I have always felt that there is something very special about October. As the autumnal equinox shortens the days in the northern hemisphere, the leaves of the trees start transforming into shades of red and golden splendour as the sun begins to lose its brilliance and warmth, the Church rewards us with a liturgical banquet of some of the most amazing saints and feast days to lift our hearts.
The first on the list is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose lessons in her “Little Way” everyone (who yearns to live for Christ) can follow in their daily lives, has made her one of the most popular saints in the world. She wanted to be the “heart” of the Church, to become Love itself. She also saw in quiet suffering, redemptive suffering, her apostolate. Thérèse said she came to the Carmel convent “to save souls and pray for priests.” Shortly before she died, she wrote: “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.” God has granted her request, renowned as she is as a powerful intercessor, continuing to do much good in the Church.
On the 2nd October we celebrate the feast of the Guardian Angels. These Heavenly Beings who behold the Beatific Vision, continually interceding to God on our behalf, have been given the mission to guide and protect us. Let us not forget a little prayer of thanks from time to time to our Guardian Angels.
The 4th October, is St. Francis of Assisi, the great “lover of God”, who so revolutionised the Church of his time. “Francis, rebuild my Church”; and Francis set about to do just that with the greatest fervour, humility and obedience. He had a great love for all God’s gifts in the natural world around him (so beautifully depicted in his “Canticle of the Sun”) and of his fellow men, especially those who suffered (like the poor lepers of his time). Francis had a profound spirituality; he was a man of prayer, an evangeliser, who contemplated deeply on the sufferings of the Passion of Our Blessed Lord. He bore on his body the stigmata, the marks of the Crucifixion.
St. Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy on 5th October, brings one of the most important facets of God’s love for Men to greater understanding: His unlimited Mercy, flowing from His burning love for souls. St. Faustina suffered great difficulties and scorn to bring the messages of God’s call for this devotion to be made known to the whole Church, yet she let nothing deter her. How many sinners have turned from sin thanks to the graces bestowed on them through the prayers of the faithful to the Divine Mercy! It is now reckoned that 100 million Catholics worldwide pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, begging God’s Mercy for themselves and other needy souls.
On 7th October is the lovely feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, to which this whole month is dedicated. The events of the life of Jesus flow past, through His Blessed Mother: from the Annunciation of His Birth, to the crowning of His Blessed Mother Queen of Heaven among all the Angels and Saints, through praying and meditating on the sacred mysteries of the Rosary. What a powerful prayer the Holy Rosary truly is! How countless are its blessings! The more one prays the Rosary, the more one loves it, and the closer one grows to Our Saviour and Our Lady, whilst the eyes are opened increasingly to the secrets it contains!
16th October. The love of the Sacred Heart was the fire which consumed St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun at Paray-le-Monial in France, who received numerous appearances of Our Blessed Lord requesting that she spread this heavenly devotion throughout the world. Nevertheless, the knowledge of the love of God for Men was not something new; the Gospels are full of the Words of Jesus and signs of this immense love that is so cruelly ignored by our worldliness and ungratefulness. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque brought back that awareness, and how our devotion and faithfulness in response to this love, brings abundant graces upon Men, and joy to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Today, the 19th, is the feast of St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionist Congregation, another saint worthy of a mention. St Vincent Strambi, Paul’s first biographer, stated that the Holy Spirit raised up Paul of the Cross to help people find God in their heart. Paul was convinced that God is most easily found by us in the Passion of Jesus Christ. He saw the Passion as being the most overwhelming sign of God’s love for us, and at the same time our best means for union with Him. For more information: http://www.saintpaulofthecross.com/
The lives of St. Wilfred on the 12th, St. Teresa of Avila on the 15th, St Ignatius of Antioch on the 17th and St. Luke the Evangelist on the 18th have recently been well recounted by members of CP&S. Still to come are the feast days of other great saints, including St. Anthony Mary Claret on 24th and Sts. Simon and Jude (Apostles) on the 28th. Each one of these October saints is a witness of the power of the Holy Spirit in souls open to His promptings, adding a wealth of saintly testimony to the life of the Catholic Church.
This banquet of great October saints and feast days the Church offers us is a fitting build up to one of the biggest liturgical celebrations at the start of the following month: All Saints Day on 1st November. What a great triumph for the Church Militant this day is! A multitude of Blessed surrounding the Throne of God in Heaven, the great majority who will not have reached the ‘calendar of saints’, held up as examples to the pilgrims still on Earth, but who will have left their mark all the same (as good actions always do) and are equally beloved of God. Perhaps many we have known and loved, who have passed on from this life, will be participating now of the joys of Heaven on this feast day. Let us hope and pray that one day we shall be counted too among the Blessed.