Starting each day as God’s grateful stewards
What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"
This reflection question came to the Stewardship and Development Office a few weeks ago courtesy of the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ Stewardship e-newsletter. It is now posted in large print on our office bulletin board.
What a question. What a wakeup call. What a haunting thought and a stunning reminder of our countless gifts from God.
We already know the enormous social, physical and psychological benefits of living in gratitude. Studies say this about grateful people: you are morally alert, get along better with others; you sleep better, are more resilient to trauma, physically healthier and emotionally stronger; you are more generous, helpful, compassionate and forgiving. And the list goes on. Feeling and acting upon our gratitude affects most every aspect of our lives and certainly the lives of those around us.
I don’t know if Father James Novotny instilled a culture of gratitude when he arrived as pastor at Holy Family Parish in Lindsay, or if he has been an assiduous steward of one that already existed. Either way, it is clear that Father Novotny lives in gratitude.
I attended Mass there recently and was touched by how often he intentionally and sincerely thanked those involved in the liturgy. He thanked the altar servers each time they handed him a cruet or a purificator; he thanked the family who brought up the gifts, first individually and by name, then collectively; after Mass, he moved back and forth across the aisle to offer grateful greetings.
His homily focused on gratitude. He encouraged us, just as he does the students of Lindsay Holy Family School, to begin each day by thanking God. "I tell the little people to start each morning saying ‘Thank you God that I have another day,’" he said.
"We live in paradise," he said recalling the beautiful Nebraska sunrises and sunsets, the peacefulness of their community. Yes, there is heartache, this polio survivor recognized, but there is always so much for which to thank God.
After Mass, it remained crowded outside the front of the church for quite some time, despite a chilly breeze. There was a vibrant and joyful energy among the parish community. They were a grateful people. I heard them: grateful for their parish, for their school, for the warmer weather, the growing strength of a son recovering from a serious car accident, for 61 years of marriage. And they were at Holy Family to thank God.
Imagine if we all woke up each morning fully aware of our gifts, had sincerely thanked the dear Lord for them and were prepared to launch into our grateful lives to share all we could. We would be moved from a dull saunter through life to a journey of awe and wonder as we became alert to God’s miracles around us every minute of our days. How many hearts would be converted? How many lives redirected?
May we heed this awesome call and wake up each day as God’s grateful stewards.
Shannan Brommer is director of the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. Contact her at email@example.com.