School Matters Fr. Andrew Wellmann
Chaplain, Norwalk Catholic School and St. Paul High School
As we continue through the month of November, this time of year gives us all the opportunity to reflect with gratitude on the many blessings God has given us. I recall fondly so many wonderful experiences that I have had since I came to Norwalk last year, and I also look forward with great and eager anticipation to all that God has in store for me during the remainder of my time here with all of you. Gratitude has a way of encouraging us to reflect on the past while, at the same time, inspiring us to look forward to the future.
If we are to be good and faithful disciples of Christ, we must set aside some specific time for prayer. How beautiful it is to know that God hears us whenever we call on Him, that He is close to us, that He hears our prayers, and that He answers all our needs – not always according to our plans, but always according to His plans.
To these prayers of petition, we must add prayers of gratitude. We know that we can ask anything of the Lord. But we also need to express our thanks to Him for helping us with His tremendous love and mercy.
Expressing our gratitude to God for all that He has done for and given to us changes our entire perspective on life. The thanksgiving that we express to God leads us not only to a heightened awareness about all that God does for us; such thanksgiving also leads us to give thanks to the people God has placed in our lives to help us walk the path of discipleship: family members, friends, teachers, coaches, coworkers, and the like. How truly blessed we are to have one more day to say thank you to the Lord!
It is not always easy to be thankful! While it is often easy to thank God when things go well in our lives, it is far more challenging to thank Him when things do not go according to our plans. Even in these difficult times, we should thank the Lord for the suffering that comes our way. All suffering unites us closer to Christ who died so that we might live. Another challenge facing those who want to grow in gratitude is presented by our culture which often fosters an entitlement mentality. Nothing is more detrimental to growing in gratitude than this attitude which makes us think that everyone – even God! – owes us something.
Gratitude reminds us that, in life, we cannot take anything for granted. Here are some strategies which might help you grow in your ability to give thanks to God for the many gifts He has given to you.
1 – Begin and end the day with gratitude. Before your feet hit the floor, thank God for the gift of a new day to love and serve Him. Before your head hits the pillow, thank God for the many blessings of the day, and ask for His help to continue to persevere in bearing witness to Christ.
2 – Thank God in good times and in bad times. Easy though it may be to thank God only when things are going well, remember to say thank you for your challenges, your struggles, and even your own suffering which can be united to His suffering.
3 – Thank other people in your life. Don’t take them or what they do for you for granted.
4 – Keep a gratitude journal (advice my mom always gave me). You will certainly remember to give thanks for major happenings during the day, but don’t forget about everyday realities, such as good health. (I always think of this whenever I am sick, but not as often as I should when I am healthy.)
This year at Norwalk Catholic School, we will be expressing our gratitude by means of the Season of Giving. This gives our school families the opportunity to express their gratitude to our generous benefactors and to parishioners for the support they so generously provide. One of our major projects is a fall cemetery cleanup. If you find yourself feeling grateful on Saturday, November 23, you are welcome to join us at 9:00 AM at the St. Paul Cemetery for a day of service.
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, use this time well to give thanks: thanks to your family members, thanks to your friends, and, most importantly, thanks to God who has blessed us in countless ways with His gifts and His grace.