It always intrigues and challenges me to hear life coaches talk about the importance of “beginning with the end in mind.”
St. Benedict of Nursia certainly had the end in mind over 1,500 years ago when he advised the men and women of his religious order to “keep death daily before your eyes.”
Back in 1954, my great-aunt gave my grandmother, Virginia, a little, leather-bound book of prayers, long and short.
My grandmother wore that book out — especially a daily prayer of supplication to Jesus’s mother, based on her walk with Him through His Incarnation, passion, death, resurrection and ascension into eternal glory.
“He refuses you nothing,” the supplicant reminds Our Lady, “because you ask nothing contrary to His honor.”
My grandmother prayed that prayer almost every day for nearly 65 years.
One night, I photocopied it and asked her to pray it aloud with me, antiphonally, like monks or sisters in a monastery.
I prayed one sentence, and she answered with the next, then I followed, and so forth.
When we were finished, she said, “It’s so much more meaningful that way!”
She never stopped making time each day for that prayer, even as she got older and her health continued to decline.
When her eyesight got to where she could no longer read it, my mom or one of us grandchildren would read her prayer out loud for her.
About two years ago, on the morning of the day she left this life, I stood beside her bed and read that prayer she had offered up so many hundreds of times herself.
She whispered along, knowing whole sections by heart.
Near the end of the prayer are the words: “During my last moments on earth, grant me strong and sincere repentance. May my sorrow be accompanied by a lively and attentive presence of mind that will enable me to worthily receive the last sacraments of the Church and die in Your friendship and favor.”
That evening, God heard her prayer and granted her deepest desire.
I unite my prayers with Our Lady for Him to do the same for me and for you and for everyone who comes after us.
Until then, we should be on the lookout for subtle reminders to “keep death daily before your eyes.”