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By Felix Carroll (Nov 23, 2016)
I remember a few years ago seeing an amusing poster tacked to a kiosk in a part of town populated by hipsters and quipsters. It read something like this:
Has only three legs
Missing one ear
Blind in one eye
Answers to the name "LUCKY"
Talk about a visual. I couldn't help but to imagine not only this mangy, star-crossed canine, but the loving, probably eccentric, owner back home who was worried sick and wanted him back. Though clearly this "wanted" poster was a gag, my heart went out to those two fictional characters: the dog and his owner.
Odd though it may seem, I was reminded of Lucky and his owner this week while reading the Diary of St. Faustina and thinking about this week's celebration of Thanksgiving. I came across an entry from Nov. 5, 1934, when St. Faustina, this nun and mystic from Poland, writes about being thankful to God. In an astounding passage, she writes:
True love is measured by the thermometer of suffering. Jesus, I thank You for the little daily crosses, for opposition to my endeavors, for the hardships of communal life, for the misinterpretation of my intentions, for humiliations at the hands of others, for the harsh way in which we are treated, for false suspicions, for poor health and loss of strength, for self-denial, for dying to myself, for lack of recognition in everything, for the upsetting of all my plans.
Thank You, Jesus, for interior suffering, for dryness of spirit, for terrors, fears and incertitudes, for the darkness and the deep interior night, for temptations and various ordeals, for torments too difficult to describe, especially for those which no one will understand, for the hour of death with its fierce struggle and all its bitterness.
I thank You, Jesus, You who first drank the cup of bitterness before You gave it to me, in a much milder form. I put my lips to this cup of Your holy will. Let all be done according to Your good pleasure; let that which Your wisdom ordained before the ages be done to me. I want to drink the cup to its last drop, and not seek to know the reason why. In bitterness is my joy, in hopelessness is my trust. In You, O Lord, all is good, all is a gift of Your paternal Heart. I do not prefer consolations over bitterness or bitterness over consolations, but thank You, O Jesus, for everything! (343)
My first impression of this passage was Wow!
My second impression was that St. Faustina redefines for me what it means to be "lucky" — or Lucky, as the case may be. Here she is, in her darkest hours, in the midst of untold humiliations, sufferings, and scotched plans, and what emotion does she express? Thankfulness!
How does she do that, I wonder.
First, it helps to realize that the Diary serves as an instruction manual for holiness. Achieving holiness can be a frustrating and complicated assembly project. I, for one, frequently get an unsettling feeling I didn't come with all the necessary parts.
For instance, did I come with the capacity for thankfulness in times of darkness, loss, humiliation, and blows to my ego?
Until I read that Diary passage, it would have never occurred to me to be thankful to God during such times. Like many half-assembled pilgrims on this planet, I'd feel tempted to say "Thanks for nothing!" Yet, when we are truly united with God, as saints like Faustina were, our only sane response is: "Thanks for everything!"
How does one assemble oneself so that thankfulness comes instinctively? How do we get from here to there? We need a conversion chart, so to speak: From our commonly known systems of measurement to the mercy system of measurement. The universal conversion tool is thankfulness. We can measure our path toward holiness by how thankful we are — how thankful we are for everything.
You can get there from here, but you may have to bear with me and contemplate a crazy dog and his nutty owner first. For me, that "wanted" poster is a modern-day parable that teaches thankfulness.
It comes down to this: We are all mutts, and our Owner wants us back. We are all sorry sights — limping, lost, wandering, and half blind — when we are without God. Once we realize this, we, too, can be God's best friend, thankful for Him in our lives, good times and bad.
Indeed, out of His love for us, God sent His Son to find us. His Son offered His life on the cross as a reward to bring us home. It matters not how flawed we are. It matters not where we've been and what we've done.
Saint Faustina teaches us that only in our thankfulness true earthly joy resides. Only in His love for us we can find the heavenly harvest that strengthens our souls.
We, too, can be so Lucky!
When we suffer, we should offer thanksgiving to God and prayerfully ask Him to take our broken selves and remake them into His image. When we triumph, we can thank God and remember He is the Source of all good things. As St. Faustina writes, we should desire that our whole life "be but one act of thanksgiving to You, O God" (Diary, 1285).
This week as we celebrate Thanksgiving, as we gather with family and loved ones, we can vow to make this coming year one of continual thanksgiving to God. After all, no matter how shattered things may seem, we are always loved. No matter how bad things get or how much we've sinned, God will always claim us as His own.
He has placed a "Wanted" sign in the world. It's no joke. He wants us back — broken, imperfect, and half-blind though we are.
We all can be so thankful for everything when we all finally consider ourselves so Lucky.