Produced by the Office of Pastoral Ministries and Faith Formation
Morning Star Newsletter Monthly Reflection
The Hope that Does Not Disappoint
Author: Sr. Sara Kowal, SCTJM, Director of Pastoral Ministries and Faith Formation
“Hope does not disappoint…” (Rom 5:5)
In Catholic tradition, the month of November is dedicated to honoring and praying for those who have died. The month begins with the great Solemnity of All Saints, on which we honor the many men and women who have gone before us and are now in heaven. We especially remember those many men and women whose names we know, the canonized Saints that give us an example of lives lived in heroic virtue.
On November 2nd, we dedicate ourselves to praying for all the souls in Purgatory, those are still in the state of purification before reaching heaven. It is a great act of charity on our behalf to pray for them, to assist them in their journey of purification. In general, during the whole month of November, the Church and her faithful are encouraged in a special way to pray for the dead, especially those amongst our family and friends.
Many countries and cultures have very beautiful traditions surrounding these feasts in the month of November. Poland, in which All Saints Day is a national holiday, is one of many edifying examples. On this day, everyone in the country decorates and cleans the gravesites of their loved ones and offers prayers on their behalf. The picture you see here is an image from a cemetery in Poland at night on All Saint Day, lit up with the many candles placed on the graves there.
What does this all have to teach us?
First, it is an important and good reminder of our own mortality and eternal destiny. We were not made for this world. We await eternity, in which we will be joined to God and all our brothers and sisters that have gone before us. Immersed in the day-to-day activities of life, it is often easy to forget this. We tend to “live for the here and now” instead of living for heaven. How our lives would be different if we lived with our eyes and minds fixed on eternity! The month of November is meant to be a special reminder of this reality.
November, however, is meant to remind us about more than just our own mortality. It is meant to remind us of our call to holiness. Do we know that “Saint” is not a title reserved for just for a few? We are all called to be Saints!
St. John Paul II wrote that “this call to holiness is precisely the basic charge entrusted to all the sons and daughters of the Church” (Christifideles Laici, 16).
I think it is often easy to forget this. We imagine the Saints to be another “class” of human beings. “Maybe they were created with special graces that I don’t have,” we tend to think. “God can’t be expecting me to be a Saint.” We think we are certainly too sinful, too weak, too selfish, too prideful, have too much of a past...and on and on. What is worse, because of our own disbelief in our personal ability to be a Saint, we tend then to also minimize the call for others. We don’t speak about it when we teach, we don’t encourage others to strive for sanctity because we don’t really believe that “ordinary people” are called to be saints. This is a lie! We have lost hope!
Why do we lose hope? Why do we despair of the possibility even when our hearts yearn for it? Often, it is because we fall into the trap of thinking that holiness comes as a result of our own hard work – and we recognize that despite our best efforts, holiness just doesn’t seem to be attainable. It is in our thinking and believing that we first fail! The good news is that holiness is more God’s work than ours (even though He does certainly require an arduous effort and determination from us). Just like in the Wedding at Cana, we are the servants, and our job is to provide the water; Jesus takes that water and turns it miraculously into wine. We cannot never lose hope in this wonderful “exchange” – water turned into wine. Yes, on our own, we cannot be Saints. The greatest of human effort will never turn our water into wine. BUT if we give him jugs “filled to the brim” (Jn 2:7), He will make wine, the wine of holiness.
So this November, we encourage you to preach holiness and hope! Never neglect the message of holiness for all, and never despair that it is possible. So many Saints highlight this truth! Telling their stories brings hope for all: St. Augustine, Bl. Bartolo Longo, Servant of God Dorothy Day, Bl. Carlo Acutis, St. Mary Magdelene, and so many other. The wealth of their examples shows us that God can make the greatest Saints from the greatest of sinners. We have no reason to despair. We have all the reason to hope.
This November, let us recall their example, pray for their intercession, and ask them to pour upon us graces, so that we may one day join them in eternity. May we never lose hope, and may we work arduously to fill our jars “to the brim” and then trust the Lord to do the rest.
May we never lose trust in the Lord’s promise: “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” (1 Thes 5:24).
We hope because we have God and his grace and this is truly enough.
“And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.” (Rom 5:5)
Our Lady, Morning Star and radiant dawn, pray for us!