Earliest dawn is a rose. Watch a little longer, and the rose becomes a ruby. Before I even reach my morning coffee, I feel rich, bejeweled, the recipient of Nature’s wealth. I suppose I should walk with regal step throughout the coming day wearing my Dawn tiara.
November is my twelfth favorite month of the year. The sky is gray, the grass is brown, the trees are bare. With the change of the hour hand on a clock, the evenings are suddenly very, very dark. Clouds hang low, and I can almost feel their weight on my shoulders. The earth heaves a big sigh, acquiescing to the damp, dense despondency of lonely longing for sun and warmth and life. “Death and decay!” Nature demands.
Listen to November. What do you hear? Silence. No chirping birds or croaking frogs. It’s the silence of waiting, holding one’s breath in expectation. Or is it doubt-filled hopefulness as an atmosphere of sadness saturates frosty ground.
November is the time to visit cemeteries, pray for the deceased, light candles in remembrance. November feels like depression, but it’s not. It’s pressure. It’s the awareness of the millions in the “cloud of witnesses.” We don’t see the souls living in joy and grace, on that final lap heavenward bound. But we feel their presence. It’s like heavy air. Inhale deeply. You may whiff a heavenly scent.
Before Vatican II the Solemnity of Christ the King was the last Sunday in October. although now the Solemnity rightfully occurs on the last Sunday of the Church Year (this year November 26).
Kings and kingdoms may sound pompous, but the Gospels for Christ the King show a humble and generous king. In cycle A (this year) the King welcomes into the kingdom those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. Last year (Cycle C) the King from his cross welcomes a thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And in Cycle B Jesus tells Pilate that he has come into the world as a king to testify to the truth. Every year Jesus turns the focus away from himself and on his People. May humility, truth, and generosity characterize our world leaders, and may those virtues characterize us, so that we will be welcomed into the Kingdom.
The Church Year continually evolves. In the first couple centuries the anniversaries of the deaths of martyrs were remembered, and many of those early saints are still on our Church calendar, such as Saint Lawrence on August 10. The list gets longer with each new decade.
Robert Taft, S.J. suggested each parish church having its own calendar of local saints. Who has been known for their lives of prayer and good deeds? The day of their death becomes their birth into eternal life, which becomes their day on the parish calendar. You may like to start your own calendar for the family and friends and coworkers who have gone before you. Periodically flip through the pages and pray the names aloud. “Saint N.N., pray for us.” This becomes your own Litany of the Saints.
Saints have a past. One denied his Master, and another doubted Jesus’ resurrection. Some were scolded for their lack of faith. Some couldn’t control their anger or addictions. Hagiographers portray several as eccentric. Reading the lives of some saints, we may even feel sorry for their families, friends, or community members who had to put up with them! Yet we now pray to these hard-to-live-with saints. Why? They had a future. Somewhere buried beneath their obvious faults and failings were hearts centered on God. These saints kept following God’s will and leading the lives they were called to live. Their eyes were on the prize—life with God. We have a future, too. Come on, all you fellow sinners! Keep trekking! Rejoice and be glad! Our reward will be great in heaven (Mt. 5:12).
At every Mass we hear “Do this in memory of Me.” I doubt that the imperative “Remember Me” was necessary at the Last Supper. After all, the disciples were Jewish. Of course, there would be more Passovers and religious meals. Of course, they would never forget to remember Jesus when they gathered. Jesus was not asking the disciples to recall His words and deeds, as we might recall what we ate for breakfast.
The Mass doesn’t recall; it remembers and memorializes. If I recall I ate Cheerios for breakfast, it doesn’t put me in the presence of a bowl of Cheerios. But the anamnesis at Mass memorializes the Paschal Mystery, the whole life of Christ with emphasis on his death and resurrection. The life of Jesus was sacrificial, most poignantly experienced by his self-offering on the cross. The Father in union with the Spirit accepted the sacrifice of Jesus—his whole life and his death by crucifixion. The offering and the accepting are perpetual, on-going, never-ending, always a present reality. It is into this reality that we insert ourselves. Since I am included in the offering, God the Father accepts me, too. When I leave Mass, it’s my responsibility to do the “This.” The “this” is the whole life of Christ—his actions, words, thoughts, attitudes, everything. As I go about my day, I recall Christ and I remember my life in Him.
My mother died 20 years ago this week. Two decades that went faster than two decades of the family rosary when my favorite TV show was on. In one more decade I’ll be her age at the time of her death. Our Christian faith teaches that Mom lives on and on and on. Besides growing ever deeper in her loving, praising, thanking adoration in eternal life, she lives on and on in our family’s lives.
All children like to think that they are their parents’ favorite. Don’t tell my siblings, but I know I was Mom’s favorite. She was always looking out for me—probably because I needed her watchful eye more. She knew when I needed quiet time and time to talk deeply. Back in the 50s pudding was always cooked. I’d watch for the time when Mom set the pudding on the stove, and I knew she couldn’t move away for several minutes. Then I’d share the deep stuff of my mind and heart, and she listened attentively.
I know Mom and Dad listen attentively to my prayers asking for their intercession. Like Jesus Christ whom they now perpetually adore, they answer. All I need to do is ask. And they answer. Of course, I’m their favorite.
My home is situated on roads lined with the most colorful trees in Whitehouse, Ohio. Looking out my window or walking or driving down the road provides a panorama of spectacular colors. My throat catches an intake of surprise, although I always know the surprise will be coming. My throat can’t help itself. I’m always amazed and delighted to be so. Like knowing someone will jump out and say “Boo,” I am still taken aback a bit. Do the trees enjoy seeing my surprise? Perhaps so, because they provide a whole season and never tire of the game.
Autumn is that one-fourth of the year that often gives us all four seasons. September may feel like summer’s heat and humidity, October has the crispness we often think of when we think about autumn, November has spring-like rain, and December ushers in winter snow. Living in Ohio, I experience the changing seasons without having to wait for the next solstice or equinox.
Wayne Muller wrote: “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Do you find yourself thinking “I wish I had”? How do you finish that thought? What word fills in the blank? More time? More money? More leisure? More friends? If you suddenly obtain whatever is lacking and wish you had, will that make your life better? Perhaps. But then you may discover that having more actually requires more things on your list of needs. So maybe the secret is to be content with what we have.