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Father Muench Says...

 Finding the key to happiness: gratitude

Oct. 28, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Last Sunday, as I was driving down to Syracuse for supper with the family, I searched around the radio dial and came upon an edition of the TED radio program, as they were playing a talk given by Brother David Steindl-Rast.  His talk was entitled, “Want to be Happy. Be Grateful” and it was terrific. I had to hear the talk again when I could truly concentrate on it so I went to Brother David’s website, A Network for Grateful Living (www.gratefulness.org) the next day. 

Brother David, Benedictine monk, joined the Benedictine Monastery of Mount Savior in Elmira, N.Y. early in his life.  I have known of him for a while though his many books.

This particular message was so truly special that I decided to share some of his ideas with you. (By the way, I have gotten to know Brother David’s nephew, David Rast, who lives with his wife in Vergennes, Vermont.) Brother David begins his talk by simply reminding us that one of things all of us have in common is the desire to be happy.  He then goes on to define happiness for us in this way, “happiness means the experience of something that is valuable to us and is freely given.”

There are so many ways that we all experience this.  Thinking about this right now, I experienced such a moment of happiness today when I received an email from someone who thanked me for being such an understanding priest.  That was special.

Brother David urges us to live gratefully, recognizing that every moment in life is filled with the gift of new opportunities, magnificent opportunities to make our part of the world a better place.

At this moment, I call to mind some of the opportunities I discovered today – and in that way brought happiness to others – and actually to myself also. 

Every moment is an opportunity given to us to recognize the happiness we have experienced, the gift within every gift.  So, we should be grateful for all that is ours and live in that gratitude.

Each of us knows only too well that life does also bring some things that are difficult: a challenge we must rise to meet. But challenges, despite being sad or difficult, still bring a gift – for example, the gift of patience.  These challenges are a time to stand for another possibility, another opportunity.  When we fail – as too often happens – we do get another opportunity, another moment to become grateful.

Brother David incorporates these ideas into a simple, yet very effective method.  I know this from my own experience.  His method is STOP – LOOK – GO.

Brother David reminds us that we just don’t stop enough, really stop in this far too busy world.  We need moments of silence when we can honestly, free ourselves for time to be grateful.  We must build up stop signs into our life. 

These are the times when we truly recognize the gifts that have been ours today.  So, once we STOP, we have the opportunity to LOOK.  This is a time to open our signs and discover the richness that is given to us.

Then we open our hearts seeking the opportunities to GO, to do something special, to make our lives even better, to make a difference, to help others, to help us discover happiness.

This is about revolutionizing our lives, our part of the world. Discovering who we really are is the root of our gratefulness.  This revolution is our time to eliminate fear from our lives.  A grateful person is not fearful.  Those who are free from fear are not violent people.  In this way, we form for ourselves a grateful world.  This produces a time to enjoy the differences among peoples and a time to enjoy ourselves. This is happiness.

One of Brother David’s books is a book of “Blessings.”  Here is one of the blessings from this book:
“Source of all Blessings, you bless us with warning voices – poets, prophets, thinkers, who dare to speak against the unrest of accepted norms, to question, at the risk of their good standing, their careers, even their lives.  My I have ears to hear these lonely voices of Common Sense, so often merely drowned out by the din of public opinion, and to heed them, take their message to heart, weigh it, and let it change my life.”

Brother David is such a prophet. He longs to make us a happier, more grateful people. May we become grateful people who bring happiness to our part of this world.

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