In the world of weather, we sometimes get a heavy snowfall in October or a week of “Indian summer.” In the world of sports, an unlikely wildcard team like the 2014 Kansas City Royals can win the American League pennant in October and follow up as World Series champions the next season. In politics, during an election year an unexpected newsworthy event in October can reverse the presumed outcome as underdog become victor or vice-versa. Though now considered a political term more than a weather or sports reference, “October Surprise” was originally associated with fall fashions and retail sale prices. Today, however, I wonder if the phrase could gain any traction as an ecclesial term.
In the Catholic Church, October is “Respect Life Month.” Though we should, obviously respect life every month—and every hour of every day—we give it special attention during this month. As the seasonal changes usher us from warmth to colder temperatures and leaves fall by the billions to illustrate the annual cycle of nature’s death, we contemplate the value of life. Wouldn’t it be great if every political pundit, cable news junkie, and next-door neighbor or relative, instead of degrading their opponent, would roll up their sleeves and work for an issue that respects life? From pre-natal babies fighting for their first breath to quarantined elders approaching their last, there are a host of issues to select.
As Catholics who commemorate this month by honoring life, perhaps we can model for others by choosing and working an issue for which we hold passion, e.g., immigration, injustice toward minorities, care of the earth through climate changes, health care for the poor, more dignified civil discourse, education of children falling through Covid-cracks… The list is long and varied. With the President hospitalized and NFL games postponed, there are plenty of negative October surprises in the initial days of the month. Let’s try to balance them with some positive surprises—and even surprise ourselves as we go along the way.
To choose a personal course of action, I suggest that you ask yourself two simple questions: “What am I most interested in doing?” and “What most needs to be done?” You will be led where your passion lies. What most needs to be done in your world will be determined by who exists in your orbit. Maybe your mother is isolated in a nursing home and you know an elementary school teacher in your parish; perhaps with the teacher’s help a classroom of students or entire school could send cards to lonely people in senior living or hospice care. The possibilities for aiding life are limited only by our creativity. Maybe through our participation in an October Surprise, we will bring life to others and make “Respect Life Month” a little more meaningful this year.