Gratitude the Jesuit Way

Members of the Loyola community share how they make gratitude part of each day

By Ashleigh Aldridge

“Love is shown more in deeds than in words.” – St. Ignatius Loyola

November is National Gratitude Month. First celebrated and announced by author and spiritual coach Stacey Grewel in 2015, National Gratitude Month has become a widely acknowledged time to show gratitude through charitable acts, introspection, spiritual awakening, and self-care.

“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives,” says Jason Parcover, Ph.D., director of the Loyola Counseling Center. “With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.”

St. Ignatius Loyola, in his daily spiritual life, practiced the Examen, a form of prayerful reflection designed to recognize, acknowledge, and show gratitude for God’s presence and his will for our lives. In the Jesuit tradition, many practice the Examen twice a day. St. Ignatius believed Jesuits were called to recognize God’s presence, review the current day, acknowledge mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and pray for the day ahead.

In addition to spiritual growth, gratitude can improve mental and physical health.

“With Thanksgiving upon us, November is a good time to learn about the mental health benefits of gratitude. Research shows that gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness – it helps people feel more positive emotions, improve their physical health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships,” Parcover said. “Expressing thanks is one of the simplest ways to feel better.”

Loyola magazine asked a few members of the Loyola community how they show and acknowledge gratitude in their daily lives.

Grateful for the sunrise

Panoramic photo of the sunrise

Photo: Mary Beth Akre

“Early every morning, my dog Casper and I walk through the woods and fields near my home. As I watch the sky change from a dark ultramarine blue, to lighter blue, to violet, to pink, to coral, and finally a golden yellow, I am grateful to witness the beginning of a new day. I am grateful to be alive.” – Mary Beth Akre, ’80, associate professor, fine arts

Keep a record

“For years, I kept a daily grateful journal.  When I moved a few months ago, in an attempt to clean out boxes, I re-read one from 1997.  It described my gratitude for small acts of kindness from family, friends, and simple pleasures like a sunny day. Ten years later, I try to be attentive to and acknowledge these same things daily; my medium just happens to be a text message or a photo via social media.” – Erin O’Keefe, ’03, director of CCSJ and the York Road Initiative

Say thank you

Thank you note on wooden desk

“My mom always taught me that there is nothing better than a handwritten “thank you” note.  I am sure to stock up on stationary and send a thank you note whenever necessary- which is often because there is much to be thankful for.” – Francesca Galbato, ’18, SGA president

Receive gratitude

“I have a close friend who has a gift of finding ways to express his gratitude to others. He recently stopped by my office, and greeted me with his arm stretched and his hand closed, and he dropped a small stone into my hand. On one side had a painted flower on it, the other was painted the word, ‘grateful.’ That really brightened my day and meant so much to me. The first lesson is that it does not take much to express your gratitude to someone. Also, the stone was smooth to the touch and shaped like a ‘worry stone,’ which I found calming to rub. But, the second lesson was as I rubbed my thumb over the word grateful, it served to remind me of things for which I am grateful. My worries were replaced with feelings of gratitude.” – Donelda Cook, Ph.D., vice president for student development

Be grateful for others

Holy Bible opened to 1 Thessalonians

“One of my favorite scripture passages is 1 Thessalonians 5:11, ‘Encourage one another and build up each other.’ It reminds me to be grateful for each person’s unique gifts and to realize the full power of encouragement for the betterment of our world.” – Amanda Thomas, Ph.D., interim vice president for academic affairs

Pray

Thank you, Lord, for the blessings you have bestowed on my life. You have provided me with more than I could ever have imagined. You have surrounded me with people who always look out for me. You have given me family and friends who bless me every day with kind words and actions. They lift me up in ways that keep my eyes focused on you and make my spirit soar.

Also, thank you, Lord, for keeping me safe. You protect me from those things that seem to haunt others. You help me make better choices and provide me with advisors to help me with life’s difficult decisions. You speak to me in so many ways so that I always know you are here.

And Lord, I am so grateful for keeping those around me safe and loved. I hope that you provide me with the ability and sense to show them every day how much they matter. I hope that you give me the ability to give to them the same kindness they have provided to me.

I am extremely grateful for all of your blessings in my life, Lord. I pray that you remind me of just how blessed I am and that you never allow me to forget to show my gratitude in prayer and returned acts of kindness.

Thank you, Lord.

In your name, Amen.

– Rob Kelly, Ph.D., ’94, vice president and special assistant to the president.

How do you show your gratitude?

We would love to hear how you show gratitude every day. Throughout the month of November, use #GreyhoundGratitude and tag Loyola magazine (@loyolamagazine) on social media.

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