Christian Saints and philosophers have long understood that remembering our inevitable death can be a healthy way to evaluate our life.
It is said that Carthusian monks, who spend their lives in silence, may only utter the following words to a fellow monk: “Frater momento mori.” Or, “Brother, remember thy death.”
As depressing as that may be, it forces one to deal with reality. I mean, just think for a moment, the day after you are placed in the ground, people will be buying toothpaste, complaining about the weather, and wondering if there’s life after death.
French philosopher, Pascal, put it this way:
”Let us imagine a number of men in chains, and all condemned to death, where some are killed each day in the sight of the others, and those who remain see their own fate in that of their fellows, and wait their turn, looking at each other sorrowfully and without hope. It is an image of the condition of men.”
If God does not exist, then you’re right to be depressed. We are all, both individually, and collectively as a species, doomed.
T.S. Eliot wrote, “This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”
Below is a powerful meditation on death by St. Francis de Sales. I’d encourage you to print it out, find somewhere you can be alone, without distractions, and read it slowly and purposefully.
Meditation on Death
1. Place yourself in the Presence of God and ask Him to inspire you.
2. Imagine yourself on your death-bed, incurably ill.
1. Consider the uncertainty of the day of your death. One day, my soul, you must depart from this body. When will it be? In winter or summer? In town or country? At home or afar? During the day or the night? With or without warning? As a result of illness of accident? Shall I have a chance to go to Confession? Shall I be assisted by a Priest? Will I be prepared? Unhappily, I know the answer to none of these things. Only one thing is certain – that I shall die, and sooner than I imagine.
2. Consider that then, the world will come to an end as far as you are concerned. You will have no more part in it. It will turn upside down before your eyes, for worldly joys and pleasures and the things you loved in vain will turn into empty dreams and shadows. Fool that I am to offend God for the sake of such trifling vanities. I have forsaken God, and for what – for nothing! On the other hand, devotion and good deeds will be seen as desirable and delightful to and you will ask yourself – why did I not take this beautiful and pleasant path of everlasting joy? At that hour, your sins – which at the time seemed so small – will appear as vast as mountains and your devotions truly small.
3. Consider how reluctantly your soul will bid farewell to this world, to all its riches and vanities, to amusements, friends, family, to everything – and last of all, to your own body, leaving it pale, wasted away, hideous and fearful.
4. Consider how your body will be hurried to the grave and then the world will give no more thought to you than you have given to others. They will say, ‘God rest his soul’ – and that will be the end of it. Such is the pitiless power of death.
5. Consider the destination of your soul once it has left the body. In which direction will it go? It will continue in the same direction as it went on earth!
Spiritual Acts and Resolutions
1. Pray to God and cast yourself into His arms. O my God, take me into Thy care on that terrible day; may all other days be sad if only that single day will be a happy one!
2. Despise the world. Since I do not know when I will part from the world, I will not become attached to it. No love for friends or for relatives, save what is holy, save what can last forever. For why should I love them with a love that death can end?
3. I will prepare for that hour and ensure that it may be a happy one. I will do all I can to make my conscience clear and resolve to overcome all my faults and imperfections.
1. Thank God for inspiring these resolutions and offer them to Him, imploring Him to grant you the grace of a Happy Death through the merits of His Son and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints.
2. Carry with you always a small Happy Death Crucifix, properly blessed to obtain a Plenary Indulgence at the hour of death, and meditate upon it often.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.