“For we are saved by hope” (Romans 8:24)
This road to the “inner reformation” of memory begins with the stark realization that the constant re-living of painful memories is an obstacle to hope and happiness. Saint John of the Cross states that the application of the virtue of hope “liberates us from a lot of sorrow, affliction and sadness” which he calls an “exceptional blessing” (AMC, III, 4). It is useful to consider, in this regard, that in modern cognitive psychology, known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the identification and elimination of defective thinking patterns is considered essentially curative (see Muto, p.130).
A great scholar of Saint John of the Cross impresses upon us the following considerations regarding memory and hope:
“Proneness to forget God causes our memory to be as if immersed in time, whose relation to eternity, to the benefits and promises of God, it no longer sees. This defect inclines our memory to see all things horizontally on the line of time that flees, of which the present alone is real, between the past that is gone and the future that is not yet. Forgetfulness of God prevents us from seeing that the present moment is also on a vertical line which attaches it to the single instant of immobile eternity, and that there is a divine manner of living the present moment in order that by merit it may enter into eternity. Whereas forgetfulness of God leaves us in this banal and horizontal view of things on the line of time which passes, the contemplation of God is like a vertical view of things which pass and of their bond with God who does not pass. To be immersed in time, is to forget the value of time, that is to say, its relation to eternity. By what virtue must this great defect of forgetfulness of God be cured? St. John of the Cross (18) answers that the memory which forgets God must be healed by the hope of eternal beatitude….” (Father Garrigou-LaGrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life)
Our learning to hope in God is what purifies and heals bad memories. The more we are able to focus our prayerful attention on God in hope, the more we will gradually diminish the painful memories which try to tyrannize our minds. The more we fill the mind with God in a purer form of prayer – devoid of memories and images – the more we advance the purification of the memory. Saint John of the Cross gives us this advice:
“What we have to do, then, in order to live in the simple and perfect hope of God, whenever these forms, knowledge, and distinct images occur [including harmful memories], is not to fix our minds upon them but to turn immediately to God, emptying the memory of all such matters, in loving affection, without regarding or considering them more than suffices to enable us to understand and perform our obligations, if they have any reference thereto.”
(The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Bk. III, chap. 14)
Father Garrigou-LaGrange adds:
“Here we have truly the active purification of the memory which is too preoccupied with useless or dangerous memories. We should put this teaching into practice that our memory may no longer be, so to speak, immersed in ephemeral things, that it may no longer see them only on the horizontal line of fleeting time, but on the vertical line which attaches them to the single instant of immobile eternity.Thus, little by little the soul rises often to the thought of God.”
A PRACTICAL METHOD TO IMPLEMENT THIS ADVICE UTILIZING EUCHARISTIC ADORATION:
1. You see that you are being plagued by a bad memory which is causing you emotional turmoil and depreciative living.
2. You are going to let go of this memory, and its hold on you, by placing yourself directly in the infallible presence of Jesus Christ in Eucharistic Adoration for one hour (this adoration is an eminent use of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love).
3. It may be beneficial at the beginning of adoration to let your emotions run free for a few minutes through conversation with Jesus.
4. For the remainder of adoration you are going to place yourself in the presence of Jesus and simply let Him heal you. Thus, you will intentionally vacate your mind of the harmful memory and simply look lovingly in complete hope at Jesus. You are simply going to fix your mind and attention on Jesus, letting Him be present to you, sort of as if you were on the beach, forgetting yourself and everything else in the brilliant rays of the sun. You are simply going to let the healing rays of Jesus’ love fall gently upon you. At the end of adoration it would be appropriate to make a prayer of thanksgiving to Jesus for the graces received.
5. Gradually, over time, as Eucharistic adoration becomes part of your life, Jesus will heal the harmful memory.
“I abandoned and forgot myself/ Laying my face on my Beloved” (Saint John of the Cross)
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
P.S. Nothing in this theological note is meant to be a substitute for good and necessary medical and professional care.
To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).
To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.