November is a wonderful season of the church year. The air is cooler and we seek the light and glow of warmth from fire, family and faith. We start the month remembering the great Saints of our Holy Catholic Church and our beloved friends and family who have died and are resting with the Lord. This year we also elect a new leader for our Country. By the end of the month we offer Thanksgiving and begin our Advent Journey to Christmas.
Sadly, for many of us the spirit of this month is obscured by a feeling of dread, stress, sadness, anxiety about this busy time to juggle engagements and tasks. Family is a central focus of many of the things we celebrate in the month of November. As a girl with some New Orleans roots "All Saints Day" meant a trip to the cemetery to visit the graves of our relatives who had died to clean off the tombstone as a little girl. It was a time for sharing stories and memories about a grandparent, aunt or uncle you never met. It also from a child's perspective was not a scary place. As I grew up and the relatives I did know joined the others in the cemetery it gave me a sense they were not alone and there was still a physical connection to them. Now, we have split the celebration to honor the Church Saints on the first and the "Souls of the Faithfully Departed" on the second. Some families are broken by geography, unforgiveness or emotional detachment for one reason or the other. So when November comes, for so many it signals negative feelings surrounding family because of expectations. Like many of you I too have brokenness in my family and have learned that only prayer can restore what is broken and give me peace:
"Please grant blessing over my family. We are in a state of crisis, yet we continue to act like everything is normal. We need you, Lord God, Heavenly Father to rescue us from our despair. Please grant us peace in our home.
Help us to recognize the needs, respect the struggles, and support each other through this trying time. Help us to think before we judge. Help us to put ourselves in each other's places. Help us to recognize the struggles that each of us face daily through our acts and thoughts of compassion and empathy. Help care for one another through your grace and love.
May we love one another as you love us. With your guidance and strength, I plead for you to help us replace negative thoughts, action and words by re-framing them. May we appreciate and recognize the daily acts of love and kindness that we experience and express our love for each other without fear. Help us heal our wounds, both physical and emotional, through your guidance.
Please be our light during this dark period and guide our way as we grow and adapt to our changing lives. Help this experience bring us closer through your love and healing. Help us find our purpose and role during this new phase of our lives. Help us to appreciate every day and live a life of grace through you. Please free me and my family from the pain we are feeling.
May our blessing help spread your love throughout our community, and may that love travel infinitely through everyone whose lives we touch. I ask this on your name. Lord God, Heavenly Father.
And so it is done through your healing love and grace.
Thank you for being the light that shines through our darkest hours!
I feel your healing light spread throughout my body and know that you are healing my family and directing our path.
And do it is done."
The Season of Advent also begins in November and is often characterized in terms of the expectations of great joy that come with the birth of Christ into the world and the Gift of salvation it brought to us all.The secular feelings that descend upon on us at this time of year also have to do with expectations, but not the good kind. Many ponder during this month, the expectation of gift buying, event planning, decorating, cooking, hosting and the list goes on that we focus on. My suggestion to help you find a spiritual anchor now, that helps you to navigate what has become a stormy sea of stressful secular tasks to be done vs. a spiritual time of reflection on the hope, peace, joy and love this season brings. Are as follows:
Sign up for Best Advent Ever it is a great online program produced by Dynamic Catholic Institute that will send directly to your email a short inspirational video reflections, musical selections or practical tips for keeping your focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
Buy a daily Advent Devotional book that you can read when you have time in your day. It should go in your purse, backpack or back pocket so whenever you feel the stress, weight of expectations, sadness, anxiety, loneliness or any negative feeling turn to the reflection of the day to help restore your sense of calm and peace.
Don't forget to use technology to also help here's a link to an article on the top Catholic apps to download for a daily reflection.
Lastly, light your advent candles in your home to create family traditions and reminders to focus on the positive expectations of this beautiful season.