Dear Friends in Christ,
This year the autumnal equinox fell on 22 September, but since most of October felt like summer, we can be forgiven for thinking that autumn really began last weekend with the gentle dusting of snow on All Saints’ Day. Autumn has long been my favorite time of year because of the glory of the trees, the warm days and cool nights, and above all the feasts in the sacred liturgy. Consider just this week:
On Monday we celebrate Pope Saint Leo the Great who served as Bishop of Rome in the 5th century. His theological brilliance at the Council of Chalcedon saved the Church from heresy, and his personal bravery saved the City of Rome from Attila the Hun.
On Tuesday we celebrate Saint Martin of Tours, a 4th century bishop and founder of monastic life in France. Saint Martin was the first canonized saint who was not also a martyr.
On Wednesday we celebrate Saint Josaphat, a 17th century bishop who was raised in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and who led a return to full communion with the Bishop and Church of Rome in Ukraine, for which he was martyred in 1623.
On Thursday we celebrate Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, an Italian nun who came to the United States to serve Italian immigrants, founded a community of religious Sisters, established more than 60 schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc, and in 1946 became the first citizen of the US to be canonized.
And on Saturday we celebrate Saint Albert the Great, a 13th century university professor who was acclaimed in his own time as the best educated man alive. He was a Dominican friar, and his star pupil, Thomas Aquinas, became an even more renowned theologian than his great teacher. Albert was made a bishop in the Diocese of Regensburg, where another German intellectual would come to the world’s attention seven centuries later: Joseph Ratzinger.
In these autumn days, nature reminds us that all living things die, even as spring will remind us of the promise of new life. So too does the Church’s liturgical cycle teach us the wondrous ways in which grace transforms human life. This November we pray for the dead who are being prepared for the bright vision of God’s glory and rejoice in the saints who already stand with the angels in the radiance of the One who is Light from Light. Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!