December 2, 2011

Atttitude of gratitude is theme at Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Nine-year-old Evett Singh, a member of The Salvage Yard Christian Church in Indianapolis, watches the flame burning on his candle during the Interfaith Prayer Service on Nov. 22 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. He was among many children who participated in the 12th annual prayer service with their parents. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Nine-year-old Evett Singh, a member of The Salvage Yard Christian Church in Indianapolis, watches the flame burning on his candle during the Interfaith Prayer Service on Nov. 22 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. He was among many children who participated in the 12th annual prayer service with their parents. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

“Why do we have to do this?”

Curious, the little boy wiggled in his chair and looked up at his older sister seated next to him near the back of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

The 12th annual Interfaith Prayer Service on Nov. 22 was about to begin, and he didn’t understand why people wearing a variety of ethnic attire were standing near him waiting to process into the cathedral. (See a photo gallery from this event)

His sister looked down at him and replied, “Because it’s for God.”

Her response, in only four words, captured the essence of the prayer service, which brought together people from the Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities in central Indiana to offer praise and gratitude to God two days before Americans of many races and religions celebrated Thanksgiving Day.

Many children participated in the prayer service with family members this year, which was a hopeful sign for representatives of Cathedral Parish and the Christian Theological Seminary, the event’s co-sponsors.

Again this year, members of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir performed a variety of religious songs, blending their beautiful young voices in a musical tribute.

During his reflection, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, discussed the necessity of gratitude in our lives.

“Gratitude is a feeling or attitude in acknowledgement of the benefits that one has received or will receive,” he said, and people of faith express their thankfulness and gratitude by praising God.

“It’s like the song says, ‘I see trees of green and red roses, too. I see them bloom for me and for you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world,’ ” Bishop Coyne said, quoting the Louis Armstrong song.

“In my own thoughts this evening, I can’t help but be caught up in the spontaneous joy of gratitude for all that I have and all that I can do with what I have,” he said, “and I want to say, ‘What a wonderful world. What a wonderful life.’ ”

Recent psychological studies focused on the benefits of expressing gratitude, he said, and one researcher described Thanksgiving as “the most psychologically correct holiday of the year.”

An article in a journal of psychology explains that “cultivating an attitude of gratitude has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction in life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners,” Bishop Coyne explained. “… One researcher said, ‘If you want to sleep more soundly, count your blessings, not your sheep.’ ”

When people lose their sense of gratitude—perhaps because of ill health, the death of a loved one or the loss of a job—they lose an important emotional connection to others, he said, as well as the joy that comes from being the recipient of gifts and sharing their gifts with others.

“To be grateful is to place oneself in right relationship with creation, to humanity and to the Creator,” Bishop Coyne explained. “So it is a good thing that we have gathered here this evening in thanksgiving and gratitude to take some time together to consider … those things and people for which we are thankful.”

Feelings of thankfulness and gratitude motivate people to treasure and protect loved ones, he said, and appreciate other blessings in daily life.

“This evening, we all give thanks—each in our own way—for the varied blessings and gifts in our lives,” Bishop Coyne said, “and out of gratitude we seek to be a positive people of thanksgiving.”

Donations of food and money collected during the prayer service benefit the Interfaith Hunger Initiative’s efforts to help support food pantries in Indianapolis as well as feed dozens of AIDS orphans in Kenya, who receive a daily school lunch.

“Feeding the hungry is something that we all have in common,” said David Miner, a member of Fairview Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, who serves as the hunger initiative’s volunteer executive director. “So many things divide us, but this is something we can do together, and I’m grateful for that.”

Dr. Girdhar Ahuja, representing the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana in Indianapolis, said after the prayer service that he was happy to see so many children participate in the interfaith gathering with their parents.

“I think one thing which is very powerful in our Hindu faith is we respect everybody,” Ahuja explained. “… We are respectful always.”

Father John Beitans, director of ecumenism for the archdiocese and pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Edinburgh and St. Rose of Lima Parish in Franklin, was pleased to see so many people representing so many faiths gathered in prayer together.

“This is a night of glory for me because we’re all Americans and we’re all celebrating Thanksgiving,” Father Beitans said after the prayer service. “It’s about Americans thanking God in their own languages, their own traditions and in their traditional garb. … A lot of people brought their children, and that makes it so beautiful.” †

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