Saturday, 10 November 2012

Respice Finem


The month of November's focus on the Holy Souls encourages us to do two things:

  1. To remember, of our charity, to pray for the souls in Purgatory, and hopefully give them a helping hand towards paradise
  2. To reflect on the end of our own life and the Four Last Things, and consider the current state of our own souls in relation to this.
Our modern, western culture doesn't like to think about death. There is a tendency to sanitise it, or to divert the focus away from the issue (consider how common it is when reporting the death of a famous person, or when giving an address at a funeral, to cut as quickly as possible to some entertaining anecdote from their life) or just to pretend it doesn't exist (I was struck by the absurdity of a charity's use of the slogan 'No Child Born to Die' - surely that is the one certainty we have; hopefully they will have a reasonably good 'innings' beween the two events, but death is definitely going to happen at some point: our death is even more certain than our birth).

Ignoring death isn't a healthy thing: if we don't think about the future, then we are unlikely to prepare for it. This doesn't, of course, mean we should become preoccupied with death: there is no need to become maudlin about it, or to theatricalise (is that actually a word?) it in some gothic fashion. Life is good and worth living, but we can live it in a way that works towards the next step, and will very likely have a better and more enjoyable life if we do this.

This is the reason I have added a Memento Mori to my blog. This is a very old and traditional Catholic practice - to maintain some small symbol (traditionally an image of a skull or skeleton) in some place where it will occasionally jog our memory to think about where we are heading.
I have also added the motto 'Respice Finem' (Think about (literally 'respect') the end) - this is the motto of Homerton College, Cambridge, where I trained as a teacher (I believe it is also used by the London Oratory School): a good motto for somewhere concerned with education - when study gets hard, it's useful to recall why you're doing it (exam grades, future careers, 'life chances', etc.). By analogy, when life gets hard, it's good to remember where that is hopefully leading (to God and eternal happiness).

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