Clearly, fall has arrived. Simply look out the windows to see the leaves on the trees changing their colors. Indeed, much of our natural surroundings are taking on those colors of yellow, brown and deep reds associated with the changing of time.
Personally, this change is happening to our social activities as well, moving from outdoor group events in the open air to intimate settings indoors or around a fire. Beyond our own personal preferences, we also notice how the general social ambiance gives way to conversations and plans related to fall fiestas and rituals. Most noticeable are commercials and marketing campaigns enticing us to embrace the new season with glee — and a spiced apple cider or pumpkin spice latte in hand.
Without having to take away any of the lure and benefits of the fall season, we note that this time of natural and cultural changes awakens our introspective spirit. From a religious vantage point, symbols and rituals invite us to embrace this time of transformation as a moment of grace and deep remembrance. The feasts of All Souls and All Saints, for example, encourage us to be intentional in our reflections and prayers.
The memory of those we loved and have gone before us helps us spiritually to connect more directly to the natural rhythms of life itself, especially to the reality of death and dying. For some, this natural connection to the afterlife is imbued with a sense of celebration and gratitude, as is the case in the rituals associated with the Ofrenda or Day of the Dead altars in many of our faith communities.
Whether we find ourselves embracing a more celebratory spirit or being more somber and reflective, the change in season brings the opportunity to renew our relationships and reconnect. We know that this season of change isn’t always easy for everyone. Shorter days and the lack of sunlight can elicit different emotional and physical reactions. In fact, for many in our communities, there is a feeling of loneliness and social isolation that can take place.
Therefore, as we adjust our social commitments, emotional energy, and embark on any number of external physical rearrangements this fall, it’s appropriate to discern spiritually what is most essential. We can ask, for instance, which relationships in our lives need some adjustments, support and extra care. Considering the loneliness and isolation that can permeate our social reality, is there someone who needs prayers? Who among us needs a healing word of encouragement or a listening companion?
The transformation that can occur is truly an invitation to enter intentionally into our faith life as well. In faith, we can reconnect to the reconciliation and healing that comes from the Lord. We can take the time to examine our conscience and seek those we may have alienated for one reason or another. More to the point, we can pray and ask the Spirit to guide our steps toward those who may need our accompaniment. In other words, this season of change does not have to be limited to the routine rituals and habitual commercial and cultural undertakings.
As missionary disciples of the Lord, we can dare to draw nearer to one another, trusting that the difficulties and differences we may encounter can never really separate us from the grace of God that gives us all we need. After all, it is in the intimacy of our mutual accompaniment in faith and care that we come to love the Lord: “For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them (Matthew 18: 19-20).
Javier Orozco is executive director of human dignity and intercultural affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.