instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Our daily waybread

On Intentional Disciples, Fr. Mike, O.P., continues his series of posts on spiritual disciplines by writing about Scriptural memorization. (Previous disciplines are solitude and silence and fasting (a Dominican friar who hates to fast; imagine that).)

Coincidentally, just last week I came across St. Thomas' one-paragraph treatment on the art of memory, written in response to the objection that memory can't be a part of prudence because memory is natural and prudence is acquired. (Ever notice how context doesn't always help when you're quoting the Summa?):
There are four things whereby a man perfects his memory.
  • First, when a man wishes to remember a thing, he should take some suitable yet somewhat unwonted illustration of it, since the unwonted strikes us more, and so makes a greater and stronger impression on the mind....
  • Secondly, whatever a man wishes to retain in his memory he must carefully consider and set in order, so that he may pass easily from one memory to another...
  • Thirdly, we must be anxious and earnest about the things we wish to remember, because the more a thing is impressed on the mind, the less it is liable to slip out of it...
  • Fourthly, we should often reflect on the things we wish to remember.
St. Thomas doesn't refer directly to rote memorization (and by the way, when did "rote" become a four-letter word?), though his last two points essentially cover it.

What I have found works well is the old tradition of allowing the Holy Spirit to suggest a word or phrase from your morning meal of Scriptural reading that you can call to mind and snack on for the rest of the day. As Fr. Mike writes:
Our soul is re-formed as we meditate and chew over even a sentence of God's word during our day. That meditation can become a dialogue between us and God throughout the day, and just as we grow in love as we grow in knowledge of someone, we grow in love of God as we submerge ourself in His word.
If you don't make a morning meal of Scriptural reading, it's never too late in the day to break your fast! (Though that may be the one fast Catholics do well and willingly.)