Memento mori!

Over at the amusing and often useful blog Art of Manliness there is a post about Memento Mori art.

“Memento mori!” means, “Be mindful of death!” or “Don’t forget that you are going to die so repent, confess your sins, and live a virtuous life!”

Here is a shot I took recently of a well-known sight in the Via Giulia in Rome (which I will probably see again soon).

Today, it’s my turn.  Tomorrow, it’s yours.

There are some good images over at the aforementioned blog.  Check them out.

The “Memento mori!” theme is often connected with the vanitas vanitatum theme in art, depicting the passing things of this world.  Even in many still life paintings (in Italian natura morta) there will be perhaps rotting fruit or wilting flowers.  They often aren’t in the painting merely so that the painter can show off his technique.

Treasure up your treasure in heaven, friends, and never put any created thing – even a person whom you love – on the highest throne of your heart.  God alone cannot be lost. In the hierarchy of our loves, God must have the highest place.  Only when God has the highest place in our lives can all our other relationships be rightly ordered.  This is why what we owe God by the virtue of Religion is so important.  This is why without a revolution in our liturgical worship all the initiatives of a new evangelization will far short.

Remember that you are going to die. You too, you Fishwrap editors, writers, readers. You too, you Tablistas.



Ask yourself.  Is it really worth it to delay going to make a good confession?  Really?

As you look at the image, list, O list, to Liszt:


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ralph says:

    Yes, this post is all too true. I lost a friend unexpectedly yesterday. We must hasten to be ready at anytime should the Lord choose to call us home.

    Quick question for any readers who may know –

    I am of the Latin rite. I assume that I can go to other rites’ priests for confession. Do I use the same “formula” that I use with a Latin rite priest?

    The reason I ask is that there is a Byzantine Catholic Parish near my office and I was thinking I should know how to make a confession there since it is so close.

  2. alexandra88 says:

    Thanks for the push Father. I have the morning off work tomorrow and will make my confession then.

    Ralph, I am sorry to hear of your recent loss. I will be praying for you.

  3. Mark R says:

    What a beautiful old style tulip in the last painting, but what does it signify?

  4. TMKent says:

    Mark R-
    Its called a vanitas painting and items like the hour glass and flowers (usually beginning to decay) were used to show the ephemerality of life and sensual pleasures.

  5. acardnal says:

    Ralph, you most certainly can go to the sacrament of Penance at an Eastern Rite Catholic parish just as you can participate in any of their sacraments.

    I do not know the rite, however. You could call them ahead of time and ask about it. Perhaps they have some cards you can use. I am sure that as long as you state sins by kind and number and express your sorrow, you will be absolved. Check the internet; you may find something there.

  6. Andrew says:

    I suppose if you are scrupulous it might be worth the delay.

  7. The Masked Chicken says:

    “In all you do, remember the end of your life,
    and then you will never sin.”

    Sirach 7:36 RSV

  8. Lynne says:

    We lost a friend last week. He was 55, pancreatitis, went very quickly.

  9. Skeinster says:

    My condolences for all who have lost loved ones.
    As children, we used to frequent the Baptist cemetery next to my grandfather’s farm. One of the stones there had this inscription:
    “Reader, take heed, as you pass by:
    As you are now, so once was I,
    As I am now, so shall you be.
    Prepare for death, and follow me.”
    So, it’s not just us with the tradition, I guess.

    Survived a wreck that totaled my car about five years ago. Once the realization that you will, in fact, die one day is borne in on you viscerally, your entire life changes. Never “bright confident morning again”, but a greater detachment from the world.
    And as always- prayers for those who do not have Confession as available as we do, at our EF parish with three priests.

  10. JaneC says:


    Byzantine priests often deal with Roman Catholics visiting their parish. Call and make an appointment for confession. When you go, tell him that you are a Roman and unfamiliar with the Byzantine rite for the sacrament. He will, I’m sure, be happy to walk you through it.

    I am also a Roman Catholic who sometimes goes to a Byzantine parish for reasons of convenience. I confessed to the Byzantine priest for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I sort of expected him to walk me through the Byzantine method for confession, but we did it the Roman way instead (the priest has bi-ritual faculties).

    You might not be able to find anything online about the Byzantine ritual for confession. I looked a couple of weeks ago, and found a lot about how to prepare for and approach the sacrament, but no information about what to expect, what to say, etc.

  11. rpgivpgmr says:

    Interesting you should mention going to another parish to do confession… another type of Church as well… Recently I have become aware of the many methods we all can use to make confession easier and not all of them are very good although they are all very human. The Father is the Shepherd of the flock and we are supposed to go to him and also supposed to confess everything we know of even when it is unconfortable. If we don’t do that he can’t do the shepherd job. It would be a great post for Father Z to put his opinion on this. Some ways confession can be made more confortable are:
    1 – go to another parish so noone knows you anyway. Since most priests do know each other it would be good to do another faith or type of ritual to guarantee anonymity.
    2 – don’t confess everything, just figure since the Father is one with God that he knows everything.
    3 – don’t confess anything (e.g. actually witnessed this one due to very loud parishoner), ditto as above.
    Since the confession has been made, it should all be covered, and absolution is accepted of course.
    Not really sure how all that sits with the Holy Spirit.
    It could be invitation for a good testing!

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