Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Gratitude in the Details

"If you've got gratitude, you've got the whole of the spiritual life." But we have a tendency to complicate things - even the spiritual life. "Keep it simple," AA says. That's good advice.

Some images have the power to elicit from us memories and associations good and bad. I came across this display of zinnias in a Mennonite nursery this spring and was immediately taken back to my boyhood and the first garden I kept which was a sandy 10 X 10 plot behind our suburban home. 

Our house was built in the early 1950's on what had been a potato field on Long Island. The good farm-soil had been taken away and all that was left was yellow carpenter's sand. But somehow, zinnia's grew and flowered. I investigated online and even found a picture of the vintage zinnia seed packet I could buy in a catalog for pennies. 

Does the picture above bring anything to mind for you - scenes or awareness-es that invite micro-gratitude (gratitude in the details). And where does that take you interiorly? For me...

  • Gratitude for the doctor and nurses who were in the room when I was born.
  • Gratitude for Miss O'Mara who calmed me down the first day of kindergarten.
  • Gratitude for Miss Slomiak who taught me to read.
  • Gratitude for Sister Vincent who prepared me for First  Communion.
  • Gratitude for the Mrs. Balbo who taught us how to identify types of clouds.
  • Gratitude for my mother the afternoon she taught me to tie my shoe.
  • Gratitude for my father who taught me how to genuflect one night in church.
  • Gratitude for my parish which held an outdoor May Crowning each spring.
  • Gratitude for Oberlee's Greenhouse which grew long-stemmed  carnations for 25 cents. 
  • Gratitude for the nun who gave me my first paper icon.
  • Gratitude for the brass sanctus bells I rang at the Consecration.
  • Gratitude for safety the night our family was saved from a terrible car accident.
  • Gratitude for the first time I saw the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
  • Gratitude for my first visit to Saint Patrick's Cathedral and lit a candle.

It's said, "Hindsight is 20/20." My childhood and teen years were not idyllic, but this gift of the zinnias in the Mennonite nursery invited me to take a look back and to remember again where God was close in the moments that were beautiful, truthful and good. We might all try it out today.


  1. I have gratitude for the people who pick me up when I am down. You are one of those people Father.

  2. Oh my goodness, I've been picked up too. Picked up and put back together. I feel a very deep gratitude.

  3. I get those memory triggers also. Sometimes when visiting family, I'll take a ride through my old neighborhood. So many memories flood in. There is a tree that still stands in front of my old house and when I see it, I am grateful for my childhood friends who climbed it with me. They shaped the way I developed friendships throughout my life.

  4. When I was a newly ordained a priest-friend and I went back to Highbridge in the Bronx to the church where I was baptized. For me anyway, standing at that white marble font was pretty powerful - and where my parents went to confession and the Communion rail where my mother was "churched" after my brother and I were born.

  5. What do you mean when you say your mother was "churched"?

  6. Prior to the Second Vatican Council in the mid 1960's when a woman had a new baby as soon as she was able to return to Mass she would meet the priest at the Communion rail where there were prayers (in Latin) giving thanks for the birth of a child. It likely had its origins in Old Testament rites for new mothers being re-introduced to the community. Now the blessing of a mother takes place at the end of the Rite of Baptism. Anyway, as one of 6 children, 4 of whom were born after me, I well remember seeing my mother at the railing and the priest praying these prayers over her.