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Prayerful remembrances, giving thanks and more in November

Most Rev. Paul J. Swain - Bishop of Sioux Falls
by Bishop Paul J. Swain - 11/2/2011
November is a month of special remembrance especially for those who have died and thanksgiving for the blessings we have received.

Pray for the Faithful Departed

On November 1 we remember those saints, most unknown, who have been welcomed into the fullness of life in heaven; we thank God for their witness and their legacy, and ask for their prayers.

On November 2 we remember and pray for all the faithfully departed especially those souls in purgatory who are awaiting that welcome into the fullness of life in heaven. We also thank God for their witness and legacy and ask for their prayers. Many parishes have books of remembrance in which we can record the names of those who have died who have touched our lives in special ways, and whom we miss. Then as a community of faith we pray for them all month. In this Bishops Bulletin the names of those Catholics in the diocese who have died during this past year are noted. We pray for them in a special way. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

Give Thanks for our Blessings by Sharing Them

As a nation every year on the 4th Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, when we are asked to pause and reflect on our blessings and thank God for them. Sadly as the secular culture seeks to relegate God to the back room, the day has become more focused for too many on how much we can eat rather than sharing the meal with others as a way of celebrating these blessings.

This year there are more people and families in our diocese and state who are underfed in part because of the economic downturn. Food pantries and other helping hands often cannot serve all those who come to them. I would encourage all parishes either at a Thanksgiving Day Mass or on one of the nearby weekends to collect canned goods that can be delivered directly to those in need or to a reputable agency. We thank God for our blessings by sharing them with others.

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome

When you read this, God willing, I will be in the Holy Land with over 80 other from our diocese on a thanksgiving pilgrimage in acknowledgement of the 5th anniversary of my becoming Bishop of Sioux Falls. When I first arrived five years ago I did not know what to expect. Ever since God has kept me guessing. I often joke that it is amazing that so many know what a bishop is supposed to do, to say and how to act, and yet I as bishop don’t have a clue. I try to be a man of prayer and to seek to assure that my will and God’s will are the same. I apologize for any times I have allowed my will to prevail over His. While challenges have and will continue to be present, I truly am grateful for the call of Christ through his vicar on earth, Pope Benedict XVI, to serve as your bishop. Thank you for the patience, support and forgiveness you have offered me over these years. Please pray for all the pilgrims as we will for you from where Jesus walked and where the Vicar of Christ guides us.

New Roman Missal

Some blessings are not appreciated at first. One may be the new Roman Missal which we will begin to use on the first weekend in Advent, November 26-27. We have been preparing for it as a diocese for over two years. Yet a recent national poll revealed that only 57% of Catholics who attend Mass once a week or more are aware of the change; 34% of those who attend at least once a month are aware; and only 9% of those who attend Mass a few times a year or less are aware. Hopefully it is greater in our diocese. Yet it is clear that there will be many surprised people at Christmas Masses this year. But isn’t that in part what Christmas is about, being surprised with a special gift, that of the child born in Bethlehem, a surprise to most people. It will take us a little while to become comfortable with the new responses and the differing language which better reflect the original source. But I am confident that in a few years we will give thanks to God for offering us through the Church this Missal because we are uplifted by the words and therefore more appreciative of the gift of our Lord of Himself at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The collect or opening prayer for the Mass for Thanksgiving Day in the new missal is a beautiful example. It is a prayer that can refocus us on what should be the purpose of that day, and every day:

Father all-powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite; as we come before you on Thanksgiving Day with gratitude for your kindness, open our hearts to have concern for every man, woman and child, so that we may share your gifts in loving service. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.