A few days after the official beginning of the autumn season I traveled to New York for the fall meeting of the New York State Catholic Bishops. It was a lovely drive through the Southern Tier along Route 17.
Every season has its particular character and beauty. Although I enjoy the parade of the seasons as they march across Central New York, autumn is a special time — the wonderful “sweater” weather, the magnificent colors on a drive through our counties, football games, a walk in the park, the start of a new school year — these are a few of my favorite things.
When I used to travel through the Adirondack Mountains during the fall season an expression I heard often was “leaf peak.” When would the colors peak? When would they be most vibrant? Yes, indeed. Autumn is rich with color. Although my trek to New York occurred in the early days of the season, I was not disappointed. The landscape was alive with multiple hues of red, orange, yellow, rust and green.
As I think about autumn three ideas come to mind: change, gratitude and new beginnings. Autumn speaks to us about change. We see change in the lush green fields that give way to dull greens and dusty browns. We see and hear change in the sight and sound of migrating geese. We experience change in the waning hours of daylight. We notice change in the harvested fields and the roadside stands selling apples, pumpkins and cider. We feel change as the temperature becomes more brisk and low-hanging clouds hover over the landscape in early morning and late evening. Change is a necessary part of nature’s cycle.
On a deeper level change is part of our lives, too. On our journey of life and faith we are called to change, to become day by day a more dedicated and fervent disciple of Christ. To put on Christ, as St. Paul often reminds us, is the task of a lifetime. The most profound change we can make is the conversion of mind and heart that puts Christ at the center of our lives. This conversion is not a once-and-for-all event. As the changes of autumn are a rhythm that occurs each year, conversion should be the rhythm of our lives.
The colors of the season, a bountiful harvest, the warmth of the house after a brisk walk in chilly air, the companionship of friends with whom we enjoy a football game — and all autumn provides — calls us to gratitude. It is relatively easy to become complacent, to fail to notice what is happening around us or to take what we have for granted. I think the sheer bounty and beauty of the autumn season remind us to be grateful. Let’s mark these autumn days with gratitude. Thank God for His love and care. And thank others, too, beginning with those closest to us but including those whose services make our life easier.
We usually think of autumn as the season that transitions us to the end of the year — winter, the season of apparent death and rest. But paradoxically autumn is, for many, about new beginnings. I am thinking particularly of school-age children and college students who begin a new year in the early days of fall. These new beginnings remind us that every day is a new and fresh opportunity to embrace all that God offers us.
Autumn is a special time. It bestows its blessings in multiple ways. It teaches us to recognize change (conversion) as a necessary component of life, to be grateful for all we have received and to embrace each day as a new beginning. Enjoy the blessings of autumn!
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.