What can I say about gratitude in this time of divisiveness in our country and world?
There are lots of negatives that creep in and prevent us from seeing the beauty and grace present in the moment and to be grateful. We can be distracted by the political climate, the injustices we not only see, but experience, and the plethora of wars, natural disasters, health concerns, and the list goes on. It can be difficult to find gratitude when we've experienced a significant loss or are journeying with someone that has experienced a recent loss. It can be difficult to be grateful, too, when faced with those everyday annoyances from people we love the most but whom seem to know exactly how to push our buttons.
Amid what can seem like chaos and destruction, gratitude is what we need most. As my discernment coordinator reminds me, "growth is not always pain free." Gratitude can help shift challenging experiences to times of growth and transformation.
To be honest, Thanksgiving can be tough for me. Certainly not the giving thanks part and the ultimate reminder to embody gratitude, but the holiday of Thanksgiving. The Native Americans saved the pilgrims and later on faced genocide, war, destruction of their land, treaties not being honored, and overall a lack of human rights. This is not something merely in the past, it continues to this day. When I look at the protests at Standing Rock, I am inspired by the courage of those willing to take a stand. These Native Americans are not simply protecting their water source, but the water source for millions of "pilgrims."
Yet, I am reminded of that classic hymn "We are a pilgrim people, we are the Church of God." We are pilgrims who, faced with injustice and strife, are called to build up the kin-dom of God. May we give thanks for the conviction and courage to embrace paths that embody reconciling and healing spaces in our Church and world.
Within a big, Catholic family Thanksgiving was a time of chaos. The grace of the holiday, however, was when the meal was set before us, right before the blessing, when we shared - together - what we were most grateful for during the past year.
When I think of 2016, there has been a lot that has challenged me. So what am I grateful for?
I am grateful for young women religious that are courageously exploring and venturing to where God is calling them. I am grateful for a Church that is evolving and growing. I am grateful that I am not the only one outraged by the rhetoric, fear, and hate crimes being perpetuated. I am grateful that I am supported, loved, and encouraged. I am grateful that I can give that same support, love, and encouragement to others. I am grateful that I live in a place that not only values my experience, but also asks me to share it (I am painfully aware this is not the case in other parts of the world). I am grateful that the God of the universe has challenged us to grow, love, and be women and men for others. I am grateful that I have a voice to speak love when and where there is hate.
I am grateful.
Emily Brabham is a canonical novice with the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa. As an eager advocate in support of vocations to the religious life, Emily enjoys finding God in unexpected places.