Get ready for the longest sentence in the history of sentences:
There is a proven study, backed up and often quoted by Jane Austen as well, that shows when someone loves us first and is the first to proclaim it- if we did not instantly and mutually return those feelings in the beginning- then it is gratitude that first takes root in the heart, and it is that very gratitude that produces love in return toward the person who proclaimed said feelings, for the mere reason that we are thankful that the person loved us first and that of all people in the world, they loved us. Does that make sense? This is actually a very hard concept to put to words. When I first heard this, it sounded quite shallow. To only love someone for mere gratitude for having liked US? “This person likes me… so… I should like them back.” But the more I pondered it, and read some more of Austen’s quotes, I could not deny the foundation of the claim, nor could I call it shallow. Why?
Because when I read Jane’s quotes, let them sink in, I marveled at how it was the very way Our Lord captivated my own heart. One of the first quotes I heard, taken from Jane Austen’s book Emma, was this:
“It’s a great deal better to choose than to be chosen, to excite gratitude than to feel it.”
Our Lord has the upper hand here, because He chooses and indeed excites the gratitude (something He alone can really only do, right? Since, you know, He is God). It is a great deal better for Him to choose, because He is Sovereign, and we are His creatures; Our Lord did not say “It was YOU who chose Me“. He does the choosing and I tend to relate this to hearing the call to be Christ’s bride or for men, being called to the priesthood, but I think it is more likened to the parable of the marriage feast and that is this: being chosen to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (the marriage supper of the Lamb). “Many are called but few are chosen” to attend this wedding.
Our Lord invites “many” but “few” are chosen to attend the Mass. That is, not “all” are Catholic in the world and thus, not “all” are present at the wedding feast of the Lamb (sadly). We wish “all” could be there, but even Our Lord reminds us that He shed His blood “for you and for many”. He did not say “for you and for all”. Not due to any lack of goodness on Our Lord’s part, but He does not force Himself. The best way we can show Our Lord this deep sense of gratitude is during the Mass itself, because we have done NOTHING to gain His love nor merited anything to be given a “reserved kneeler” at His sacrifice, and yet, we should pause and remind ourselves that we have been chosen to be present. That should automatically put us in a place of awe. We dedicate being “thankful” immediately after we receive His Precious Body in the Eucharist and if we forget to do so, because we are frail humans, our Mass Missal so graciously reminds us (see below image):
Last Sunday we read about the ten lepers, and the homily I heard consisted of the priest saying there are three ways we can glorify God which resembles the ONE leper who returned to thank Our Lord for curing him:
1.) Lead a life without sin.
2.) Have faith in Our Lord.
3.) Thank Him.
The priest said number three is the one that is most forgotten; and is. it. ever. How can we simply and properly show gratitude to the Blessed Trinity? The perfect example is that picture found above taken from our Mass Missal with the adoration of the Lamb where all are pictured bowing down in humble thanksgiving. All last week, beginning with that homily on gratitude, followed by my “stumbling” upon a gratitude video produced by a Jane Austen scholar with the “gratitude exciting love” quotes, led to a discovery I made, which I will share at the end of this post. For now, I want to prove more of my point with gratitude exciting love.
This Jane Austen scholar shared this thesis, used all of Austen’s quotes to prove her point, and then added how psychology has proven how someone loving us FIRST produces gratitude because we are appreciative and have a tendency to like people who like us. This might sound vain, but if we face this head on, how many of us find it easy to like someone back when they like us? And how hard it actually can be to like someone when they find fault with us? This is why even Our Lord said it is hard to love those who persecute us; well, it is also hard to love those who don’t take a liking to us. We can call this “human nature” tied to self-love, but we can also call it:
Reciprocal liking is the act of a person liking someone only upon learning or becoming aware of that person’s attraction to themselves. Reciprocal liking has a significant impact on human attraction and the formation of relationships.
Again, my first reaction to this was, “well that’s mean, self-centered and shallow” but when I recalled personal experiences after reading Jane Austen’s approach, I was left whistling, which of course led me to mentally say, “I feel a blog post comin’ on!” So, I already shared Emma’s gratitude quote, which is my favorite, but there are a few more examples taken from Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey:
Gratitude in Pride and Prejudice:
In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth rejects an offer of marriage to Mr. Darcy because she already has a prejudiced view of his character. Her first reply to his offer mentions gratitude when she says:
“In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now say thank you. But I cannot- I have never desired your good opinion and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly.”
Reciprocal liking is clearly not new; Lizzie acknowledged that in her proclamation with “an obligation that should be felt” for Darcy liking her. Yet, because she has already developed so “immoveable a dislike” to Mr. Darcy, she can’t bring herself to even say “thank you” because she did not feel the gratitude to begin with. Ironically enough, it is gratitude later that completely changes her heart when she sees how she got his character all wrong through the lenses of prejudice and by the end of the book, Austen says this about Lizzie’s new sentiments to Darcy:
“She thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression [we see this very gratitude, overtime in the course of the book, building up in her, because it was the foundation of her returned love to him]. It was gratitude; gratitude, not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him. If gratitude and esteem are good foundations for affection, Elizabeth’s change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty.”
