The season of autumn is a favorite of mine, and I think for many others, as well. The changes in the colors of the leaves and the crisp air certainly give way to a clear understanding that the time of the harvest is upon us. I do so enjoy driving through the archdiocese and seeing the various kinds of beautiful countrysides that are ours to enjoy.
I grew up in Chicago – right smack, dab, in the city. Many folks have remarked that I would probably go out of my mind if I had to live “in the country.” Not so, not so at all. We have, here in southeastern Wisconsin, so many wonderful communities and so much history. In the time that I have been bishop, I have visited many of our “country” parishes and have been welcomed by so many of you in great spots like Elkhart Lake and Glenbeulah, Waupun and Springvale, Ripon and Newburg, Johnsburg, Bristol, Brighton, New Munster, and even a carriage ride through the fields in Paris! Who can deny the beauty of our landscape and the true beauty of all the souls in our wonderful parishes throughout the archdiocese.
I hope I am not sounding too geeky here. This season always seems to make me more thoughtful and considerate of the great and wonderful gifts that God has given to me. It seems that the change in the season just brings them home to me in a special way and makes me so much more grateful.
Isn’t that just what we are supposed to be thinking now? As the year approaches its end, the church, in her wisdom, gives us messages in Scripture – especially at the Sunday Mass – that help us to remember the swift passage of time. We age and we move on. Life is short. Now I don’t want to get all maudlin on you and cause you sadness; but I would be less than honest if I didn’t take some time to remind you that just as the seasons change and time passes, so we grow older. Hopefully we grow in grace and virtue.
The world would have us think that with gadgets or cosmetics we can cheat the clock. It isn’t true. There is only one way to make our way in this world and that is to try to move closer to our Maker. The world seems to shout out the glory of God during these magnificent autumn days. Colors and textures in nature help us realize that life abounds and gets more glorious even as the winter chill approaches.
It is good to take time to reflect on the patterns of our lives; to look deeply into the ways we reflect the grandeur of God. Growing in age is not always a sure sign that we are growing in grace or the fullness of life before God. The time of the harvest reminds us that there is a time of reckoning for each of us as well.
November is the month dedicated to our beloved dead – those who have gone before us and whom we recommend to the love and mercy of God. It is also a month, in our part of the country, where we notice some of the most dramatic changes in the land and the weather. God speaks to us in these ways about the cycle of life. The beauty of the changes and the stark swiftness with which they occur are truly harbingers of God’s reminder that he is the Creator and we are the creatures.
The church begins November with the celebration of All Saints, a great expression of faith and truly the goal of the Gospel. St. Paul reminds us: “You are God’s chosen ones, his saints, holy and beloved.” Sainthood – life with Jesus forever in heaven – is the noble goal of our lives and the reason for which the Precious Blood of Jesus was poured out for us on the cross.
Secondly, we remember the souls in purgatory. It is significant to remember the souls in purgatory because, in the absence of time, they cannot pray for themselves. They rely on us to pray for them.
St. Francis of Assisi wrote a beautiful exhortation at the end of the Rule of 1223 that the friars follow to this very day. I have always found it to be a rather profound and soul stirring reminder of the brevity of life and the call to glory. In these days, it takes on great significance for me. While Francis speaks specifically to the friars, I think his words challenge all the baptized.
hear the voice of your Father.
Great things we have promised; greater have been promised us.
Let us observe the former; let us aspire to the latter.
Pleasure is short; punishment, everlasting.
Suffering is slight; glory, infinite.
Many are called; few are chosen.
Brethren, while we have time, let us do good.