'Happiness doubled by wonder'

G.K. Chesteron, the great Catholic writer, once said: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

His observation aptly conveys the powerful spiritual underpinnings to the virtue we celebrate this month, gratitude. It is a pinnacle, a way of seeing like God, keenly attuned to all the beauty in our midst, buoyed by wonder and joy.

The National Catholic Sisters Week team vowed to launch a gratitude movement beginning with Thanksgiving 2015. It was inspired by Ann Voskamp’s bestselling book One Thousand Gifts, in which the Canadian mother sought to heighten her awareness of God’s gifts by keeping a journal to list 1,000 blessings in her life.

“Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle,” Voskamp wrote. Giving thanks, she meant, shouldn’t solely happen after something good occurs; it is a state of mind that helps you recognize the good thing about to happen – and often brings about the next little miracle. 

Her book sparked gratitude journals across the globe. It made us eager for a glimpse inside the journals kept by Catholic sisters, so we asked for public contributions, hoping to collect 1,000.

Several sisters told us Voskamp’s book had compelled them to begin gratitude journals. Others said they’d been chronicling the blessings in their lives for years. It wasn’t a new idea; it was a deeply ingrained lifestyle.

The response to our invitation was inspiring! Their lists provided an intimate look at the joy of religious life – the rewards of living simply and helping neighbors in need, the blessings of communal living, the abiding strength provided by faith.   

“For the gift of faith and religious vocation – and enlightening me with ways to share these with others,” wrote Sister Salvatore Ciuckyte, SSC. 

“I am thankful for God’s creation, especially the seasons,” wrote Sister Diane Goetzinger, SDD.

“The blessing of working with the poor in a foreign land,” another sister wrote

“A restful sleep in a comfortable bed,” wrote Sister Barbara Thomalla, OSM. 

There is something striking about their simple words and photos. Real women, authentic witnesses of faith.

The NCSW team published the sisters’ blessings from Thanksgiving 2015 through Christmas 2015 with hopes of providing a peaceful, counter-cultural antidote to the cacophony of the commercial Christmas season.

We invite you to read their blessings this season of gratitude and to pen a list of your own. You might be surprised by the way it opens your eyes and your heart.  

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.