Editor’s Column

March 2024 Issue of Thema: Gratitude for the World

Our theme for this issue is gratitude, exploring it through the lens of Fr. Adrian van Kaam’s formative spirituality. Our contributors this month invite you to consider the gift of our world and how our individual and collective experiences and reflections can engender profound gratitude, which leads us to joyful recognition and union with God’s grace all around us. 

There is gratitude born of thankfulness and appreciation. Just mere minutes of watching the evening news evokes sentiments of gratitude for the suffering that exists in the world that does not intimately touch our lives. This is gratitude for bearing witness to suffering in the world that passes over us. There is also gratitude born out of suffering we ourselves and those we love pass through, gratitude for compassionate presence on the journey. 

Then there is gratitude born of awe and grace. Gratitude born out of awe, inspired by the experience of grace brings us to a completely different place. Gratitude that comes when we are able to see the invisible Love of the Divine made manifest in the world and in our lives. This is the kind of gratitude that inspires joy, even in the midst of suffering and sorrow – joy that comes when we commune with the Joy of the Divine. 

This awe-inspired gratitude moves us beyond being merely grateful to a place of grace where and when we are able to glimpse and enter into, however fleeting, the Mind of Christ. Gratitude born of grace is something we experience when we see and know the Spirit of Creation moving over and through our world, bringing us to New Life. 

“Gratitude” by Edward Kocher, Ph.D., Professor of Music at Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit, invites us to reflect on how culture and art have the ability to draw us into contemplative experience of the world, both past and present. Through reflection we are opened to receive a wider view and vision of the world, which frees us to experience and feel and express gratitude for all the goodness and good things we have in our own personal worlds. 

In “Be a Lake” we are deeply invited to expand our vision from that of our individual worlds into the bigger world of all of Creation and to “quietly, softly, gently” allow ourselves to expand and “live from this place,” and be transformed to “listen, learn, dive deeply into the self” so that we can find our way. 

From this wider view, we come to know that we are not merely observers in the world, but an inextricable part of all Creation. In Carolyn Heil’s poem, “Like Flowers” we are reminded that while we delight in the natural world, we are not separate from Creation, but immersed in it, part of it. Seeing and knowing our lives through the experience of being part of God’s creation – how we are nourished by it and participate in the great cycle of death and rebirth – we come to know that we are part of and in communion with the Universal Christ. This seeing and knowing is nothing if not awe-inspiring. 

In the visually evocative “The Rough Places Thin” by Kirk Wareham we are summoned again to look deeply into the wisdom of the natural world and how her natural rhythms can teach us in the ways of healing and how she continually makes “the rough places plain.” Reflect on Kirk’s offering and ponder how “destruction and healing are something linked together” and how “what life hurts, nature heals.” 

Rev. Benjamin Perry, Minister of Outreach and Media Strategy at Middle Church, introduces us to the spiritual practice of crying as invitation to “a deeper relationship with the world”and explores “what our tears can teach us and how they can keep our hearts soft” in “What I Lost When I Stopped Crying.” Then follow Rev. Perry’s invitation to listen to The Wailing Jennys sing “Beautiful Dawn.” 

Relish the vivid detail shared by Sister Deborah Lockwood, Fransican Sister, in “On Gazing Above and Perceiving Below.” Here Sister Lockwood recounts how immersion in the natural world ushers us into an experience of exquisite presence, inspiring awe within that leads to gratitude and the deep knowing that we are”opened to seeing heaven.” 

“The Harp Tree” by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, will draw you into the beautiful, restorative poetic imagery of Psalm 137 and beckon you to reflect upon “what is unfolding in your life, our world, at this moment” and to “remember that the Holy One never ceases singing for us” so that “some day we can finally sing a new song.” 

Cindy Neely, WVIS Associate Spiritual Director, offers a deeply personal account of how Ignatian imaginative contemplation of the Gospels can lead us to encounter the power of transformative grace. Cindy’s sharing reminds us that just as our apprehension of God is shaped by our experience of the world and culture, it can also be transformed by God’s power and grace in the world among us as God reveals Godself to us, healing the woundedness we collect along the way. 

Rev. Dr. Rindy Trouteaud’s reflection calls us to the mountains, where human hearts commune with the Great I Am, both coming together in an “awe-filled, grief-tinged interchange between two friends” who understand. Follow Rindy to the mountain top and pause in the place where the Great I Am takes up and carries our secret sorrows if we are willing to share them. 

Listen to Rev. Dr. Kristin Adkins Whitesides’ invitation to deeply explore the “you-had-to-be-there, pillar of fire, a cloud” mystical, mountain top experience of coming to know God in her sermon on the Transfiguration. Rev. Dr. Whitesides invites us to reflect on how God reveals who God really is to us and how we are called to move beyond our desire to stay on the mountain top to continue the journey. 

Finally, in “How Dreadful Is This Place” we feel the energetic outpouring of thanksgiving and delight in apprehending the glory of God’s creation as Thomas Traherne, a seventeenth-century priest, tells us that heaven on earth is real. As we rejoice and delight in the glory of the world, we cannot help but to fall in love with it, moving from awe and joyous gratitude to immeasurable compassion, care, and concern for the sacredness of all Creation. 

The unspeakable joy of gratitude that rises from the heart that has come to see and know the Grace of God! 

Peace & Blessings, Lisa Marie 

Lisa is an Associate Spiritual Director Intern at the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality, offering individual and group spiritual direction. She is a Temporarily Professed member of the Mary Magdalene Chapter of Lay Dominicans (Order of Preachers) in Raleigh, NC where she has organized and participated in hosting spiritual retreats offered by the community. Lisa is deeply committed to following a path towards spiritual growth, personal healing, and emotional and spiritual freedom. She is dedicated to studying sacred scripture and works on spirituality, practicing contemplative prayer, and sharing the fruits of these endeavors in community with others. 

Lisa has been a catechist for more than 20 years, preparing children to receive their first sacraments in the Catholic faith tradition. She is been actively engaged in the Music Apostolate for more than 25 years and serves as a cantor at St. Catherine of Siena in Wake Forest, NC. 

Working for almost 35 years in corporate America and currently bi-vocational, Lisa has begun to co- create a next chapter in her life to accompany and serve others in their spiritual journey. 

Lisa M. Marengo, O.P.

Wake Forest, NC