Week of Gratitude

The next Week of Gratitude begins on November 17, 2014. Join us this week before Thanksgiving as we reflect on the many gifts we have received from God.

A Week of Gratitude – 18 Wisest Words

Japan - Girl in kimonoI think I may have written about this incident before… but when I was thinking of things I was most grateful for, this is what came to mind.

I was on retreat and my retreat director had gone to visit his sick mother.  I was obsessed with coming to a decision about whether or not I ought to go back to Japan.  I was going nuts, so I called an Irish Jesuit friend who was studying in Washington, D.C.

I told him my tale of woe and his response was, “You’re in the kitchen fretting but Jesus is waiting for you in the living room. Go to him.”

As I type these words, they seem quite banal but they were the ones I desperately needed to hear.  Metaphorically, I left the kitchen and went to sit with Jesus in the living room.  I stopped agonizing and debating and second-guessing and I just waited to hear what the Lord had to say to me.

I loved Japan very much and the decision not to return was probably one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever had to make.  But because of Jim’s 18 wise words to me, it was a decision that, finally, I was able to make with great serenity.

I will always be grateful for those words of wisdom.

A Week of Gratitude – 40 Years


I honestly didn’t plan it this way for the Week of Gratitude but on this day 40 years ago, I left my childhood home and entered the Jesuit Novitiate in Dublin.  I was very young and very uncertain, but I was willing to give it a shot.

After a couple of weeks, I hated the whole thing and was ready to call it quits. I then learned from a friend that my family had bets going about how long I’d last and no one, apparently, thought I’d make it to Christmas.  This really annoyed me and, just to show them, I’ve stayed for 40 years (so far.)

During the last four decades, I’ve had many remarkable experiences but what remains with me most are all the wonderful people who have graced — and continue to grace — my life.  God, for some glorious reason, has chosen to surround me with deeply good and loving people.

I hesitate to keep banging on about how amazingly blessed I am, but “how can I keep from singing?”  God is so good to me.  I cannot comprehend it, but I do revel in it!

A Week of Gratitude – 365 Days


Sitting on my bookcase at work is a a framed piece of calligraphy that features a quotation from Dag Hammarskjold (the Swedish diplomat who became the second Secretary General of the U.N.), “For all that has been, thanks.  For all that will be, yes!”

On my better days, this sums up my own philosophy pretty well.  I don’t regret a moment of my life so far.  The dark and difficult days helped me learn patience and endurance, any sickness or injury helped me understand the need to be compassionate and, to be fair, the bright and the beautiful days have far out numbered any that were challenging. And so I am grateful for every single day of my life. Each decade of my life has gotten better and better.  I know that I already face diminishment and that the pace will quicken.  But right now, I’m firing on all cylinders.

My hope and prayer for the future, if I get that far, is that I’ll manage to be one of the cheerful and positive older Jesuits I know and love and not become morose and grumpy, muttering away to myself in a corner.

I am grateful to God for the gift of this “wild and beautiful life.”


A Week of Gratititude – 7 Sacraments

FD000937One of the very best things about being a Catholic is that we have not just the 7 sacraments but a sacramental worldview in which everything can be elevated to God. As Gerald Manley Hopkins put it, “Christ is found in ten thousand places.”

Way back in 2008, I quoted David Scott quoting Andre Dubus.  I loved it then. I love it now.  And I think it’s time to revisit it.

Scott, in The Catholic Passion opens the fifth chapter, “The Signs and Wonders of the Sacramental Life” with a great example of finding God in sandwich-making:

“A Catholic can find God in the making of a liverwurst sandwich. Not a reminder of God, or a figment, or some trace evidence of divine beneficence, but contact with the living God, really and truly.  Listen as the writer Andre Dubus describes making lunch for his daughters:

‘A sacrament is physical and within it is God’s love, as a sandwich is physical and nutritious and pleasurable, and within it is love, if someone makes it for you and gives it to you with love – even harried or tired or impatient love, but with love’s direction and concern,  love’s again and again wavering and distorted focus on goodness, then God’s love too is in the sandwich…

And each motion is a sacrament, this holding of plastic bags, of knives, of bread, of cutting board… this spreading of mustard on bread, this trimming of liverwurst, of ham.  All sacraments, as putting the lunches into a zippered book bag is…

I drive on the highway, to the girls’ town, to their school, and this is not simply a transition, it is my love moving by car from a place where my girls are not to a place where they are; even if I do not feel or acknowledge it, this is a sacrament.  If I remember it, then I feel it too.  Feeling it does not always mean that I am a happy man driving in traffic; it simply means that I know what I am doing in the presence of God.’

I am profoundely grateful to God for all the big and the little sacraments.