Recently I spoke with someone from the Catholic University of America about a meeting I was scheduled to attend as a member of the Board of Advisors to the Ciocca Center School of Entrepreneurship. During the call, I asked her how she came to work at CUA, and she told me about how she met the department head and she was taken by how passionate he was about serving the Lord.  She went on to tell me how she was offered a job at CUA, and now six months later, she is grateful to God for the opportunity to express her faith by helping students.  When we hung up the phone, I was struck by her positivity.  Her joy, stemming from her grateful heart, had impacted me through a phone call.

This encounter caused me to think about the rest of the people at CAU with whom I interact, and I recognized a common thread.  Across the board, everyone I have dealt with at Catholic University is thankful to God, and they share their joy with others.  You will never hear them complain or whine about the challenges they face in today’s world of higher education —the noise of secular influence, budget issues or the demands of their work.  Instead, you hear gratitude.

As much as I am thankful to God, through a simple conversation, this young woman’s positive attitude and grateful heart were a form of evangelization.

When we think about evangelization, we often think about the people struggling with their faith and seemingly far from living a Catholic life.  But the truth is we all benefit from being evangelized.

Thousands of Vermonters have slid away from the Church over the past 10 years, that is unfortunate as the presence of the Eucharist in our lives is a gift from God and has a glorious effect on our lives.

When we are grateful, there is no “but.”  We all have challenges in our lives.  We deal with health, financial and family issues or struggles in our parish that make things less than perfect.  As Catholics we know God is always with us and will never let our burden be too great.  We need only ask Him for strength and He is there for us.  This means our thanksgiving to God is not conditional; we should see it as our only response.

We all have saints from whom we draw strength; one of mine is St. John of the Cross who said: “What does it profit you to do one thing when God asks of you another; figure out what it is that God wants and then do it.”   Whenever I think about how I should interact with others, I think about what Jesus expects of me and how He wants me to live a life of thanksgiving to the Father and be a joyful reflection of the blessings in my life.

Your gratitude to God, shared with others, is a gift of encouragement you can share with those who may be struggling in faith or who need to have their batteries recharged.  Seeing you filled with joy and a grateful heart is incredibly encouraging to people in your life.

Imagine two encounters with two individuals, both faithful.  The first is like that young woman at CUA, passionately grateful to God and spreading her joy to others.  She makes you feel like “whatever she has, I want.”  She attracts you to the Church and the Holy Eucharist through her thankful approach.  The second, though faithful, is quite different; some would say negative.  He complains about what’s wrong with the world, the Church and anything else that comes to mind.  You see no gratitude; the encounter is anything but encouraging.

Which person are we to those we encounter?  If you are the first, praise God! But if you struggle with being the second person sometimes, I offer the following encouragement:

+      Pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help you live a life of thanksgiving.

+      Find someone in your life who is close enough to help you with this.  Then ask him or her to point out every time you are negative vs. thankful.

+      Do a self-examination each night and focus on your gratefulness to God.

+      Live the sacraments with joy in your heart.

And remember, no buts, just grateful.

—Deacon RJ Dourney is assigned to St. Charles Church in Bellows Falls, Our Lady of the Valley Church in Townshend and Chapel of the Snows at Stratton Mountain.  

—Originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.