Merriam-Webster defined the word gift as something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation. Aside from the official United States Thanksgiving, no other day reminds me to be grateful than my birthday. G.K. Chesterton wrote the following about thanksgiving, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” As each year passes, I get further away in time from the child-like wonder that used to come naturally to me. However, on the celebration of my latest birthday the gifts I received inspired an attitude of gratitude and a sense of wonder—the perfect recipe for happiness. This post is dedicated sharing my thankfulness for the five special gifts I received.
1. Sacrament of the Eucharist: According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1324, “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’” No other gift in this life is as sacred, precious, or even as transformative as the Eucharist—the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ! The high point of my week includes going to Sunday Mass and receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Referring to the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, St. Therese of Liseux wrote, “Receive Communion often, very often…there you have the sole remedy, if you want to be cured. Jesus has not put this attraction in your heart for nothing…” No other gift in this life provides more peace, joy, and thanksgiving than the Eucharist!
2. Sacrament of Holy Matrimony: Along with the incredible grace from the Eucharist, I received sanctifying graces from the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of marriage. The Catechism details the importance of holy marriage, “The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple (no. 1660). Without the strength and patience of my wife, I would not have been able to enjoy the Mass as effectively as I did. She also arranged for my friends and I to spend quality time together. I am deeply indebted and thankful for her constant support and love!
3. Friendships: The Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said the following about friendship, “The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend.” While I certainly debt that I have fifty enemies [at least I hope!], quality time spent with my friends this weekend re-charged myself and built up a bastion of positivity against the frequent assault of negativity I will likely face this week at work.
Sharing in the joys and trials of fatherhood with my friends helped to provide me both perspective and gratitude. Laughing at the antics of our children and emphasizing with the struggles helped to unite us closer as friends and ultimately as dads.
4. Board Games: Although not on the same level as my previous gifts of sacramental grace and presence of friends, board games acts as medium to unite through strategy, story, and humor. We played a cooperative firefighter-themed game called Flashpoint. Despite losing to the game itself by allowing the conflagration to cause systematic structural damage to the house [board], our firefighter foibles infused life and camaraderie between my friends and I. I am grateful to have owned Flashpoint and my countless other games as a means to enjoy further friendship.
5. Books: Similar to board games, books in and of themselves act as a bridge to friendship. As a gift to customers during their birthday month, a local used bookstore gave me $10 store credit to use on any book in the store. I am pleased to have found J.R.R. Tolkien’s endearing short story Roverandom in near perfect condition. I am excited to spend nights reading chapters of this whimsical tale of a dog enchanted into a toy dog to my children! Rovenandom was a fine addition to my slowly [but surely!] growing Tolkien collection.
Truly my birthday this year could be summed up as gratitude encountering wonder. The powerful gifts of the sacraments and time with my friends brought forth a grateful mentality and the material gifts of playing a board game and purchase of a Tolkien classic instilled a sense of playful wonder! All men grow older yet not all men have to be old. Take delight in the simple things in life and the joys of friendship.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” –J.R.R. Tolkien