Votive Mass for the Dead

Scripture Readings: Heb 10:11-18; Mk 4:1-20   

In today’s parable what is sown in the ground and what it yields at harvest are set side by side, as if there was no time between them.  And that’s how quickly our lives will seem to have passed when we die.  Birth and death side by side. Seneca, the Stoic philosopher, reminds us about the non-renewability of our most important resource: our time.   In his moral essay, On the Shortness of Life, Seneca writes, “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”  He continues, “In guarding fortunes people are often closefisted, but, when it comes to wasting time, the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, people show themselves most extravagant.”

How can we do better?  St. Benedict writes, “Keep death daily before one’s eyes.”  The philosophers and the desert fathers expressed it succinctly in the Latin phrase, “Memento mori. Remember death.”   What better way is there to prepare for death than by celebrating the Eucharist every day!



Votive Mass for the Dead

Scripture Readings: 1 Cor 12:12-14;   Lk 7:11-17

In his Tools of Good Works St. Benedict writes, “Keep death daily before your eyes” (RB 4:47).  When two monks were parting, one said to the other, “See you later.”  The other replied with a twinkle in his eye, “Let’s not be presumptuous.” 

How easy it is at New Melleray to keep death daily before our eyes.  When we look out the Northeast windows of this church we see the monks’ cemetery.  I tell candidates for our way of life that St. Benedict calls the monastery “a school of the Lord’s service” (Prol 45).  As a school it must have a graduation date and a diploma.  It does!  We graduate when we die and are buried in the cemetery.  The cross above our graves is the diploma.  I have seen the joyful graduation of fifty monks during my years here.

But there is another reason it is so easy for us to keep death daily before our eyes: our work at Trappist Caskets.  Someone called them treasure chests.  Another described them as cradles.  Both images capture the Christian view of death as the beginning of a rich future, our passage for eternity into the most joyful and happy country we could ever imagine or desire.  To keep death daily before our eyes is like saying keep heaven daily before our eyes.  In fact, in the previous tool of good works that’s what St. Benedict urges us to do. He writes, “Desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit” (RB 4:46). He could have written, “Desire death with all the passion of the spirit” because it will be a birthday, the beginning of eternal life