November can be a very difficult month and yet it also has the potential to be a most rewarding month, at least from a spiritual point of view.

I am inclined to brace myself for November. In the same way that we might get the flu injection or take extra vitamins as a buffer to the germs of winter, I find myself doing a few spiritual press ups as we step into the ‘month of the dead’!

In terms of our spiritual life November is serious business. It’s no accident that the first two days of this memory ladened month remind us of the saints who are now in heaven and the souls who are not there yet, and in that order. All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

The saints referred to here are the big ones, yes. The spiritual giants: Teresa, Francis, Bridget, Bernadette, Pio and so on. However it also refers to the little saints, the saints with a small ‘s’, the deserted wife, the heartbroken mother, the bereft widower, all the uncanonised ones, my great aunt Susan and Uncle Harry. Ma and Da. Home and dry. Safe. Happy. At peace.

What about your own crowd? Who would you reckon, of your family, is now at one with the Lord? Could you name your families ambassadors at the Heavenly Court? Maybe think and pray about this. Especially pray about it. You might be surprised at the whisperings of the Holy Spirit in this regard. Our wisdom is no match for God’s and of course it’s no accident that we are repeatedly, and strongly, reminded not to judge each other.

As I said I see it as a busy month spiritually and this is precisely because of the fact that November is the month when the Church specifically asks us to be mindful of those who have gone before us. I find it is a great time to remember, to remember and give thanks. To take time to do this can be very rewarding. When I do this I try not just to focus on the more obvious people in my life, for which I am eternally grateful, such as my parents, but to acknowledge all the little acts of kindness and generosity of which I was often the recipient of. I think it’s true to say that generally we are not thankful enough.

November is a great time to become more deeply aware that our loved ones are just a breath away, behind the curtain, in the next room. It might be a good time to ask ourselves do we really believe in the ‘communion of saints’ which we profess in our creed ever,’ Sunday? Do we believe this beautiful teaching and do we know how to engage with it.

Now if you pressed me on that, what exactly does that mean? Perhaps it’s best explained by way of example. My beloved mother was not born a saint. At times in her life she behaved in a saintly way. Oftentimes this was evident in the sacrifices she made out of love for us, her family. Did she die a saint? Possibly. I do not actually know. What I am confident in is that Bridie is now with God. I often invoke her help. She still loves me. Actually she loves me now with an even more perfect and beautiful love than ever because she is now without sin, pain or suffering.

Which finally brings me back to those uncles of mine. The rascals! I reckon there’s a few of them aid up in purgatory. One of them in particular used to say all that religious nonsense is for cissies. I reckon he might have another view on that now. Which reminds me it’s nearly November and I better get praying for those who have gone before me and who are still waiting to see God.

I am sure you have no rogues or villains in your family who might be in purgatory but if you did they could do with a prayer. We can do amazing work this month, lighting a candle, having a Mass offered and visiting a cemetery. After all, I am sure we would all like to think there are people
coming behind us who would offer a prayer for us. I know I do.

Fraternally, Joe McD


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