November 24, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

We can all say ‘Deo Gratias’ and mean it

Cynthia DewesOne of the many talented people in our parish is a man who taught French for years at DePauw University in Greencastle but is now retired. So, he has time to pursue something which he loves, perhaps even more than teaching.

He is an artist and an extremely good one. His landscapes, religious figures and humorous animals show a wide range of sensitivity to the world around him.

This man’s paintings, watercolors and drawings appear more and more on the local arts and crafts show circuit as well as in juried art shows in Terre Haute and other cities, and exhibitions in local venues. We are constantly amazed at the extent and quality of his work.

The kind of joy such artistic production creates for us is one thing. But, even better to my way of thinking is the fact that he signs his work with his name and the phrase “Deo Gratias” or “Thanks be to God.” While we thank God for the pleasure his work affords us, he thanks God for the insights he shares through the use of his God-given talent.

When you think about it, gratitude should be one of the most common qualities in human life. God created us in God’s own image, and gave us a wonderful world to journey through on the way to eternal life in God’s presence. We are favored creatures, with generous grace available to us at every step. What’s not to be grateful for?

Well, there are always potholes in the road of life, and some of us find more of them than others. Indeed, there are times when circumstances make it almost impossible to be grateful for anything. Even without making bad decisions or falling into sin, we can find ourselves sick, poor, unemployed or facing the deaths of loved ones. We can fall into despair or lose hope entirely. We can be human.

That’s why gratitude, like love, is often a decision we make rather than an inherent quality. Without being a Pollyanna, we can choose to be grateful. We can take a closer look at our lives and find many things for which we can thank God.

Of course, there are the obvious ones: gratitude for having enough to eat or finding a good job. We’re thankful for a loving spouse, healthy children or nurturing parents. We can be grateful for receiving an education or having the opportunity to travel or enjoying good friends and neighbors.

Some of us are grateful for serious stuff, such as keeping good health as we age, shaking an addiction or going into remission from a terminal illness. Others are grateful for things the rest of us might consider frivolous, like more money than we could ever need or a pretty face or hefty abs. Truth be told, some are even grateful because we’re better off than the next guy, no matter what our problems are.

Several countries, including Canada and the U.S., have made gratitude the theme of a national day of celebration. Ours is Thanksgiving, which national lore says the pilgrims held as a way of thanking God for safety and a good harvest. We’ve come a long way since then, and have had much to be grateful for both as individuals and as citizens of this country.

This Thanksgiving holiday, let’s make the decision to be truly grateful because God is good and grace is always available.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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