November is the Month of Remembrance in the Catholic Church. We may be feeling sorrow and grief not only because of the loss of loved ones but because the last two years have highlighted humanity’s collective loss due to the pandemic and racial injustices. Yet, this time also offers hope as we consider those who have gone before us, what they have meant for us, and how we can be good ancestors to others. Fr. Tim Clancy, SJ offers us a bigger picture about what this season can mean for us. And a thank you to Paul Manoguerra, Director of the Jundt Art Museum for sharing these pieces from the collection that may inspire us in our remembrance. – Dean Annmarie Caño.
November reflection, Tim Clancy S.J.
As Fall moves into winter, and nature “dies,” religions around the world use this time of the year to remember their dead. From Celtic Samhain, (from whence comes our Halloween) to Persephone’s kidnapping by Hades, King of the Underworld and Innana’s imprisonment by Sumer’s Queen of the Underworld, Erishkigal, Inanna’s own sister, agrarian peoples saw the death of their loved ones as an imitation of nature’s own cycle of life and death….and the promise of rebirth in the Spring.
Christianity is no exception. We begin with the feast of our heroic ancestors, the feast of All Saints, immediately followed by the commemoration of our own dearly departed in the feast of All Souls. Many parishes present a book of the dead during the rest of the month for parishioners to write down the names of those who have died in the past year for the congregation as a whole to commemorate.
In Hebrews, Paul speaks of our life as a race in a sports arena and the dead as “a great cloud of witnesses” in the stands. I like to think of our ancestors near and remote cheering us on as we strain for victory, keeping “our eyes on the prize.” As a Jesuit here at Gonzaga I think particularly of our own recently departed Jesuits, Peter Ely, Mike Cook, and Steve Kuder in the celestial Kennel, leading chants and hopping up and down rooting us on to victory.