A word from Pope Francis ~ “Let ourselves be reborn to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing.”
On this final Sunday in October, we celebrate (besides Halloween) the 31st Sunday in the Ordinary Time of the year. We hear Jesus speak about the two great commandments that sum up all other commandments. He doesn’t mess around – he cuts to the quick and points out what is most important in the big picture of our life with God. As the nights get longer and nature prepares for the coming winter, our Sunday Scripture readings invite us to look to the end times and our ultimate destiny with God. This is a very reflective time of year.
This week we celebrate two major Feast Days that are scheduled and celebrated back to back, sort of like Act 1 and Act 2 of a single two-act play. Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. It is one of the traditional six Holy Days of Obligation that are observed in our country. When the Feast falls on a Saturday or Monday, like this year, the obligation to attend Mass does not apply. On this day we take time to honor and remember all of the holy men and women of every age who have struggled with the same issues that we struggle with as we seek to live our lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus. They have now gone before us in faith and live with God. We look to them for encouragement and trust in the support of their prayers as we continue to make our journey through this life. Masses tomorrow will be celebrated at 7:00am, 8:15am with the school community, and at 12:05pm.
On Tuesday we celebrate the Second Act with the Feast of All Souls. We remember all of our personal, beloved dead and hold them in prayer. We will especially remember those whose names have been entered in our Parish Book of Remembrance (in the Narthex of the church) over the past few weeks.
It has been a special custom of our parish to celebrate an annual Memorial Mass on All Souls Day for those of our parish community who have died during the previous year. We are happy to continue this custom on Tuesday evening at 7:00pm. At this Mass we will pray for all those who have died in our parish during the past year. Following the homily, we will pray a Litany of our Beloved Dead and prayerfully read the names of each parishioner who has died during this past year. Family members are welcome to light a memorial candle for their deceased relative. It is a very powerful and moving time of prayer.
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. Our All Souls Day Masses remind us that we are still connected to our beloved dead through our faith and 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 now that both of my parents are gone. 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. There are no schedules for healing. 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. We are still experiencing different losses associated with the COVID pandemic. No one knew it would last this long. 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 family home or retirement. 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.
Besides becoming more aware of the losses we have felt during this pandemic, this time of year also 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 November, the Scripture readings remind us about the “end times.” All Saints Day, All Souls Day 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. 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. I hope these reflections have come at a good time for us.
Many things are happening in our parish now and in the weeks ahead. Please check elsewhere in our weekly bulletin for additional news. As always, may God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Fr. Jim Murphy