Paul Moore: ‘Dying of gratitude’ is better than living as a Gloomy Gus

In My Father’s House Paul Moore

This column is dated. I started writing it on Thanksgiving Day, immediately after our parish priest’s Thanksgiving Day Mass homily. There was a line in his homily that struck me at the time and has stuck with me ever since.

First, Father set the stage, talking about how gratitude is the antidote to a pervading spirit of grumpiness that’s affecting individuals and our society today.

The word “antidote” is defined by Google as “a medicine taken or given to counteract a particular poison.” Father pointed out that as a society today, we seem justified — even proud — of the poison of grumpiness. It’s as if we assume superiority over those misguided souls who are merely happy.

My wife pointed out that an elderly priest she frequented for confession often reflected in his post-confession counsel to her that if we ever tried to count all our blessings, we would never stop. St. Paul was similarly straightforward in his direction to the church at Thessalonica: “Always seek what is. . . . Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18).


Many have questioned (privately, or aloud) the practicality of ceaseless prayer and thanksgiving given the demands of daily life, but why not give it the old college try? Is there a better way to live than in a perpetual state of conscious gratitude? Gratitude is the great flipper of circumstances. Whatever happens — even if it’s not so great on a worldly level — causes us to turn toward him “thanks first” and then implore, “OK, Lord, what now?”

Call me Paul-y-anna, but seen from a positive perspective, there’s really no end of things for which to be thankful.

For instance, martyrdom has come to mean something negative in our language. People say, “Don’t act like a martyr,” in reference to someone who’s putting it on a little bit to make other people feel sorry or guilty. But Father pointed out that real-life martyrs are not like that. Quite the opposite. They are so appreciative of Jesus’s giving up His life for them on the cross that they simply want to imitate His example of love.

That’s when Father said the line that floored me, “They died of gratitude.”

That’s the same attitude Jesus tells us should be the hallmark of anything we do in His name: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. . . . Anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting. . . . And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

If I am claiming to be doing “something beautiful for God” (Mother Teresa), the Lord does not want me to be a “Gloomy Gus.”

Incidentally, Gloomy Gus — to whom my mother would often compare me when I moped as a child — was a character in an early 20th century comic strip who never smiled because he never found a good reason. In contrast, Gus’s brother Happy Hooligan lived in similarly poor circumstances, but with an attitude that lived up to his name.

Call me Paul-y-anna, but seen from a positive perspective, there’s really no end of things for which to be thankful.


As I listened to Father’s homily, I was wearing my old two-tone brown coat liner. That old coat liner is my favorite piece of clothing. It zips down the front and can be worn over a sweater. It’s just one of the most comfortable things I’ve ever had. But the thing is, I used to hate it. That liner originally lived inside a winter coat I never liked. While heavy, the coat somehow managed to avoid being warm. I was grumpy about that, and because every time I pulled it on, the liner used to slip around inside the coat sleeves, riding up. The outer shell of that coat is long gone, but I held on to the liner, and I’m glad every time I wear it.

There’s a lesson there for me in other areas. If I persevere through irritations, there can be — wait for it — a silver (brown) liner.

I’m grateful as well that I didn’t lose this column a minute ago. I kicked something under the computer desk while writing the last paragraph and the screen went dark. I booted back up and checked the file, but I hadn’t saved anything. Then I saw a little Word icon at the bottom of my screen. I hadn’t pressed save, but Microsoft had temporarily preserved a practically intact version from only a moment or two before the black out.

Grumpy was one of the Seven Dwarfs, but the attitude is corrosive and dwarfs God’s love in us. Dated or not, with His help I’m going to try and drag this Thanksgiving Day feeling with me throughout the new year.

PAUL THOMAS MOORE is lead coordinator — communications and media relations with Illinois Central College. He and his wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at

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