Earlier this year, I gave several talks on gratitude at St. Catherine’s North and South residential communities, reminding both myself and the staff during their Mission and Message Day that focusing on our blessings as a matter of course can be beneficial. I centered my presentation on the lives of three saints who’d come to view even their sufferings as a gift from God.
I know this concept can be difficult to grasp, but it’s less challenging when seen with the eternal view. If suffering on this earth has the effect of humbling us, stirring compassion in us, and helping us love bigger and better, then it is most definitely an enhancement for our eternal souls.
This week, as the feasting and fellowship of Thanksgiving nears, I encourage you to think of something—even if just one thing—for which you are grateful, whether it is borne from suffering or not. Then let that point of gratitude fill you up and fuel your day.
Recently, I went through this exercise myself, and in it, experienced an overflowing of gratefulness, for the source of my thankfulness was from an unparalleled gift: life, times two.
It was a cold and very gusty evening when the sidewalk advocates who’d been praying throughout the 40 Days for Life fall campaign—an annual effort to pray and fast for the end to abortion—gathered at the Red River Valley’s new abortion facility in Moorhead for the campaign’s closing.
Most would’ve preferred being inside our warm homes, but the news that night lit a fire in our hearts. A leader of the campaign, Cassandra Johnson, shared that our efforts during those 40 days of prayer had had an effect: two abortion-vulnerable, pregnant mothers had changed their minds and chosen life for their children.
The last months haven’t been easy. After our initial jubilation following the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, many of us sidewalk advocates experienced what seemed like a long silence from God. Watching troubling celebrations of those likening abortion to tooth extraction only increased our sorrow. But we didn’t give up, for we knew the God of life wouldn’t stay silent forever, and life would triumph once again.
It was a joy, then, to know of two little humans among us today who were not expected to be here; two precious lives whose hearts are beating strong, and whose mothers will soon feel their soft skin against their own, and their baby’s breath upon their cheeks, connecting them with the sublimity of new life.
It’s not easy bringing children into this cold, hard world. Without God and a loving community, it’s almost impossible to do it well. But with those, it’s absolutely doable. Reveling in the victory of these two lives makes every prayer that seemed, to some, wasted words more like shining jewels.
Never give up on life. Never give up on hope. And always remember the source of both, recalling Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Nov. 21, 2022.]