by David Carollo –
The month of November starts with the great feast of All Saints Day, which directs us to look to the many holy people who have been elevated to the altar and stand as examples of how we need to live. We have our favorite saints, those who we look up to, especially those whose lives reflect ours. People from all walks of life, those who lived in great virtue and some who were sinful but repented and did great things after turning back to God. Some years ago, the liturgical calendar was modified. Several suggested that this day be taken off those that were holy days of obligation. Gladly this did not happen.
Appropriately, we follow this solemnity with the day when we remember all the deceased. On All Souls Day my wife and I attended the evening Mass at our parish. Afterwards we joined the candlelight procession from the church to the adjacent parish cemetery, which was adorned with candles set throughout the graves. We attend this event annually as a remembrance of those who preceded us in death. Many in this place have been there for many years and some for a short period of time. Many were old and some were young. More importantly we focus on the reality that they have truly just transitioned from this life to the next. Purgatory is most certainly the first stop for the just. Few find their way directly to heaven. As only perfection can enter heaven the cleansing of purgatory is how the mercy of God works for us. As we left after the brief prayer service, Father directed us to find a grave without a candle and leave ours there. I paused for a moment hoping to be drawn to a particular grave. Immediately I looked down and saw not only the place to leave my candle, but the name of a new friend, someone to pray for.
Dedication to the Holy Souls in Purgatory
I was taught to pray for all the deceased as if they are in purgatory. I spoke one time with a priest who stated that he had attended “another canonization” the previous week. He was of course referring to a funeral, where it has become typical only to joyfully recall the life of the deceased person. No mention of the need to pray for the repose of that soul who most certainly is longing for the prayers of those in attendance. Certainly, we recall the life of an individual during the wake and reminisce with memories of our experiences, but our fondness for an individual calls us to continue to care for them in charity.
Throughout the month as always, it is an important thing to be dedicated to the holy souls. They need our help, and we need their help. We have the power to relieve them of their sufferings and they, as saved souls, have the heart of God and can obtain for us an understanding of what it takes to persevere on our pilgrim journey. If certain imperfections plague us on our journey of full conversion, those who overcame the same issues can guide us in perseverance. The greatest suffering that they endure is the understanding that they will not be fulfilled until their debt is satisfied. Our partnership with them reaffirms the reality of the communion of saints.
As the days get shorter and the leaves fall from the trees, we should think of how we are moving into a barren time of year when darkness exceeds light. As a child I would smell burning leaves, as it was a practice to clean the lawn and pile the leaves along the gutter of the street. My father, like all the men in the neighborhood would later burn the piles emitting the smell of autumn. Modern safety concerns have eliminated that practice, but it is stored in my memory banks as a sign of the season.
Gratitude Ends the Month of November
The month of November is special as it begins with the commemoration of those who came before and left a legacy of faith and perseverance both as recognized saints and as those preparing for entry into heaven. It concludes with the holiday founded in gratitude, the necessary attribute of holiness. As the month closes out, we prepare for Advent, which is the preparation for the great event of the Nativity. The gratitude that defines the month of November should prepare us for the season.
Many fond and profound memories define November. I find this month to be refreshing. One where we retool for the following year. The summer has passed and autumn is quickly fading as the early sunsets and colder temperatures remind us. From the inspiration of the saints who introduced the month, to the connection with the holy souls, to the gratitude of the Thanksgiving holiday, to the preparation for Advent, we fulfill November.
Food, family and football define the American celebration of Thanksgiving. All good things, but only by appreciating the basis of this great month can we properly appreciate this holiday. I wish you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.
God bless you and Mary keep you in her Immaculate Heart.
David M. Carollo is the Executive Director of the World Apostolate of Fatima USA/National Blue Army Shrine. He wrote this for his Voice of Fatima column.