Memento Mori

As we enter the month of November we celebrate the Feast of all Saints. We are beginning to do this at the weekend even though 1st November on Monday. We celebrate all those who have committed themselves to Christ and have striven to live the Beatitudes.

We include all those “who have gone before us with the sign  of faith” (Eucharistic Prayer I). We remember all those who are named as saints by the Church and all those unnamed who are with the Lord. We celebrate all those who are with God already and our hope is that being faithful to our baptismal call we may one day join them in complete union with God.

On the 2nd November we celebrate All Souls Day. On this day we pray for all those who have died. We entrust them to God’s great mercy. For us death is not merely the end of earthly life but the beginning of life in heaven with our Lord.

The Church teaches that the purification of the souls in purgatory can be assisted by the actions of the faithful on earth. Its teaching is based also on the practice of prayer for the dead mentioned as far back as 2 Maccabees 12:42–46. In the West there is ample evidence of the custom of praying for the dead in the inscriptions of the catacombs, with their constant prayers for the peace of the souls of the departed and in the early liturgies, which commonly contain commemorations of the dead.

Tertullian, Cyprian and other early Western Fathers witnessed the regular practice of praying for the dead among the early Christians. The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body, are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred from the Beatific Vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, alms deeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass.

I have just bought a book entitled “Memento Mori” Prayers on the Last things written and edited by Sr Theresa Aletheia Noble FSP, a religious sister with the Daughters of Saint Paul. She is at the forefront of reviving the ancient discipline of memento mori (“remember your death”).

Inspired by her order’s founder, Blessed James Alberione, Sr. Theresa Aletheia put a ceramic skull on her desk in 2017 and has been meditating on her death daily ever since. She writes in the introduction:

“As Christians, we must pray and meditate on death and the afterlife. Many suggest it is old fashioned or unnecessary, but meditation on the Last Things is vital to the Christian life. We should regularly consider these important questions. Where am I headed? How are my choices diminishing my humanity and leading me to evil? How are my choices responding to God’s grace and leading me to what is true and good? Am I living for myself and indulging in my basest desires or am I living for heaven-union with God? Holiness requires that we ask ourselves these questions and consider all the possible answers.”

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest