Wednesday, November 14, 2007

All Souls Day (Belated)

"November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year," said Margaret, standing at the window one dull afternoon, looking out at the frost-bitten garden.

"That's the reason I was born in it," observed Jo pensively . . . ."
--Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

If I lived in New England, I'd probably loathe November too. But when you live in California there's a lot to like about this month. For one thing, the infernal heat of summer is pretty much over. The roses are still blooming, and I'm harvesting lemons from my dwarf lemon tree. And if you're also Catholic you get a jump start on the end of the year holidays with All Hallow's Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day.

On All Souls Day, and indeed during the whole month of November, we remember and pray for the dead. Naturally, departed family and friends are at the top of everyone's list, but since praying for the dead is one of the spiritual works of mercy, many people also make it a point to pray for those poor souls who have no one to pray for them. Or for those souls most in need of prayers.

It is perhaps no surprise that in our family we included in our November prayers a special subset of the departed: dead authors. I always liked to include J.R.R. Tolkien among our November intentions. Since he was a devout Catholic, I knew he would appreciate it. And my husband always included James Boswell. For not only was The Life of Samual Johnson one of his favorite works, but Boswell probably needed the all the prayers he could get. (In a fit of youthful rebellion, Boswell converted to Catholicism but could not be said to have lived a good Catholic life. Libertine is the word that springs to mind.)

I hasten to assure my readers that the Bibliophagist family does not restrict its special intentions solely to Catholic authors. We are equal opportunity intercessors. And it seems not only charitable but just to pray for authors who have given us pleasure in this life regardless of their denomination. Perhaps someday they'll be praying for us.


Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Yes, I know I should have written and posted this on November 2nd. What can I say except that there are still 17 praying days left for this month.

Darwin said...

My memory may be off, but does the bit you quote from Little Women lead in to Jo's writing the poem about "spiritual washing day" which basically amounts to a yearning for confession/purgatory -- if only she could get away from her New England Protestantism enough to realize it?

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

No, this quote is at the beginning of the chapter in which the March family receives the telegram telling them that Mr. March, an army chaplain, is very ill.

Yeah, it would have made more sense if I'd chosen a quote that actually had something to do with All Souls Day. I guess that's just the way my mind works. It doesn't leap on a topic so much as sidle up to it.

The poem you refer to can be seen here: