In 2009, bouncing about the blogosphere, I read that the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI recommended to all the faithful the idea of an interior “Journal of God’s Love,” i.e. the frequent recollection of ones experiences of God’s Love in daily life.
The notion seems in keeping with an idea discussed by Fr. Simon Tugwell O.P. in his book Prayer:Living With God (1975). Tugwell speaks of the need to build a sense of “Catholic Memory” to facilitate an interior attitude of prayer; it was one of a few key ingredients to a healthy prayer life that he proposed, along with creating ‘space’ to pray.
The problem, as Tugwell presents it:
Somehow we must find a way of remembering God that does not work in fits and starts, but that will actually last through the day; kind of fundamental rememberance of God that will affect our heart, and allow our most unpremeditated and spontaneous behaviour to be transformed, as it were, at the root…
In his discussion, he presents as helpful a consideration of the sin of our first parents that led to the Fall as the misappropriation of knowledge. Tugwell’s aim is not to oversimplify the fall, simply to examine one aspect from which he then seeks to draw some conclusions that are useful to fostering the relationship with God that Christ restored through His Incarnation and Paschal Mystery.
Tugwell goes on to caution that “our minds are at least as capable of running away with us as our legs and emotions are,” proposing that the way to prevent this from sabotaging our relationship with God is to seek knowledge that is good, knowledge that is wholesome, to…
…allow the Lord to get hold of us at the level of what the Bible calls the heart, below the level of contrivance…We shall become involved with God in spite of ourselves, there will be something in us undermining our self-built edifice of conceit and self-will, so that it will not be quite so easy for us to go on forgetting God and His commands and promises at every critical moment.
We need to allow the knowledge that God wants to give us to penetrate, to be absorbed and made a part of our very deepest selves. The tool that He has given us with which to accomplish this is the memory – an impressionable power of the faculty of the intellect that can be shaped for good or ill.
What shapes our memory? Our experiences, both real and imagined, sensory and emotional.
For a sanguine like me, experiences are intense, but in many cases the impressions left in my memory tend to be short-lived. For someone like me to build “Catholic Memory” requires sustained exposure and absorbption of the works of the great contributors to Catholic culture over the centuries – the likes of Augustine, Catherine of Siena, Aquinas, More, Erasmus, Dante, Teresa of Avila, Newman, Chesterton, John Paul II, Benedict XVI… and so many more.
Yet none of this takes the place of the effort of the repetitive exercise of pondering God’s works, God’s goodness, God’s providence. The Scripture is the primary source of God’s work in the history of His people, and the lives of the saints complement this nicely, demonstrating the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in our midst now that the Son has returned to the Father. Time to sit and meditate upon these things is a must.
But what about me? Isn’t this about my personal relationship with God?
Let’s add to Scripture, then, God’s work in MY life. How often do I stop to consider that, to thank Him for it? Keeping a “Journal of God’s Love”, to record and revisit God’s goodness in my everyday interactions and duties… I think the Holy Father might be onto something!
I’m going to try it.