A few years ago, I visited the town in Ireland where my father’s ancestors lived. The cathedral there was built in the 1950s, so it’s unlikely that any of my relatives were part of its construction. Yet, when I went in, I felt immediately rooted. It was as if I could somehow feel a bunch of church-going Irish-Catholics handing down their faith traditions from generation to generation. I remember feeling overwhelmingly grateful in that moment that I was part of that faith story. I was—and am—part of the Lord’s presence manifested in a living Church. All of us are.
This moment of gratitude extrapolated itself over years and miles as I thought about all the people who have formed me in my faith. Anyone who spends time with Ignatian spirituality hears and thinks and prays a lot about gratitude, but how often do we as catechists reflect in thanksgiving for those who catechized us? Surely, we all have family members, godparents, Confirmation sponsors, teachers, and religious men and women (as well as martyrs and saints), whose lives have helped to shape ours.
Gratitude for those who came before me and for those who formed me in my faith enables me to teach with a happiness that comes from God alone. It makes it possible for me to share the Gospel with a smile on my face. It makes it possible for me to teach with joy on the days when the lesson plan is falling apart. It makes it possible for me to be happy to welcome that child who cannot sit still.
Until I joined a Jesuit parish, seeking and recognizing gratitude in my life by praying the Daily Examen wasn’t a part of my prayer habit. My parish places great importance on meeting Jesus in this way. At every catechist-development workshop, we have a session where we pray the Examen together and discuss how to help our students engage with Jesus this way. It’s such a part of my life now that I sometimes catch myself in the middle of it without realizing I had even started. My gratitude is stronger than my doubt, and on the days when I feel myself falling, I take comfort from the generations of faithful women and men who taught me this.
Gratitude is my opportunity to feel God’s grace and to let it resonate within me. In turn, this allows me to reflect God’s love to those I encounter, especially those children and parents who are part of my class.