Build your own memory mansion (2)

The faculty of remembering — of retaining and recalling what one has already experienced — helps us to act in the present and plan for the future. This is why St Thomas Aquinas associates memory with the virtue of prudence, the first of the four cardinal virtues, which comprise of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. Prudence aids us in perfecting all other virtues and is the closest of all the cardinal virtues to the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, because it helps us to choose the best means of attaining our goal, and to order everything to our final end. Its rule is reason informed by faith, by the examples and teaching of Jesus Christ and His true imitators, the saints.

Just as aptitude for prudence is in our nature, while its perfection comes through practice or grace, so too, as Cicero says in his Rhetoric, memory not only arises from nature, but is also aided by art and diligence.

St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2a 2ae, Q. 49. A1 g

The concentration skills developed by the practice of memorisation not only improves study but is also an aid to meditation, which, in the broad sense, refers to the action of applying one’s mind to an object, but of which the proper Catholic sense relates to the humble and filial application of our intelligence and free will to their Author and our highest Good. It is therefore one of the building blocks of the spiritual life, to which all must apply themselves if they hope to reach Heaven.

It is also worth considering that forgetfulness of the key truths of the faith has had an overwhelming influence on the crisis, both in the Church and in society, over the last half century. Memorisation could be considered the matter of catechetical training, while authentic Catholic teaching could be considered the form. Both are required to prepare Catholics for their spiritual and civic duties.

The tools of memorisation, while not strictly spiritual, lay the groundwork for the spiritual edifice. But where does “artificial memory” come into all this?