How many of us can relate this to Our Lord, with, having fallen into sin (rejecting Him and His grace through sin) and yet, He still loves and forgives us through the sacrament of penance. The prayer at the end of the Divine Mercy Chaplet calls Our Lord’s mercy “endless” and treasury of compassion “inexhaustible”. If this does not excite your gratitude, then I don’t know what does! As such, that last sentence I underlined of Austen’s shows how “gratitude” and “esteem” as a foundation stone are neither “improbable nor faulty”. Which not only shows how this notion is anything BUT shallow, but that gratitude is a powerful thing; especially for we Catholics. Gratitude is a virtue and if it is the base premise of our prayer life, that begins to build this selfless love, then indeed it is not faulty- it is priceless!
Gratitude in Persuasion:
Captain Wentworth: “I confess that I do think there is a disparity, too great a disparity, and in a point no less essential than mind. I regard Louisa Musgrove as a very amiable and sweet-tempered girl, and not deficient in understanding, but Captain Benwick is something more. He is a clever man, a reading man; and I confess, that I do consider his attaching himself to her with some surprise. Had it been the effect of gratitude, had he learnt to love her, because he believed her to be preferring him, it would have been another thing. But I have no reason to suppose it so. It seems, on the contrary, to have been a perfectly spontaneous, untaught feeling on his side, and this surprises me.”
Captain Wentworth, in his above quote, shows the reader here how liking someone due to gratitude is a “normal” and honorable thing; we see words connected with gratitude in that sentence such as “learnt” and “taught”, as if to say that the person who likes us can teach us to like them back. Who does that sound like? None other than Our Lord. We see how the one who inspires gratitude (in this case with Our Lord) is the one in the better position, because the one who inspired it in the first place (God) is on the receiving end of that gratitude having been felt. Hence, why I started out with that inspiring quote from Emma, where we see how it’s better to be the one to choose and excite gratitude, precisely because the one doing the choosing is the one who has the satisfaction of teaching and conquering the heart.
*This is kind of a random sidenote here, but notice in the spiritual life with Our Lord or even those called to the sacrament of marriage, how the role of “teaching and governing” the heart of a beloved, should fall to the man. Perfect example of this: do we ever see women proposing to men? What a horrible mental image (though today, anything is possible- grimaces) Women are meant to be led and men are meant to lead. This does not mean we are not equal; nay, but we have different roles. Our Lady, though the perfect Immaculate Conception, was led by Saint Joseph. In a dream, the angel appeared to Saint Joseph to take Mary and the Divine Child to Egypt, because his was the position of loving authority. Period, end of argument. Trust me when I say, women want to be led, loved and conquered virtuously. But today, men are not men.*
Gratitude in Northanger Abbey:
When I first read this work and I saw how it was the heroine Catherine who excited gratitude and affection in Henry Tilney, I was confused with this below quote and it made me shutter at first, but I will help clear Henry’s name and character directly following the head-scratching statement:
“Henry was now sincerely attached to Catherine, though he felt and delighted in all the excellencies of her character, and truly loved her society, I must confess that his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought. It is a new circumstance in romance, I acknowledge, and highly derogatory of a heroine’s dignity; but if it be as new in common life, the credit of a wild imagination will at least be all my own.”
At first glance, this quote seems to back up my original claim of this notion of gratitude exciting love to be vain and shallow, because it appears to be “derogatory” as Austen claimed. However, as she said in Elizabeth Bennet’s case, this notion is neither “improbable nor faulty”, because when the reader sees the noble character of Henry Tilney from beginning to end of the novel, which is all excellence, is not faulty of someone to begin to form an attachment through thankfullness (if that is a word). His mere knowledge of Catherine first liking him merely opened his eyes, immediately formed his gratitude, which led him to study all the “excellencies of her character” and by the end of the book, like Lizzie Bennet, Henry’s love is nothing short of constant, true and virtuous. This would not have been the case if gratitude did not play a part.
So we have:
2.) Esteem. Esteem still plays a part, because we have to actually like the person. We saw how gratitude did not work with Lizzie Bennet when Darcy initially proclaimed his love, because she loathed him in the beginning. But the beautiful part about P&P is how the reader was able to see the growth of gratitude, overtime, turn to love. It was a process, and a glorious one!
3.) Teasing. I think this one is one of the most important. I can think of two instances in my own spiritual life where Our Lord played very hilarious teasing episodes on me, which of course only deepen my esteem and gratitude, and before I bring my conclusion home, I will show readers how, through Henry Tilney, teasing plays a role:
Henry: “What are you thinking of so earnestly?” said he, as they walked back to the ballroom; “not of your partner, I hope, for, by that shake of the head, your meditations are not satisfactory.”
Catherine colored, and said, “I was not thinking of anything.”
Henry: That is artful and deep, to be sure; but I had rather be told at once that you will not tell me.”
Catherine: Well then, I will not.”
Henry: Thank you; for now we shall soon be acquainted, as I am authorized to tease you on this subject whenever we meet, and nothing in the world advances intimacy so much.”
