25 November 2015

How St. Ignatius Taught Me Thanksgiving is a Choice

You sometimes hear people share on what their favorite holiday's are and the reasons behind it. Christmas has always been my favorite, but over the last few years Thanksgiving has been gaining ground to tie with my all-time favorite holiday. I've always felt Thanksgiving gets overlooked and under-appreciated. I don't know if it has to do with the turkey, football games, or the insanity of Black Friday.

Over the past year, I have read a lot on Ignatian spirituality and the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. What I have grown to love about Ignatian spirituality is that it's a way for people (whatever their vocation or state in life) to see God in all things while becoming a contemplative in action.

As I have grown to identify more with Ignatian spirituality in my life, I had the thought it was St. Igantius who helped teach me that thanksgiving (gratitude) is always a choice in life-no matter the circumstance or situation.

One of the most profound ways to pray in Ignatian spirituality is a prayerful review of the day called the Examen. It is a practice where you prayerfully review the past day; reflecting upon all the events, and looking to where you saw/experienced God. The point of the Examen is to look on your day to see where God's presence and activity was in it.

A review of the events of the day to find God's presence in it: this was a practice highly affirmed by Ignatius as the most important activity a person could do every single day.
Okay, yeah that's nice. But why? What was so important about this?

Well, let's back track for a second. A significant element of the Examen is a review of the day. And if we can see.find.experience. God's presence in the day (no matter what happens) it teaches us the life-changing power of thankfulness and gratitude.
So the answer? The power of gratitude. 

The power it has no matter the pain or suffering we encounter in this life. The power it has to ease the heavy crosses we carry. The power it has to bring about that peace Jesus spoke of that surpasses all understanding. Gratitude, thankfulness is spiritual dynamite. To thank God in all things, for all things is medicine the weary world needs to live life with purpose.

Ann Voskamp is another grace seeker who is passionate on how this one practice of daily gratitude can change lives and radically re-shape the culture. As she says, "only when we give thanks, will you get to be joyful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful."

And while daily praying the Examen is a discipline I want to get better at, I am constantly reminded that the act of thankfulness and gratitude is always, always a choice. I can either shake my fist at God and give Him my "choice" words or I can sit in the stillness with open hands of acceptance. I can be like that tenth leper who quickly returned to Jesus to say "thank you" for his healing. I want to be like that tenth leper in my life, no matter what comes.
Gratitude, a spirit of thankfulness is a choice. And no matter what, God is always good and I (we) are always loved by Him.

So tomorrow between the good food and hustle n' bustle of the day, take some time to put pen to paper. Allow the practice of daily gratitude to begin to transform you from the inside out. See how gratitude, thankfulness will change you. Be that tenth leper, and do it everyday onward.

So why do you think Thanksgiving is treated like pre-gaming for Christmas? Do you believe it is possible to be grateful and thankful for all things, in all things? What makes living with a heart of gratitude so difficult in our world today?

Also, if you you're interested in learning more about Ignatian spirituality or praying the Examen, the following books are ones I have loved and found most helpful:

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  1. Beautiful post, Patty! Both universities I attended were Jesuit and Ignatius of Loyola holds a dear place in my heart - I even walked his footsteps on an Ignacian Camino in Spain this summer! The examen is one of the simplest and most beautiful prayer tools I have encountered and I think you hit the nail on the head by emphasizing the aspect of deep gratitude. What an amazing grace! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
    Peace, Sarah

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