I mentioned recently that I will be checking to see if my students have memorized (taken to heart) certain prayers outlined in the parish curriculum. I grew up at a time when memorization in catechesis had fallen upon hard times. Sure, I learned the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, but not much else. As a result, I grew up deprived of quick access to a major part of our Catholic Tradition. I recall being embarrassed at a meeting some years ago when a co-presenter invited all of us to begin by praying the Memorare. I stood in front of a group of fellow Catholics unable to pray with them. A few years ago I made it my Lenten discipline to memorize certain prayers and doctrinal formulas that I missed out on in my childhood.
When God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, he told them, “Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.” (Deuteronomy 6:6) In addition to helping your participants to take to heart certain doctrinal formulas, the memorization of commonly known prayers of the Christian tradition, appropriate to their age, is beneficial. When directing your participants to memorize, be sure to help them understand the meaning of what they are taking to heart.
What role does memorization play in your catechetical approach?
To end on a light note: A catechist decided to have her young class memorize one of the most quoted passages in the Bible; Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to take the verse to heart. Little Ian was excited about the task, but, he just couldn’t memorize the Psalm. After much practice, he could barely get past the first line. On the day that the kids were scheduled to recite Psalm 23 in front of the class, Ian was so nervous. When it was his turn, he stepped up in front of the class and said proudly, “The Lord is my Shepherd, and that’s all I need to know.”