Living with the end in mind
I attended a number of funerals this past Lent — and we as a country experienced the tremendous loss of a truly heroic Catholic and Supreme Court justice: Antonin Scalia.
When I attend funerals or contemplate the loss of someone like Justice Scalia, I cannot help but wrestle with my own mortality. Of course we all know intellectually that we are going to die and that it’s a question of when, not if. But do we really live like we are going to die? By which I mean: Does it affect our day-to-day decisions?
The traditional Ash Wednesday prayer when we are marked with the sign of the cross is, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). The Church obviously wants us to keep this in mind. Many of the great saints also exhorted us to be mindful of our final end. Saint Bonaventure wrote, “To lead a good life, a man should always imagine himself at the hour of death.” We often see pictures of saints with a skull on their desk. While at first glance this might seem morbid, this was to remind themselves that this world is not their ultimate end.
In 21st century America, the whole reality of death is almost hidden. With all the advances in medicine, we can be made to feel like we will live forever. Of course no one would ever say this outright, but we might be tempted to live with this underlying principle. Youth, health, strength, beauty are all good things, but our culture idolizes them almost to the point of denying that we will die one day.
When we think or talk about running our businesses and making goals, whether we do so consciously or not, many of us use “Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind,” made famous by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is exactly what the Church teaches us when we’re encouraged to contemplate our final end.
We are in the Year of Mercy, as declared by our Holy Father. However, unless we understand that we need mercy, seeking or receiving mercy is not going to mean a whole lot to us or to those around us. However, when we really do a thorough examination of conscience and get in touch with our sinfulness and our need for God’s mercy, that’s when we can truly seek and receive it.
TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder and chairman.