Growing in the Virtue of Gratitude by Karen

Each year I face the challenge of figuring out what to do, or not do, during the season of Lent.  It's a time dedicated to fasting, praying, and almsgiving whereby we have extra opportunities to die to ourselves, grow in our faith and learn how to serve the Lord more selflessly.

This year, feeling inspired to focus on the virtues, I created a little job aid of sorts.  I wrote the names/ descriptions of 40 different virtues on small pieces of paper, folded them up, and put them into a container.  Each day I randomly choose a folded piece of paper to reveal the virtue that I will focus on throughout that day.  

Just in case you're interested, the 40 virtues that I chose are as follows: piety, generosity, peace/peacefulness, angelic kindness, hospitality, gratitude, self-control, joy, responsibility, diligence, courage, constant self-denial, humility, justice, fortitude, prayerfulness, patience, prudence, wisdom, righteousness, purity, goodness, respect, compassion, integrity, hope, industriousness, honesty, obedience, trustworthiness, mercy, solidarity, faith, ardent love, forgiveness, modesty, temperance, truthfulness, stewardship, and sincerity.

On the first Saturday of Lent, I selected the virtue of gratitude, defined as: 

The virtue by which a person acknowledges, interiorly and exteriorly, gifts received and seeks to make at least some return for the gifts conferred.  Essentially, gratitude consists of an interior disposition, a grateful heart, but when genuine it tries somehow to express itself in words and deeds.

Throughout the day I did my best to express my gratitude for things that others had done: help clean up the kitchen after a meal, ask me how I was doing, and practice immediate obedience by taking the dry clothes off the line right after being asked.  

In the afternoon, while I was washing clothes, Chris practiced the songs that he would play at Mass later that day.  I listened and scrubbed, scrubbed and listened, as he sang the songs, again and again, to make sure he had them right.  Here's a link to a video that I took of him practicing just in case you want to hear a worship song in Spanish:

As I continued listening I contemplated "gratitude", my virtue for the day, and wondered how many of the people that attend church services all around the world think about the amount of time and energy that others spend preparing the music for each service.  Before entering missions, when our oldest daughter was 10 years old, she sang with the church choir and so had to attend rehearsals during the week.   I suppose this was the first time I thought about the amount of work that is involved in music ministry.

The kids and I served as sacristans, so we were aware of what had to be done to prepare the altar and the gifts for Holy Communion.  After Mass, I would sometimes ask our kids to go around the church to put up the kneelers and straighten the songbooks so that they would learn the importance of everyone doing their part to keep things neat and orderly.  Chris helped decorate the church at Christmastime, which gave the rest of us an appreciation for the labor-intensive nature of that task.  After daily Mass, we would see some of the older women dusting the statues and watering the plants.  

Each of these experiences broadened our understanding of just how much has to be done to provide a community of believers with a beautiful place of worship, but it wasn't until we began serving in Peru that we really grasped the magnitude of this job.  When we visited the outlying villages we found, more times than not, that one individual family was responsible for the chapel, not because they were objectionable to help, but because nobody else was capable and/or interested.  In helping these families prepare for the priest's arrival we learned that they were the ones that painted the chapel each year so that it didn't look weathered after the rainy season.  They fixed the holes in the roof and made sure that the electricity was functional.  They bought the candles for the altar and the matches to light them.  They cleaned before each gathering and scavenged the jungle for beautiful flowers to decorate.  They took up collections to buy altar cloths and artwork, and made sure there were enough benches for everyone to sit on.  The visiting priest usually expected this family to read the readings and provide the music for Holy Mass.  Did I mention the need for some sort of collection basket for the offering and a baptismal font just in case there was someone that was going to be baptized?  The list, which goes on and on, helped us all to grow in the virtue of gratitude and I unintentionally developed the habit of preparing myself for Holy Mass by offering prayers of thanksgiving for all that had been done in advance to make the service possible.  It wasn't until last Saturday, when I was watching Chris practice the songs for Mass on his guitar, that I realized just how deeply rooted my gratitude is for all those that contribute their time, talents, and treasures to the Church community.  

The definition of the virtue of gratitude reminds us that we need to express our feelings.  We need to tell others how appreciative we are for all they do.  This Lent I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, if needed, and thank those that make it possible for you to have a beautiful place to pray and worship.  

Thank you for taking the time to read a bit about what the Lord is doing in our lives.  Many blessings, Karen 

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