Thanks: thought or prayer?

During a recent homily a missionary priest indicated that when he says “thank you,” he says a prayer for the people he is thanking.  

I’ve often felt the phrase thank you was too small to express what I felt when I said it. It’s so simple and easy, but what does it mean? Looking up thanks in the dictionary for a more precise meaning resulted in a language journey. First stop is gratitude, but that only explained it as being grateful. At the second stop, there were several explanations:

  1. Appreciative of benefits received.
  2. Affording pleasure or contentment; pleasing.
  3. Pleasing by reason of comfort supplied or discomfort alleviated.

While this definition covered much more depth for the expression, the true discovery is in the etymology that grateful comes from the Latin, gratus, or grace.

Coming to the last stop of the language journey, the etymology for grace is from Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin gratia, from gratus; akin to Sanskrit gṛṇāti meaning he praises. So it seems that this Sanskrit word, which is one of the oldest languages around, has made its way into English with praise at its root. As Catholics, our praise  should always start and end with God. Logic would then reason out that every time I used the word thanks, I was really praising God for the actions of the people I am thanking. Wow, thanks goes much further than I thought it did!

Now that I know the history of the word thanks, I can be more confident in what it expresses. However, for those truly amazing circumstances, I think saying a prayer along with the word will convey appreciation to God for His blessings received through the hands of those around me. One thing I am certain of: we can never give too much thanks and praise to God. And thanks be to God!

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