Beginning of Fall  


Where did the summer go? Is it really the beginning of fall? Fall will feel much different this year. It brings all kinds of new concerns. Will there be a second wave of COVID 19, with a peak in positive cases? How will the virus and the seasonal flu interact?

What about parish activities and the changes that happen in our churches? What does school look like? Is it safe for our students? What will the theatre look like? What about that concert series?

I spend a lot of my time offering spiritual direction and retreats to people. I felt privileged on our Jesuit grounds in Pickering this summer. It was usually possible to sit in the shade of a tree, a safe physical distance from someone. Fall means that it won’t usually be possible to do that outside, unless we surround ourselves with a tent and wear Canada Goose parkas. I’ve started to scout out indoor spaces at our places, looking for the ones that provide enough distance.

I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed sitting in the shade of a tree and having a spiritual conversation. I wonder how I can replicate that on the inside of a building!

Despite all the new concerns, fall has its usual beauty and melancholy. It’s likely the favourite season for most of us. I absolutely loved fall when I worked at our Jesuit place in Guelph, Ontario. I was so happy to be back, directing an eight-day retreat last October.

God seemed to arrange for me to have eight perfect fall days. I visited some of my favourite spots on our land and reminded myself of what makes it so sacred.

Chestnuts dropping from their trees. Crisp leaves swirling around. A panoramic scene of colourful leaves, especially in a rural setting. The Vee formation and honking sounds of migrating geese. Farmers and gardeners bringing in the final fruits of their efforts. Farmers markets.

I love the first half of fall – flowers such as asters, crunchy trees displaying the breadth of their colours, the treat of what we used to call Indian summer (is that phrase still legitimate to use?), cool evenings.

By the second half of the season, I’m starting to realize what is around the corner.  The bare trees and the occasional snow flurry make it impossible to ignore the imminence of winter.

Fall includes the possibility of new beginnings, the chance to start over. But this season has often been associated with melancholia. The endless opportunities of summer are gone and winter is on the horizon.

Many people turn inward and become more reflective. That melancholic nature is evident in much poetry, music and beautiful paintings.

A favourite poem of mine is by our 19th century Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins – Hurrahing in Harvest.

Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise

Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour

Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier

Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?


I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,

Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;

And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a

Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?


And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder

Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!—

These things, these things were here and but the beholder

Wanting; which two when they once meet,

The heart rears wings bold and bolder

And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.


May we be granted that grace of beholding!

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 03:31h, 21 September Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • John Montague
    Posted at 08:27h, 21 September Reply

    Thanks Philip. Fall also brings two social and family gatherings: Thanksgiving and Halloween.

  • suzanne renaud
    Posted at 12:35h, 21 September Reply

    Thank you Father Shano. You always write so eloquently! Every time a new season appears, I always say to myself – “this is my favourite season”! We are so blessed, in Canada, to experience four seasons so we can marvel at God’s creation!

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 12:51h, 21 September Reply

    Thank you Fr Philip for your description of Fall in Canada. I love the Fall for so many reasons, some of which you listed in your account. For me it reminds me as you stated, of new beginnings and a chance to start over reflect, and to hunker down to the days ahead. There is so much for us to be thankful for and what better time to reflect on that then in the Fall. Thanks for some of the reminders Fr Philip.

  • Esther Grace
    Posted at 14:29h, 21 September Reply


  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 05:26h, 22 September Reply

    A very beautiful description of your ‘fall’ in Canada. Far away in Australia, I closed my eyes and tried to visualise your summer months disappearing and your welcoming of the subtle changes that are now happening all around you. All our seasons are so special and to each of us bring back special memories. Thank you.

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