In a recent speech, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia reminded Catholics that in troubling times…
Remember your death and call to sainthood
I love fall. There are not many things I love more than being able to curl up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of tea with the window cracked just enough to let a light breeze filter through my apartment. Add some gently scented candles (mulled cider is a personal favorite), and I’ve about described my perfect Saturday morning.
Last year I felt spoiled with fall. Having moved two hours south and east of where I grew up, the climate in my new Indiana town was a bit different than what I was accustomed to. Maybe it was a lucky year, but fall blew me away. The colors, the temperature, the natural slowing down of life — there were plenty of perfect Saturday mornings.
October in the Midwest is beautiful — that is until winter winks at us and delivers damp days or, worse, unannounced snow flurries. Some of you readers out in the mountains are laughing as you probably already have experienced a true snowfall. My point is that fall often ends abruptly, and as November knocks on our door, the dreariness of dead leaves and cold temperatures can alter our mood dramatically. Gone are the happy days leading up to pumpkin carvings and toasting seeds in the oven. Now we enter an in-between season where we either wish to get it over with and jump headfirst into winter or hold on to the remnants of fall.
November starts with two feast days that help us orient our thoughts toward reality. On Nov. 1, we celebrate All Saints Day, where we honor the Church triumphant who have succeeded in entering the kingdom and are now rejoicing before God in all his splendor. As a holy day of obligation, we attend Mass to remember these virtuous men and women, glorifying God in these saints who have paved the way for those of us still on earth.
Then we take a more somber turn on Nov. 2 as we remember the faithful departed on All Souls Day. Unlike the day before, where the priest wears his white vestments, All Souls Day is one of the few times of the year where clergy can don black vestments. To most observers, the choice in color might be a bit unnerving, but it is a fitting reminder of death — of those who have gone before us and our own inevitable exit from this life. But it should not indicate despair, for as Catholics, death should lead to hope in life eternal, free from the pain and sorrow of sin. Funerals and celebrations such as All Souls Day acknowledge the temporary nature of this life and remind us of our true home — in heaven with our God who loves us.
November is also the last full month in the liturgical calendar as Advent begins a new liturgical year. Yes, it’s hard to believe this season of repentance and anticipation is approaching so fast, but that is why these two November feast days should give us pause. As the world around us starts to die, we remember our own death (memento mori) and the death of our loved ones. We are encouraged to recognize our humanity, to draw deeper into prayer for ourselves and our loved ones, both those on earth and those in purgatory, especially those who may have no one else to pray for them.
But we also remember that we are called to be saints. The men and women that we celebrate on All Saints Day spent their lives in anticipation of heaven. Their legacy continues through their prayers for us and through the testimonies they left behind.
As we transition into November, as we approach Advent and a new liturgical year, take time to slow down. Take an honest look at your life and ask yourself if you are closer to God than you were a year ago. What changes can you make now in order to make your next year of faith better than before? Don’t let the season slip by you. Curl up with your Bible or journal, grab a warm drink, and let God speak to your heart, directing you to the saint he calls you to be in this upcoming year.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor.