We don’t often appreciate God’s tender mercies — the compensations and consolations he gives us when he knows we’ll have to suffer.
Take November, for example. It’s the month when we have to endure elections. I’m grateful for the blessings of democracy, and I take my voting seriously. But I have to confess I’ve found the last few national elections difficult, to say the least.
I’m grateful to God for his foreknowledge of such trials — and for filling November’s calendar with delights.
Every year, we begin the month with communion and we end with kingship. On Nov. 1, we’re reminded of the bigger societal picture as we celebrate All Saints’ Day. We remember all those who, as Chesterton said, make up the “democracy of the dead.” We have our rich tradition and customs today because countless unknown Christians faithfully received them from their parents, and then faithfully passed them on to their children.
The Gospel did not endure because it enjoyed state sponsorship or protection. Much of the time the Church has suffered persecution from states and princes (even Christian princes). But the saints stay on task, whether they enjoy favor or disfavor.
Every November we have that holy day to remind us that such saints are living still, as they lived under the Roman emperors and the later caliphs. No matter what happens on election day, we’re living among saints.
And I don’t mean only the saints on earth or simply the saints in heaven. I mean all of it. The Church is, as a novelist once said, “Here Comes Everybody” — every Christian on earth and everyone in heaven.
The name Catholic comes from the Greek word meaning “universal.” You won’t find a more multicultural, international, global, and planetary institution than the Roman Catholic Church. And yet it’s so much more than the wildest dreams of political imperialists. It’s not merely planetary. It’s cosmic. It includes all the earth and all of heaven.
And over it all is Christ the King, whose feast we celebrate at the end of November, on the last Sunday of the Church’s year. No matter whom we find in the White House or the statehouse or any chamber of government, Christ is king in glory, and he rules from our altars and tabernacles. He rules in our hearts. He rules in our homes, where we pass on the faith, quietly and steadfastly and with good cheer.
No one should outdo us, then, in celebrating Thanksgiving this month. Yes, it’s a secular feast. But it is an honorable one, because it fulfills the urgent and constant exhortation of St. Paul: “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
So let us not be overwhelmed by anything life sends us this month. In the Church we enjoy a kingdom for all ages. We take our place in that society that spans generations. We give thanks, as the saints have always done, for all things.