§ 49. What is Meant by a "Memento"?
277. In Catholic liturgy a Memento is the prayer which the priest says in Mass before consecration for such of the living, and after consecration for such of the dead, as were specially recommended to him, or for whom he himself intends to pray in a particular manner. The first is called the Memento of the Living, the second the Memento of the Dead. At present the priest makes these Mementos in silence; in the early Church the names of the persons to be remembered were read aloud to induce the faithful to unite their intercession with that of the priest. It is still customary with the faithful to ask the priest to remember them or their departed in this manner, or to "request a Memento."
278. Memento, Domine y famulorum famularumque tuanim N. et N.: "Remember, O Lord, Thy servants N. and N."—with these words begins the Memento of the Living in the first prayer of the Canon, wherein the priest continues the special intercessions of the Holy Sacrifice. "Remember, O Lord!"—that is, Do not forget them, but regard them with loving care, grant them Thy grace and mercy, protect, favor and bless them.—The letters N. and N. are to remind the priest of those for whom he intends to pray in particular ; he may silently pronounce their names, or remember them only in thought. He is at liberty to remember here whomsoever and as many of the living as he wishes. As the prayer of the Church, especially in connection with the Holy Sacrifice, is most efficient and powerful, the zealous priest will not omit to draw copiously on this treasury and to dispense its wealth in favor of all those who are dear to him, and for whom he is bound in justice, charity and gratitude to offer his prayers to God. The pious Memento in Holy Mass draws upon the faithful special divine favors or blessings. Hence it is a great spiritual privilege and favor to be officially remembered in the sacred mysteries ;. it is a particular and personal presentation of our needs before the whole court of heaven and at the throne of God. Next to the offering of Holy Mass itself for us and our intentions, a Memento is the greatest intercessory favor a priest can bestow on us.
279. The Holy Sacrifice is to be offered to God in such a manner that He will not refuse its acceptance, but regard it with favor and receive it. This will be the case if God finds in the persons of those offering it nothing to displease Him; if on the contrary they are so pure, holy and immaculate, that they deserve to be included in and offered with the Most Holy Sacrifice of Christ. But our lives are not thus guiltless, our hearts not thus pure, nor is our devotion thus perfect. The Holy Sacrifice itself reminds us of our unworthiness; hence we beseech God to command the gifts on our altar to be carried by the hands of the holy angels to His altar on high. If our gifts are offered to God by angels hands, they cannot but be pleasing in His sight. Accordingly St. Chrysostom says ("On the Priesthood," vi. 4.): "Angels surround the priest during those solemn moments, and they are joined by the whole heavenly choir; they bow in adoration before Him who is present there as the Victim." And continuing, the saint relates an apparition in which multitudes of angels were seen surrounding the altar, clothed in white garments and bowing in the manner of warriors in presence of their king.—It is the blessed office of the angels to praise and glorify God, and to assist mankind in attaining salvation: where can this twofold object be realized in a more successful manner than at the Holy Sacrifice? At the very time when the angels hover around the altar, the faithful and their supplications are presented in the Memento to the majesty of God.—What an invaluable favor!
280. As our Sacrifice is carried by angels' hands from our altar to the altar of heaven, and is there united with the worship of the Blessed and brought before the throne of God, it becomes in the truest sense a fountain of living water, flowing from the blessed heights of heaven upon the earth and into the flaming abyss of Purgatory to refresh the languishing children of the Church. Hence the Church feels herself as it were compelled to implore the application of these saving spiritual waters. She remembers in her supplications all her children; and therefore, in the second Memento, she intercedes for the departed souls: "Be mindful, O Lord, of Thy servants N. and N., who are gone before us with the sign of faith, and rest in the sleep of peace." Then particular mention is silently made of such of the dead as the priest intends to pray for; after which he continues: "To these, O Lord, and to all that sleep in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord."
281. This practice of praying for the faithful departed during the offering of the Holy Sacrifice originated in apostolic times, as is demonstrated in the ancient liturgies and in the writings of the early Fathers. The liturgical Memento of the dead differs variously from that of the living, and is inserted at a different part of the Mass. The latter is made before, the former after consecration. The reason is this: the members of the Church militant can and ought to unite with the priest in offering the Sacrifice to God; and with the Sacrifice they can and ought to make an offering also of themselves. Of this mention is made in the very words of the Memento. This is more appropriately done before consecration. The faithful departed however can no longer actually join in the celebration of the Sacrifice; they can only gain and enjoy that part of its fruits which we cede to them. Hence it is most appropriate to remember them while the Victim is present on the altar. At this Memento the priest ought to remember some of the departed explicitly and by name to recommend them in particular to the mercy of God. Christ, dying on the cross, bowed His head: "And bowing His head, He gave up the ghost." (John xix. 30.) Immediately after His death He descended into limbo to console the souls of the just. Of this the Church intends to remind us when she directs the priest by a special rubric to bow his head during this Memento; the priest then intercedes for the faithful departed, imploring that the saving Blood of the Victim may flow into Purgatory to mitigate and lessen the torments of the souls there confined. Therefore we ought to request our friends in the priesthood often to remember our dear departed ones and for this purpose mention their names to them.