The Importance of Gratitude
Two weeks ago, a good friend of mine, Marlene Byrne, sent me a copy of her new book, co-authored by David Haznaw. The title is Music Has Legs. If you are looking for a book that highlights God’s loving providence and what is possible when ordinary people come together to bring some light and goodness into the world, I highly recommend it to you.
The book follows the true and triumphant story of Juan Manuel Pineda, who was born with a cleft palate and lost both legs in a house fire as a young boy. After that tragic event, he was raised at a home for orphaned and abandoned children in El Salvador called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH.) During the journey of his life, his musical talent was discovered, and he eventually stepped into the spotlight to share his music and story with the world.
I first met Juan in 2005 and know him personally. I was humbled to read that Marlene and David highlighted my connections and interactions with him. Honestly, I think that gave me too much credit and portrayed me to be wiser than I am. At the same time, I loved that their narrative expressed a love and respect for the Catholic Church and all the good we try to do in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
As I read the book, I was flooded with memories of my five years living and working at NPH in El Salvador. It reminded me that I constantly tried to teach, not only Juan, but all the children, the importance of expressing gratitude.
Part of being a good parent is teaching their children to be grateful, so they become adults who are generous instead of entitled. Growing up in South Holland, IL, my parents instilled the value of expressing gratitude in my brother and me. We were taught to write thank-you notes when we received gifts and always to do so before cashing the check.
Throughout my life as a Christian, my formation included learning to worship God with daily prayers of gratitude. As Saint Therese of Lisieux beautifully reminds us, “Prayer is an aspiration of the heart. It is a simple glance directed to Heaven. It is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.” The word “Eucharist” comes from a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.” Therefore, in every holy sacrifice of the Mass, we have an opportunity to give thanks to God. Gratitude is essential to growing in our spiritual lives and central to who we are as Catholics.
Our gratitude to God should be expressed daily for the blessings we have received. Gratitude is not a naïve expression that denies the pain, suffering and tragedies in our lives. Rather, it helps us recognize that God’s light always shines even amid the darkness. I have always been inspired by the faith and courage of St. Gianna Beretta Molla who captured the power of gratitude with her words, “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.”
As I begin as your new bishop, gratitude is the first thing I wanted to communicate to you in my first article in Christ is our Hope magazine. Since the day of my Installation on Sept. 29, my heart has been bursting with gratitude and joy to have been called to the Church of Joliet. I am grateful to all of you…the faithful, the religious and clergy.
Thank you for all your expressions of welcome, prayers and support. And more importantly, thank you for all the ways you practice your faith and build up the Body of Christ through your prayers, generosity and love. Thank you also for your ministries to the unborn, the poor, the marginalized, the other, the sick, the suffering, the environment and to everyone in the Church.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I hope and pray that it will be a day filled with many blessings. I encourage you to have hearts filled with gratitude and to express it frequently to God and others.
Please continue to pray for me. And know that I am praying for you daily and doing so with great gratitude.
Paz y bien,
Bishop Ron Hicks