“In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.” (Sirach 7:40). This is the idea behind Memento mori. Memento mori is a Latin term meaning, “remember your death”. It is a long-held Catholic tradition of putting the focus on your own death and life’s possible ends. It is accepting salvation by our Lord and keeping our eyes towards the reward of Heaven.
How can you practice Memento mori? Here are just a few ways.
Throughout the ages, many Christians and the Saints engaged in the practice of keeping skulls. Many such as St. Francis, and Mary Magdalene were observers of this and are depicted with skulls in art. You can literally purchase a plastic skull and place it on your desk or nightstand, where it will be in constant view. Meditation using the skull is one of the most common practices.
You can also purchase many Lenten Devotionals which guide you through daily prayer and reflections. My favorite is the Remember Your Death: Memento Mori Lenten Devotional by Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP. There is also a companion journal. Sister Aletheia’s book contains helpful quotes and Biblical scripture. The journal helps you to respond to the daily prompts. It really is an in-depth, daily look at your life and death. You can use it during Lent or year-round. I go back to mine often.
Visiting the dead
Another way to remember your death is to visit cemeteries. It is also one of The Corporal Works of Mercy, which are encouraged more during the Lenten season (see my previous post on Almsgiving for more on The Corporal Works of Mercy). Taking care of the landscape or decorating graves with flowers allows us to spend time with the dead. It creates a sense of mortal realness, that this is also our fate. But it teaches us to respect life as well. We can reflect on how we are living our own lives and remember to treat our neighbors kindly.
One other way I would encourage memento mori is to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. We have been told, “Watch ye, therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13). Indeed, we do not know when Jesus Christ will return, but we can make sure to not sin and confess sins regularly so that we are prepared to enter Heaven.
Using your time wisely
We only have a finite amount of time on this earth. We need to take into account all of the time we waste, either on television or social media or in gossip. When we catch ourselves not utilizing well our time, we should make amends and begin on tasks that enrich our life and that of those around us. Would we ever want to look back and say we wished we had done something? When the Lord comes, the way we hoped to live our lives, and the way we wanted to act towards others will cease to exist. We will only be responsible for what actions we did or didn’t take.
Have you heard of Memento mori? Which ways do you remember your death? Please share in the comments?