Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Finding Reasons to Congratulate

A columnist writing on spiritual themes in the Catholic Times recalls a man  who came to see him once a month. He had little joy in life and no passion for anything and would continually find fault with others, with his family and was down on himself, as well.  The columnist did not hear from him for 6 months and then he received a call that he was coming to see him with his wife.

"My husband has changed a great deal, hasn't he?" was the first thing the wife said. And then the husband asked his wife if he could be alone with the priest for awhile. As soon as she left the room he grabbed the  hand of the columnist and started to cry. thanking him profusely. The columnist didn't know what in the world it was all about.

Six months ago during the last meeting he suggested to the  man that he select a word and during the day meditate on the word. He said he would but it was not said with any enthusiasm. That evening when he returned home, he saw next to the TV a wrapped package on the nearby table.  He asked his wife what it was and she  simply said it was a gift she received at church. Picking up the package, he saw a holy card with the word congratulations on the front of the card. He read it over and over again. Although a common expression it now brought tears to his eyes and the word kept reverberating in his head and heart.

That word was a great inspiration to him. He began to see everything and everyone with this word in mind: his  family, his work, his own self, his wife and daughter--everything was  deserving congratulations. He asked his wife for the holy card and pasted it on the wall of the bedroom.  On leaving the bedroom he would repeat the word to himself.

His family, those at work, everyone and everything as a reason were occasions for him to have a congratulatory attitude. His whole life had changed, he said, because of that one word. The columnist admitted to having a light-hearted chuckle as he finished the column by congratulating himself.

As we know, life is a gift but for many different reasons we are not conscious of what we have received and not ready to congratulate ourselves and others--thankful for the gift. Analyzing the Chinese characters for  the Korean word 'Chuka Ha' (congratulations), we see what the ancients saw in the first word: a person at an altar petitioning heaven, and 'Ha' adds   something material to the mix. It is a very realistic rendering of what we mean by congratulations  even today. We ask for joy for the one we congratulate and show it by some outward sign.  Congratulations are rarely out of place. 

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