A Litany of Gifts

Thanksgiving squashI love Thanksgiving.  It’s less hectic than Christmas, and it’s mainly about enjoying family and friends (food too, of course).  A few years ago, the late John Kavanaugh, SJ, proposed an idea for extending the spirit of Thanksgiving through December and the new year by making a litany of gifts:

A simple way to do this is to use an 8-inch by 11-inch lined piece of paper. Draw a vertical line down the middle. Each horizontal line counts for a day, and each of the two columns will hold objects of gratitude. Make one column a list of persons, now living or in history, for whom you are grateful—one person or group of persons per line. Make the other column a list of things, places and events for which you give thanks. Each day write one entry in each column. By the end of one month you will have a litany of gifts, a catalogue of the ways God has come into your life. Then, with the mother of Jesus, you can ponder these things in your heart. This is an exercise in appreciation, being present to what is. In this anointing of the present, we will find ourselves entering God’s presence to our lives.

A splendid idea.  Let’s do it.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Our family dispensed with gift exchange, so the stress of Christmas disappeared. We spoke of what we needed as opposed to wanted and realized though we are not wealthy, we lack none of the basics, we are blessed. This freed us up to make our donations, and as for the fun of shopping there is always the Wish Tree at Church for those in need.
    I wonder whether the seasonal shopping frenzy isn’t a cooperation with evil when it takes away from the joy of Advent, puts us in bad moods after dealing with crowds and parking lots? Buy buy buy spend spend spend more more more.
    Of the total number of people packed into any mall over the next month what percentage do you think are practicing Christians? The marketing and retail powers that be drive the madness – why do we allow them to define and shape our experience of Advent and Christmas?
    The exercise recommended in the above article is an excellent practice to get into year round as it puts a lot into perspective.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from your friend in Canada!

    • Well up here in Canada, Jean, you know the mercantile mantra: “Gimme gimme more more! Buy! Buy!Buy!” That doesn’t bother me as I’ve already been told I’m not a consumer although I do give gifts but within my means. I refuse to be swayed by glitz and glamour.Those shoppers may or may not be Christians driven by guilt to make sure their kids get as much as everyone else’s kid, and I suppose the individual merchant could be driven by greed. The fruits of the mercantile seed start in January when the bills come in and they pay for that stuff till next Christmas. Or the next one.
      Happy Thanksgiving to our American and Irish friends.


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