You are going to die. These opening words hearkened me back seven years ago to the book that changed my life, Be A Man!: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be by Father Larry Richards. With those words, I was awoken from my faith slumber and set forth on a journey that has transformed from weekly book reviews to a weekly podcast and the retooling of Breadbox Media. Needless to say, they struck me again as I began to read Remember Your Death: Memento Mori Lenten Devotional by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble.
A little background. Memento mori is an ancient tradition dating back to the early church that involves one reflecting upon their death daily. That may sound a bit morbid…but it is quite a useful practice that has been encouraged by numerous saints through the centuries. What are the benefits? By spending some time each day remembering that indeed one will die and leave this earthly (no matter how hard we try to ignore that fact), we can regain a focus on what is truly important in this life. It allows us to put into check the consumeristic culture we are entrenched in and instead focus on the eternal life we are striving for after breaking the chains of this world.
How do we integrate this practice into our spiritual life? That is where this book and its companion journal come into play. Set up to guide readers through the season of Lent, the daily readings begin with As Wednesday. Each day includes memento mori quotes from Scripture, Church Fathers, and the saints. Sr. Theresa includes a reflection for each day that builds upon the daily Scripture reading from that day’s meditations. Following these reflections, one is to conduct a daily examen and intercessory prayer. Next, are relative wrings from the saints that leads one deeper into their memento mori reflection. Finally, each day concludes with a journaling prompt on what was covered.
The real meat of this process is the daily examen. Similar to the daily examen you are used where one reflects upon their day and the areas they may have come up short, this examen heavily incorporates memento mori. Sr. Theresa outlines a five-step process:
Step One: Become Aware of God’s presence
Step Two: Ask for the Holy Spirit’s Guidance
Step Three: Review the Day
Step Four: Remember Your Death
Step Five: Look Toward Tomorrow
Remember Your Death gives readers the keys to growing as faithful Christians. By focus on the end of our lives, we get an opportunity to address the present of our lives. This book is the perfect Lenten companion, but I dare say it is one that will create a life-long habit that will prepare readers for the rewards of their eternal life. Don’t fear death; embrace it as the gateway to a new life. Many have done so for centuries. It’s time we do the same.