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Practicing Gratitude: A Monastic Guide

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“Thank you.”

“Many thanks.”

“I really appreciate it.”

How often in a single day do you speak or hear these words? We Brothers hear them day after day, from our Friends, who write to thank us for a word we’ve shared, or a sermon we’ve posted. We are so grateful for this stream of thanks, which inspires and heartens us, that we wanted to stop and take a moment to reflect on how just powerful gratitude can be in our lives.

As our friend Anders sums it up: “Gratitude seems to be shortest path to love God with all our hearts and souls, and to love one another as ourselves . . . In gratitude, we are co-creators with God, and it is good.” 

Gratitude is so important that the fundamental action of Christian worship is the Eucharist, an act of gratitude that literally means “great thanksgiving.” “Let us give thanks to the Lord,” the celebrant invites us. And we respond, “It is right to give God thanks and praise.”

Gratitude is a great gift, which we are made to receive and offer back to God. And to do that, we need to practice!

Our friend, Ruth put it perfectly:How often we see the hole instead of the donut! How blessed we are from day to day! May God grant us the ability to see those blessings!”

Watch a short video of Br. Curtis Almquist on the gift of gratitude.

 

PRACTICING GRATITUDE (a monastic guide)

Gratitude, like any other spiritual practice, is something we do, not just something we feel. And it’s something we need to practice. To practice gratitude, we don’t need a special cushion on which to sit, nor a special lamp to light, nor a special icon on which to gaze, nor special incense to smell, nor special prayer beads to finger, nor a special prayer or mantra to recite. (None of that is in any way bad or inappropriate. It may well help. It is simply not enough.)

What is enough is here and now. The Psalmist reminds us, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118: 24). Gratitude consecrates our life and makes us real, because it makes us really available to the real presence of Christ, who is at work within us and around us – now.

We hope you’ll try out these four simple invitations and see how they change your day.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF GRATITUDE

6am1. Pray your gratitude.

The Psalmist asks rhetorically, “How shall I repay the LORD for all the good things he has done for me?” (Ps 116:10). Start with gratitude. Br. Geoffrey suggests that the best time to practice gratitude is first thing in the morning – even Monday mornings! (God Loves to be Thanked – Br. Geoffrey Tristram) Before you ask God for anything, say thank you for one thing or many things.



noon-22. Keep your ears open. 

People will want to thank you today. Let them. (This can be a hard one!) They need to speak their gratitude; you need to hear it. Respond to them, “You are welcome,” and say it from the bottom of your heart. And keep your ears open to hear God’s gratitude for you. There is no one else like you, and God – believe it or not – is immensely grateful for who you are and all the good that you do.

6pm3. Express your gratitude to others. 

People are so easily taken for granted. Whether they be people whose labor is menial or in leadership, or whose lives are closely linked with yours, people are so easily taken for granted. You’ll change their day, perhaps change their life, by expressing your gratitude for who they are and what they do. Stop throughout the day and thank someone. Make an unexpected phone-call to say thank you for something that happened, even long ago. A handwritten note can be equally powerful. (We Brothers know first-hand how much these messages of thanks matter.)

9pm4. Savor your life at the end of the day. 

Take time to remember and reclaim what is so amazingly good in your life. (Br. Luke Ditewig offers tips on how to do this in a short video.) Gratitude means saying “Yes” to the life you’ve been given, to the hand you’ve been dealt. Accept the good gifts of life that actually are there, free of resentment for what is not there, or no longer there. Complete the daily chapters of your life by remembering and appreciating what has been so very good today.

WANT MORE?

Here you’ll find a selection of the Brothers’ preaching, writing, and videos on Practicing Gratitude:

  • In this short video on Praying Our Lives, Br. Robert L’Esperance makes  a passionate argument for how gratitude helps us embrace the newness of every moment. Watch it here.
  • Does prayer elude you? In his article “Living Gratefully,” Br. Curtis Almquist encourages a practice of gratitude, assuring us, “Gratitude in prayer is like oil to a frozen gear box.Get some tips here.
  • “Our whole life is a life of gratitude,” said Thomas Merton. But how can we cultivate a spirit of gratitude in all things? Br. David Vryhof offers some suggestions in his article Life Becomes Rich: The Gift of Gratitude.
  • Follow your own Streams of Gratitude back to their source with Br. Mark Brown, who suggests that “If gratitude is the fullness of our humanity, and if we are made in the image and likeness of God, gratitude itself must have its origins in the heart of God.”
  • “Our life should overflow with thanksgiving to Jesus. Thanksgiving should be the driving force in our daily lives.” Say a simple Thank you, Jesus with Br. John Goldring

7 thoughts on “Practicing Gratitude: A Monastic Guide

  1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I shared this with my spiritual formation group. I know it will bless them the way it has me.

  2. Brothers, thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve recently been introduced to your website by our priest, who has us doing ‘It’s time to… Stop, Pray, Work, Play & Love’ as a Lenten discipline. I’ve been struggling in my faith life recently and everything I’ve found here has been like a restorative balm for me.Truly, I’m grateful to have all your wonderful sermons, affirmations, etc. as resources.I feel like I’m moving back to a place I need to be. Peace and blessings to you all!
    ld

  3. Brothers, thank you for this guide to living a balanced life, one that focuses on being thankful for our creation, our life that God has provided us with..

  4. What a wonderful resource to discover as we approach Holy Week! My prayer life is well established. Although I write about prayer and facilitate a Benedictine Experience group at our Episcopal parish, your meditations remind me that gratitude needs to be a primary focus of prayer rather than an afterthought; and that gratitude opens the heart to joy, wonder, and new energy in life. Thank you for a great gift.

  5. I have been blessed for some time with the Give Us a Word devotional which I enjoy daily along with the Daily Office. Now I would love to visit and attend a retreat! God Bless you all!

  6. wow just waking up in the morning saying , “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118: 24). Because of my depression Ive always tried to fill it with the latest prayer book or new thing etc but to simply wake with gratitude is tough for me without my aides. It is something I will try.

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