Three ancient feasts appear on our calendar this week: All Saints’ Eve (Halloween), All Saint’s Day, and All Souls Day. In today’s culture, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day could very well not exist at all. Halloween, the first celebration of the Saints, has been transformed into the second biggest commercial holiday of the year, with huge amounts of money spent on costumes, parties, and candy. Playfulness on Halloween is a good thing. Still, it’s valuable to get in touch with our Catholic roots as these special days approach.
In our own faith tradition, these three feasts are a foretaste of the fullness of time, when God will bring all creation home to heaven. In November, in the northern hemisphere, just as the harvest is finished, Christians keep our own harvest feast – God’s harvest – the harvest of the Saints and all our beloved dead. In November, the earth itself seems to fall asleep. The world around us mirrors our interior mood of gratitude and awareness of our predecessors in faith and life.
In another sense, November gives us a much needed opportunity to focus our attention on the tenacity of life. Life simply does not let go. We have only to think of perennials that we cut back to the ground in the fall, only to have them return with energy, beauty and profusion the following year.
So on these three days, let’s incarnate in ourselves what others who have gone before us in faith have done. Let’s try to live common lives and do common things with uncommon generosity and practice a little restraint and a little courage. Let’s take God more seriously and ourselves less so, take hope by the hand and never let go. Let’s care for others and treat them with dignity. And laugh at truly funny things.
During November, in your household:
- Make a list of your favorite saints: the ones who have inspired you with their unrelenting clinging to God, even in the face of disdain or threat.
- Put this list in a place where you’ll see it every day. Perhaps you’ll want to put it on a table, along with photos and mementos of your own beloved dead.
- Light a candle and reminisce. Tell stories. Ask the older generation for their recollections.
- Begin a winter’s worth of care for the lonely, the troubled, the homebound for whom November ushers in a season of bleakness without people at the door or on the phone.
On All Souls Day:
- Visit a cemetery – one nearby or one in which your deceased loved ones are buried.
- Make grave rubbings.
- Sit on a bench there and let your eyes linger over the tombstones which represent so many people who tried their best in life, or maybe not.
- Think about the words found on a very old tombstone in Leeds, England: "Those who love God never see each other for the last time."
November, more than any other, is a month of remembrance and gratitude for life around us and before us.
~Sister Joan Sobala