My brother Michael is a seminarian in the diocese of Tegucigalpas in Honduras. My brother Michael is an extremely grateful person. The other night when I was speaking with him on the phone, he mentioned that he was really focusing on gratitude in his life, on thanking God for His many blessings. This struck me because my brother, as a seminarian, is someone who doesn’t own anything. He lives on $200 a month, he doesn’t own a car or have his own apartment. He owns an old Mac laptop computer that one of his siblings donated to him. He owns very few clothes and we as his family members have to buy him new shoes. Honduras is country which cannot afford to give scholarships to its seminarians. The family of the seminarian must pay the tuition for the seminarian. Many of his fellow seminarians cannot afford the tuition. Their families are too poor. Michael lives on the donations of others right now while he is in seminary, but Michael is one of the most positive, grateful people I know. But he also works at it-daily. He works at cultivating that virtue in his life, at growing in that habit.
He is grateful for the daily cup of coffee that God sends him. In Honduras, a Central American country known for its excellent coffee beans, he enjoys a fine cup of coffee every day. That is a moment of joy for him. He is grateful for the exquisite natural beauty in that country-the rainforests, the mountains, the beaches, the wildlife, and the sunsets. He loves to talk a walk outside each day and when he can, he loves to explore the national parks. Apparently, Honduras has even greater natural beauty than its more well-known and affluent neighbor to the south Costa Rica. One of his hobbies is taking care of and cultivating wild orchids that he finds on the road. He loves to get together with a few other seminarians and be social and watch a game or a good movie and make popcorn. He enjoys listening to beautiful classical music each day. Another hobby of his is raising money to give poor children of Honduras scholarships so they can attend grade school. Honduras as a third world country has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. He is grateful for the little things-the things he knows we have in the United States but do not have in Honduras-laws, good roads, a stable government, the ability to work and find a job, electricity, pure water, the list could go on and on. My brother is an example to me on how to have a grateful heart. My brother the seminarian is also an example of a grateful single.
Gratitude is something that very often our Protestant brothers and sisters are very good at. They thank God for this and that. If you listen to them speak, gratitude is sprinkled throughout their conversations. They praise God for this and that as well. As Catholics, we can learn from their wonderful example and praise God and give thanks to God in everything. Jesus thanked God the Father before many of His major miracles. Jesus, Our God, is a God of Gratitude. He is a giving God. He is a God of praise. He sees the good in us. We owe God our gratitude. He has given us so much. He has given us everything, including His Son, including the Redemption. As singles, we are trying to become like Jesus.
As singles, there is a temptation to complain. There is a temptation to think negatively. God hasn’t given me my spouse yet and I am single, so I have nothing to be thankful for. There is a temptation to think that we have the biggest crosses ever, that no one could understand our crosses. There is a temptation to think that our lives are horrible without a spouse. When in reality, this just is not true. God has given us many blessings, and He continues to shower us with blessings during our time of singleness.
First of all, He gives us His presence, His friendship. We need to cultivate that relationship in daily prayer. We can offer up our struggles to God for the conversion of sinners, or for the holy souls in purgatory or for a family member who is suffering. God wants to use our time of singleness to make us into better people-to make us into the saints He wants us to be. He wants us to be singles for others. He wants us to give thanks, because as a giving and loving Creator, it is what is due to Him. But also, because we will feel happier when we are thanking God. Try it-you feel joy when you are thanking God. There are so many things we can thank God for-for our health, for our lives, for being members of this wonderful Catholic Church, for the Eucharist, for the seasons, for our apartments, for this person that God caused to cross my path who made me laugh today, for a certain song He sent to me today. We can thank God for a lovely vintage dress or for the exquisite slice of pumpkin pie He provided for us today. The list literally could go on and on. It is endless. We should never stop thanking God.
So in this season of Thanksgiving, let’s become singles who excel in gratitude. Let’s outshine our Protestant brothers and sisters in this regard. As Catholics, I know we can do it! Lets ask Jesus and the Blessed Mother to help us.