Pause for Thanks

This should be part of our daily lives. But at least we have one day set aside to remember that.

Years ago, I started the practice of giving thanks at the start of each day. It grew to more pauses throughout the day not only to realize gratitude for things, but to give thanks at regular intervals in the day. Different religions do that. The Muslim call to prayer throughout the day, the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, are manifestations of the human need to encounter God who directs all things.

It’s a core belief of mine that divine providence guides everything that is and that happens, and that it’s humbling to acknowledge that God is God and I’m not, nor are the folks around me. To acknowledge that it’s all grace, and it makes and keeps us human and caring and communal.

I’ve been seeing some great messages on Facebook lately by people dedicating each day to another thing or cause or gift for which they give thanks, and it’s uplifting. Meanwhile, turn on the news and see all the horrible violence and the physical and verbal assaults on people, and it’s easy for people to get lost in all that, in addition to keeping their demanding daily routines and extra demands of family or work or commitments, and they’re just too overloaded to think deeply (or at all) about life, and what a gift it is.

Family and close friends of mine know the story I frequently tell of the young man whose wife had just died, and he was understandably bitter and angry. When his wife’s sister came by to go through her clothing and belongings, she found beautiful things she’d never seen her wear. He said, painfully, “She was always saving that for a special occasion.” But then he added: “But every day you’re alive is a special occasion.”

I never forgot that. It’s so true. It’s a gift, worthy of regular celebration. And thanksgiving.

I am thankful for the supreme creator and author of all that is, the just judge and merciful God who gave us divine revelation and continues to reveal Himself through beauty and truth and order. Who is at the center of the human instinct and morally informed conscience to serve others, to love others and be kind and generous and helpful to others, respecting their innate dignity. To suffer for and suffer with others in the truest sense of compassion.

I’m thankful for family, the manifestation of ‘love beyond all telling.’ Being a mother has given me the most indescribable strength and weakness and love that calls for a stronger word than love, but ‘about which nothing greater can be said,’ to borrow from the phrase Thomas Aquinas applied to God Himself, since it applies to the ultimate.

The larger family, ‘the clan’ as I call it, is a great gift, and I am so grateful for every single human being in my family, oldest (my father) to youngest (children of nieces and nephews), and the connectedness we share. It’s beautiful. Family battles with diseases and personal issues and private struggles, when shared, have been exquisitely painful times of growth, in trust and the appreciation of human dignity and need for love and forgiveness and shared suffering.

Friends. God must have a great sense of humor, because I’ve landed a circle of them that only He could have designed. If any of them are reading this, I want to say ‘I love you, but you already know that, and I’m always here for you,’ as we share life. The story of my family and friends writ large tells the human story. I’m grateful to be a part of it all, every day.

Work. I thank God for work in the world that calls on our abilities and skills and talents and passions, because that’s how we best serve. I think I shall never retire, there is so much to do. So much in the arena of ideas, the life of the mind, the pursuit of truth and justice. People can come to you for what you work so hard to provide, or not, but having the work to do is worth all the doing. Especially in communications media. Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George said a few years ago that we are less a world of nation states and more ‘citizens on continents in conversation.’ I love participating in that forum of information sharing.

And so much more…

For all of the above, I give thanks.

Media’s role in world peace

This is interesting. It’s not that a pope encouraging the communications media to be responsible is exactly headline news….

But it’s the text beneath the headline and the story behind the news release that are worth pursuing.

Here’s the news release from the pope addressing the European Broadcasting Union:

“In today’s society”, [Pope Benedict] continued, “the basic values of the good of humanity are in play, public opinion … is often found disoriented and divided”. In this context he noted that “it is a duty to provide every day, correct and balanced information and a profound debate that seeks the best shared solutions regarding these questions in a pluralistic society. It is a task that requires great professional honor, correction and respect, an openness to different perspectives, clarity in treating problems, freedom from ideological barriers, and an awareness of the complexity of problems”.

I’m wondering at this point how well they’re listening and whether they’d take this message to heart, but what he said was really for a global audience.

Religion contributes by ‘purifying’ reason, helping it not to fall prey to distortions, such as manipulation by ideology or partial application that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person”. In this sense the Pope invited the professionals in communications to “seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason, with a view to serving the common good of the nation”.

While emphasizing the difficulties that need to be faced in their service, the Pope stressed that “the challenges of the modern world on which you have to report are too great and too urgent for you to become discouraged or tempted to give up in the face of such difficulties”.

The Holy Father concluded by encouraging them to put their “contacts and activities at the service of reflection and commitment” with the aim of “ensuring that the instruments of social communication promote dialogue, peace and development of peoples in solidarity, overcoming cultural separation, uncertainties and fears”.

This reminds me of a letter I received not long ago from a young Rwandan woman studying journalism in London, who followed some of my writing and asked me to contribute thoughts on the media handling of the Rwandan genocide for her research. Here’s how she described the intent of her paper: 

This dissertation will be written by a critical journalism student, who wants to understand the role of the International media when it comes to wars in developing countries and its role in preventing the genocide in Rwanda.

She said she wanted to

explore the role of International media, its intervention and strategies in tackling genocides and other conflicts in the third world countries.

My aim is to understand the media’s responsibility in such a delicate situation where it should play a role of prevention, protection and education. And for future journalists like my classmates and future academic work, I hope this will help to use our journalistic role responsibly and never use it to spread hatred, thus making our journalistic powerful position a second weapon to crimes against humanity.

This dovetails exactly with what Pope Benedict said (and keeps saying) about the role of media in the world. Pope John Paul II said “Communications is a moral act.” It’s reassuring and encouraging that young adults entering the media are taking that responsibility seriously.