“I will offer You the sacrifice of Thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.”
(Ps 116:17, RSVCE 2nd)
Over spring break this year I stayed a week at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It was a great time, and the place is certainly one in which one can palpably feel the presence of God and our Lady if one is so disposed to recognize them. On the Friday of that week, I went to confession to one of the Marian fathers. He had a thick, Jersey accent. The kind that makes one smile at the cliché of it if he’d ever have the need to say, ‘fuggedaboutit’. Nevertheless, after I told him my sins, he gave me a rather interesting penance. “I want you to thank God for at least two things in the morning when you first wake up, and two things in the evening before you go to bed.” He said. He went on to say that this should be a regular practice, much like how the monks of the East recite, “Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner,” on a constant basis. He said that doing this practice would gradually, and significantly, enrich my spiritual life. After several months, I’d say that taking this practice of giving thanks to God has certainly been a great help to me. It made me realize what being thankful to our Father actually does to the soul.
Now, sometimes it is simply right to do something. We can say that it’s right to care for a sick person, to go to Mass on Sundays, and to bury the dead. We don’t get something out of doing such acts on a practical level but on a spiritual level. Giving thanks to God is one of these kinds of acts, an act that is simply good to do in itself. It is one of the greatest acts we can do for God because by it we acknowledge God as being the only source of all that is good. In the face of all His goodness, the goodness of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, in light of all He has given to us, we can only say, “Thank you.”
I’ve found that this practice of continually thanking God in prayer has these effects:
- It humbles the soul. For by thanking God, we acknowledge that no good comes from us. It is all God living through us.
- It lifts up the heart, especially in times of spiritual darkness, and gives to some degree the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s peace.
- It strengthens one’s love for God and grows one’s appreciation for the gifts he has received.
- It reminds us that we are always in need, especially of grace, in every situation life throws at us.
Thanksgiving is especially significant in the celebration of the Eucharist in the Mass. In the Didache, the early writing of the apostles, there is written instructions on early Christian worship. Particularly looking at a few lines I’d like to share, the apostles wrote:
Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs. (Matthew 7:6)… But after you are filled, thus give thanks: We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name which You caused to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever.
If we want to be just people, God-fearing and God-loving people, we must give thanks to God for all He has given us. Thanks for the great gifts (like Jesus, Mary, the saints, our angels, the Church, the sacraments, etc.), and thanks for the little gifts (all the good, small things we have achieved, received, and been a part of in our lives.) Be thankful to God if but for this reason alone, to love Him. The practice that was suggested to me that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I suggest to you. Say many prayers of thanks to God a day, often and in whatever circumstance. Even if it is just saying, “Deo gratias,” when a small good happens to you. Even in times of spiritual darkness, there is always something to be thankful for.
Another practice I would suggest is staying a while in the Church after receiving Holy Communion after the priest gives the final blessing. Spend some time thanking Jesus for giving Himself to you in His true Eucharistic presence.
You never know what graces you’ll receive by just being thankful to God.
By: Brother Angelo Marie final professed member of the Knights of the Holy Eucharist
 Translated by M.B. Riddle. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. Chpt. 9-10.