Recently I was having dinner with a friend who spoke to me about Tadeusz Dajczer’s book The Gift of Faith.
My friend had found this among the most startling and edifying spiritual books he’d read. In particular, he had been struck by the inclusion of St. Bernadette’s “Testament of Gratitude.”
Written shortly before her death from illness at a young age, my friend initially thought this “testament” was rather sarcastic and facetious.
“But then, with wonder, I realized that she was serious – she was really thanking God for everything miserable about her life,” my friend told me.
Of course, my curiosity was piqued and I searched for this “Testament of Gratitude” of my confirmation patron saint.
Here it is:
- For the poverty in which my mother and father lived, for the failure of the mill, all the hard times, for the awful sheep, for constant tiredness, thank you, my God!
- For lips, which I was feeding too much, for the dirty noses of the children, for the guarded sheep, I thank you!
- Thank you, my God, for the prosecutor and the police commissioner, for the policemen, and for the harsh words of Father Peyramale!
- For the days in which you came, Mary, for the ones in which you did not come, I will never be able to thank you…only in Paradise.
- For the slap in the face, for the ridicule, the insults, and for those who suspected me for wanting to gain something from it, thank you, my Lady.
- For my spelling, which I never learned, for the memory that I never had, for my ignorance and for my stupidity, thank you.
- For the fact that my mother died so far away, for the pain I felt when my father instead of hugging his little Bernadette called me, “Sister Marie-Bernard”, I thank you, Jesus.
- I thank you for the heart you gave me, so delicate and sensitive, which you filled with bitterness.
- For the fact that Mother Josephine proclaimed that I was good for nothing, thank you. For the sarcasm of the Mother Superior: her harsh voice, her injustices, her irony and for the bread of humiliation, thank you.
- Thank you that I was the privileged one when it came to be reprimanded, so that my sisters said, “How lucky it is not to be Bernadette.”
- Thank you for the fact that it is me, who was the Bernadette threatened with imprisonment because she had seen you, Holy Virgin; regarded by people as a rare animal; that Bernadette so wretched, that upon seeing her, it was said, “Is that it?”
- For this miserable body which you gave me, for this burning and suffocating illness, for my decaying tissues, for my de-calcified bones, for my sweats, for my fever, for my dullness and for my acute pains, thank you, my God.
- And for this soul which you have given me, for the desert of inner dryness, for your night and the lightening, for your silences and your thunders, for everything.
- For you-when you were present and when you were not—thank you, Jesus.
We need not wait until the end of our lives to compose such a countercultural list.
This is a spiritual exercise for any season of life. As Tadeusz Dajczer says, “Only a person who has faith is able to be grateful for everything.”
Perhaps it can equally be said that only a person who is able to be grateful for everything is able to have an enduring faith.