“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. . . .”
My dear friends in Christ,
I find the month of November particularly moving. Maybe it’s just me, but the coolness of the air, the
bareness of the trees, and the ever-earlier twilights promote a feeling of melancholy and introspection in
me. November is a month that makes me want to look back over the year. I suspect that, for many
people, the end of December is the time to look back, but the garish gaiety of the secularized holiday
season that coincides with Christmas kind of exhausts me. Don’t misunderstand me: I enjoy the colored
lights and all the festive decorations, but for an introvert like me, it can be a bit much. November is more
The Church, it seems to me, encourages making November a month for looking back. We started the
month by honoring the countless saints who are enjoying the presence of God in heaven on All Saints
Day, and then, the next day, we remembered and prayed for all the faithful departed who are being
purified in purgatory. In parishes across the world, extra Masses were said for their souls, and the faithful
were encouraged to pray, especially for those who died since last All Souls Day.
This year in particular I find myself looking back on those we lost. In the U.S. alone, over 250,000
people have been taken by the COVID-19 pandemic. This number may include some of your friends or
family members. If it does, may God grant them peace. Others died during the pandemic lockdown, and
their loved ones were deprived of the opportunity to participate in the usual funeral rituals that give so
much consolation to the grieving. In the Chaminade Community, we laid two of our Brothers to rest,
Bro. Raymond Kane and Fr. Ernest Lorfanfant. Please remember them in your prayers.
When I was a kid, I was an altar boy (That’s what they called it back then.), and I used to serve a lot of
funerals. The quote at the top of the page comes from one of the readings that was frequently included in
the funeral Mass, and it made a lasting impression on me. It is probably my favorite passage in all of
Sacred Scripture. The full reading goes:
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They
seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an
affliction; and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For
if before men, indeed they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality. Chastised
a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them, and found them worthy
of Himself. As gold in the furnace, He proved them, and as sacrificial offerings, He
took them to Himself. In the time of their visitation, they shall shine and shall dart
about as sparks through stubble. They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and
the LORD shall be their King forever. Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with Him in love: Because grace and mercy are with His
Holy ones, and His care is with His elect. (Wisdom 3:1-9)
Since my childhood, I have found great consolation in this reading. I recall it whenever someone close to
me dies. The author of Wisdom is giving us great reason to hope. Those who have gone from us aren’t
dead; they haven’t been utterly destroyed. They are in the hand of God; not the hand of Jonathan
Edwards’ “Angry God,” but the hand of the God who offers grace and mercy and care to His holy ones.
They are in peace, and we have hope that is full of immortality.
November is also the month of Thanksgiving Day. Admittedly, this isn’t, in its origins, a Catholic
celebration. However, thanksgiving is so fully at the root of everything we do as a Church that it makes
perfect sense for us to join our countrymen and offer God thanks for all our blessings. And, despite
everything that has gone on in this remarkable year, we all have an abundance to be thankful for.
Everything we are and everything we have; everyone we know and love and everyone we know who
challenges our charity – literally, everything is a grace, a gift from God. In his letter to the Romans, St.
Paul tells us that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His
purpose” (Romans 8: 28). It might be difficult to see how this is true, especially lately, but it is.
St. John Henry Newman famously wrote:
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to
me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in
this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection
between persons. . . . Therefore, I will trust Him. Whatever I am, I can never be thrown
away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may
serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He
knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among
strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from
me. Still, He knows what He is about.
We are invited by God to be His co-workers, and everything that we experience in some way helps God
achieve His purpose. What an incredible gift!
So, let us give thanks to God for all the good He has done for us: for those we love and for those we have
loved and lost, for the blessings of this past year and for the challenges, for everything that is and for
everything that is to come. Deo Gratias!
Bro. Patrick Sarsfield, S.M.