Memories Strengthen Our Faith

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

In the fall, we celebrate the harvest of the summer season, but we also begin moving toward that season of dying. The plants give up their abundant life. The days grow shorter, and it is a time of remembering.

These words are from a recent article in the Josephite Harvest, the official magazine of the Josephite religious community, and they speak to us of the beauty and the importance of the memories we store during our lifetimes.
As the article points out, fall seems to be an especially fitting time to pause and reflect. Perhaps it’s the natural melancholy of the season, with the daylight waning and nature shutting down for the winter, that sends us down memory lane. I’ve noticed, too, that as I get older, I’m more inclined to reflect on the past – the time spent with my parents and childhood friends, my years in the seminary, and the early days of my priestly ministry. “But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of the year, and now I think of my life as vintage wine, from fine old kegs,” Frank Sinatra sang so plaintively. I can relate.
But our memories are so much more than just endearing little heart-tuggers retrieved from our life’s treasure chest. They can also be an expression and source of faith for us.
Pope Francis has spoken often about the human and spiritual value of memories, pointing out that memories give us an opportunity to recall God’s presence and goodness in our lives. “Memory makes us draw closer to God – our memories of the beautiful and great things that the Lord has carried out in the lives of each one of us,” the Holy Father said in a recent homily.
Memories are important because they keep us anchored to the real world and help us to stay connected to our loved ones, those who have traveled the long and winding road with us. That’s why Alzheimer’s is among the cruelest of diseases. In the extreme, it wraps an individual in a wordless cocoon, deleting their personal history, and isolating them from their dearest loved-ones, even spouses, children and grandchildren.
Dear friends, in the fall of the year, and in the fall of your life, may you have many beautiful, comforting and life-giving memories.
Something to think about: What were the best years of your life? And what makes those years so special for you?