More than the Minimum – All Saints Day

More than the Minimum

The father of a friend of mine was notorious for saying “All you have to do in life is stay awake, pay taxes and die.” It was a drab and dully honest way of looking at life. I think embedded in his pessimistic proverb was his way of seeing the wondrous potential of life by taking an acute jab at life’s minimal expectations. At least I hope so.

Quite honestly, I find myself crossing sides of his perspective frequently. Sometimes I see how great life is and I want to expand my thinking into a universe with endless creative possibility. Other times I just want to get by with the minimum and get done what I need to get done. The celebration of my birthday is one such example. Sometimes I embrace fully the coming of another year of life and at other times I just want to get it over with. Sometimes it is a full party with dozens of friends and other times it is the more subdued pleasure of just knowing my birthday passed by spending it working, doing what I love.

It certainly is a tendency for human persons to at least identify the minimum expectation that we have to do in order to get what we want. For me, it is not one of our better attributes. I mean, can you imagine someone who would intentionally do the very least they had to do in order to qualify to be your friend? Would they actually be your friend? Well, I guess technically yes, but it isn’t keeping with the spirit of what friendship should be.

What are your “minimum expectations?” What do you put in the blank of your “All-you-have-to-do-in-life-is ___________.” statements? Whether you are on the up side or the down side, what are the obligations you keep in order to define you?

The Church has some answers to that fill-in-the-blank question, though it only does so with tepid caution. The Church well knows that minimum expectations don’t establish the spirit of a loving friendship with God for which we are truly created.
In the coming week, one of the Church’s all-you-have-to-do moments is found in our liturgical calendar, a “Holy Day of Obligation.” These are celebrations which are a lot like birthdays. They mark our calendar as important moments which we must celebrate, at least in a minimal way. The Church teaches that the minimum way is to attend to Mass.

This Wednesday, November 1 is the feast of All Saints and while history may have demonstrated that not everyone has attended Mass on that day, it is our constant reminder that we should. Why? What is so important?

For me, these are odd questions to ask. I mean, why would you choose to go to Mass on Christmas? After all, it is simply a feast day named by the Church just like All Saints Day, just like the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15), The Solemnity of Mary (January 1), and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8). All of these dates are given equal weight and importance in the teaching of the Church. To treat them as an obligation is correct, but how we treat the idea of an obligation is up to us.

We can check obligations off the box just to get done with them. We can ignore them and say they don’t matter (like the stubborn protestation of someone denying their age every year on their birthday). We can acknowledge them but not do anything about it. And we can also embrace them. What we cannot do is deny that the obligation is there.

I would offer that whether you are near to the Church or distant, if you want to grow in closer proximity to God, following the minimum expectations is a good start. It helps set us on the path to friendship with God that we ought to seek. Missing these days by not attending Mass is like missing the birthday party of a close friend or family member. Sooner or later, it starts to affect our relationship with them.
As a reminder, on Wednesday we will celebrate the Feast of All Saints at 9am (with our school community) and at 7pm.

Another wonderful celebration this week is the Feast of All Souls on Thursday, November 2. It is not a Holy Day of Obligation but rather a Holy Day of Opportunity. We will hold a memorial Mass for all those who have died in our parish during the last year at 7pm on Thursday. You are invited to come and memorialize anyone you love who has passed away by bringing a photo of them for our altar of remembrance and lighting a candle for them as well.

May this be a holy week for you! Surrounded by the intercession of the Saints and those who we have loved who have passed on.

David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

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