-- from a homily given at St Matthew - St Aidan in Buckhorn as the parish observed Harvest Thanksgiving on 11 October 2020
One of the resources that I follow on social media is one known as Busted Halo. This is a resource from the Paulist Fathers in the Roman Catholic Church in the US. Their website describes their ministry as:
Busted Halo is a ministry of The Paulist Fathers. The Paulist Fathers are a religious order of Roman Catholic priests — the first to be founded by an American citizen — whose mission territory is the United States. The original founder of the Paulists, Servant of God, Fr. Isaac Hecker, CSP, believed strongly in using the most modern methods of communication to bring to life the ancient message of the Gospel. In their more than 150 years as missionaries to North America, the Paulists have been on the forefront of publishing, radio, TV & film and digital media.
The item that caught my eye was one entitled 5 Steps for Praying When You’re Overwhelmed written by Kristin Witte. What was on my mind was the dulling weight of dealing with COVID in our lives. Of course, I was also thinking ahead to Thanksgiving so when I began to read the article, I was struck by how it connected gratitude to praying and to coming to cope with challenges in life.
The article is focused on more acute kinds of challenges. Dealing with COVID, it seems to me, is a more dull, gnawing, chronic kind of pain or challenge in our current situation. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the five-step approach is equally useful for both levels of challenges whether acute or more long-term.
As I explored the article, I noticed the connection made to Ignatius of Loyola and his Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius was born in Spain in the late 1400's. When he was recuperating from serious wounds he suffered in a battle against France, he experienced a conversion. His reading and reflection on the life of Jesus and the lives of the Saints led him to find meaningfulness in his experiences. He developed a series of spiritual exercises to help him in learning, coping and understanding.
In 1534, he founded the Order of the Jesuits -- the Society of Jesus. His Spiritual Exercises, which he had developed and compiled, became a key part in the rule of life followed by all Jesuits.
In the five steps for praying outlined in the Busted Halo article, number 2 emphasizes the importance of being consciously thankful.
Review what has occurred through the lens of gratitude
Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. In every situation, even the most difficult, we are given gifts. Maybe God’s gift to you is your safety or hearing a loved one’s voice or the feeling of the sun on your face. Tell your story of the recent overwhelming event to God. Begin when you first became aware of the situation that is now affecting you. When did you first hear about/know that this crisis situation was going to affect you? What were your first thoughts and feelings? Then what occurred? Pay attention to the emotions that are evoked as you tell the story to God. What are the little details that stand out to you that you may not have noticed before? God is speaking in those details. Who are the people that you interacted with during the crisis situation? As you think about them, how do you feel? The story will take various turns; continue to share with God in your mind and heart. As you move closer to the present in the story, how have your thoughts and feelings changed?
You can explore the full article and all five steps by clicking here.
As we count the blessings in our lives and give thanks, let us be especially aware of how our being thankful is such a key part in our relationship with God. Having such an attitude of gratitude is also the foundation for a relationship nurtured in prayer.
The Rev'd W Glenn Empey