I like to think about my death. How’s that for an opening line?
I am not a morbid person. I am not depressed, nor do I want to die. I just know that I will. And so I think about it; the Requiem Mass, followed by a street taco and margarita celebration. I’m even thinking about hiding all the unflattering pictures of myself just to ensure that they don’t make it onto the memory board at the funeral home. Oh...you’ve never thought about that? Well then, what else can I say but...you’re welcome.
You don’t like to talk about death, do you? Most people don’t. We are too afraid of it. We’d prefer to talk about happy things, like pumpkin spiced lattes, our latest trip to Target, or...did I already say pumpkin spiced lattes? But what if I told you that the person who is always thinking about happiness is a fool? What if I argued that a wise person is the one who thinks about death? And what if these words were not my own but from Scripture (Ecclesiastes 7:4)?
At the risk of being your least favorite blogger, I am going to go on record and say it’s time we prepare to die.
Are you familiar with memento mori? Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning “remember you must die.” As baptized Christians, memento mori points to hope—the hope of rising again and to the assurance of eternal life. The Catechism tells us that “the Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and entrance into everlasting life”. Everlasting life is the place, remember, where “he will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
No more crying? No more pain? Sign. Me. Up.
And yet, even with the promise of everlasting life, so many of us fear death. Why are we so reluctant to embrace our mortality? Did we forget that Jesus has conquered death and the goal of life is heaven? Angelo Stagnaro, in a blog for the National Catholic Register, says, “Fear about death is the fruit of an unprepared―and perhaps, unrepentant―soul.” And so if you, dear mortal sister, are afraid to die, it begs the question...what are you preparing, if not your soul? And what, exactly, are you preparing for, if not heaven?
A good way to measure what you are preparing for is to look at your calendar, screen time, credit card bill, Amazon cart, nightstand, Netflix history, or bathroom counter. You should also get into the habit of asking yourself good questions, such as, “do I spend more hours obsessing over my weight, wrinkles, child’s college applications, sports, or my own physical health than I do the state of my soul?” Pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal to you the thing in your life that has such an unhealthy grip on you that if asked to let it go, it would physically hurt. Pray for supernatural strength to pour out everything that is not of God; to weed out any desires that take up that space in your heart reserved for Him. This weeding out is the beginning of the spiritual life; it is a preparation for death.
What I love about memento mori is that it is a call to change. Not tomorrow. Not in a couple of weeks. But right now, without delay, for we do not know “neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13). Like the parable of the ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom, memento mori screams, “don’t forget the oil, sister!” Because remember, the five foolish maidens never made it back in time for the wedding feast. The door was shut, and when they cried out, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” he replied, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12).
Don’t be that maiden.
Today, we celebrate the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, better known as All Souls Day. We honor them for their faithfulness to God in life, as well as pray for them since they are being purified before entering the all-holy presence of God. “As Revelation 21:27 says of the Heavenly Jerusalem, ‘… nothing unclean shall enter in.’” If the thought of purgatory frightens you, here’s a suggestion: aim for heaven. But even if you fall short, still, there’s no reason to fear. As Father John Riccardo says, “Purgatory is like being on the bus to heaven and it doesn’t turn around (emphasis added).” Don’t worry about the length of the trip, just praise God that you made it on the right bus!
It’s natural to feel afraid of dying because death was not God’s plan for us. We were meant to live forever, if only that apple didn’t look so darn tasty. But that’s just the way the story goes. Sin entered the world, and so death came in. HOWEVER. That’s not how the story ends.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." (John 11:25)
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)
Praying that you choose to remember your death, while living in confidence of the hope of heaven.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), 1020.
 Angelo Stagnaro, “Memento Mori—The Gift of Death.” National Catholic Register, November 15, 2018, https://www.ncregister.com/blog/memento-mori-the-gift-of-death.
 “Feast of All Souls,” EWTN, accessed October 25, 2021, https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/seasons-and-feast-days/all-souls-20378.
 Fr. John Riccardo, “Don't Be Afraid of Purgatory,” YouTube video, 2:45, July 1, 2016, https://youtu.be/MJNGAFJvwnI.
As I navigate a long suffering as a result of loving a wayward child, it is not uncommon for well-meaning friends to assure me that, “This too shall pass.”
But I have to wonder... will it?
I think we say this out of the goodness of our hearts. No one enjoys seeing a loved one suffer. It is good to offer encouragement to a weary soul. However, it is important to note that “this too shall pass” is not in Scripture. It is up there with “God won't give you more than you can handle.” While we say these things out of compassion, they are actually not biblically correct. According to Saint Paul, God absolutely gives us more than we can handle so that we stop relying on ourselves and rely on Him (1 Cor 10:13). According to every Bible…. nowhere will you find the phrase “this too shall pass.” And I don't know about you, but when I am suffering, I need to stand on Truth.
There is a verse that I cling to that could be misinterpreted as “this too shall pass,” and that's 2 Corinthians 4:17: For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. Saint Paul isn't simply stating that we shouldn't worry because eventually our trouble will go away. He is declaring something far more powerful and essential to our understanding, our faith, and the role suffering plays in our lives. He is sharing, quite possibly, the very key to the door that unlocks all of that grace-the grace we need to endure our trials and tribulations. How do I know this? Well, when I feel like I am getting anxious and too much up in my own head, I dig even deeper into God's Word. Something that has helped me tremendously is to meditate on a verse by reading all of the Biblical translations. I did this with 2 Corinthians 4:17, and when I read the Common English Bible translation, light poured over my blindness and a deep peace rushed in:
Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.
You see, our sufferings are not something to wish away but something to embrace. Why? Because they are necessary! In suffering them well, we gain eternal glory. In this short time of distress (which I know hardly feels short), the result will be God's richest blessing upon us... forever. So, that thing you are struggling with? That circumstance that has had you on your knees for years? Those millions of tears shed for the one that you love? Every single painful thing is meant to be endured for everlasting life. I know this isn't easy, but I promise you... your present trouble is preparing you for a glory that is incomparable and immeasurable. Rather than praying for it to pass, thank God for entrusting you with it instead. It is your golden ticket. Your “admit one.” Your Disney Fast Pass. Don't lose it.
Saint Louis De Montfort writes, “It is no small matter to lose or gain the Kingdom of God.” And I know that the only way to the Kingdom is by way of the cross. If “this too shall pass” implies a desire that my suffering be removed here on earth, dare I say... no, thank you. My suffering is preparing me for glory. It will all pass soon enough; in that I am confident. But I've got Jesus on my heart and my eyes on that eternal stockpile of grace. As De Montfort encourages and reminds me, “At the hour of death, what shall we not wish to have done, to have suffered, and renounced for the sake of Heaven?”
With confidence in the hope of good things to come,
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