The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything

As we finish our fall and begin our winter, as we gather with family for Thanksgiving and begin to prepare for Christmas, as we love God and neighbor, let us make sure we really put some time and prayer into our work for the Holy Souls.

By Chris Sparks

“I desire that my whole life be but one act of thanksgiving to You, O God." (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1285)

The beginning, middle, and end of the month of November are all about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. 

Not just for people like me, who were blessed to be born in November, but for all of us Catholics, by reason of the Church’s liturgical calendar. Let us count the ways.

All Saints, All Souls
We begin November with the feast of All Saints on Nov. 1, celebrating especially all those holy men and women who are in Heaven today, but who haven’t been officially canonized by the Church. Here we begin with the goal, the end of our Christian lives if we live them well and are open to the grace of God

But not all of us are all saints by the end of our lives, and so we have the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed — of All Souls on Nov. 2. And the whole of November is a month of remembrance for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

In November, we’re on the road with St. Martin of Tours, the soldier turned Benedictine, and his works of mercy on Nov. 11, which also providentially happens to be Veterans Day because in the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour, the treaty to end World War I came into effect. 

The Last Things
We conclude ordinary time with the celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (this year, on Nov. 26), the source and summit of everything and everyone. Without Jesus Christ, King of the Universe by right of creation (without Him nothing was made that was made), by right of gift (the Father made all things for the Son), and by right of conquest (He overcame the world, the flesh, and the devil) — without Jesus Christ, nothing. With Jesus Christ, all things, and all things are possible.

As we begin our season for thinking on the last things, we remember the Miraculous Medal on Nov. 27, and celebrate on Nov. 28 Our Lady, Mother of the Word, who appeared in Kibeho, Rwanda, in the 1980s. Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, the Woman of the Apocalypse, is our life, our sweetness, and our hope here in this world, a valley of tears well represented by the beauties and the ugliness of the slide from fall to winter during this penultimate month of November.

November is a month of last things, of ultimate realities, of the end of life and the passage toward God, opening out onto the season of Advent, when it’s time to think of the Second Coming, to remember the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament and recall that they still apply, for Christ shall come again.

Giving Thanks
And it’s about the heart of all Judeo-Christian spirituality: thanksgiving. The whole context of life is about entering into the dynamic of giving and receiving gifts, just as the whole context of the Trinity is about giving and receiving gifts. The Father is utterly generous to the Son, and the Son is utterly generous to the Father, and the Spirit is their generosity in action. They’ve created a world in which we are given life in a family to receive and return to love, to tend and keep our common home, to love and to be loved forever and ever. 

The consequences of free will used badly are of course with us throughout the world, and yet the world remains at its most basic level good, and a gift.

Our lives as Christians are lived in the truth expressed by two seemingly contradictory passages of Scripture, both written by the apostle John:

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 Jn 2:15).

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (Jn 3:16-17).

Love the good
We are not to love this fallen world. We are not to be comfortable with injustice, corruption, or the sufferings of our brethren. We are not to love the power of hell in this age, or worship creatures instead of the Creator, or do evil in the pursuit of good — in other words, our ways are to be different from the ways of the world.

But we are to love the good world created by God, the milieu of life and love, of generosity and sharing. We are to live in thanksgiving, seeing the splendors of God’s creation. As the British Catholic author G.K. Chesterton once said:

The supreme adventure is being born. There we do walk suddenly into a splendid and startling trap ... When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.

We are to live making reparation for sin, thanking God for His many gifts, sorrowing and rejoicing, sleeping and waking, embracing the gift of the world and turning away from the world’s traps. We are to live between already and not yet, between Incarnation and Second Coming, between the cradle and the grave, with life, with sweetness, with hope.

We are living in a world that is, in many ways, very much like the month of November.

Prayer time
So as we finish our fall and begin our winter, as we gather with family for Thanksgiving and begin to prepare for Christmas, as we love God and neighbor, let us make sure we really put some time and prayer into our work for the Holy Souls. Let us thank God for their lives, and make reparation for any temporal punishment due to sin that may remain for their souls. Let us use the indulgences offered us by the Church to speed some souls on their way home to Heaven, and pray for peace and God’s will to be done in this troubled, lovely, tragic world of ours. 

Let us pray, and ask the Holy Souls and All Saints for their prayers for us, as well.

Photo by Nelly Antoniadou on Unsplash
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