44. To fear the Day of Judgment.
45. To be in dread of hell.
46. To desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.
47. To keep death daily before one’s eyes.
48. To keep constant guard over the actions of one’s life.
49. To know for certain that God sees one everywhere.
50. When evil thoughts come into one’s heart, to dash them against Christ immediately.
51. And to manifest them to one’s spiritual guardian.
52. To guard one’s tongue against evil and depraved speech.
53. Not to love much talking.
54. Not to speak useless words or words that move to laughter.
55. Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
56. To listen willingly to holy reading.
57. To devote oneself frequently to prayer.
58. Daily in one’s prayers, with tears and sighs, to confess one’s past sins to God, and to amend them for the future.
59. Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh; to hate one’s own will.
60. To obey in all things the commands of the Abbot even though they (which God forbid) should act otherwise, mindful of the Lord’s precept, “Do what they say, but not what they do.”
61. Not to wish to be called holy before one is holy; but first to be holy, that one may be truly so called.
Instrument 47 caught my attention today. Keeping death daily before one’s eyes is something not very “popular” these day (if it ever was). Mention it to someone and you most assuredly will hear the word “morbid” brought up. There can be (and is) an obsessive – morbid – thinking about death. But that is not what our holy father is talking about here. Saint Benedict wants us to consider our own mortality, plain and simple. Death awaits us all, yet we shy away from thinking about it. Is it because we don’t believe in an afterlife? Is it because if we do think about it we will have to take stock of our life, and in doing that be afraid that perhaps the life we lived was not a life well lived? Maybe we’re afraid of leaving things behind?
Yet the day will come. The day will come when this mortal frame expires, returning to the dust from which it was fashioned (Memento, homo, quia pulvis es…) and we are brought before our Lord to give account of the life we have lived. Since returning to the Church I have always held the conviction (and I may be mistaken, so I accept correction) that upon death He will ask us only one question: How much did you love?
The day will come. When? In 50 years? In 10? Maybe tomorrow, even? The Lord will come like a thief in the night, so let us keep our lamps full of oil, keeping watch with the wise virgins awaiting the bridegroom. I haven’t the power to add even a day to my life; my days are as grass. How much have I loved up to this moment?
Since becoming a parent thinking about my own end has been on my mind more often quite naturally. I see the years pass reflected in my chidlren’s growth. I look at them and think “you will not always be this small and delicate child; I will not always be as young and as strong as I am.” We have helped to give them the greatest gift parents can give to their children – Faith. We have helped to bring them into the Church, and we pray that we will be up to the task to help them grow in their love of the Mystical Body of Christ, for we will be held accountable of these sheep intrusted to us.