November is the time in the calendar year that is the end and the beginning for the Church. It’s the end of one liturgical year cycle and oftentimes is the beginning of the new liturgical year. There’s much that the Church feeds us during this month.
The month starts out, November 1st, with the most appropriate feast there is when considering the end: the Solemnity of All Saints. The goal for all Christians is to become a saint, that is to be face-to-face with God for all eternity. This celebration is for all those in heaven — both known and unknown. Some may be our ancestors! In 20 generations, which would be about 400 years, we each have approximately one million ancestors. Have you ever considered seeking intercessory prayer from one of your great grandparents or another ancestor? If you’re not comfortable reaching out to unknown family members, there are plenty of saints from which we can ask assistance. This month is a great time to pray a novena to our patron saint or a saint that we admire and would like to emulate. Even if there is no official novena prayer, praying an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be asking for their intercession over the course of 9 days during the month is a wonderful way to focus precious prayer time.
Hot on the heels of the saints, the Church celebrates All Souls day on November 2nd. This day is for all those in purgatory who are being cleansed of the stain of sin. This is our opportunity to pray for the ones who have come before us, both family and friends, and to offer charitable deeds on their behalf. While not obligatory on this day, Mass is the most perfect prayer we can offer and participate in, and a wonderful way to remember those we love. This opportunity is a reflection in two aspects: those that have gone before us, and ourselves who may one day also require the same purification process. If we take the time in prayer to focus on how we can improve our relationship with God, we can begin to make the necessary changes now. Even St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians urged, “Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:2)
Preparation for the end continues in the daily Mass readings and especially on Sundays. The Gospel themes include a discussion of the resurrection and the destruction of the Temple before the final feast of Christ the King, which is celebrated on the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The readings remind us that although we are living in a tangible world, our destiny is beyond what we can experience with our senses. They are not meant to scare us, but to prompt us to actively prepare ourselves for what’s next to come, no matter what stage of life we’re in, as we do not know the hour or the day when we will be called by Jesus to eternity. So how can we prepare for the unknown? The mystery of eternity seems daunting and it’s understandable if we want to ignore it and not dwell on it. Yet the best preparation is a relationship with God, and continuing to practice trusting in Him and His will for us. This is done many times a day in the choices we make. The celebrations of these feasts along with the scripture readings for these last weeks of the liturgical year give us the opportunity to reflect and focus on our relationship with God with a special emphasis on our eternal salvation rather than our day-to-day needs.
The Church gives us the time to prepare ourselves for eternity, to take inventory and resolve to make necessary changes in our lives. The result will be a stronger relationship with God and allows us to “ring in” the new liturgical year with open hearts and minds.