When an activity has become more of a habit than a deliberate act, it is easy to forget the reason we do it.
This sense of complacency is most noticeable when people sit down to a meal and start eating before remembering to pray. That first bite is followed by a hasty sign of the cross and saying grace for about five seconds or less — but, when you really think about it, saying grace should be done with thought and purpose.
The expression “saying grace” comes from the Latin, “gratiarum actio” which means act of thanks, or thanksgiving. This tradition comes to us directly from the Last Supper when Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” Every Catholic knows these words well from attending Mass.
As Christians, we believe that God is the origin of all things and that everything He has given us is a gift. Saying grace implies that we are grateful, but are we taking God’s goodness for granted?
In our culture of immediate gratification, it can be difficult to contemplate the good that the Lord has provided to us — and even harder to understand and accept the bad moments in our lives. It is more important now than ever to spend our time treasuring the path set forth for us by the Lord. Sometimes it will include the joys of life and sometimes it will include the sorrows. It is in these darker moments that our resilience and dedication to living God’s will is most important.
One of our modern-day saints, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, even said “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”
There’s a popular expression about having what is called an “attitude of gratitude.” Some people know it as counting your blessings, but that attitude is not just about being thankful for the material things we have, the positive experiences or other tangibles; it is about the very life we have within us.
Next time you gather for a meal and pray be mindful of the words you are saying. The Boy Scouts have what is called the “Philmont Grace” (named after the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico): “ For food, for raiment, / For life, for opportunity, / For friendship and fellowship, / We thank thee, O Lord.” Short and simple, but when you think about it, that pretty much says it all.
So, this Thanksgiving, remember to be grateful for the food you eat, for your family and friends, and for all that you have been given, thanks to the generosity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In His Peace,
Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop of Charleston