Director of Mission
Gratitude: A practice in love
Be convinced that God will always give you what you need.
St Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual lens provides a framework for us to see and relate to God in a simple and beautiful way, in the everyday moments that make up life. One of the key elements of the Ignatian Examen is the practice of gratitude. Through emphasising gratitude, Ignatius is saying to us that by God’s very nature, God is generous, creative, and loving. It is when we stop and consider all the blessings in our life that we can truly appreciate all that we have been blessed with and then, in turn, we are able to love God more fully.
It is no accident that Loreto Normanhurst places such an important emphasis on Ignatian Spirituality as a way to live more fully and develop a closer relationship with God, with others and the world around us. This morning I attended the 2018 Mission Australia launch of the Youth Survey results. The results of the survey highlighted that the top personal issue and concern faced by Australian young people today is mental health. The data, based on students from our school and 28,286 other students from all over Australia, show an increase from 21% in 2015 to 43% today of young people identifying mental health as their biggest challenge. The advice psychologist Michael Carr Gregg, as well as other educators presenting, gave as part of their responses to this growing health crisis in adolescence, was to teach people to see the positive things in life. To focus on the good things in life, notice and appreciate the beauty of nature, family and friends and to practice mindfulness. In its simplest form this is exactly what Ignatian Spirituality allows us to do. By practising gratitude each day and making it a part of your everyday life, you will feel joy, connected to others and to God.
All of us desire purpose and meaning in our life. We all desire to be loved. We all desire to feel connected with something bigger than ourselves and when we do, these feelings centre us and ground us. They also provide strength and joy. Vinita Hampton Wright, once editor of Loyola Press, says when we practice gratitude it opens up our heart and allows us to name and recognise something that is worth loving and that in turns provides joy. She continues to say gratitude shifts the mind into a positive perspective. It might only take one small thing to do this and this could change our day.
I think it would be fair to say that sometimes we might not always feel like we should be grateful. But if we stop and take a little time to practice a few simple steps, we will find it makes a big difference to our life. You can either practice this alone or with your family and your adolescent children. Given the challenges they face it might be extremely beneficial not only for their mental health and wellbeing, but to the relationships within the family.
Here are few easy steps you can follow to practice gratitude: Ask yourself, what am I grateful for today, right now? Think about what brings you joy. Recognise that. Name it. As you approach the end of the year, what have been some moments or experiences that have brought love and warmth to your life? Share these with your family or children. Maybe as you sit around the dinner table at the end of the day you could make a list of things that made you each feel good today, name them and say a simple thank you.
As we move into this time of Advent and Christmas take some time to practice gratitude each day.
THE DAILY EXAMEN
Become aware of God’s presence.
Look back on the day and note the times you felt God was with you, assisting.
Feel God with you now and ask to become more conscious of God’s presence.
It may be helpful to repeat a phrase like, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46v10), or any other prayer that connects you to a Higher Power.
Look back with gratitude.
Review the past 24 hours and notice what you’re thankful for. What happened to make you feel blessed?
Take a moment to give thanks to God for providing you with these blessings.
Take an honest look at your day.
Note everything that happened over the course of the past 24 hours, your interactions with others, and your emotions.
We often rush though each day, not pausing to reflect. Doing a deep, honest reflection of the past day causes us to learn more about ourselves and improve our future actions.
Choose one part of the day, and pray about it.
From doing your review, you might find something God is directing you to work on – an emotion, a relationship that needs mending, an unpleasant situation.
Pray for it, ask God’s guidance to resolve it.
Pray for tomorrow.
Ask God to guide you tomorrow, leading you to your highest purpose. Send love and light to tomorrow, praying for wisdom and strength.
Feel deep gratitude, knowing God has already answered your prayer and tomorrow is already blessed.
Take some deep breaths, and know that all is well.
Mrs Libby Parker
Director of Mission