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November Article for The RI Catholic by Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND

Patricia McCarthy, CND

Pope Francis has spoken to the Church and the world about “The Joy of Loving.” This is his rather long reflection on family. Typical of Pope Francis’ style, the document is intriguing, easy to read and practical. Only a man who rode the bus to work every day as a Cardinal could grasp the stress of everyday life on ordinary people. Only a man who rode the bus to work every day could appreciate the joy of life.

The ability to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way is the fruit of the Incarnation. Because God became one of us in Jesus Christ, we all have the opportunity to endure suffering and to embrace joy in the daily encounters and experiences of our lives. The great challenge of life, actually the stuff of a meaningful life, is to realize while we are living an ordinary day just how extraordinary it can be.

The American playwright, Thornton Wilder, portrays theatrically this very concept in his Pulitzer Prize play, Our Town. The plot of the play centers on the early death in childbirth of a young woman, Emily, in a small New Hampshire town. The audience sees Emily as a teenager, a bride, and finally, at her death. Emily, from the grave, wants to return to one day in her town. She soon discovers it too painful to endure because no one on earth is aware of how each day is a treasure. When she asks if anyone truly understands the value of life while they live it, she is told, “No. The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.”

Pope Francis is trying to extend the reach of those who appreciate life to all of us, not just the saints and poets. He is encouraging us to see the treasure each day holds, to value the lives of those we meet and especially to find love and joy in daily life.

Repeatedly Francis offers a bit of advice to us in our families. It is simple. “This love (of family) must be freely and gener­ously expressed in words and acts. In the family, three words need to be used. I want to repeat this! Three words: ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Sor­ry’. Three essential words! In our families when we are not overbearing and ask: ‘May I?’; in our families when we are not selfish and can say: ‘Thank you!’; and in our families when some­one realizes that he or she did something wrong and is able to say ‘Sorry!’, our family experienc­es peace and joy. Let us not be stingy about using these words, but keep repeating them, day after day. For certain silences are oppressive, even at times within families, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, among siblings. The right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love.”

November’s feasts, both religious and social, remind us of the limitations and realities of life. We begin with All Saints Day on November 1st followed immediately by All Souls Day on the 2nd. We have all known saints, men and women who have lived for others during their lives, those who walked among us making a difference by their kindness and compassion, their courage and their generosity. We pray for them and for all who have died that they rest in peace.

At the end of the month we gather around turkeys with stuffing, in families extended as wide as our tables. We give thanks for life, for love, for another year of grace and hope. We miss those not at our table this year and those who have been absent for a longer time. We remember them with gratitude.

As Pope Francis reminds us, we say, “Thank you” – to God and to each other.


Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic


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