Living Mercy in November

Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash

By Chris Sparks

I love November.

I mean, clearly I’m biased — I was born in November, on Thanksgiving Day, as a matter of fact. So I have many happy memories of birthday parties and family Thanksgivings, of turkey and stuffing and presents.

But I would argue that November is a blessed month for everyone. It’s the culmination of harvest time, after all, a time for grain to have been scythed and gathered in, for fruit to be canned, produce pickled, barns and cellars packed full, and for all to take stock of their preparations for winter.

It’s a natural time — indeed, providentially so — to think of the winter of human life, of those who have gone through the transition before us, both long ago and just this year. In part, that’s why, in November, we turn our gaze from earth to Purgatory, from this life to the halfway house of the next, and we pray for our beloved dead.

And as we pray for those who’ve gone before, we’re also called to take stock of our own lives, our own readiness to come before the judgment seat of Christ the King, whose feast we usually celebrate at the end of November.

This month is the time to make sure we’re prepared for major changes, a month of endings and beginnings. It’s part of the wisdom of the liturgical year, and the way in which, here in the northern hemisphere, the seasons and the calendar send us a certain message. Spring and summer open up the wealth of the world to us, making food, warmth, and beautiful weather abundant and easily accessible. Fall is the time of feasting, on gathering in the fruits of the easiest, most beneficent times of the year. But winter — well, that’s the season that separates the wise from the foolish. Winter is the testing season, the season that lets us know if we’ve got the food, the warmth, the things we need in order to make it through the lean times.

The winter of our lives will let us know if we’ve set aside the harvest that matters, if our treasure is great in Heaven. Have we sown the seeds of the Word of God? Have we given a defense of the hope that is in us, shared the faith given us by God above? Have we been generous with our words, deeds, and prayers of mercy? Have we done the good that was ours to do, refused to do the evil we could have done, and sought to live generous love, drawing from the endless reservoirs of the Holy Spirit?

And if we haven’t — if we’re coming late to work in the vineyard of the Lord — do we set to work with a good will to do some good, any amount of good, no matter how small? Do we repent of our past sins, our past evil deeds and our past omission of good deeds, in order to now be generous with what we have while we have it?

Saint Faustina shows us the way.

In her Diary, she records Jesus saying:

Many souls … are often worried because they do not have the material means with which to carry out an act of mercy. Yet spiritual mercy, which requires neither permissions nor storehouses, is much more meritorious and is within the grasp of every soul. If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment. Oh, if only souls knew how to gather eternal treasure for themselves, they would not be judged, for they would forestall My judgment with their mercy (1317).

As we approach the twilight of the year, the veil between fall and winter, undertaking a pilgrimage from harvest to holiday feasting and then into the long night of snow and cold, let us give thought to our own life’s winter. Let us remember the dead, and pray for them so that when it’s our turn to come before Jesus, the righteous King and Just Judge, we will have spiritual treasure to show to Him. We will be able to count on the testimony of souls whom we have helped with indulgences, the merits accrued through performing works of mercy, and our prayers and suffrages. We will know that those Holy Souls whose freedom we sped or won will be there for us, witnesses in the only courtroom that ultimately matters, loving defenders against the prosecution of the devil. We will not be left alone in the dock.

And more — if we have made our Marian Consecration; if we have made a habit of Marian devotion; if we have loved Our Lady in this life, then she, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, who is the Paraclete, the Consoler and the defense attorney in the court of Heaven, will come to our assistance. Our Lady and God the Holy Spirit are unbeatable defenders. They will have all souls whom they claim for their love and devotion. They will draw countless numbers of us into Heaven, for we are their children, we the members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

So this November, resolve to take up or rededicate yourself to prayer for the Holy Souls and Marian devotion. Join the Holy Souls Sodality or the 13th of the Month Club. Wear the Miraculous Medal on a chain around your neck, and pray the Miraculous Medal prayer (“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”) every day. Make it a daily habit to perform indulgenced acts. Say a daily Rosary for peace in the world, and make the First Saturday devotion.

Offer up everything to Jesus through Mary for the salvation of souls, including your own, and no matter when your personal winter comes, at the end of your life, you’ll find a warm welcome from the souls in Heaven.

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

Remember departed loved ones at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.

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As fall slides into winter, the old liturgical year into the new, we give thanks for what has been and prepare for what will be.

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