With the arrival of Lent, we enter into a natural time of reflection. For 40…
Lent can and should be a season of gratitude
I’m a sucker for Catholic gift stores. Walking out without purchasing another holy card, book or saint memento is always a strong test in fortitude.
But I’ve never regretted an impulsive purchase at a Catholic store. Not only do I know that my money is supporting other people in the Catholic press and Catholic market, but each book or item often is a powerful reminder of God’s love and faithfulness to me in one way or another.
During the spring semester my senior year of college, I found myself in one of my favorite gift stores, one attached to a Trappist abbey where myself and other college students often came for day retreats. Removed from the noise and busyness of college life, New Melleray Abbey was, and is, one of my favorite places in the world. And after each visit, I always made a point of taking my time exploring the new and old items in their gift shop, hoping to find some treasure to take home with me and to support the work of the brothers who repeatedly opened their home to us.
On this particular visit, I found a holy card of a saint I had never heard of before: St. John of God. Reading over the brief summary of his life, a smile spread across his face as I learned that he is the patron saint of booksellers and printers. Suddenly, I felt a connection with this saint, for only weeks before I had signed a contract with Our Sunday Visitor to work as the assistant editor for the paper. I read further and saw his feast is celebrated on March 8. It was April at this point, but my heart skipped a beat as I recalled that this date was around the same time I had applied for the job. After doing a little mental math, I realized just how perfect God’s timing was. St. John’s feast day was the exact day I sent in my resume. In a wave of peace, conviction and gratitude, I knew God’s hand was guiding me to the next adventure.
It’s been about three years since that day, and each day I grow in gratitude for the life God has given me: for the city and diocese that have become home, for the vibrant parish that God led me to, for the growing Catholic young adult community, for the friends who’ve accompanied me on this journey, and of course for the ministry that God has blessed me with through my job at Our Sunday Visitor. Sometimes I wonder why my team took a chance on a college graduate without any real experience in the Catholic press, but I’m so glad they did.
Because of this minor anniversary, I can’t help but be extra grateful during this time of year, even during the season of Lent — a season where we tend to focus on sacrifice and not so much gratitude.
This Lent, as the editorial board has written, feels in many ways to be a continuation of Lent 2020, which introduced us to COVID and everything that came with it. For many people, there may not seem to be much to be thankful for. Others may feel better off. Yet, in whichever situation most describes you, we can’t forget to remember our blessings. Even if that means looking back on how God has been faithful in the years past before the pandemic hit, we must cultivate hearts of gratitude.
So, this Lent, look back over your story — your whole story. Where has God been a part of it? How has he blessed you beyond what you had expected? Maybe you’re currently in a rut or experiencing a serious trial, but seeing the big picture offers hope that God has so much planned for us, even if in the moment we are unable to see it. So even if it’s the simple reminder of a prayer card, remember: God is faithful, and we have so much to be grateful for.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.