At age 75, Archbishop Robert Rivas OP of Castries asserts he has reached the milestone of gratitude.
He described his tenure as Archbishop in the words of Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the winter of despair, it was the spring of hope.”
“I look ahead and I am hopeful. I stand at my milestone in time, and I am thankful for my life and all that God has done for me. I am a son of grateful parents and a grateful family. Filled with gratitude, my cup is overflowing,” Archbishop Rivas, who turned 75 years on June 7, 2021, wrote in his pastoral letter to the Church Gratitude in celebration of his golden jubilee of priesthood.
“This is my ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ to the Church I have revered and served for almost 14 years and where I have increased in wisdom, grace and understanding in my priestly vocation and life as a Bishop,” Archbishop Rivas said.
The opposite of gratitude is ingratitude, which corrodes one’s hearts and steals joy. Choosing gratitude on a daily basis, the Archbishop said, counteracts negativity, lack of appreciation and affirmation in one’s lives.
“Small, grateful acts every day can change our disposition towards others as well as our mentality and serve to uplift us. When we choose gratitude, we learn to appreciate our blessings and the worth and giftedness of others…. We need to build a culture of gratitude,” Archbishop Rivas said.
In a culture of gratitude, appreciation is shown for the smallest and most ordinary things. The word ‘thank you’ becomes ingrained and nothing is taken for granted. In a culture of gratitude, an attitude of gratitude is cultivated.
Gratitude, the Archbishop stressed, puts God at the centre of our lives.
“At age seventy-five, I am swimming in the ocean of gratitude. I thank God for the gift of a purposeful life…. I was born to be a priest. My life has been filled with priestly graces and, from a very young age, I found my comfort and solace in the heart of Jesus and the company of His Blessed Mother…. She shepherded me and guided me in my earliest vocational walk. On my ordination day, I traced my steps in the footprints of Jesus and have never looked back,” Archbishop Rivas said.
He shared that as he walked in those footprints, he listened with the attention of a disciple and learnt the qualities that shape a priestly life and vocation.
“I learnt to keep my gaze on Jesus— “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14: 6). In loving with an unconditional intention, I grew as a person: spiritually, emotionally and was not afraid to love and give of myself. Celibacy freed me to love and to be a sign and witness of Christ’s priestly love for the Church. Then I noticed that as I gave myself in service to others, my life was enriched, so I learnt to give with greater generosity.”
As a result of all these discoveries, God became his treasure and he learnt to trust God completely with his life. Now, he said, life has become an oblation, an offering, and a gift for others.
Retirement, Archbishop Rivas said, does not overwhelm him. “I am ready to go and to let go. This has been modelled for me by my predecessor who has been my mentor, for whom I have had the greatest regard and whose friendship I treasure. To take the next step in the journey; to go, requires faith and trust.”
He commented that as familiar doors close behind him, he is confident that God will open new doors ahead of him. Retirement, he opined, does not mean walking into a vacuum, or being confined to a holding room.
“I am beginning to realise that I will need a new set of keys for opening the new doors to a fuller life of grace ahead of me. I never thought that retirement could be exciting!” he said.
The Archbishop also shared he has written a Calypso which has helped him to reflect and be humorous about the journey ahead.