But one Stoic practice that’s central to Christianity seems pertinent on All Hallow’s Eve: memento mori.
Remember your death.
Remember, you will die.
We all die.
All the tech billionaires spending their fortunes trying to live forever will die.
No matter how young and healthy you are, time is running through your hourglass. It will run out. And you probably won’t know when.
For over a year I’ve carried a challenge coin that reminds me of my death:
I carry it in my Rosary pouch. I pull it out and play with it during boring meetings. It reminds me that time is running out, yet I’m sitting in a meeting.
Who would want to die in a meeting?
Yet, we’re dying all the time.
Marcus Aurelius wrote in his journal, “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
All Saints Day
Today is All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation in honor of those who have gone before us and attained heaven. The Church Triumphant. The examples.
All Saints Day reminds us that we are going to die to this world just as we died to the familiar womb to enter this world. My guess is that our memory of the next death will be about as powerful as our memory of being born.
All Saints Day is the perfect day to remember that any of us could leave life right now. You will remember this at mass today.
All Souls Day
Tomorrow, November 2, is All Souls Day. This day recalls all those who’ve gone before us but felt unfit to stand in the presence of God. They left life with some stain on their souls and they want to be pure when they meet Jesus.
As St. Paul says, they will be purified as if by fire.
On All Souls Day, we pray that their purification ends soon. They’re already assured of heaven, and this a way the living can assist the dead.
A Book About Remembering Death
Focusing on your death may seem morbid, unhealthy, disturbing, and perhaps even diabolical. And in some cases it can become so. Death in itself is an evil. Saint Augustine wrote that death is “the very violence with which body and soul are wrenched asunder.” But Jesus has changed the nature of death for those who believe. Before becoming pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once wrote: “The sting of death is extinguished in Christ.”
Sr. Theresa has two books on the subject arriving later this year. One, a Lenten guide. The other, a memento mori journal. I just ordered both because they come with a free vinyl memento mori sticker.
I think the world would be a better place if more people remembered their death every day. The easiest way to do that is to keep a memento mori on your desk or your pocket.
It doesn’t hurt to remember how many souls we’ve lost already. Think back to a Christmas or Thanksgiving when you were eight or nine. See the faces and hear the voices. Then consider how many of them are gone.
Now, you probably realize that that celebration seemed like only yesterday, yet so many have died since.
And someday, we don’t know when, someone will remember us in the same way. Here, then gone. Like that.
Memento Mori, my friends. Memento Mori.