By Fr. Peter Schineller, S.J.,
Is there any saint who might be linked closely to Thanksgiving Day? Surely all saints expressed gratitude to God for God’s grace, love, and saving power in their lives. But one saint comes to my mind when I think of gratitude and ingratitude, namely St. Ignatius Loyola. Why him?
Here is what he once wrote about ingratitude:
It seems to me in the light of the Divine Goodness, although others may think differently, that ingratitude is the most abominable of sins and that it should be detested in the sight of our Creator and Lord by all of His creatures who are capable of enjoying His divine and everlasting glory. For it is a forgetting of the gracious benefits, and blessings received. As such it is the cause, beginning, and origin of all sins and misfortunes. On the contrary, the grateful acknowledgment of blessings and gifts received is loved and esteemed not only on earth but in heaven.
-Ignatius Loyola in Letters, No. 55. The Letters of St. Ignatius of Loyola, translated by William J. Young, S.J., Chicago, 1959
To express this more positively, Hugo Rahner, a scholar of the life of St. Ignatius, speaks of the almost “helpless gratitude” or “imperishable gratitude” of the saint. Countless letters of Ignatius direct that Masses and prayers be offered in gratitude to friends and benefactors of the Society of Jesus.
Two references to the Spiritual Exercises that highlight gratitude can be noted. In the twice daily examination of conscience, “the first point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the favors received” (Exercises # 23). And in the Contemplation to Attain the Love of God, at the end of the Exercises, the grace we pray for is “to ask for an intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty” (233).
Indeed, Pedro Ribadeneira, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius, wrote that “Among all the virtues that our Father (Ignatius) possessed was one by which he was especially distinguished: the virtue of gratitude. In that he was simply wonderful.”
So as we celebrate the annual feast of Thanksgiving, we might take Ignatius as one patron for this feast.