It is truly an honor to be here with you today. Being here with all of you today I can’t help but think back to my days at Priory. As I think back I am filled with gratitude for the formation I received in my 6 years here. There is no doubt that I am the person I am today, because I bought into the Priory way and allowed it to shape me. As I look out at all of you and recall my 8 years at Priory, I find it very surreal to be standing on this side of the podium because it seems like just yesterday when I was sitting right where you are. This year, as I celebrate my 10 year reunion, I have found myself asking if I were to go back in time and do it all over again what is the one piece of advice I’d take back with me. Much to my own surprise two words come immediately to mind: Memento Mori. Certainly, all of you Latin scholars know what that means but for your moms’ sake I’ll give the English translation. Memento Mori is a Latin phrase which means “remember that you will die” or in the words of St. Benedict “keep death daily before your eyes. (Rule 4.47).
Now I’m sure many of you are thinking well that’s kind of morbid. Perhaps it is, but as a priest, and especially as one who specializes in biomedical ethics, death is a part of almost every day of my life. While no death is routine, and one never adjusts to death, I’m grateful it’s a part of my daily life because it has changed my entire perspective on life. You see up until a couple of years ago when death became a daily fixture in my life, I was so caught up in the present I never stopped to ponder what comes next. I was so wrapped up in this world that I easily forgot my actions now determine my eternal destiny. Up until a couple of years ago I was working so hard to make sure I wasn’t taking anything for granted that I failed to realize I was taking heaven for granted. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance, but I was leaving the most import thing, my eternal salvation for granted. Up until a couple of years ago I was so caught up in setting myself up for the future that I failed to realize there may be no future because my life could end today.
If your life is anything like mine, we are so busy, and we seem only to have time to focus on the task at hand, without ever taking a moment to look to the future. But if we don’t stop for a moment and ponder the future, we will never get to where we want to go. Just think about it for a moment, if you are going to run a race don’t you think you better know where the finish line is and if you are going to build a bench don’t you think you better know what the bench looks like before you start to build it? Why should it be any different with our lives?
I think if we are honest with ourselves all of us will admit that at times it can be so easy for us to get caught up in the day to day life that we take the most important things in our life for granted. Think about everything that you do. Don’t you always do something for a purpose? Well what is the purpose of your life? What’s the purpose of your hard work at Priory or what’s the purpose of your parents spending a small fortune each year to send you to Priory? What’s the purpose of getting into a great college? What’s the purpose of getting a great job and making lots of money? Simply put why do you do what you do? What is the ultimate goal that you are working for?
While I’m sure if I went around the room asking those questions, I’d get many different answers, but hopefully we would eventually arrive at the truth that the purpose of life is to spend eternity with God forever. You see when you recall death, you quickly realize that this life is just a fleeting moment and you begin to realize that the greatest purpose of our life must be to become a saint. Thus, for all the work we do we need to take a step back and recognize that “our first step in sanctity is realizing that nothing in life is worth so much as our becoming saints.”
My friends you are what you repeatedly do so if you want to be a saint you have to be a saint every day. You see the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, and we miss it but that it is too low, and we reach it. Aim high, aim for sainthood because of you miss you’ll end up in purgatory which leads to heaven, but if you aim for purgatory and miss, all hope is lost.
In today’s busy world there can be a tendency for those of us who want to live out our faith, to fall into the trap of seeing it as being just one more thing on our to do list. But our faith isn’t just one more thing on our to do list, it is the lens, the reasons for which we do everything on our list. We are not called to do Catholicism, we are called to be Catholic.
Our death is simply too important to forget about. This life goes to quickly for us to forget our death and stay focused on heaven. Memento Mori and recall that you are called to be a saint.
So how should we remember our death? I think to Memento Mori we daily need to ask ourselves 3 simple questions. 1. If I passed away right now, and someone told my whole life story are their certain things I wish they would leave out? Now don’t forget everyone loves a redemption story. The truth is “no one is strong enough to travel the entire path of salvation unaided. All have sinned, all need the Lord’s mercy, the love of the crucified one.” This question isn’t focused on past mistakes it’s focused on making sure I have resolved past mistakes. 2. If I passed away right now and someone was going through my belongings are there things I hope they wouldn’t find? 3. If I passed away right now, are there any relationships in my life that I wish I would have straightened out? If we answer yes to any of those questions, then perhaps we are not ready for death.
Let me close with a very personal story that I think will bring all of this focus …
So, I’ll leave you with one question. If you die today would you go to heaven?
 Albert Joseph Mary Shamon. Three Steps to Sanctity. Oak Lawn: CMJ Marian Publishers and Distributors (1993) pg. 1
 Jospeh Cardinal Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,2011. Pg 151 – 152