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November: Walking with the Church in Sorrow and Joy

November is a fitting month for the Church to remember the dead. The illumination of October has given way to naked trees, scattered dead leaves, and rather gray skies. The Church truly grasps the contemplative nature of human beings as they live the seasons. It is in this time when darkness falls earlier and earlier in the evening, and temperatures begin to drop, paving the way for winter. It is here the Church meets our grief.

There are few who live unscathed by loss. The Church understands why a mother grieving three lost babies from miscarriages, would sit outside in the darkness on the Feast of All Souls. Drizzle falling, while three candles illuminate the darkness under the only memorial she has: three rose bushes, one for each baby. The Church empathizes with our grief. She devotes an entire month each year in which we embrace and pray through that pain.

In his own heart-wrenching and bare account, C.S. Lewis talks about grief in A Grief Observed:

And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like a waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.

This time of year is a time of waiting. The Church waits for Advent and for the coming of the Incarnate Son. In that waiting her members must grapple with the pain, grief, and loss they live with in their lives. It may not be purely conscious grief, as it was in the beginning, or as Lewis’ was in this account. It may just be an oppressive feeling that comes on suddenly and then vanishes quickly. No matter how we live with our grief, we are not to walk alone in that suffering. The Church directs us in our grief. She tells us to pray. To pray for the dead, no matter how tiny they were when they died. She tells us to remember the souls in Purgatory, for our prayers lighten their load. She reminds us of our eschatological end in the celebration of the Communion of Saints, the Church Triumphant, at the beginning of the month. She reminds us that our death will come much sooner than we think.

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