byMost Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
November has a sense of transition to it. It is obvious that the summer has passed and there is a change in the climate that brings some cooler and dryer weather even in south Florida. The day light hours are shorter, the clocks are moved back, and there are many reminders that we are moving toward the Holiday season. There is a great sense of joy during this month which celebrates Thanksgiving and the fruits of the harvest. Our own Diocese of Palm Beach is rich with various produce. For this and especially for those who labor in God’s earth, our farmworkers, we are grateful.
The transient nature of November reminds us that we are in transition during our journey in this life which is headed toward ultimate realities. As we begin the Synod within our Diocese, we realize that we are all in this journey together. The liturgical emphasis of November highlights this reality. We begin the month of November on the Solemnity of All the Saints and the Commemoration of All the Souls. As the month moves forward and we approach the season of Advent, the liturgical readings remind us of the end of time and of our inevitable passing from this world. Such reminders are not meant to frighten us but actually to reassure us by helping us to put things in proper perspective. The gift of life culminates in eternal life, where we will be one with God and all those who have gone before us. Every tear and sorrow will be wiped away and we too will know the joy of God and His saints. The saints and our departed loved ones want us to know and share their joy.
In faith and prayer, we deepen our family relationships with our departed loved ones. They continue to watch over us, follow after us, and assist us. We pray for them and they pray for us. They know us and they know the world they have left of which they are still a part. They have not lost the love they had for us, but that love is now transformed and intensified by a new glory.
Our deceased loved ones and all the saints are part of the full communion of the Church which goes beyond the constraints of time and place. In reality, they represent the fullness of the Church in God’s Kingdom from that special place where they are. Whenever we celebrate Mass, the Church Universal is present and so is the communion of saints who celebrate the Eucharist in the fullest manner.
Saint Therese of Lisieux said that she wanted to spend her heaven doing good on earth. What she expressed is the sentiment of all the saints. They want to help us with our problems with which they are so familiar. No one wants more to build up God’s Kingdom here on earth than the saints who live in the fullness of that Kingdom. Above all, they want to hold out to us the hope of our own lives in heaven for which our present lives are intended. The saints know both sides of the picture, so to speak, and truly know what is best for us. They can help us deal with our struggles and fears, especially their loss from our lives and the fear of our own death.
The saints, apart from their present work, have already done a great deal for us. They have left us an example of how to live in this life. They are not only now prodding us on, but also pointing to what they have left us through their manner of life. The Church celebrates a wealth of concrete lives in the canonized saints who have given us an extraordinary example. Such canonized saints speak the experience of every man, woman, and child of every vocation in life.
Pope Francis has canonized quite a number of saints during his pontificate. He recently began the beatification process for more, including Pope Paul I who was Pope for only thirty-three days. Pope Francis has done so because he knows the power of the great example these men and women gave to us in their daily lives on earth. Their experiences were not so different from our own. We can also look to the example of our own loved ones who taught us what is truly important in life. The patient endurance and generosity of faith, hope and love have been lived in concrete ways by our deceased loved ones.
The saints have also left us another legacy which is their trust in the mercy of God. When we look at the lives of saints and the lives of our deceased loved ones, we can find human fault and frailty. What makes these men and women holy is not that they did not have their faults and sins, but that they trusted in the mercy and forgiveness of God. What separated Saint Peter from Judas Iscariot was Peter’s trust in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy. Both men betrayed Christ in a serious manner, but Peter was willing to rely on God’s mercy. Such is the legacy of the saints as well as that of our own loved ones gone before us.
During this month of November, we are reminded of the ultimate realities of life. We join with the saints and all of our deceased loved ones, knowing that we are all part of God’s Kingdom. Perhaps the following words of Pope Francis remind us of our call to the ultimate realities in our daily lives: (The) “Solemnity that honors All Saints reminds us of the personal and universal vocation to holiness, and proposes sure models for this journey that each person walks in a unique way, an unrepeatable way. It is enough to think of the inexhaustible variety of gifts and real life stories there are among the saints: they are not all the same, each one has their own personality, and developed their own life of holiness according to their own personality. Each one of us can do it, take this path: meekness, meekness, please, and we will head toward holiness.”
May the transitional month of November assist us on our journey in meekness toward our eternal home with all the saints who have gone before us.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
November 5, 2021