Memorize the Faith! (And Most Anything Else) Using the Methods of the Great Catholic Medieval Memory Masters by Kevin Vost, Psy. D.
In a conversation yesterday with a student about his difficulty in memorizing Scripture verses, I was reminded of this book sitting on my shelves at home. Having majored in psychology in college, I have always been very interested in how our brains and minds work. A few years ago Sophia Institute Press published this book by a Doctor of Psychology, and reading it I was fascinated to learn: there was a science of memory training back in the “Middle Ages”* that is amazingly effective. In one afternoon I used it to memorize all the books of the New Testament, which I had never done before, both forwards and backwards (!!!). It was so much fun!
The primary memory method Dr. Vost teaches us in Memorize the Faith is “the method of loci.” Relying heavily on our imaginations, it links the points we must memorize with visuo-spatial images of locations in a certain place, such as a house (or a church, or a garden, etc.) Our imaginations and our memories are “cut from the same cloth” as it were. When using them both together it makes these strong, powerful servants obey at your bidding, which is a great feeling when you try to accomplish thinking tasks. And another benefit is perhaps even impressing friends and family with what you have memorized!
Dr. Vost says in his introduction to the book that development of your memory should be a very important part of your Catholic life. When we memorize the truths of the Faith, teachings of the Church, Scriptures, etc., we elevated our minds to higher things. Unsurprisingly, the writers of the Catechism of the Catholic Church call us to memorize the Church’s essential teachings. Development of memory work is an application of the virtue of Prudence, because it prepares our minds with the strength of truths to face whatever might come upon us in the future. (Perhaps that’s my favorite thing about this book–it is one of the few psychology books I’ve ever read that speaks of using the brain/mind in terms of developing virtue!)
When I used this memory method in Sunday School a few years ago to help third grade students memorize the Apostles’ Creed, I physically taped drawings and text to the walls and ceilings of our classroom. Having brains like sponges, the kiddos learned rapidly and their retention was excellent (we did review regularly!). I can assure you the method works with children as well as with adults, and there is a chapter near the back of the book with recommendations for use of the method with youth.
Today I’m bringing Memorize the Faith to school so that I can show it to the interested student. Hopefully it will make memory work a cinch for him in his classes, helping him develop his mind and memory–and help him form his heart in the virtue of Prudence as well!
*Why do I use quotation marks around this phrase? See the note at the end of this post.