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Remembering in November

A time to recall and pray for the great and deceased people from our lives

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AckermanA few months ago at a wedding reception, a young woman stopped me on my way back from the dessert and coffee bar. “Father, do you remember me?”

I must admit to my chagrin that I did not. I was more focused on eating my cannoli and going home as fast as I could. She looked so familiar, but I could not think of how I knew her or what her name was to save my life. I felt terrible and probably looked as red as a beet racking my brain trying to think of who she was.

“It’s OK,” she said, subsequently telling me her name. “You did my wedding seven years ago when our pastor got sick. We were so grateful, but please pray for my husband and me. We have three kids and it’s been tough. Remember us in your prayers.”

I told her I would, but honestly, I was embarrassed, feeling that in some way I let her down not remembering her.

If I’m honest with myself, my memory at times is not great. I have lost my keys so many times that I think St. Anthony has given up in frustration. I also once spent half a day looking for a file that was in my office which was on my desk right in front of me. I bought new glasses the following week.

Remembering where things are or who people are, especially when we do not carefully pay attention, can be challenging, but it is an essential part of what we do. Every time at Mass, when I say the words, “Do this in remembrance of me,” I recall that Jesus commands me to remember him in a real way, to have a deep intimacy with him.

Remembrance is more than merely recalling something passively; rather it is active and invites reflection, thought and consideration. St. Alphonsus Liguori, one of my favorite saints, writes, “We who are travelers on earth form only one body with the saints who are in heaven, and united with them in the same spirit, we offer to God the same sacrifice.”

St. Alphonsus reminds us that we are not meant to be isolated and alone, but that we need one another to grow in faith. The month of November has long been a month of remembrance with both All Saints and All Souls’ Day. They are days of remembrance of our friendship and fellowship with all who have gone before us. It is essential that we take time to do this with reverence, conviction and prayer.

I used to take piano lessons from a teacher in his 80s, and on his wall he had a picture of each one of his students. “I put those there,” he told me once, “because sometimes I get confused on who is who, especially because their voices sound the same on the phone.” He also told me that he prayed for each of his students daily and that the pictures helped him to remember to do that. He reminded me that his goal was not for them to be great piano players (although I’m sure that helped his business), but to use their God-given talents to serve others. Now, that is a man who understood the importance of remembering others and having a deeper purpose and meaning.

Not all that long ago, I found myself rummaging through a box of things when I moved offices, and I came across a priest directory for our diocese from several years prior. Some of the pictures made me laugh hysterically, thinking about stories of priests with colorful personalities, who may or may not have grieved the bishop’s office with their cantankerous musings a few times. Other pictures evoked a tear, thinking about the men who helped me in my journey of faith and who gave of themselves tirelessly. Regardless, it reminded me that I cannot forget to pray for those around me and overlook those great living and deceased people of faith. So, if you’re like me, maybe get a little Post-it note and write down for whom you need to pray. Thankfully though, even when we do forget, God never does. 

FATHER MICHAEL ACKERMAN is the parochial vicar at the parish grouping of Holy Sepulcher in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, and St. Kilian in Butler, Pennsylvania.

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