November is such a somber month. We begin the month reverencing the thousands of saints proclaimed by the church, followed by a day to honor all the faithful departed with All Souls Day. We see the end of daylight saving time as we slip into the early darkness of winter and hear the reading at Mass talk about the end times as we approach the feast of Christ the King on Nov. 25. It seems, on surface level, we are at a time of darkness and death.
Actually, however, we are celebrating life.
Starting with All Saints Day, we honor the remarkable lives of men and women throughout history who have proclaimed the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ, some even giving their lives as martyrs. It gives us the opportunity to learn about the extraordinary things ordinary people did to further the message of love and peace, justice and obedience, belief and faith in our loving and almighty God.
On All Saints Day this year, I went to Mass in Venice, Florida. Before Mass, members of the third-grade class at the Catholic school had each chosen a saint to share two or three sentences about, why that saint was important and, with some help from their parents and school, designed a costume to illustrate this particular saint. What a delight it was to see these 27 children share with the congregation their insights!
All Souls Day followed the very next day, where we remembered the souls of our loved ones and how they inspired us with their daily witness of faith. This year was a very important year for our family since both of my husband’s parents went home to God a few short months apart. Their legacy of 67 years of marriage, their devotion to the church, teaching their family about faith, the precepts of the church, the catechism, the prayers and how to live their faith was evident as we gathered to say our farewells. It was also wonderful to witness their nine children, 19 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild celebrate their lives. Over one quarter of the church was Coddens!
It is important that we are reminded as we come to Mass throughout November that the world will pass away, but Jesus and his kingdom will never end.
A few choice readings from Mass this month include: “Fear the Lord, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them.” (Deuteronomy 6:2-3).
And, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).
But that promise can become blurred when we see so much strife in the world and a lack of respect for life. We see the bitter divide in our own country and others, and the vast differences in what issues are important, even around the family dinner table. We also see the lack of full participation in the life of the church, even when it was taught by outstanding parents.
So how do we counteract this division, apathy and lack of faith? Through prayer.
Does that sound like a cop-out, an answer that deserves a Phfff versus a Hurrah? No.
How we pray reflects what we believe and determines how we live. If we, as the body of Christ, gather to exalt Christ as King on Nov. 25, it must be to bring a profound conviction that Christ is Lord and Savior, King and Redeemer of the world. It means that we proclaim this reality, not only for an hour on Sunday, but see it as a real power in the world — greater than all the gold and wealth there is. It is the power of persistent Christ-like love. Prayer is our vehicle, our conversation with God, to help make us strong and focused.
In October, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, reminded us of the power of praying the Hail Mary:
“Like the brave warrior-women of ancient Israel — Deborah, Judith, and others — Mary was the one promised in the Garden of Eden to crush the head of the serpent. Catholic wisdom tells us that the mention of her name brings a chill wind to hell itself. Lucifer could not damage her from the moment of her Immaculate Conception to the time of her Assumption into heaven.”
Our simply rosary is more than a devotion to the Blessed Virgin. As we pray, using the beads and chain of the rosary itself, we reflect on our own character and hope for the world. By reflecting on the life of Christ and our Most Holy Mother’s experiences, we develop the courage to witness to the Gospel and conform our lives in obedience to God’s will.
Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.