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The Love of Gratitude Brings Many Blessings

The Joy of Thankful Souls

The love of gratitude is preeminently a mindful love. It ponders things and lays them up in its heart, as our Blessed Lady did. It meditates fondly on the past, as Jacob did.

It sings of old mercies and makes much of them, like
David in the psalms. Whereas another has the memory of his sins continually
before him, a soul possessed with the love of gratitude is perpetually haunted
by a remembrance of past benefits; and his abiding sorrow for sin is a sort of
affectionate and self-reproachful reaction from his wonder at the abundant
loving-kindness of God.

The hideousness of sin is all the more brought out when the light of God’s love is thrown so strongly on it. Hence it comes to pass that a very grateful man is also a deeply penitent man; and as the excess of benefits tends to lower us in our own esteem, so we are humble in proportion to our gratitude. But this love does not rest in the luxurious sentiment of gratitude. It breaks out into actual and ardent thanksgiving, and its thankfulness is not confined to words.

Promptitude of obedience, heroic effort, and joyful
perseverance: these are all tokens of the love of gratitude.

It is loyal to
God.

Loyalty is the distinguishing feature of its service. It is constantly on the lookout for opportunities and makes them when it cannot find them, to testify its allegiance to God; not as if it were doing any great thing, or as if it were laying God under any obligation, but as if it were making payment, part payment and tardy payment, by little installments, for the immensity of His love.

It
is an exuberant, active, bright-faced love, very at­tractive and therefore
apostolic, winning souls, preaching God unconsciously, and although certainly
busied about many things, yet all of them the things of God.

Happy the man whose life is one long Te Deum! He will save his soul, and not his alone, but many others also. Joy is not a solitary thing, and he will come at last to his Master’s feet, bringing many others rejoicing with him, the resplendent trophies of his grateful love.

Gratitude Brings Many Blessings

God’s mercy is the great feature of the two kingdoms of nature and of grace. Gratitude is man’s answer to God’s mercy; and just as charity to our neighbor is the best test of our real love of God, so gratitude to our neighbor for his kindness to us is a clearer proof of a grateful disposition than gratitude to God, which is mixed up with so many other cogent considerations.

If we realize everything as coming from God, then these benefits are from Him; and they come from Him in the most beautiful and touching way, through the media­tion of our brother’s human heart inspired by grace. Every kindness we receive is a little copy of the Incarna­tion, a miniature of that attractive mystery.

Gratitude increases humility

Gratitude
is grounded in humility, and, as usual, increases the grace from which it takes
its rise. Heroic humility fan­cies that wrong is the only right which is due to
it. The least kindness seems disproportionately great to a keen and delicate
sense of our own unworthiness. The wonder is that anybody should be kind to us
at all. If they knew us as we know ourselves, they would have to do holy vio­lence
to themselves to show us common courtesy, as great violence as the saints did
to themselves when they licked the ulcers of the lepers.

Gratitude increases charity

Again, what warms the heart more to others than the
exercise of gratitude? Uncharitableness to a benefactor seems almost an
impossibility. Lear’s daughters were mon­sters. Yet think how hard it is to
love anyone, any single one, with real charity, without judging, without
criticism, without censoriousness, extenuating the evil, believing against
appearances, magnifying the good, rejoicing in his virtues.

It is much if each man has one person upon the earth to whom he really feels thus. It is an immense help to his sanctification, a real talent for which he will have account to give.

I
doubt its being common, at least in its evangelical purity. Gratitude to
benefactors is on the road to it, and not far distant.

Gratitude is contagious

Then again, gratitude is eloquent, graceful, and
persuasive as a missionary. It is not only a virtue in ourselves, but it makes
others good and virtuous also. It is a blessedly humbling thing to be loved, a
veritable abasement to be affectionately respected by those about us.

Gratitude also makes our benefits to others look so
little that we long to multiply and enlarge them, while it softens our hearts
and unties from them all manner of little antipa­thies, mean jealousies, petty
rivalries, and cold suspicions.

Gratitude nurtures holiness

Lastly,
it is the proper and normal state of a holy creature to perfect himself under
the continual feeling of obliga­tions that he never can repay. This is the
relation between the Creator and himself.

Meanwhile to all the evil and baser parts of our nature it is a real mortification to have the sense of obligation pressing upon us. It is the sign of a vulgar man that he cannot bear to be under an obligation.

Thus, in both ways the sense of obligation is a great part of sanctity. A grateful man cannot be a bad man; and it would be a sad thing indeed, if either in the practice or the esteem of this virtue, the heathen should surpass the disciples of that grateful Master who, to the end of time and in the busy pageant of the judgment, will remember and repay the cup of cold water given in His Name.

This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. Faber’s The Little Book of Holy Gratitude. It is available as an ebook or paperback through Sophia Institute Press.

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

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