The month of November has a lot of spiritual and emotional value for us. It reminds of our destiny through the Solemnity of All Saints and Commemoration of the Faithful departed. The Communion of Saints means not only participation in the life of the glorified Church and the Church in the state of purification; it also means sharing in the spiritual things like the sacraments and indulgences. As pilgrim Church, we share in other celebrations as well, like the Parish Feasts. They cement our bonds of love and friendship. Nevertheless, due to the pandemic, we have to curtail all sorts of extravagance and make our celebrations modest. In this month and the next, we have two batches of clergy retreat. They will rejuvenate our spiritual life so that we, in turn, may be rendered effective instruments of helping our people to come closer to God.
1. Praying for the Dead: In this month, the family members lovingly remember the dear departed and offer Eucharistic Sacrifice for their salvation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church highlights the exchange of spiritual things between the dead and the living: “Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them but also of making their intercession for us effective” (CCC 958). What a wonderful exchange of spiritual benefits! They too help us when we help them spiritually. Let our cemeteries be holy places of prayer and meditation on God’s offer of salvation. There may be some tombs not visited by anyone and not kept clean. Moved by the faith in the Communion of Saints, let us attend to those burial places as well which are not cared for. Let us also pray for those who are forgotten by everyone and who wait for our prayers.
2. Chrism Mass on November 5: Normally on a Thursday previous to the Holy Week we celebrate the Chrism Mass, and the oils are blessed. The priests express their unity as one Presbyterium and their allegiance to the Bishop. However, due to the pandemic, we postponed this event. Now, many Parish Priests are asking for holy oils. Taking into the proposal of the College of Consultors we celebrate the Chrism Mass on 5 November 2020. I have invited the Bishop Emeritus and a few priests, such as the Vicar General, Vicars Forane, and Episcopal Vicar for Religious to participate in the celebration. These priests participating in the Chrism Mass will also represent the Presbyterium and on its behalf will pronounce the priestly promises.
3. The Advent Season: This year Advent begins on 29 November. Advent is a time for waiting for the second coming of Our Lord and celebrating his first coming. Both his first and the second comings have one thing in common: his divinity joins our humanity and elevates us to his divinity. Let this time be an occasion for inner conversion for all of us to encounter the Lord in our lives and adore him and love him in our brethren. As Pope Francis said on 25 November during Angelus: “As long as there is a brother or sister to whom we close our hearts, we will still be far from being disciples as Jesus asks us. But his divine mercy does not allow us to be discouraged, but rather calls us to begin anew each day to live the Gospel consistently”.
4. Feast of St Francis Xavier, December 3: Great missionary though he was, St Francis Xavier used the ordinary methods of calling attention of the children by ringing the bell and showing them the Crucifix to help them believe in Jesus Christ. He admitted that the children of India were quick to learn the prayers. St Francis inspires us to train the children as missionaries. We are called to be missionary disciples and let Francis teach us how to introduce Jesus to the people who do not know him and love him. Implanting the love of Christ in the hearts of children will bring us great happiness as the wisdom of the Kingdom is communicated through the mouth of the Babes. Let us commit ourselves for the formation of the Missionary Children’s Association in our parishes so that children are imbued with the teachings and love of Jesus Christ. 5. Diocesan Housing Project: Many have been asking for help for the repair of their houses and for assistance to build new ones. Even the Diocesan Socio-Economic Pastoral survey revealed that at least 405 households still live under thatched roofs. Nearly 850 families ask for help towards the repair or having their own house. We want to give priority to this particular need. This issue is discussed in the Council of Priests, in the meeting of the Consultors and in the Diocesan Finance Council. All have consented that we should attend to this need.
6. Promoting Reading Habit among Clergy and Lay Faithful: One of the important ministries we must do is to encourage the reading habit among the children and youth. We must read and make others to read both the Bible and the Newspapers so that we interpret the daily events in the light of faith. There is a severe dearth of reading Newspapers nowadays. Therefore many people are very little aware of the Government projects and very few avail themselves of these facilities. I request the Parish Priests to inspire children and youth to read at least one English and one Kannada Newspapers. The investment one does on these is never a waste. Important material can be filed for future reference. The weeklies and monthlies in Konkani also are to be promoted for the growth of our culture and language in families. It is said that we should have the Bible in one hand and newspaper in another hand when we prepare our homilies, catechism and other instructions so that what we say becomes meaningful and relevant to the lives of the people. Read and make others to Read!
7. Suggest a Theme for the Coming Year 2021: The Year 2019 was dedicated for the Youth and the Year 2020 for promoting Life. We could not do many programmes in this Year of Life due to the pandemic. However, we have done a lot of concretely to protect life and nourish it. As the New Year is at our doorstep, I request you to suggest a theme for the year 2021. We have had the analysis of the survey results, and published it in Raknno and communicated to priests during the ongoing formation sessions. Now, we should be able to identify the priority for which we dedicate our energies in the coming year and plan accordingly.
Wish you all a Happy Feast of All Saints and St Francis.
May they intercede for us.
+Peter Paul Saldanha
Bishop of Mangalore