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Photo: Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec 8 2011, St. Stephen Church



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Memento Mori

Today the Church gives us the opportunity to remember and meditate upon our mortality, memento mori: remember death. We receive ashes today, remembering that we came from dust, and unto dust we shall return, without any of the riches of this world, only with the testimony of our faith and works.

Vanitas Paintings

The 16th and 17th centuries brought forth works of art which paint beautifully the words of Sacred Scripture: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2). These paintings typically depicted items of worldly wealth and beauty, but then contrasted with an image of death, usually a skull.



The modern world would think this is depressing or morbid. Historically, Christians didn't think so. Saints have been depicted as being deep in thought, prayer or work, with a skull before them. Memento mori was motivational for them, helping them in the spiritual life.


St. Jerome


St. Catherine of Siena


St. Francis of Assisi


St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Consider these words of Thomas a Kempis, from The Imitation of Christ.
Very soon the end of your life will be at hand: consider, therefore, the state of your soul. Today a man is here; tomorrow he is gone.(I Machabees 2:63) And when he is out of sight, he is soon out of mind. Oh, how dull and hard is the heart of man, which thinks only of the present, and does not provide against the future! You should order your every deed and thought, as though today were the day of your death. Had you a good conscience, death would hold no terrors for you; (Luke 12:37) even so, it were better to avoid sin than to escape death. (Wisdom 4:16) If you are not ready to die today, will tomorrow find you better prepared? (Matthew 24:44) Tomorrow is uncertain; and how can you be sure of tomorrow? Of what use is a long life, if we amend so little? Alas, a long life often adds to our sins rather than to our virtue! 
May you and your family have a most blessed and holy Lent.

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