The first story: Both instances of Our Lord teasing me were in Carmel. I have shared this story in The Practice of the Presence of Mary where I spoke about all the plays we were doing and I kept getting cast as a “weirdo” (truly) and I was already experiencing the good old Carmelite “dark night” and I thought, “I have been feeling so low lately, I think I am going to pray and simply ask for a dignifying role this time, something to lift my spirits! Surely God will grant me this; it’s a small request”. Sister Mary Guadalupe came up to me with her clipboard and had a look of regret on her face, since… she was not the one who chose the cast, but delivered the results… she pointed to my role on the sheet, and as my eyes adjusted, I read: “fat kid on a beach building a sandcastle.” One sister in the monastery once said, “God exists and He loves me” when she relayed how God answered her prayers, and I said to myself, “God exists and He hates me!”
The second story is one that makes me laugh every time I think of it. I had a terrible morning, and I was being bratty in my interior even to Our Lady, saying things like, “I ain’t smiling today; it’s not happening.” Right before Terce, we put on our Mass veils and mantles. That morning I was first psalmist on the major choir side, which means you must go to the center squares in the choir to intone with the second psalmist from the minor choir. I think all of heaven was laughing that morning (all the sisters in choir were). Every sister has a mantle that measures to the exact length of the scapular, and the scapular is measured two to three fingers above the ground more or less. This is different for every sister depending on their height. I am 5’9 and the second psalmist that morning was around 5’2.
I accidentally put on her mantle that morning; her seeing that I took hers by mistake purposely took mine. As Divine Office began and we approached the psalmist squares, I still had the pout on my face determined that “nothing will make me smile today”, not at all knowing what I was about to notice. I looked up at sister after we approached the psalmist squares, and I saw her looking down with an abnormal smile on her face. I thought, “well, at least SHE is happy”.
I proceeded to look down past our breviary and I saw something odd. My mantle, which usually is two or three fingers above the ground, was at my kneecaps. I looked up at sister and noticed how her mantle was practically a long train you would see on a wedding dress, dragging on the floor. When she met my eyes, I lost it. We both lost it. The entire choir of nuns lost it. And when it was our turn to intone, we both couldn’t get the words out. Mother Prioress had to do it for us, and she immediately had us leave and switch our mantles. Our Lord not only made me smile that day, He made me laugh.
Esteem, gratitude and even a little humor are things rooted in the Divine and they go hand in hand. What did I discover this week, after learning all of this? That my name “Jade” in Hebrew means “thankful”. My jaw dropped, because I discovered this on the feast of Mary’s Nativity and I happened to read in advance on the feast of Mary’s Holy Name, how like Our Lord, just days following BOTH of Their Nativities, we celebrate Their Holy Names. Our Lord’s meaning Savior and Mary’s name in Hebrew meaning “Lady” or “sovereign”, which Saint Andrew’s Missal says, “whence we call Jesus Our Lord, we say of Mary that She is Our Lady” because They are both noble in BIRTH and in NAME.
I always knew Jade was a mere “precious stone”, but as I found myself providentially learning about gratitude all week, and we see how our names signify our individual mission, I could think of no better time to have made this discovery, during a season in my life where I have MUCH to be thankful for and was able to reflect on all the times it was Our Lord Who did the choosing and was the One to conquer my heart and excite gratitude. I have nothing to do BUT be “thankful” to Him and Our Lady by spending the rest of my life in “thanksgiving”. Remember, as Father Chad Ripperger said, Hebrew has been made sacred along with Latin and Greek, because when it was engraved in the cross, it became associated to Our Lord’s Passion; thus, consecrating it. Do you know the meaning of YOUR name in Hebrew? If you do not, I would go find out and then show Our Great God and Our Lady your sheer gratitude, that it was not YOU who chose Them, but Them that chose you.
End of blog post
Favorite Jane Austen books in order:
1.) Persuasion. I describe this book in Jane Austen’s phrase as “loveliness itself”.
2.) Pride and Prejudice. Another “loveliness itself” book.
3.) Northanger Abbey. This book is lighthearted, fun and simply delightful. It is a satire and comedy; to use Austen’s phrase, this story is a “happy thought indeed!” However, if you are new to this story, for first time readers I recommend the audible adaptation by Anna Lee, where actors play the parts and you can hear tea sets clanking in the background, fire crackling and carriages bustling. It really makes the reader feel like they are IN the story. Anna Lee has these adaptations for all of Austen’s work on audible under “the Jane Austen Collection” and they make me smile.
4.) Sense and Sensibility. The valuable lessons in this book are endless. I cannot exactly pinpoint what I love about it, but it is a gem.
5.) Emma. Believe it or not but Emma, a known favorite to many, is one of my least favorites. To use another one of Austen’s expressions, it is “barely tolerable I suppose” to read. There are some wonderful quotes and valuable lessons, but the book simply does not grab my attention like the others.
I am not including Mansfield Park on the list, because that book was hard enough to read one time; I only read it to say I have gone through all six of Jane Austen’s books, but every moment was a torment. Do not put yourself through that! It is not redemptive suffering by any means. And to bring home my Austen expressions, it is “the last book in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to read.”