Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

November 2022 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 2 November 2022

As October is the month of the Rosary, so November is the month of the dead. Outside, the trees finish making next year’s buds and drop their leaves and take on the appearance of death. In the Church’s calendar the year comes to an end and so does the world itself, with readings dominated by the Apocalypse and the prophecies of Daniel.

At this season the Church bids us remember the dead. The day after All Saints we pray for the souls of all the departed, followed a week or so later (in many parts of the world) by those who gave our lives for us in war.

Death is not the end: we know that. As with the tree and its waiting buds, the gates of death are the gates of life. Jesus on the Cross did not say “It is terminated” but “It is completed”. Beyond that, there is little we can say for certain. That is quite right. To say something about a thing is to tame it just a little, and death is too real to be tamed. Like God himself, death is a great Untameable.

If we do not have certainty, at least we have images; but as Dom Aelred Watkin says somewhere in Resurrection is Now, an image that is held on to too tightly becomes an idol. It supplants the truth instead of directing us to it; and when, with time, the image becomes dusty and unmeaning, there is a danger that the truth will also lose its meaning for us. The images of judgement which surround death are an example of this. When justice, to everyone, meant “rightness and an end of conflict”, judgment was a healthy thing to complicate. If (rightly or wrongly) we now see justice as “rich people paying clever lawyers to get their own way”, then the very concept of judgement is tarnished, and useless as an image of the truth we are trying to grasp.

Stepping back from images, the central fact about death is its definitiveness. In this life we are provisional beings in the sense that we are constantly capable of amendment. Everything I do changes me: sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse; sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. But death is definitive. There is no more change. I am what I have become. I am what I have spent my whole life becoming. Once, the image of judgement would have conveyed this easily. If, now, it doesn’t, do not discard the truth: find another image. You might try diagnosis instead of judgement: after all, they are both ways of penetrating to the truth.

We pray for the departed, and the strange thing is that despite the definitiveness of death, our relationship with them continues to develop as we pray for them. Our relationship with the dead will not reach a final, definitive form until we, like them, are dead and completed. Thus there is a two-sidedness to every prayer for the dead. It is an additional reason for doing it.

To finish, a suggestion. As life goes on we lose touch with people we once knew and loved. Eventually, just by counting, we are sure they must be dead by now. There are others, too, whose death we have actually heard of but without knowing its date. We have no anniversaries for them. Here, then, is the suggestion. Just as the King has his official birthday, let these people have their official death-day. Take your diary for November and put Marc on the 9th and Phyllis on the 19th and so on. Then they will not be forgotten, and you can concentrate on them properly when their day comes.

Christian Art

Most of the new and helpful features we announce for Universalis come in the apps and the programs. This month it is the website’s turn to receive a new feature.

If you look at the bottom of the About Today or Readings at Mass page in the website, you will see a picture. The picture is associated with the Gospel of the day. Sometimes the connection is obvious, sometimes less so, but either way you can click on the picture to be taken to the Christian Art website for a full, meditative explanation.

Christian Art is run by Patrick van der Vorst, Deacon for the Diocese of Westminster. Patrick was a Director for Sotheby’s before starting his studies for the priesthood in Rome in 2019. He says:

Christian Art offers a daily picture of a work of art connected with the Gospel of the day, together with a commentary by Patrick explaining the link between the artwork and the day’s Gospel. Christian Art aims to use the Way of Beauty, the Via Pulchritidinis, as a pathway to evangelise believers and and re-engage non-believers.

The Creed in Slow MotionCover illustration

At last! The Creed in Slow Motion is available in print everywhere in the world, and there is no more news waiting to be announced.

If you aren’t already reading the book, you may be encouraged by this reaction from one of the Fathers of the London Oratory: “To my mind it is the best book on Catholic apologetics I’ve  ever read. It is hugely engaging, really thorough and I hate putting it down.”

Some videos

Father Sean Doggett, of the diocese of St George’s-in-Grenada, is narrating a series of short videos based on the chapters of “The Creed in Slow Motion”. These are produced by the diocesan Communications ministry (GNCC) and the parish group and are intended as a catechetical aid.

These videos are well produced, with great charm and simplicity. Each video is 3-5 minutes long and they are well worth watching both for themselves and as a way of encouraging you to read book for yourself. So far, 19 videos have come out. You can find links to all of them here.

Thank you all for using Universalis. If you have trouble or questions, or suggestions, do write to us at universalis@universalis.com or use the Contact Us button in one of the apps.

Let us all keep one another in our prayers, as always.

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