Build your own memory mansion (1)

The power of memorisation is something which has been woefully neglected in modern education, but which forms the core both of the education of antiquity and of the perennial catechetical discipline of the Church. In the ancient world, the importance of memory was extolled by Simonides, Aristotle and Cicero; and in the Christian world, by St Augustine, St Albert the Great and St Thomas Aquinas. St Thomas goes as far as to associate memory with the practice of virtue — specifically the virtue of prudence. 

It is also an admirable and longstanding discipline in the Church to have children and catechumens commit the whole catechism to memory. Catechisms designed for this purpose are ordered into short, unambiguously phrased questions and concise answers, not only as an important aid for memorisation, but in order to convey the truths of the faith as simply and precisely as possible — building up a strong spiritual edifice, as it were, brick by brick.

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St Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)

Patron of scholars

Called the "Angelic doctor", St Thomas Aquinas had one of the most naturally gifted minds in history. Held captive by his own family, who objected to his vocation as a poor friar, the young St Thomas passed the time in solitude, committing the whole of sacred Scripture to memory. Once entered into the Order of preachers, his cumbersome and reticent exterior earned him the nickname “dumb ox” from his peers. But once his gifts were unveiled, they could not be kept under a bushel, and were soon applied to leading the vanguard of the aristotelian revival and the defence of the faith at the University of Paris, with his mentor, St Albert the Great. 

Not content merely to win debates on his own terms, St Thomas pushed philosophical integrity to its full rigour, proposing many objections to his own arguments, becoming renowned for being able to present his opponents’ positions better than they could themselves. To this day, opponents of Thomism scour his own objections for arguments to use against him!

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A traditional formula of prayer before and after study

Before study

Come, Holy Ghost,
fill the hearts of Thy faithful 
and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.

℣. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created;
℟. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.
O God, who didst instruct the hearts of Thy faithful 
by the light of Thy Holy Ghost, 
grant that by the same Spirit 
we may be truly wise
and ever rejoice in His consolation. 
Through Christ our Lord.


Hail Mary

℣. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be praised, loved and adored;
℟. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary be praised, loved and blessed.


After study

℣. Our help is in the name of the Lord;
℟. Who made heaven and earth.