A message from Vice President Father Anthony Casamento:
The days immediately following Halloween bring with them a common complaint. Overnight, Christmas music starts playing on the radio and Christmas-themed displays appear in stores - if they are not already there! Christmas creep, it seems, reaches further and further into spring every year, leaving no time at all for Advent. The thrust of most of these complaints is that by extending the Christmas season backward in this way, we lose the season of Advent.
This is certainly true, but there is another, less frequently noticed loser when Christmas starts in the month of November – our dearly departed. As we know, November 2, is designated by the Christian churches as the Feast of All Souls. In the West, the tradition of setting aside a day of prayer and commemoration for the dead dates back to St. Odilo of Cluny, who established it at his abbey in France in the 10th century. From there, the practice spread until it was officially adopted in the 14th century. In time, the entire month of November became informally known as the month of the dead.
Twenty-first century Australia is not especially comfortable with death. From the hospital to the mortuary, people make their passage out of this world through a series of specialized rooms: clean, spare, sterile and discreetly hidden from the living whom they might discomfit. In fact, many of us can find it hard to talk about bereavement without worrying that we’ll make people feel uncomfortable. As a Catholic community, this month is the natural time in the year for us at ACU to remember our loved ones and give thanks for the faithful service of our supporters. In order to do this, Campus Ministry has set up a Book of Remembrance in each of our campus chapels to which you are invited to add the names of your loved ones to be prayed for during the month.
It may be tempting, during the month of November, to yield prematurely to the flashier and cosier charms of Christmas — to the jingle bells and stars in the east and merriment. But let the dead have November. Let them have this sombre month. Say a prayer for all the departed during this month, and if you can, visit the resting places of your beloved dead. To mourn as a Christian is to hold both the fullness of loss and the promise of restoration at once. And the promise will be fulfilled: “Blessed are those who mourn,” says Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “for they shall be comforted.”