For a graduate school course I wrote a paper on “thank you.” To my surprise the word “thank” is derived from the word “think.” To thank someone means we are thinking of them and their kind act for us. When a person has done something thoughtful for us, the least we can do is to “think of” or “thank” them in return…especially if we are no position to return the favor. Nowadays we often thank our benefactors via an email or a phone call. A more convincing way to express our gratitude is to write a thank-you note. This entails finding a card and pen, putting a stamp on the envelope, and maybe making a trip to the post office.
My paper included different ways to say thank you, like “thanks a million,” “thanks a bunch,” and “thanks a lot.” There is a website to help write thank-you notes. It suggests how to word your appreciation and gives the structure of a thank-you note: http://ideas.hallmark.com/articles/thank-you-ideas/thank-you-messages/
Of course, our greatest benefactor is our Creator. The best way we have to thank God for the marvels he has done for us is to celebrate the Eucharist. The word itself means “thanksgiving.” At Mass we “think of” the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a memorial. We also express our thanks for everything. We also thank God in other prayers. Here is a thought-provoking passage from St. Basil:
“In taking bread, give thanks to him who bestowed it; in drinking wine, remember him who gave you this gift to rejoice your heart and solace your ills. Once the meal is finished, do not fail, come what may, in the remembrance of your benefactor. When you put on your tunic, thank him who gave it you; when you put on your cloak, bear witness to your regard for the God who provides us with clothing suitable for winter and summer and so as to protect our life. When day is done thank him who has given you sun for the day’s work and fire to give light at night and supply for our needs. Nighttime provides you with cause for thanksgiving: when looking at the sky and contemplating the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the universe who has made all things with such wisdom. When you see all nature lying asleep, adore him again who relieves all our weariness with sleep and restores the vigor of our strength with a little rest.”
Happy Thanksgiving … every day!
What are you especially grateful for since the last Thanksgiving?
BOOK REVIEW Henri Nouwen: His Life and Spirit by Kevin Burns
Franciscan Media, 139 pp., $19.99
Anyone familiar with Henri Nouwen and his books will delight in this biography, which reveals the very human man hidden behind the famous persona he showed in public. Nouwen, a towering figure in the realm of spirituality and the author of popular books, forty of which are still in print, entertained with enthusiasm and energy the thousands who came to hear him speak. At the same time he suffered from periods of depression brought on by an awkward relationship with his father, struggles with his homosexuality, and his intense desire to be loved and accepted for himself. He was the quintessential “wounded healer.”
Burns tells the story of Henri with simplicity, honesty, and compassion, revealing little known facts, such as Henri being laughed at by classmates because he was cross-eyed. He relies heavily on quotations from Henri and also those gleaned from numerous interviews with people who knew him, in particular his brother Laurent. Prior to writing this book, Burns produced the award-winning documentary “Genius Born of Anguish: The Life and Legacy of Henri Nouwen” for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Obviously he knows his subject well. A bonus is the book’s Afterward in which Burns presents nine ways that his life and Henri’s are alike.
Burns traces Nouwen’s journey from his birth in the Netherlands to his death from a heart attack in France. Along the way he introduces us to Henri’s heroes (Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt) and many friends as this eccentric priest teaches at Harvard, lives with a L’Arche community in Canada, and follows a circus. The result is a fascinating book about a unique life. I think Henri would be pleased with it. Reading this book makes me want to reread Nouwen’s books. I would have a new perspective now.