Monday 4 February 2019

Remember Your Death Memento Mori A Lenten Devotional - Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP

Remember Your Death
Memento Mori: A Lenten Devotional
Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 9780819865175
eISBN 9780819865182

As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I wanted to read it. Without knowing anything else other than the title. I did not know that this book grew out of a series of tweets. For Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSB put a ceramic skull on her desk and started tweeting about memento mori. And a movement was born. Memento Mori – Latin for ‘remember your death’ and her daily tweets gathered a large following. She wrote quotes and personal insights into the practice of remembering that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Lent is a time of preparation, and the whole concept of memento mori is a preparation. And in this volume Sr. Theresa combines both.

Now I have read this book through from beginning to end, in order to write a fair review. I also know that I will read it this year during lent and it will likely be read many times in the years to come over lent. Lent is a time to remember Christ’s death and sacrifice for us. And for us to think on our own mortality. But this book is much more than just another Lenten devotional. Part of the description for this book states:

“Each day contains a refection written by Sr. Theresa Aletheia based on the liturgy of the day for all of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. The devotional also includes a memento mori examen or review of the day, a daily moment of intercessory prayer, and daily reflections on death from the tradition, including the Church Fathers and many of the saints. Prompts are provided for journaling that can be used along with the Remember Your Death: Memento Mori Journal.”

And also:

“This devotional will help you to meditate on your own mortality and the incredible gift of salvation in preparation for Easter. Whether you get a skull for your desk, a memento mori journal, or a Lenten devotional, it is vitally important to the Christian life to remember the fragility of your life on earth - because one day you will die.”

It can be read at any time of the year, but it is tied to the liturgical readings during lent. The sections in the book are:

Remember Your Death—Change Your Life
Live Memento Mori
The Memento Mori Daily Examen

The Lenten Journey Begins
Ash Wednesday
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Friday after Ash Wednesday
Saturday after Ash Wednesday

First Week of Lent
Second Week of Lent
Third Week of Lent
Fourth Week of Lent
Fifth Week of Lent
Holy Week Palm Sunday
Monday of Holy Week
Tuesday of Holy Week
Wednesday of Holy Week
Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Holy Saturday
Easter Sunday

For a total of 47 devotional readings. These readings draw from the bible, church documents, and the writings of saints. A Sample devotion from the fourth week is:


READINGS: JER 11:18–20 / PS 7:2–3, 9BC–10, 11–12 / JN 7:40–53

“A division occurred in the crowd because of him.” —John 7:43

IN TODAY’S GOSPEL, THE PEOPLE cannot decide on Jesus’ true identity. Is he a prophet? Is he the Messiah? Is he a fake? The crowd is divided. Jesus disrupts—Truth always does. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews describes the incisive, challenging effect that Jesus’ truth has on people: “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (4:12). God’s Word is Jesus, and his identity cuts right to the heart. The Word of God pierces souls and penetrates both our minds and our hearts.

However, like the people in the crowd, when we are met with the person of Jesus we are divided. This division occurs in two ways. First, it happens interiorly. We want to believe in the words of Jesus and to follow him to new life. But we are divided because we also want to forget his troubling demands for change. Second, when we begin to choose to follow Christ, we experience great division exteriorly. Prioritizing the Gospel concretely in our lives in a healthy but also a radical way can cause other people who love us to respond negatively. Some oppose us because they hate religion. Others resent moving to second place in our lives. Still others are frightened or bitter because our conversion of life calls them to similar changes.

Following Jesus requires death. In the midst of interior and exterior division, we must be willing to die to many of our desires and expectations. The people we thought would remain by our side might disappear. And those we expected to leave immediately might remain. The most religious people in our lives may, surprisingly, resent our radical discipleship more than the less religious. People will surprise us in good ways and bad. But in the midst of the confusion, we can remain by Christ’s side, knowing that he will bring good from this dying to ourselves. As Saint Paul reminds us: “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6:8). Everything in our being may resist dying with Jesus. Nevertheless, we can ask Jesus to open our hearts to listen to his voice. In the power of Jesus Christ, we can walk with him through the screaming interior and exterior voices to the Place of the Skull. The Son of God will lead us through death to new life and to powerful unity of heart.

Examen and Intercessory Prayer

Review your day (see the Memento Mori Daily Examen, p. 8).

Think of someone you know who opposes your discipleship. Pray a Hail Mary for this person and for all who resist the call of Jesus in their own lives and in their loved ones’ lives.

“Seeing, then, that all things have an end, these two things are simultaneously set before us—death and life; and everyone will experience it. For as there are two kinds of coins, the one of God, the other of the world, and each has its special character stamped upon it [so is it also here.] The unbelieving are of this world; but the believing have, in love, the character of God the Father by Jesus Christ, by whom, if we are not ready to die into his passion, his life is not in us. … I exhort you to learn to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed. Do all then, imitating the same divine conduct, pay respect to one another … continually love each other in Jesus Christ. Let nothing exist among you that may divide you; but be united with your bishop, and those who preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality.”
—Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians

Journaling and Prayer

Consider a time that you felt tempted to make a bad choice but through God’s grace you chose the good. Give thanks to God and ask him how you can make more choices like this in the future. Draw a symbol that represents the battle between life and death within your soul. Or write a prayer thanking Jesus for already winning the battle and ask him to help you to grow in trust."

As can be see from the above sample, this is a deep devotional. It will help you reflect, help you connect with the saints. And help to foster growth. It is an amazing volume that I highly recommend.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP:
Remember Your Death: Memento Mori A Lenten Devotional
Remember Your Death: Memento Mori Journal

Memento Mori Prayers on the Last Things 
The Prodigal You Love

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