Last week my nephew Andy videotaped my sister and me recalling our experiences growing up in our house on Donald Avenue and the people who made up our family, immediate and extended. This trip down memory lane was a lovely experience. It unearthed events that I had long forgotten about. My sister and I remembered different things. By coincidence, in a homily last week, Pope Francis spoke of the value of treasuring memories. They can be a great source of prayer. So how do we let our memories inspire prayer? We replay them in our minds, aware of the presence of God as we do so.
Let’s take a happy memory, such as winning a contest, celebrating your sixteenth birthday, being accepted into college, your engagement, or the birth of your first child. Recall the day: the people there, your feelings, what was said, maybe even the weather. God was present with you that day, but perhaps you neglected to thank him for your joy. Let the memory of that pleasant event prompt you to thank him now for his loving kindness.
Now what about the painful memories? Perhaps you can recall a friend’s betrayal, being in an accident, failing, or losing a loved one. God was also present during these hard times. As you relive them, be conscious of God thinking about one of them now with you. How does he regard it? How does he regard you? Speak to God about your feelings.
Lectio divina is a way of praying in which we read a Scripture passage, wait for a word or phrase to grab our attention, ponder that word or phrase, respond to God, and then rest quietly in God’s loving presence. Someone proposed that we do lectio divina on a memory. “Read” the experience, notice something about it, reflect on what that detail means to you, speak to God about it, and then be quiet and focus on God looking at you and loving you.
Jesus has memories of his years in Israel. Another way to pray that you may wish to try is to enter into his memories. Take, for example, the wedding at Cana. What do you think Jesus remembers about this? Eating with his friends? Dancing? Being happy for the newlyweds? The look on his mother’s face when he seemed reluctant to respond to her plea to help when the wine ran out? What did Jesus feel like before his miracle? Afterwards? At the end of your reflection, speak to Jesus about this event and about any discovery you made as you recalled it with him.
In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Our faith is bolstered by remembering…not only what Jesus has done for the human race, but what he has done for us personally. It helps to keep a record of blessings that have come to us. Then when our memory fails, we can read how God has favored us, remember, and rejoice.
You might go through a photo album or view a video of your past life as a springboard to praying with memories. Or talk to a family member about it.
What evokes your memories?