Memorization for Knowledge and Prayer

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on September 17, 2014

in Blogs

th-12What do you have committed to memory? Probably the ABCs, the multiplication tables, and at least a few of your passwords. Nowadays, when we can always consult the Internet for information, memorizing is sometimes viewed as outdated. Yet, our power to remember things is a boon. When I was a child, for each piano lesson I had to memorize a piece of music. (Now it’s difficult to master even one!) We marvel at those musicians who play long pieces without looking at a score. In the spiritual life, memorizing is helpful. We can still recite the Catholic prayers we learned at our mother’s knee—and perhaps the Baltimore Catechism answers. This common knowledge helps when we pray as a group or discuss the truths of our faith. Memorizing Scripture has value too.

Long ago the Old Testament scrolls were not kept in homes. Jesus and Mary knew sacred passages by heart. During the centuries when many people were illiterate, they mastered memorizing God’s Word. At one time a requirement for being a monk was the ability to recite all of the psalms by heart. And when a scrawny, sickly, young St. Antonius of Florence applied to the Dominicans, he was “rejected” by explaining that he had to first memorize Canon Law, which he did! So how can our memory deepen our spirituality? When we memorize Scripture verses, they can surface when we need them. We can repeat them as prayers and quote them when we are trying to make a point. One of our Sisters knew the Sunday night prayer by heart. When we were traveling together, we looked to her to lead us in that prayer. When we have the Word of God in our heart, we have God in our heart.

Below are twelve ways to memorize a passage. You might try to build up a store of these. Someone called it “banking prayers.” As an extra challenge, memorize the book, chapter and verse of the passage too!

1. Reflect on the meaning of the verse. Visualize it. Look up unfamiliar words.

2. Repeat the verse aloud. Each time stress a different word.

3. Write the verse several times.

4. Display the verse where you will see it: on your desk, dresser, or refrigerator.

5. Make a jigsaw puzzle out of the words of the verse. Make two copies an race with a friend or family member in putting the puzzle together.

6. Make up motions to do as you say the verse.

7. Sing the verse to a tune.

8. If the verse is long, break it down and memorize one section at a time.

9. Work on memorizing a verse right before you go to bed. It sticks better.

10. Memorize verses while traveling, exercising, jogging, or waiting in the checkout line.

11. Set goals for yourself.

12. Be accountable to another person.

Catechists and religion teachers can find strategies for helping students memorize on this blog under “Articles.”

What prayers other than the traditional ones do you know by heart? How has this helped you?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sr. Juliemarie McDonald September 17, 2014 at 10:27 am

Kathleen, you are such a fine and creative teacher. Thanks so much for sharing your talents and gifts. Juliemarie

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Grace Mazza Urbanski September 23, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Dear Sr. Kathleen, I love your 12 tips for memorization! Are you the original source for these ideas? I want to cite them in my writing and want to make sure I credit you–and any earlier sources, if applicable. Please contact me. (I’m glad we shared the hour with Wendy Wiese yesterday on Relevant Radio!)

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