Fall Saints, Fall Souls
Editor’s note: Programs Associate, Rose Urankar, reflects on the fall to winter transition during an afternoon joint session with the Class 33 missioners led by Lonnie Ellis, OFS.
If there is ever a time to walk around in nature and be astounded by the creativity of God, it’s during the fall. Sure, most flowers are still in bloom, but the leaves steal the show. Each one radiates a unique warm hue, as if the summer sun spent its final days painting them with golden rays.
Earlier this week, some members of the Casa Community were invited to go on a nature walk through the gardens of the nearby Franciscan monastery. Our guide told us to contemplate nature, keeping in mind Pope Francis’s words from Laudato Si: “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.”
It wasn’t difficult to find the fullness of God in nature that day, as mid-October presented us with the fullness of fall. Every leaf was a masterpiece in its own right: blushing reds, drunk on cabernet; fiercely speckled orangey yellows that could have camouflaged jaguars; bossy greens, boasting their hold on the classic mossy hue.
But as I walked among the colorful garden, I began to feel a winter chill. My fingertips froze, and I hugged my jacket a little tighter. After fall comes winter, death, and these pretty falling leaves just lead to wintry woes. For a moment I was sad at the impending doom of cold to come.
Then my gaze lifted and I saw, again, the triumphant trees. With this visual shift in perspective came a mental one as well. Instead of bemoaning the end of the year, I should be celebrating it like nature—taking joy in the details of each leaf, their splendor multiplied by their community. The leaves are only able to be beautiful because they will fall and die. Their beauty is revealed through their variety, through their communion, and through their end.
I find myself pondering the same thing during this time of celebrating the feasts of All Saints and All Souls that marks the beginning of the Church’s full month of remembrance for those who have died. Rather than feeling blue at their loss, we notice the radiant beauty each one bore before passing away. We see the variation of each call to holiness: Joan of Arc’s bold red battles; Augustine’s spotty early years and fierce conversion; Francis’s pure green oneness with all of creation. No saint could capture all it meant to be holy because their lives were short and their callings distinct. Rather, each saint—including the ones we encounter every day—is a single stroke in the communion of saints, coming together to form a much grander tapestry that proclaims God’s vibrant grace.
Reflection question: In what unique ways is God coloring your life?