Sunday, January 25, 2004

"Memento!". . . A Nice Roman Tradition

from Fr. Zuhlsdorf's column in the 15 January 2004 Wanderer:

In English we know the noun "memento" is “keepsake” which reminds of the past. In Latin this is a verb form. The comprehensive Lewis & Short Dictionary says that this form memento, an imperative form of the verb memini (an irregular verb having forms in the perfect tense), means “to remember, recollect, to think of, be mindful of a thing; not to have forgotten a person or thing, to bear in mind.” There is a nice Roman tradition associated with this word. During my first experience of living in Rome, I said Mass nearly every morning at St. Peter’s Basilica. I learned there, from many older clerics and canons of the basilica that when one encounters a priest who is about to say Mass (whether you personally are a layman or a cleric), it is customary to say to him “Memento!” – which is a request that the priest be mindful of you and remember you also as he celebrates the Sacrifice of the Mass. The gentleman priest at that point ought to respond something like “Memor ero. . . .I will be mindful” or “Libenter. . .Willingly” or “Libentissime. . .Most willingly.” This is a genteel custom that could be happily reintroduced. Every Mass can be suitably offered for the living and the dead. Customs like this also help to reinforce in the priest the conviction that what he does really has an effect in the world; consecrating the Eucharist and completing the Sacrifice with the consumption of the Species really accomplishes something.

I love things like this. [The rest of his column is on-line here.]