The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is. Indeed, in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for His glory. The thanksgiving of the members of the Body participates in that of their Head. As in the prayer of petition, every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’; ‘Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.’” (CCC 2637-2638).
Faithful Catholics live in a spirit of thanksgiving even in times of great suffering because they know and love the God of mercy and have faith in His plan for them. A good spiritual plan of life begins each day with a morning offering. Here is a common one:
“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.”
A good spiritual plan of life also ends each day with an examination of conscience, a prayer of contrition for any failings throughout the day, and a lifting up of heart and mind in gratitude for the many graces received. The Examen Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola is also an excellent practice and can be done each night. Here are the five steps (as well as the transitional awareness steps):
- Transition: I become aware of the love with which God looks upon me as I begin this examen.
- Gratitude: I note the gifts that God’s love has given me this day, and I give thanks to God for them.
- Petition: I ask God for an insight and a strength that will make this examen a work of grace, fruitful beyond my human capacity alone.
- Review: With my God, I review the day. I look for the stirrings in my heart and the thoughts that God has given me this day. I look also for those that have not been of God. I review my choices in response to both, and throughout the day in general.
- Forgiveness: I ask for the healing touch of the forgiving God who, with love and respect for me, removes my heart’s burdens.
- Renewal: I look to the following day and, with God, plan concretely how to live it in accord with God’s loving desire for my life.
- Transition: Aware of God’s presence with me, I prayerfully conclude the examen.
For additional reading on this beautiful prayer, consider Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s book, “The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today.”