November and the four last things

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

During the month of November the Church’s liturgy and popular devotion turn our attention to the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. This is no morbid fascination, but a sober reminder of the transitory nature of this world and a bold summons to Christian hope. We begin the month celebrating the saints in glory on the Solemnity of All Saints. On Nov. 2, we observe the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) and later in the month, on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the triumphant Solemnity of Christ the King.

Though we may rarely ponder these realities, they are inescapable for each of us. They remind us of the eternal destiny of joy that God has prepared for us in Christ and the eternal consequences of turning our back on God’s love. St. John of the Cross wrote, “In the evening of our life, we shall be judged on our love.” Perfect love will make possible our immediate entrance into heaven. Imperfect love will require purification. The ultimate rejection of divine love will mean eternal separation from God.