We enter the month of November this weekend with the celebration of the powerful feasts of All Saints and All Souls (Monday). Since the major Feast of All Saints falls on a Sunday this year, it replaces what would have been the celebration of the 31st Sunday in the Ordinary Time of the Year. Celebrating these feasts at this time of year could not be more appropriate. Gone are the warm summer months and the growing season. As the world of nature around us gradually dies in preparation for winter, we remember those who have gone before us in faith and who now live with God just beyond our reach. We will celebrate our annual Parish Memorial Mass at 7:00pm on Monday evening. There we will remember our beloved dead and especially our fellow parishioners who went home to God during the past year. We will light memorial candles as the names of each of our parish deceased are prayerfully read. While we are still connected to our beloved dead through our faith, our community celebration assures us that we do not grieve alone.
Grief is one of the strongest feelings we experience in life. Somewhere I heard grief described as “love not wanting to let go.” That made a lot of sense to me then and even more so during these past few years when I experienced the deaths of my parents. Grief can be expressed in many different ways, often with physical, emotional or spiritual reactions. While some speak of grief as a staircase with steps leading up to our goal of resolving it, my experience is that it is more like a roller coaster with a number of ups and downs, highs and lows, and a lot of curves. Some lows are predictable, like the holiday season, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other significant dates. At other times an unexpected low comes out of nowhere. While time alone heals, there are no schedules. We may experience many slips and spills before our feet are on firm ground again. Often it may be sixteen to eighteen months before we begin to sense that the dips on the roller coaster are less intense.
While we might be most aware of grief when we experience the death of someone we love, grief is the normal reaction to any loss we experience in our lives. Have you ever had a time when you felt that something was not quite right in your life? A closer look may reveal that a change or a loss of one kind or another has happened and you were grieving – without even being aware of it. Besides the death of a loved one, common losses can include a miscarriage or experience of infertility, a separation or divorce, an experience of theft or the loss of a cherished pet. Losses might lurk in personal or family changes like mid-life, an empty nest, selling the home, retirement and aging. Other losses might be in times of transition, like graduation, a transfer or job/career change. Something familiar is no longer available to us. Sometimes our goals and dreams change when we realize that something we hoped for or dreamed of is never going to happen. Losses are all around us and the normal way we deal with them is to grieve. The same dynamics that are present when we grieve a major loss like a death are also present when we grieve the more common everyday losses that we face. The first step in grief, though, is to recognize that we are grieving.
This time of year seems to invite us to be more aware of our losses than others. As our Liturgical Year comes to a close at the end of the month, the Scripture readings remind us about the “end times.” All Saints Day today, All Souls Day tomorrow and Veterans Day on November 11th invite us to remember those in the past. The seasons are changing and nature is preparing for the death of winter. The nights are longer and the days are shorter. As we pull indoors, we are invited to ponder larger matters. If something doesn’t feel just right, look for a loss of one kind or another. Chances are that some are present, and with them, the need to grieve. Perhaps the most helpful thing we can do is to name our grief for what it is so that we can work through it accordingly. And our faith offers us some good news here – the same Lord who saw us though the losses we experienced in the past will see us through our present ones.
During the week of October 18th, we celebrated our opening Masses of the Faith Formation Year and enrolled all of 2nd Graders, both Faith Formation and St. Isidore School, as Candidates for First Eucharist. They brought their signed Enrollment/Commitment forms with them to each Mass. As I celebrated some of the Faith Formation Masses, I reflected that those Masses celebrate the two most important things we do as a parish – offer our praise and thanks to God in the Eucharist and go out and share (teach) what we have received. Everything else we do as a parish flows from those two most important actions of our parish – giving thanks in the Eucharist and then being sent out to share (teach) what we have received.
Each autumn we conduct our Stewardship Commitment Sunday. This will take place next Sunday, November 8th. This year the Stewardship Council has recommended that we commit to all three aspects of Stewardship (Time, Talent & Treasure) on the same weekend. Please look for our Stewardship Commitment materials in the mail this week and bring them with you next weekend.
One expression of our Stewardship of Time is the time we return to God in prayer. Every First Friday of the month we have Adoration of the Eucharist in the church from 7:30am Friday over night through 8:00am on Saturday. It is a wonderful opportunity to experience quiet, personal prayer in the presence of the Lord. The First Friday of November is this week, November 6th. Please consider stopping by the church any time between 7:30am Friday and 8:00am Saturday and staying for as long as you are able, be that 10, 20, 30 minutes or an hour.
As we mark the seasonal time change to Central Standard Time this morning, the beauty of autumn is quickly fading as the leaves drop from the trees. The earth is preparing for winter and our Scripture readings will turn our focus upon ultimate destiny with God. It is time to focus on the truly important things. May we do so as best as we can. As always, may God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy