We are just beginning the month of November. Memories of summer are already fading. It is a time when we become aware of more darkness and less light because the sun is setting earlier. November is the month when we remember in a special way our deceased family and friends. Flowers and trees are preparing to enter the time of winter rest. It is a time for reflection and meditation. Perhaps the words of Psalm 23 serve well to accompany and guide our prayer. “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. In green pastures you give me repose, and beside restful waters you lead me; you restore my strength.”
But sometimes we find ourselves in more difficult times. It may be that other words of the psalm bring to mind a more challenging image. The psalm speaks of passing through the dark valley. Some translations also speak of the valley of darkness or the valley of the shadow of death. In the dark valley there is no light and one feels alone, even abandoned. It is an experience with which many people can identify. We pass through the dark valley when we suffer the death of someone we love, when we deal with a serious illness or the weakness of old age, or when we fall into depression, or for the tragedies that are inevitable in our world or in our personal lives. At these times we feel alone and sometimes without God’s presence. St. Theresa, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, went through almost fifty years of walking through the dark valley when she did not feel the presence of God in her life. Even when she could say she “nothing but empty ness and darkness,” she did not abandon her commitment to live her life dedicated to the care of the sick and dying, sharing Christ’s compassion with all.
Walking through the dark valley is a way of taking up the cross and walking with Christ through a living Way of the Cross. For all the challenge that these times are, it is not a sign of being abandoned or the absence of Christ’s presence. The Good Shepherd accompanies his sheep in the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health. We continue with the psalm, praying the words “Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.”
I believe this is an appropriate meditation for the month of November.
FR. DAVID FOXEN, MSC (California Community)
Father Dave professed his first vows on September 13, 1960 and was ordained on March 11, 1967. He is working in Palm Springs, California as Pastor of Our Lady of Solitude and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parishes.