Greetings dearest Seven Sisters...
"Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give me one thing more - a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be Thy praise."
- George Herbert
Being grateful is getting a lot of attention these days as research links gratitude with positive emotional well-being, a protection against some anxieties and depressions, an aid to better sleep and the underpinning of happier relationships. This is not news to the Christian, who makes gratitude a way of life and has long known its benefits. After all, the word Eucharist itself means thanksgiving. Our Eucharistic life is thus meant as a life of thanksgiving.
While the modern may cultivate gratitude by attending the rising number of employee gratitude training classes, we are wise to learn from the One to Whom our gratitude is directed. While we might experience the aforementioned benefits, greater still is the benefit of an increased knowledge, love and service of our Lord - and out of that, of others - and especially those for whom we are called to pray.
We do well to allow our sacramental and prayer lives to grow and swell a generous wellspring of gratitude within. Our Lord reminds through St Paul, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Phil 4:6-7. As we present our weekly concerns and intercessions for the priest or bishop for whom we are committed to pray, let us take heed to this intentional action of exchanging anxieties for thankful prayer and petition. The promised result is the transcendent, protective peace of God!
Our fidelity to prayer each week is likely not immediately met with the evidence of the fruit of that prayer. Morgan's painting of The Apple Gatherers (Is that Seven Sisters and one sub on the ladder that I see?) depicts an abundance of produce that calls for a large, stretched bed linen to accommodate. The baskets are full to overflowing, too big for the little ones to lift without sweaty efforts. The ground bears even more fruit, with the threat of being unnoticed. But this plenitude of apples did not spring up overnight. The tree needed to live its yearly natural cycle to bear its harvest. So too with our prayer offerings.
So let us be content, at peace, with the steadiness and the simplicity of the faithfulness of offering our weekly Holy Hours of prayers and allow the fruit to be harvested when and as the Lord deems fitting. Our charge remains to Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. - I Thes 5:16-18. St Vincent de Paul reinforces the point, "We should spend as much time in thanking God for His benefits as we do in asking Him for them."
Let us allow God to nurture an increased gratitude in the action of our prayer offerings that are generated by His love for us and for His priests. God's economy is an inevitable win-win - for us and the beneficiaries of our prayers. We rely on His love for all that we are and do.
In light of our call to pray in this way, let us ponder the words of Pope Francis earlier today on this Solemnity of Christ the King, in the special Mass in Rome which also marked the closing of the Year of Mercy:
"A people who are holy... who have Jesus as their King, are called to follow His way of tangible love. They are called to ask themselves, each one each day: 'What does love ask of me, where is it urging me to go? What answer am I giving Jesus with my life?' .... Because even if the Holy Door closes, the true door of mercy which is the Heart of Christ always remains open wide for us. From the lacerated side of the Risen One until the very end of time flow mercy, consolation and hope."
Pope Francis concluded in a way so deeply fitting to our Seven Sisters Apostolate, reminding us to entrust ourselves daily to Mary, Mother of Mercy, for "in every situation we are in, in every prayer we make, when lifted up to His merciful eyes, (she) will find an answer."
United in prayer and mission -
that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest
... eternal gratitude as you remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me each day....