Thankful for lessons in gratitude - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Thankful for lessons in gratitude

At this writing, I am anticipating the joy of a Thanksgiving reunion with family, an opportunity to thank God for good blessings and a bit of time to watch a ball game or read a good book.

My sister and brother-in-law are our hosts once again. They’ll welcome three of their five daughters, four of their eight grandchildren, Father Tom Powers and yours truly. Helen and Jim roast the turkey; their family provides the rest. It is always a grand feast and the company lifts the spirits.

While the format for our celebration has remained much the same for many years, I am always intrigued that each Thanksgiving is a new experience. Each of us has lived another year with all of the growth and change and challenge that life carries with it. We have all known blessings. We all have had experiences that stretched or strained us. We all have learned some lessons and developed new perspectives.

I know that my Thanksgiving this year will be shaped in part by two recent experiences. One is the death of Father Jerome Schifferli, a priest of our diocese. There is pain in his death, of course, but my first response to the news that he had passed away was to thank God for the gifts of his life and his priesthood. He ministered faithfully as a priest for 65 years; he did so in a spirit of humility and with a quiet self-effacing humor that endeared him to many.

Father Jerry offered beautiful ministry to his last breath. He went through his dying process with unshakable confidence in the faithful love of his God and in the promises of Christ.

A second Thanksgiving-shaping moment for me was a telephone call I received from a woman I have known for some years. She told me that she had been struggling with an addiction to alcohol but had now reached the milestone of going six months without consuming a drop of alcohol. There was joy in her voice but no boasting. Even in the happiness of the moment, she acknowledged that the addiction would challenge her every day for the rest of her life. But having made those brief comments, she began a litany of gratitude for the blessing of sobriety — to God, to Alcoholics Anonymous, to her sponsor, to friends who have stood by her and encouraged her through tough times.

I offer thanks both to Jerry and to my friend for what they taught me about life and about gratitude. Most especially I thank them for teaching me anew that even at the outer edges of our human frailty and vulnerability there is our faithful God ready to sustain, renew, restore, heal and transform. How can we not be grateful?

Peace to all.

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