Eucharistic Thanksgiving & Politics

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 - 

This time of year prompts an opportunity to consider the meaning of ‘thanksgiving’ and how it can fundamentally impact our life and our view of the world. In particular, thanksgiving and gratitude, stemming from an intimate relationship with the Eucharist, can impact our view of politics.

In his monumental work, The Spiritual ExercisesSt. Ignatius Loyola provides a “way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”

Within The Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius specifically offers what is popularly known as the examen prayer. The examen is a five-point prayer focusing on gratitude for God’s love, petition for a grace-filled examen, review of interior spiritual movements throughout the day, asking forgiveness of God for the day’s failings, and renewal of life with God’s help.

By beginning the examen with gratitude, Ignatius teaches something fundamental about God, which Ignatius himself learned through experience. As Father Timothy Gallagher, the popular commentator on The Spiritual Exercises, states: “The only God [Ignatius] ever knew from the first moment of his conversion was this God who constantly bestows gifts of grace upon on, revealing through these gifts the intimate love with which we are loved.” As Ignatius writes: “I have no doubts regarding that highest Good who is so eager to share his gifts, or of that everlasting love which makes him more eager to give us our perfection than we to receive it.”

In reverencing gratitude, Ignatius detests ingratitude: “For [ingratitude] is a failure to recognize the good things, the graces, and the gifts received. As such, it is the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.”

For Ignatius, growth in Christian holiness requires that gratitude run deep in the heart of the human person.

Ignatius’ emphasis on gratitude corresponds well with the Eucharist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that the Eucharist should be considered as: 1) thanksgiving and praise to the Father; 2) the sacrificial memorial of Christ and His Body; and 3) the presence of Christ by the power of His Word and of His Spirit (CCC, 1358).

In its relation to God the Father, the Eucharist is “a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all His benefits, for all that He has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving’” (CCC, 1360).

The Catechism also instructs regarding the transformative power of the Eucharist on the intellect: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking” (CCC, 1327). The Eucharist, then, is critical for the cultivation of hearts filled with gratitude. It is the Bread of Heaven, Christ Himself, Who makes us a true ‘thanksgiving’ people.

Yet, in our polarized political culture fraught with uncharitable rhetoric, ingratitude toward politics can too easily become a default disposition of the heart and mind. Politics is viewed as broken, even irredeemable, rather than as a human good ordained by God (see Roman 13:1).

But it is precisely through gratitude for God’s gifts that we are driven toward a deeper love for the political order and its service to human dignity and the common good. As Pope Francis writes: “Accepting the first proclamation [of the Gospel], which invites us to receive God’s love and to love Him in return with the very love which is His gift, brings forth in our lives and actions a primary and fundamental response: to desire, seek, and protect the good of others” (Evangelii Gaudium, 178).

As ‘thanksgiving’ is contemplated throughout these days, let a Eucharistic gratitude imbue your heart and mind with a deeper love of God, which can drive your evangelization and sanctification of the political order.

In the spirit of St. Ignatius and The Spiritual Exercises, consider the things within politics for which you are grateful. Let this gratitude serve as an antidote to the seemingly endless ingratitude for politics that can overwhelm our heart. In all of this, may the Passion of Christ strengthen us.