways. Some common ways are the following:
Helping someone in need
Giving something to those in need
Donating to an organization helping others
Volunteering to help those in need
There are many other ways to show gratitude to our Lord and others also. You may have some other ideas.
Stephanie Morris, ASBS. Ph.D. Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita
Mother Katharine wrote that “The ordinary soul does not do enough thanksgiving. For all eternity I shall sing the mercies which we ought to begin on earth.” We can sing of God’s mercies when we see a beautiful sunrise or sunset. A comfortable, sunny day can lift our hearts in praise and gratitude. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy aria; a short aspiration – Thank you, Lord, for bringing me safely home from my errands – can be a joyful song of praise. Do you say grace before or after meals? This is another simple way of showing gratitude. You might also thank the cook! If you, like me, did the cooking, we can thank those who grew or provided the food and we can thank God for having the means and skills to prepare the meal.