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Photo by Cheryl Winn-Boujnida on Unsplash

A Reflection for the Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent


“However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children” (Dt 4:9
).

A few years ago, I decided to start journaling. The entries come a few times each week, and aren’t the deepest pieces of writing. But they capture what I did that day, who I talked to, maybe details about a particularly enjoyable meal, encouraging run or even something I found particularly annoying. It forces me to slow down and capture memories before they fade into nothing. It’s become a spiritual practice in some ways. And reading the lines from Deuteronomy about memory prompted me to recall the many times Pope Francis has highlighted the importance of nurturing memory, of passing down memories from generation to generation, both to nurture a healthy society and also as an act of faith.

The pope has warned that failing to take memories seriously threatens the health of entire communities.

The pope has warned that failing to take memories seriously threatens the health of entire communities.

“The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society,” he wrote in his 2016 apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia.” “A mentality that can only say, ‘Then was then, now is now,’ is ultimately immature. Knowing and judging past events is the only way to build a meaningful future.”

We risk becoming “orphans,” Francis goes on, if we fail to pass on memories from generation to generation.

But how do we share memories? The pope’s answer echoes the passage above, encouraging young people to listen to the experiences of their elders, to learn from their mistakes and to benefit from their wisdom.

“Listening to the elderly tell their stories is good for children and young people; it makes them feel connected to the living history of their families, their neighborhoods and their country,” he writes. “A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents, who are its living memory, is already in decline, whereas a family that remembers has a future.”

Reflecting on our memories and sharing them with others is a spiritual act.

Reflecting on our memories and sharing them with others is a spiritual act.

“Memory makes us draw closer to God,” the pope preached in April 2016.

Francis returned again to this theme, the importance of memory, more recently, urging Christians to reflect on their lives to see where God has been present.

“Let us try to rummage through our memories, looking for signs that the Lord accomplished in my life,” he said earlier this year. “What are the signs the Lord accomplished in my life? What are the hints of his presence, the signs that he did to show us that he loves us?”

Slowing down and taking time during Lent to reflect on our memories can be a valuable spiritual practice, one that bolsters our relationship with God and helps us to see our faith in a new light. Whether it’s simply recollecting stories with families and friends, jotting down our day in a notebook or even spending a few moments in quiet contemplation at the end of a day, learning to value memory will deepen our faith

“Every one of us has these moments in our personal history,” Francis continued. “Let us go in search of these signs, let us remember them.”

Get to know Michael J. O’Loughlin, National Correspondent


What are you giving up for Lent?

Baked goods. No donuts, muffins, scones, cookies or croissants until Easter.

Do you cheat on Sundays?

Nope. (Though some may say that allowing chocolate, ice cream, and other non-baked sweets is cheating.)

Favorite non-meat recipe

Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower from Bon Appetit. It’s more of a side but could work as a main if you make enough.

Favorite Easter hymn

I didn’t have a good answer to this, so I consulted a friend who is a music director at a Catholic parish in Chicago. Knowing that I love Gustav Holst’s “Planets,” he pointed me to “Three Days (Our world was broken),” by MD Ridge, published in 1999 and set to a slightly adapted version of Holst’s “Thaxted,” the tune of the middle section of Jupiter.

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