If each of the months of the year were assigned a quality, it might be said that March is lucky and July is independent, but November is always grateful. Although the Thanksgiving holiday comes at the end of November, it lends an atmosphere of gratitude to the entire month. This month also marks the end of the Church's liturgical year, while the calendar year begins the last stretch toward the finish line. Thus, it is a fitting time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.
In recent weeks and months, we have watched as so many areas of our nation and continent have experienced severe weather crises. We remember the fires of Northern California, the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, and the earthquake in Mexico. During this same period, our Western New York community enjoyed memorably good weather. We are fortunate, indeed, to live in an area where the worst weather we are apt to face will more likely yield snowmen and snow days than lasting devastation. As we express gratitude to God for the blessings of our geographic region, let us remember in our prayers all those who have been affected by natural disasters. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the people of our diocese for your very generous response to the several disaster relief collections that were taken throughout our diocese in response to these catastrophic events.
Our diocese has much for which to be thankful. I know that you join me in expressing gratitude to the priests, deacons, religious and lay church ministers who serve our parishes, schools, institutions and community with faithful, generous spirits. Please make a point to express your gratitude to them, as they most likely do not hear it enough! In particular, we are grateful for our four new priests, who were ordained in June, as well as the six deacons who received Holy Orders in September. Let us keep them in our prayers along with the growing number of seminarians studying for the priesthood at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora and St. Mark's Seminary in Erie, Pa.
At this time of year, our thoughts often turn to those who have gone before us. We recall family members whose absence is felt at the Thanksgiving table and who live on through stories we share about them. May our memories of them warm our hearts and inspire our lives. Let us be thankful for those who have given us the gift of life and the gift of faith! In return for what we have received from these deceased loved ones, may we be faithful to them through our prayers and offerings on their behalf.
We are fortunate that the American holiday of Thanksgiving takes place during the month when the universal Church remembers the Holy Souls in Purgatory. It is appropriate that we would recall our faithful departed with grateful hearts during this month. Praying for the deceased is a spiritual work of mercy and a great act of generosity. On any day of the year, you can gain a partial indulgence for the souls in purgatory by visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed. However, if you make such a visit from Nov. 1-8, you can obtain a plenary indulgence for these holy souls! Our diocese is blessed to have seven cemeteries and multiple parish cemeteries that provide beautiful, sacred ground for the reverent burial and remembrance of our beloved deceased. Far from being a morbid experience, visiting a cemetery is a healthy practice. It reminds us of our own mortality and encourages us to be grateful for the gift of life as we strive to live each day to the fullest.
Please remember the Holy Souls in your prayers this month and throughout the year. They will surely be grateful for your generosity and will not forget you when they reach heaven!
Let us be grateful as well for the faith, hope and love that we know through our Catholic faith. These three theological virtues are especially needed during our present times. The recent attack in Las Vegas is a chilling reminder of the darkness and violence that exists within the human heart. We continue to pray for those who were lost that night and for all those still recovering from this tragedy. Let us also pray that the goodness of human nature will become more evident in our society as we know that good will ultimately triumph over evil.
Most of all, we owe boundless gratitude to our loving God, who brought us into existence and keeps us there through His benevolent care. Our very lives are a gratuitous gift of God, as He does not need us in order to be happy or complete. Yet He created each of us and sustains us with His love! It is to God that we owe the greatest debt of gratitude. It has been said that "Thank you" is the simplest prayer when addressed to God. G.K. Chesterton reflected that "thanks are the highest form of thought and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." Indeed, God's goodness to us is a source of tremendous happiness and wonder. Let us strive to offer our lives as a living act of gratitude for all that God has done and continues to do for us.
I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving! Be assured of my gratitude for each of you and my prayers for your intentions.