During my attendance at the 1st and 2nd degree ceremonies last week, I had another chance to reflect on our fraternal motto: Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori (Time Flies, Remember Death).
It is our motto for good reason: as Knights we are called to constantly reflect on the fact that we have only a short earthly existence in which to prove ourselves worthy of eternal life. The Tempus Fugit “pledge” goes to the Knights’ foundation: Father McGivney’s commitment to an immigrant parish consisting of hard working men and women - who died young. Father McGivney, for whom our council is named, is a constant and profound reminder of this motto, having succumbed himself to pneumonia at the age of 36.
No one knows when death will arrive, but even if a person were given advance notice, the moment of passing would no doubt still come like a thief in the night. The 16th century essayist, Michel de Montaigne wrote that the judgment of how well a man lives will not be determined until the manner of his death. The peace or turmoil in a man’s heart is most clearly revealed when the act of dying lifts the veil to his soul.
For the secular man, Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori will convert comfortably and conveniently to that other Latin expression: Carpe Diem – “Seize the Day”. In modern terms, this is the virtual equivalent to: “He who finishes with the most toys wins”. This is of course counter to the Christian attitude which unloads all that cannot be carried through the eye of a needle such as material goods, inordinate desires, and burdensome grudges.
Carpe Diem for us means putting away the worthless things in favor of the eternal things: Faith, Hope, and Love, and the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit (as listed in the Catechism). For us, “Seize the Day” means to pray “gives us this day our daily bread” and to make every moment an effort to grow closer to God and each other: to love the Lord God will all your mind, heart, soul, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.
The best way to grow is to follow the ways left by Jesus to His Church for our journey to new life: the Mass, the sacraments, prayer, Holy Scripture. These must be experienced regularly and reflectively in this ordinary time of life so that we may be transformed through the invisible union of grace, so we may be a visible sign on earth, so that we may enjoy the divine union in heaven. Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori is our pledge to act now.
I often think that if Father Landry were to die tomorrow, how many would say: “I wish I had gone to a daily Mass; how glad that would have made him. I should have given that to him”; or if the Franciscan Sisters were disbanded by some federal law voiding their immigration status – “I am sorry that I never prayed Holy Hours with my sisters”. And will these same people who miss opportunities lament on their death bed: “I should have given more to God”. We should take more opportunity to pray with our pastor and with each other. Our Prayer Nights give us another opportunity and you will bring joy to your brothers if you join us in prayer.
This is not a guilt trip. This is not an emotional arm twisting; this is Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori; this is my exhortation in brotherly love. This is our pledge as Knights that we will “seize the day”. This is the Christian way, which is the path to a death without regret. I pray that we will all live this pledge as seriously as we do the commitment and spirit of Father McGivney which illuminates out motto and gives it life. Vivat Jesus!