Tuesday, May 21, 2013



Our Lady remembered the good things
 the Lord had done for her

At first glance this word seems very simple and easily explained. Perhaps you're thinking that I've lost my mind to spend time on posting something that is common knowledge for all of us as human beings.

I would like us to think "outside the box" if you will, about what is a common experience for many of us: remembering the events, circumstances and details of every day living, past and present.

It is a common joke among Carmelites that when one gets older and forgetful, that we excuse ourselves by saying, "God is purifying my memory."  Well, as we say, nice try, but that's not the case!

St. John of the Cross teaches us that the soul is comprised of three distinct powers:

1.  Intellect

2.  Memory

3.  Will

The person who is seeking union with God must leave behind the attachment to the senses that we experience through the memory: sight, smell, taste, and touch.

"There is no way to union with God without annihilating the memory as to all forms. This union cannot be wrought without a complete separation of the memory from all forms that are not God...and since God has no form or image comprehensible to the memory, the memory is without form and without figures when united with God.
The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Chap. 2,  No. 4

The person who is given the gift of contemplation is led step by step into prayer of the heart where there are no images or forms because the intellect ceases to function in this infused state of prayer. At first, this new prayer experience is frightful to the person who is being led from meditation, where the mind was in its comfort zone in using the intellect and the memory to pray.

When God is truly purifying a person's memory, he may be fearful as well that he is losing a part of his mind.

...Then, owing to the union, the memory is emptied and purged of all knowledge, as I say, and remains in oblivion, at times in such great oblivion that is must occasionally force itself and struggle in order to remember something.
The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Chap. 2, No. 5

This statement from St. John of the Cross may bring to mind the lives of the saints. I remember reading about certain saints who had to be led by the hand or shown how to do normal tasks of everyday living. They  became completely absent-minded to the things of this world because they enjoyed union with God.

Owing to the absorption of the memory in God, a person will show many deficiencies in exterior behavior and customs, forgetting to eat and drink or failing to remember if some task was done, or a particular object seen, or something said.
The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Chap. 2,No. 8

If we are serious about our prayer life and seeking a greater love of God and union with him. We should be very careful about the images we allow in our mind.  For example, we should be careful about what we watch on television.  Satan likes to use these images and bring them to our memory when we least expect it.  Perhaps, we're quietly praying and minding our own business, and like lighting, he brings to mind something we've seen, something that is not holy. Something that has no business on holy ground-in prayer. He uses worldly images to distract us in prayer. He uses this tactic especially in beginners. However, even the Saints, such as St. (Padre) Pio experienced the assaults of the devil tempting him while he prayed. No one is above this temptation.

The gift of memory has always intrigued me.  It amazes me that we are given the ability to recall events that happened years before. And combined with the imagination, one could live in this fantasy world of remembrance. This is not God's will for us. God gives us this faculty to learn from our past sins and mistakes. We can remember very clearly how we've offended God or hurt someone.  Hopefully, we learn from our past sins that sometimes remain ingrained in our memory for years.  It is God's mercy that allows us to forgive ourselves and let go of the past.

God also uses the memory to unite himself to us in the spiritual betrothal and spiritual marriage. He may speak a word to us that calms our soul, or we may experience his love in such a way that cannot be described but is ingrained in our memory for years and perhaps for the rest of our lives.  St. Teresa of Avila speaks of this grace frequently in her writings. She speaks of the intellectual visions that never faded with the passage of time.

The Eastern Church has a way of speaking about the memory in their mystical teachings. They refer to it has holy remembrance of God.  In our Roman tradition, we have a beloved Carmelite, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection who was a proficient in explaining how to remember God throughout the day. His book, "Practicing the Presence of God" is a spiritual classic. This little book was a big help to me in the beginning of my spiritual life. I highly recommend it.

Let us pray for each other, that we use the faculty of our soul, the memory, for the honor, praise and glory of God. Let us strive to forget ourselves, the sins of others, the things that don't matter, the very little things we are want to remember as part of our human nature. Let us be brave and courageous souls, leaving the safe territory of the memory and living in the spirit, in the dark night of faith.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds

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