Memorization in catechesis can be a surprisingly divisive topic. I can understand why.
Some people have childhood scars from being required to recite long prayers in Latin in front of a class, perhaps being physically reprimanded upon a mistake.
Others grew up post-pendulum swing, and were hardly required to memorize anything about the Faith beyond the Hail Mary (and whatever else they needed to pass the multiple choice tests).
The former tend to shun memorization and a question/answer format for learning the Faith because they don’t want their children to suffer the same empty talk and humiliation.
The latter tend to crave the unrelenting presence of Truth that fills one’s brain when memorizing and place highest priority on knowing the details of the doctrine, period.
So what are we to do?
What the Church Teaches about Memorization
The Church, per usual, offers a both/and approach.
"The blossoms—if we may call them that—of faith and piety do not grow in the desert places of a memoryless catechesis" (Catechesi Tredendae 55).
We must memorize. We were made to memorize—even brain science reveals that.
But we aren’t meant to memorize for its own sake.
The Purpose of Memorization
Memorization is meant to lead to transformation.
What we commit to memory about the Faith should compel us to commit our lives to it.
That’s why, here at Into the Deep, we emphasize meaningful memorization.
We want our kids to memorize Scripture so that, when they face giants throughout their lives, they’ll have an arsenal of the Living Word at the ready for spiritual battle.
We want our kids to memorize doctrine so that their consciences are well-formed and they’re trained to choose the good.
We want our kids to memorize prayers so that, when words fail them, they fall back on the words that were whispered over them as children.
We wants our kids to memorize truths about the Faith so that their brain and heart pathways lead them to the One Who created them.
"What is essential is that texts that are memorized must at the same time be taken in and gradually understood in depth, in order to become a source of Christian life on the personal level and on the community level" (Catechesi Tredendae 55).
Memorization is key and, when done with depth and intention, waters the blooms of devotion.
What has been your experience with memorization in catechesis? How has that colored your approach to memorizing the Faith with your own kids?