"Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience … Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren’t fit to face death today, it’s very unlikely you will be tomorrow …"(Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1014)
When I first learned of the Latin phrase, "Memento Mori," I had no idea what to think of it or what all of the craze was about on #CatholicTwitter. I could figure out from the words that it had something to do with remembering our death, but why was this simple phrase popping up daily on my news-feed with a little emoticon skull next to it? There are even hashtags for this current Twitter trend; #mementomori and #livemementomori. Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, a Daughter of St. Paul, gives daily reflections on Twitter about the skull on her desk and how she remembers to keep her impending death in mind. But the questions remain; what is this skull on the desk thing, and why is it so popular among Catholics, especially millennials?
This ancient Christian tradition has everything to do with being a Catholic. It comes from the Medieval Church, and Sister Theresa Aletheia speaks of the history behind "Memento Mori" on her website Pursued by Truth. She even has available in her online store memento mori apparel, decade bracelets, and devotional prayers and journals. Sister was inspired to revive the ancient tradition by the founder of the Daughters of St. Paul, Blessed James Alberione, who also kept a skull on his desk as a reminder of his impending death. She encourages all of us to take part in this revival by remembering to keep in mind our death daily before our eyes, and even to place a skull on our desk.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1007 on the topic of our death teaches us:
"Death is the end of earthly life. Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life. That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment"
Here are a few scripture verses on "Memento Mori" for our reflection:
"For you are dust, And to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19)
"If they had insight they would realize this, they would understand their end." (Deuteronomy 32:29)
By keeping in mind our death, we are confronted by the reality that we only have a short time in this world. We need to strive to lives our lives in imitation of Christ, and become who God intends us to be as His son or daughter. There is not an unlimited amount of time to accomplish this goal; "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 7:19) We all want to be able to hear at the end of our lives Jesus say, "Well done my good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:21)