For many of us, November is a very somber time. It is, after all, the traditional month of “holy souls,” particularly all the faithful departed that are not celebrated as saints—we pray and beg God’s merciful hand on them in a special way during this month.
It is why we remove the usual Book of Prayer Intentions and replace it, for this month only, with the Book of the Deceased. One question often asked of me is “Can I put my loved one’s name in the book again this year?” And the answer is “Of course you can!” I certainly do.
It is for this reason that we celebrate our annual Memorial Mass, to light candles for and pray for and remember in a special way those of our parish and our families who have died in the last twelve months. Everyone is invited, of course, but we hold those most recently departed in special remembrance.
We give thanks, as well, for their lives and impact on us; we pray that their influence has been positive and strong in our own lives. In this way we honor our Veterans who risked their lives for our and the world’s freedom—it’s also a day to remember ALL those who continue to serve our nation in this way.
We are coming to the end of our liturgical and calendar years, and the anchor of this month is, of course, Thanksgiving. Let’s be honest: these days we are a fractured nation, politically. If politics was once defined as the art of compromise, we have sadly become an a-political nation. After all, it’s rarely principles that divide us so intensely; rather, it is policies that (we hope) will best preserve and implement those principles.
But we can at least agree that a dinner with friends and family (and, often, a dinner of service to the less fortunate) is a way of celebrating the goodness of heart that marks Americans. We want to be, in the words of the British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: “…good, great and joyous, beautiful and free.” Thanksgiving is the one civic holiday a year in which almost all points of disagreement and division can be dropped for the sake of peace. There is one major exception to this: it’s also the weekend of the Iron Bowl! Oh, well—the exception (I hope!) proves the rule.
In spite of the disagreements and sense of disappointment and thoughts of our defects, there is still so much to remember, so much for which to be thankful in America! And for our Church, as well, with the scandals and the terrible throwing of insults across social media for those that agree or disagree with a particular pastoral posture or theological interpretation, nevertheless we have much to be thankful for (and this is, after all, the word from the Greek that gives us “Eucharist”)—first, last, and centrally: the life and teachings, the death and resurrection, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God who has given us the victory!