A Lifetime of Giving Thanks!
By Br. Leonard Konopka, MIC (Nov 20, 2006)
"I want to live in the spirit of faith. I accept everything that comes my way as given me by the loving will of God, who sincerely desires my happiness. And so I will accept with submission and gratitude everything that God sends me."
— from the Diary of St. Faustina, 1549
Many years ago, when I was a very young religious, my life was filled with both joys and trials. Not much different from the ordinary life of a Christian. Unfortunately, I would easily overlook the positive experiences, and became overwhelmed by the negative. Great moments of prayer and the abundant graces God granted me seemed to unravel when provoked by circumstances over which I had no control.
I recall a period of several years that I experienced a great deal of confusion, inner turmoil, and utter despair in my thought life. No amount of spiritual counsel, prayer, or the sacraments were able to help me completely overcome the effect of these experiences at that time. They were all of great help to "alleviate" the turmoil but did nothing that truly helped to resolve the inner struggle.
Religious community life was of great help, but none of the "normal" things seemed to work. The struggle persisted to a point of my wanting to leave religious life. Thought control was nothing I even considered at the time, because it never dawned on me that such a thing was possible.
In the very midst of this darkest period, I just happened to be reading the scriptures and reflected on the words of St. Paul: "render constant thanks as such is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess 5:18). He repeats the same thought in Eph 5:20: "Give thanks to God the Father always and for everything ..."
What really surprised me was that St. Paul did not suggest giving thanks for just the good things, but seemed to indicate the consistency of giving thanks regardless of the situation.
I took this to heart. I put the scriptures down and thought about all the things that were causing me utter turmoil. Directly addressing these thoughts, I simply said: "Thank You, Jesus." Sure, that's a simple prayer and — to my thinking at the time — very naive, based on the thoughts going through my head. However, for the first time in my life, I actually experienced a release. Tremendous peace and power seemed to have flowed through my entire body. No one needed to suggest surrendering, because it was the easiest thing to do.
I recall actually dropping the bible that I was holding, and it fell to the floor. What is even more exhilarating was the fact that these troublesome thoughts never returned. However, when I simply tested myself again and invited them back in, I tried the same simple prayer, and they continued to leave.
After a period of time, negative thoughts did return, but none lasted beyond my capability to surrender them by giving thanks. Peace reigned supreme. Then, I understood the passage that says: "My yoke is easy and burden light" (Mt 11:30).
Subsequently, I learned that giving thanks was something Our Lord expects by inference. When only one of the cleansed lepers returned, Jesus asked: "Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?" (Lk 17:18).
No doubt many of us have also received a healing of one kind or another. This Thanksgiving, we can more confidently express our gratitude to God for His graces that flow out so abundantly from His merciful, loving, and generous heart. By His wounds, we are healed! Through our reception of His healing grace, He expects us to trust Him implicitly in all the events and experiences that He allows us to have on our journey to Him.
I have come to believe that when we thank God, we become irresistible to Him. He pours out His graces upon us all the more. It's like when others thank us for some good we have done; we then try to do even more the next time. This is the secret that St. Faustina learned in her relationship with Jesus. They shared such an intimate communication because Our Lord could not resist her genuinely grateful heart.
Saint Faustina totally understood the need for thanksgiving by her countless entries on this subject in her Diary. We can follow her lead and pray:
"You have surrounded my life with Your tender and loving care, more than I can comprehend, for I will understand Your goodness in its entirety only when the veil is lifted. I desire that my whole life be but one act of thanksgiving to You, O God" (1285).
Brother Leonard Konopka, MIC, is on the staff of the Marian Seminary in Washington, D.C. He also provides spiritual direction, retreats, and seminars. Brother Leonard has a leaflet available that has a series of meditations on the five wounds of our Lord. The meditations are intended for use while praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order Contemplate My Wounds. He also has a CD available with the meditations on the five wounds, interspered with the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order A Musical Interlude.