“Then Jacob rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” – Genesis 37:34
In one week’s time, we will begin the Holy season of Lent. We will all come forward, and in a gesture that is both solemn and biblical, we will have ashes sprinkled on our heads. The words spoken to us as the ashes are sprinkled are sobering: “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.” “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”
As we prepare for this moment we would do well to pray and meditate on a few things. First, that we are going to die. Some of us, sooner than later. All of us, the powerful and the lowly will all face that moment when our heart will stop beating, our breath cease, and our body fail to function. At that moment we will stand before the Just Judge. There will no longer be any excuses, no hiding, no evasion, for the Just Judge knows everything. He knows our inmost thoughts, our secret sins, he knows us through and through. In that moment we will stand, completely naked, before He who is the truth.
Our state in that moment will decide our eternal fate. It will be either heaven or hell. In that moment our fate is sealed forever. There is no going back. No repentance, only the stark reality of truth.
And then our bodies return to dust. The bodies we once pampered and treated kindly will decay, and turn to dust.
This reality should make us think.
Which leads to the second thing we should pray and meditate on. Given the reality that we must all die, and given that we do not know when, we ought to always be in readiness for that moment. Lent is the perfect time to prepare. We should ask ourselves what we would do if we were, like Jesus, to die on Good Friday. The answer to that question is what we should do for lent. Our Lenten program should be a forty-day preparation for death.
This should include, at the very least, the following ten things:
- A good, brutally honest confession. Remember, there is no hiding, excuses, or evasion at our judgment.
- Make reparation for our sins. This can take the form of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving.
- Get to know our Lord more deeply. If we only talk to Jesus occasionally, we run the risk of him saying to us, “I never knew you.” The best way to do this is daily prayer and reading of the gospels. For prayer, it would be ideal to spend at least a half hour a day, preferably in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. For scripture reading, ten minutes a day reading one of the gospels would be ideal.
- Forgive those who have offended us, and ask pardon from those we have offended.
- Say the things that we need to say before we die.
- Pray the Rosary every single day. After all, if you aren’t praying the Rosary every day, you’re not on our Lady’s team. We want to be on her team.
- Wear the Brown Scapular constantly.
- Pray daily to the patrons of a happy death, St. Joseph and St. Benedict.
- Meditate frequently on the passion and death of the Lord.
- Receive Holy Communion as frequently as possible.
Certainly, you may have more things to add to your Lenten program. In fact, you should. Things particular to you and what you need to do to prepare for death.
Since I have a terminal disease for which there is no cure, this is all very real to me. But, the reality, dear reader, is that you might die before me, so, memento mori, remember your death. Then prepare.