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November is by far my favorite month of the year.  It’s sort of bittersweet, but that is why I like it.  The darkness lengthens, the trees turn, the air becomes chilled.  And yet there is a special light and warmth as well.  The warm hues of autumn leaves and gourds and chrysanthemums.  The golden tone of the slanting sunlight.  All the abundance and togetherness and festivities–not to mention smells and tastes–of the Thanksgiving feast.  Wearing sweaters and fleecy pajamas for the first time in months.  I appreciate and cherish these things more with each passing year!

I turned 36 this month, and that too was bittersweet.  On one hand, I feel disappointment because my life at this age is nothing like how I always hoped and anticipated.  I thought that surely by this time, I would be married and have at least a couple of children and a house all our own.  Maybe I would even be able to leave the workforce to tend to the home and educate the children.  I fully expected to be living a normal, respectable, successful life.  But things have not turned out that way.  In some ways, I feel like I have not made any progress at all from where I was ten years ago… only I’ve lost people and things that made up so much of the joy I had ten years ago.

But I’ve also gained important things: faith, maturity, and wisdom.  And the older I get, the more I cherish the important things and the less I care about unimportant things, such as what people think or say about me, or how the world measures what is normal, respectable, and successful.  The older I get, the more content (but not complacent) I become.  And that is very liberating!

Also this month was Election Day in the United States, and it included the biggest election of all, the presidential election.  I did my civic duty as a voter, and did so proudly and gratefully.  But on the whole, I don’t put too much stock in government and politics.  There is no form of worldly government that can make me entirely secure and confident.  There is no form of worldly government that can make people happy.  Happiness and security and confidence come from the heavenly kingdom and its Lord.  This is not to say that the election didn’t impact me.  It impacted me in that it revealed, yet again, how very polarized this nation is.  No matter who won the most votes, nearly half the nation was going to feel defeated and frustrated and defiant.  That’s not a good thing, and I don’t envy the president one bit.  I also don’t much envy those who put him in office, for the burden of what happens in the next four years is going to be largely upon them.

But as for me, I shall continue doing what I always do and putting my trust and hope where I always put them, in my King and my God.  My citizenship and good standing in His kingdom will always come first.  Funny how folks in this country used to be suspicious of Catholics and say that Catholics could never be good Americans because they give their primary allegiance to the Vatican.  The Vatican?!  Boy, they didn’t know the half of it!  They thought much too lowly and safely and mundanely of us.  For we Catholics don’t just give our primary allegiance to another worldly kingdom, but to a completely otherworldly kingdom.  We Catholics are far more bold and radical than our fellow citizens have ever given us credit for.  The rather ironic part is that our allegiance to God and His kingdom actually entail being loyal and responsible to our earthly homes and leaders (or at least their offices). In the spirit of true charity, we love and serve our nation and respect our leaders out of love for God and Heaven. To adapt the famous last words of St. Thomas More, “I am the Republic’s good servant, but God’s first.”

November increases my tendency to wax poetic and philosophic.

For now, I am going to put aside my computer and go fix myself a nightcap of hot chocolate blended with a little tot of whiskey.

Just as the Saints pray for us, we on earth can pray for the poor souls in Purgatory.  And more than that, we can also obtain indulgences for them that can partially or completely free them from their purgation!  This is a tremendous act of mercy that can nourish the sainthood within each of us.

1 – 8 November:

An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed.

The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.

2 November:

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the Commemoration of all the faithful departed, piously visit a church, a public oratory or — for those entitled to use it — a semipublic oratory.

In visiting the church or oratory, it is required, according to Norm 16 of the same Apostolic Constitution, that “one Our Father and the Creed be recited.”

Here is more information about plenary indulgences and how they may be obtained.  Let us revive this tradition and partake in the rich graces of our Lord and Church!

Just think of all the poor souls who have nobody to pray for them after they die… perhaps they have no family or friends left… perhaps their surviving loved ones do not believe in Purgatory and in praying for the dead… perhaps their surviving loved ones simply haven’t been educated about Purgatory and praying for the dead.

Remember that the poor souls cannot pray for themselves (they can, however, pray for us, and especially for those who pray for them).

For their sake and the sake of our own souls, let us pray and obtain those indulgences!  If you don’t think you are in a state of grace to obtain a plenary indulgence, ask for it anyway!  Something I always say to God when I am asking for indulgences for the poor souls is:

Lord, I know I am not worthy to obtain such a blessed gift, but I pray that You may overlook my unworthiness and look instead to those poor souls who are suffering and yearning so greatly to be in Your presence at last!

If you are seeking a plenary indulgence for yourself, of course, then you want to make sure you have fulfilled all the requirements.

Note that you cannot obtain indulgences for other living persons.  Only for yourself and for the poor souls in Purgatory.

November is always a beautiful and bittersweet time of year.  It begins with the feasts in honor of those who have gone before us to Heaven or to Purgatory.  It ends, at least here in the U.S., with the earthy, rich, national feast of Thanksgiving.

The days in-between are just that: in-between.  Days in-between two worlds, in-between the Kingdom of Heaven and this greatest of all earthly nations.  Days in-between past and present, present and future.  Days in-between longing for reunion with deceased loved ones and treasuring the union we have with those who are with us.  Days in-between yearning for what will be and gratitude for what is.

Finally, the feasting gives way to the close of one Church year and the beginning of another, with the solemn, penitential, and anticipatory season of Advent.

Unfortunately, this November is different.  Much more bitter than sweet.  My family and I are facing our first Thanksgiving without my dad.  Also, I have been so overwhelmed by earthly business this past week that I could devote very little time to my usual observances of the feasts of All Saints and All Souls.  Both of these situations have put me into a great deal of disarray.

Instead of being caught up in the stimulating, curiously harmonious tension of the “in-between days” I feel this year like I am just… nowhere.  I feel helplessly adrift, with very little light to carry with me into the lengthening, darkening nights.

Even though I am currently taking some time for vacation and being with my family, this month and this year so far have been much more about famine than feast, and I don’t expect that will change any time soon.  The vacation time is much more a necessity than a pleasure.  It’s a mere matter of preserving sanity.  While I always love and treasure time with my family, I can’t even make the most of that because I’m so at the brink of falling to pieces.  You can’t give anything to others if you can’t even keep yourself together.

I can scarcely spare a thought for Advent right now.  Other than that it’s coming up way, way, way too quickly.

For now, I just need to try to get into this whole “vacation” thing.  It’s not as easy as I thought it would be.  There is just soooo much stuff on my mind.

O Domine! Dona mihi pacem!

The first week of November is dedicated in a special way to remembering the dead, and especially the poor souls in Purgatory.  There are plenty of opportunities to seek plenary indulgences especially for the poor souls.  We should take special advantage of this time, perchance to bring eternal peace and joy to suffering souls.

Catholics can do more than simply say, “Rest in peace.”  We can take action.  And to do so is a noble act of charity and mercy.

From the Enchiridion of Indulgences:

1-8 Nov.:  Visit a cemetery

An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed.

The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.

2 Nov.:  Visit a church or oratory

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the Commemoration of all the faithful departed, piously visit a church, a public oratory or — for those entitled to use it — a semipublic oratory.


In visiting the church or oratory, it is required, according to Norm 16 of the same Apostolic Constitution, that “one Our Father and the Creed be recited.”

5 Nov.:  First Thursday during the Year for Priests.  See this post for more information.

And for more information on indulgences in general, see this post!  Recall that there are special conditions to receive a plenary indulgence (if these are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be partial).  Also, it is possible to obtain only one plenary indulgence per day, but if we all unite our efforts, we can make a huge difference!

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