Blessed Fr. Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus.

Speaking Out: Gratitude in a season of need

By  Bernadette Timson, Youth Speak News
  • November 11, 2020

There are approximately seven weeks between the Canadian and American celebrations of Thanksgiving.

Yet thankfulness is not a virtue that should be commemorated on just one or two days each year. Every day is a day to be thankful.

I examined some of the key dates on the Catholic calendar from Canadian Thanksgiving on Oct. 12 through American Thanksgiving coming up on Nov. 26 and found quite a few milestone days that provide opportunities for Catholics and other Christians to reflect upon the blessings we have in our life.

Our Lady of Fatima’s feast day reminds us of the Virgin Mary’s gift of the rosary (Oct. 13), while the feast day of St. John Paul II (Oct. 22) is an occasion to celebrate a saint of our own time.

All Saints Day (Nov. 1) is a tribute to our heavenly guardians and All Souls Day (Nov. 2) inspires us to remember the memories of our loved ones who have passed away. It hurts that we cannot be in their company right now to talk or share a hug. Perhaps an act of appreciativeness we can practice is taking a moment to cherish those souls while hoping to see them again one day.

We can even view the beatification of Fr. Michael J. McGivney on Oct. 31 through the lens of gratitude. The new American saint, founder of the Knights of Columbus, died two days after turning 38 in 1890, dedicating most of his young life in service to others and the Church. We can take joy in his achievement and take his example by providing service to others.

Another cultural event to mark the space between the Thanksgivings is Nov. 11. Remembrance Day — Veterans Day in the United States — commands great significance as veterans are honoured for their sacrifice both at home and abroad. We wear a red poppy to acknowledge that their efforts led to the freedoms we enjoy in Canada today.

We are living in an unprecedented year where it is easy to forget gratitude due to the pandemic. Sure, young people in previous years would grumble over midterms and homework, but in 2020 our so-called worries have grown.

Now we contend with social distancing, a lack of socializing and the stalling of what lies ahead in life. All of us can easily forget the virtue of gratitude when it seems like stress is coming at us in many different directions.

Gratitude is not the same thing as acceptance or happiness and it sometimes can include disappointment. An exercise which many business leaders and health-care professionals offer clients, and implement themselves, is the use of a gratitude journal, the purpose of which is to keep track of the little things in the day which one can appreciate and be grateful for despite all the big, frustrating items that gnaw at us.

Not so coincidentally, this period of gratitude ends just before the beginning of Advent, a time of waiting and preparation.

Yes, things are very different and difficult this year, but there remains much to be grateful for. Remembering this to prepare for what lies ahead can make all the difference in the world.

(Timson, 22, is a sophomore student at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, Calif.)

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